Conducting your own 2009 review

We are all approaching our end of a year of many transitions.Four Questsions - Life-Work Coaching  

In the past I've written about using my Four Questions that Every Leader Must Ask as a guide for an end-of-the-year review and a way to plan for the next. 

This year, I have been impacted by people who have helped me see beyond the organizational leadership work that I have been doing for a decade and a half.  The result is a reframing of this material for individuals who living on the thinning line of life and work, and the expansion of my consulting work to include a new coaching program. 

While we do look at the change of the year as a time of reflection and new beginnings, the reality is that we can do this year round. However, if you have not, then there is now time like the present to begin to think differently about yourself as the new year approaches.

Today, in my Weekly Leader column - Reviewing Your 2009 Impact - I present the first step in a process of review and planning that will conclude in next week's column. I've prepared an one page listing of the questions that I ask in the column. I suggest that you print the list and the column and spend a few moments over the next week reflecting on the past year to 18 months.

I've said many times over the past couple years that I believe we are in the midst of one of the most significant transitions in all of human history. This is bigger than President Obama, the IPhone, the recession and the combine effects of 9/11, Katrina and the Iraq/Afghanistan war. The transition is, regardless of what you see happening in Washington, is a shift towards individual responsibility and collaborative relationships that transcend the old bureaucratic structures that are no longer able to manage the complexity of life today.

In order to be at our best, for ourselves, our families, our co-workers, our communities and for the world at large, we each need to thinking clearly about what we believe and the difference we are committed to making today. A starting place is gaining perspective and understanding about where we are and what we need to focus on next year.

I invite you to read today's column and begin to answer for yourself the Life / Work planning questions and if you are so inclined, share them with me. I believe that as you go through this process of reflection, that you'll begin to discuss opportunities that were always there, but that the lack of clarity of insight blocked your vision of them. It is my hope that from this exercise you'll find new opportunities in life and work that will enable you to have an impact that is far beyond what you would have imagine a year ago, or even yesterday.


The Real Secret to Success

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Attitude has a lot to do with whether we succeed or not. Read Twitter posts on a regular basis, and one of the patterns you'll notice is unbridled optimism in a formula for success. Too often this optimism denies reality and leads us to a kind of self-deception that is destructive of the very success we desire.

Bright-Sided:How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich and We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism by John Derbyshire approached the topic of optimism from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Megan Cox Gurdon in her review in the Wall Street Journal quotes them.

"We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world," warns Ms. Ehrenreich. "Things are bad and getting worse, any fool can see that," warns Mr. Derbyshire.

Though naturally an optimistic person, I do find the modern phenomenon of positive thinking highly problematic. Sort of a "mind over matter" for modern people. It is often used as bulwark against the realities of life. For many of us, we are a pain-avoiding, death-denying culture that runs from conflict into the arms of an uncritical belief in positive. While it may appear that the opposite of being positive is being negative or pessimistic, I believe it is a more complicated. Megan Cox Gurdon continues.

Especially provoking to Ms. Ehrenreich is the pervasiveness of the notion that a woman can improve her chances of survival by maintaining a perky outlook. The scientific basis for this belief is thin at best, yet, as she writes, it's a powerful "ideological force" that goes well beyond medicine and "encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate."

Her curiosity (and disgust) aroused, Ms. Ehrenreich delves into the long history of positive thinking in America, which might be summarized thus: dour 18th-century Calvinism begat floaty 19th-century New Thought, which begat 20th-century New Ageism, Norman Vincent Peale and today's mega-church "prosperity gospel."

As Ms. Ehrenreich disapprovingly explains, positive thinking has saturated not just American religion but also corporate life and popular culture, and it is rapidly soaking into modern psychology. The problem for her is that people who are insistently reciting inspirational phrases won't hear the siren's wail in time to save themselves. Ms. Ehrenreich cranks her indignation up highest when aiming at the bankers, economists, bureaucrats and business honchos whose near-hallucinatory positive thinking, she believes, has pushed us all to the brink of economic collapse.

For me the dividing line is not between optimism and pessimism, but between entitlement and responsibility. 

I find in many people that optimism is a shell covering over a belief in one's own entitlement to health, wealth, happiness and a life free of hardship. It explains to me the century long shift from an Emersonian self-reliance to the point that we have become wards of a benign, beneficent state.

I don't believe optimism in itself is bad. Rather, the popular contemporary form that denies responsibility which is.

The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide

My conversation guide the Five Questions That Every Leader Must Ask is built around a more realistic perspective of our life and work situations. The fourth question focuses optimistically on the opportunities that we have now. These opportunities require us to take action. There is no entitlement here. All there is an opportunity and a choice whether to pursue it or not.

The third question focuses on the problems that we personally have created. Intentionally, I am not looking at the challenges that our various contexts provide us. For example, we can see the recession as a problem that entitles us to feel sorry for ourselves and receive a government bailout. Instead, we need to look at what situations we have control over, and address them effectively.

The problematic issue of optimism that Ehrenreich and Derbyshire address is really a modern phenomenon. It was social philosopher Thomas Hobbes, 350 years ago, who wrote that "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." This is no longer a view widely supported by the average person. Prosperity, even in the midst of a global recession, is rapidly expanding throughout the world. In places where poverty and disease had been the normal experience of people for centuries, middle class wealth is beginning to emerge.

While I would not suggest we go back to the days of Hobbes, I would suggest that a more realistic approach to life accomplish precisely what the optimists and positivity-gurus promise. This realism is not quite the pessimism of Ehrenreich and Derbyshire. Instead, it is closer to the thinking of the ancient Stoics.

Greek slave and Stoic teacher Epictetus wrote,

"Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil."  Roman emperor,

Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote,

"You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last."

When the hardships in life are faced with reason and determination, we gain a richer appreciation of success and happiness.

It is this perspective that guided Admiral James Stockdale (whom I've written about here) as the highest ranking officer imprisoned at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. In his discussion with Jim Collins, when asked who didn't make it out, and his response was "the optimists". This was so because they believed that if they just were optimistic that it would counter reality. Optimism only serves us when we use it to generate a determined will and persistence to work through hardships to achieve success.

A positive outlook serves only when we embrace reality and commit ourselves to overcome the obstacles that stand in our way of success. This is not an entitlement mindset that comes from believing that we deserve success because of our positive attitude.

There is no replacement for hard work, realistic self-criticism, a passionate vision worked out with commitment and perseverance and a recognition that much of our success is a product of other people's contributions and the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.

To succeed in this way is to understand life and work on a much broader canvas that miniature one's that many of us see before us.


Impact, not Balance

Is there such a thing as balance between personal and professional life?

Twice this week I saw the question raised. Once in a webinar and the other in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece - Work and Life -- and Blogging the Balance.

The WSJ article was prompted by a comment Jack Welch made at a SHRM conference in June. He said, "There's no such thing as work-life balance ... There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."

I agree with Welch. I don't know what work-life balance looks like.  The issue, for me, is a question of the impact that I want to have.

One of the ways I answered this was to work for myself. While it is never perfect or in balance, it has given me more freedom to be with my family in ways that people in typically corporate jobs cannot. On the other hand, my work does require 24/7 attention. I know there is a price for this. As Welch says, there is a consequence.

The greater question for us is whether our lives have an integration that allows for us to make a difference regardless of the situation. Balance isn't trying to find some median point of activity concentration between personal and professional life. We end up measuring our lives by the activities that fill up our schedules. That is not an effecive measure of much of anything, except energy. It is like going on a vacation trip, and only telling people how many miles you drove, and how much gas you used and what you spent for food and lodging. Not an accurate picture of vacation.

Impact, integration, wholeness, and congruence are better ways to approach the balance question. Find your purpose, make a difference and live your life as if it is a whole thing, not just a collection of parts. You will have to make sacrifices. But if you are doing what you love, and making a difference, then you have a type of balance that really matters in the long run.

Follow Up in Response to Comment below:

Thanks for your comment, Becky.

Women are more expressive about the issues. Men are (I'm over generalizing here.) just think of this as the way things are and deal with it in a more private, less open way. Listen to what they complain about and the issues of balance emerge.

A friend of mine used my Four Questions guide to focus his week. Within a few months his emotional intelligence website became the most visited in the world. He attributed it to focusing on the impact question.

Let's ask the Four Questions about the question about balance.

1. What is the impact we want from finding balance between our professional and personal life? 
2. Who do we want to impact through this balance?

3. What opportunities do we gain from achieving this balance?

4. What problems of balance have I created that I must address in order to achieve balance?

If we approach the balance question from an impact context, I think we can find some clarity that leads to real action that makes a difference.


Leadership Q&A - What's On Your Checklist?

My latest Weekly Leader Leadership Q&A column - What's On Your Checklist? - is posted.

This week I'm addressing an issue that I see in many places. It is the issue of staff who tend not to look at the big picture, but rather simply treat their job as a daily checklist to complete.

The antidote is to become an impact leadership business. Focus on the change you want to create, rather than the tasks that need to be created.

Use the Circle of Impact guides to help build awareness and communication to make the transition. If you would like to talk about how, let me know. I'll be glad to help.


The Difference between Facebook and Twitter

Charlie Malouf pointed to this post by Joshua Porter about the difference between Facebook and Twitter.  Porter is applying a basic principle of network theory to the difference.

Relationship Asymmetry in the Twitter model

In general, there are two ways to model human relationships in software. An “asymmetric” model is how Twitter currently works. You can “follow” someone else without them following you back. It’s a one-way relationship that may or may not be mutual.

Relationship Symmetry in the Facebook model

Facebook, on the other hand, has always used a “symmetric” model, where each time you add someone as a friend they have to add you as a friend as well. This is a two-way relationship, and it is required to have any relationship at all. So as a Facebook user there is always a 1-1 relationship among your friends. Everyone who you have claimed as a friend has also claimed you as a friend.

The difference is significant and why I find Twitter more useful for my purposes.

The difference is between closed and open networks of relationships.

With Facebook, both of you have to agree to be friends. On Twitter, you can follow anyone. If your Facebook network doesn't grow, it could mean that you've exhausted your easily reachable potential FB friends. As a result, everyone in your network, is quite possibly just like you, thinking just like you, reading the same books, websites and having the same perspectives.

On Twitter, there is an obsession with numbers of followers. That is useless if you have no purpose other than to be able to say I have a large following. The key to Twitter is creating influence. Being able to reach beyond your natural network of relationships to influence people is the purpose. Closed and Open Relationships

Ron Burt looked at the nature of competition from a network theory perspective in his book Structural Holes. If you are interested in theory, I recommend it. Here's a diagram I created to help me visual Burt's perspective.

What is important to understand is that a closed network becomes a self-congratulatory feedback loop. What binds the group together is a set of shared, unifying values. The potential result is a belief that all that matters is what we know and share together. This is a classic insular community structure. Before the information age emerged, it was possible for this structure to survive because the completitive demands were much less. As my grandfather told me near the end of his life when I asked him what was the most signficant development he had seen in his lifetime. "The radio. It was what told us that there were people living in other places."

Today, close networks suffer from a lack of access to information and opportunities.  Many businesses are failing during this recession because their network of relationships is insufficient. Network scale matters more and more.

Open networks, on the other hand, are constantly reaching out for new relationships that lead to new ways of understanding the world and new opportunities for making a difference.

This leads me back to Twitter. The genius of this platform is that it more perfectly replicates two aspects of human relationships.

The asymmetric nature of human communication is the first. Listen to normal conversation and there is a give and take. And the pattern is of short bits of information shared that help advance the conversation. Blog posts can be interactive, but aren't conversational. Facebook is more like email or writing letter. It takes more time to construct a comment, and responses. This is simply because there is more space to write.  I just responded to two messages at my Facebook page. Both required a brief response, but the impulse is to write more than is really necessary.

The other aspect is the competitive nature of human relationships. I'm not talking about one-upmanship or poltical gamemanship.  Rather, I'm referring to how we seek to influence people with our ideas. This part of human interaction is changing too.

It used to be that trying to influence others meant I spoke in declarative statements that intruded into the listening space of people. It wasn't conversational. It was advertising. Today, the shift to a more conversational mode requires us to listen and respond as we offer our thoughts for influence. The key element in this shift is the importance of asking questions that lead people into a conceptual context that provides them a basis for understanding the ideas that you want to share.  This is where my three conversation guides came from. They simply are the result of lots of conversation built around asking clarify questions.

If we want our influence to expand, we need asymmetrical relationships. We need to know people who know people that we need to know, and who need to know us. Which tool is better? Twitter or Facebook? In my estimation, Twitter.  Why? Well, ask my Four Questions about the platform.

1. What should be the Impact of Twitter? Are follower numbers a measure of impact or simply a strategy for developing a context for influence? There is a current theme resonating in Twitterland that "retweets" are a better indicator of value. A retweet is simply someone reposting a tweet of yours. it is an indicator of influence.

2. Who should I be impacting through the use of Twitter? Isn't the possibilities limitless? After all if you are retweet by Guy Kawasaki, his "sneezer" influence is huge.

3. What opportunities come from growing one's Twitter influence?  Depends on what you want from the experience. Access to information and the creation of a network of relationships that value your ideas. Granted, the connection maybe thin, but if you are recommending a friend's new book, that could be all it takes to make a best seller. If this doesn't make sense, check out Mark Granovetter's "Strength of Weak Ties" concept.

4. What problems must I address in order to make the most of Twitter?  The first one is conceptual on several levels. It is our perception of who we are as influencers or as connectors to influencers. Second, understanding what kind of influence do we want to have? What is the impact that you want to have through your involvement in social media? Why are you participating and contributing? It helps to have a plan or a strategy, and not simply do this for amusement. Third, commit to developing the skills of virtual relationship building.  Fourth, commit to the time that is required to do this well.

As for me, my purpose of Twittering, as well as for writing this blog, is to build Trust and Confidence in my ability to provide leaders the help they need as they go through organizational, professional and personal transitions.  Trust is confidence in the integrity of the person. Confidence is trust in our competency to do what we say we can. Twitter is one of the ways that allows for that impression to lead to the establishment of a relationship of service.

All these social media tools are in their early stages of development.  The next generation must develop the capacity to link the virtual work with the local. To create real collaborative partnerships that utilize the value of social media is the next step. Part of this is technological, and part learning how to adapt our human relationship perceptions to adapt to a changing world. Should be interesting to watch it develop.


The Continuity of the Local

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The institutions of society that we trust to provide stability in a time of disruptive change are not providing it. These institutions of business and government, of religion, education and social welfare, seem to lack the capacity to both see what is happening and to adapt to these changes.  What is notable is their inherent lack of ability to see the bigger picture in contrast to their own self-preservation.

I introduced this idea in my previous post on the Three Communities.

Here is what is happening?

As a global community, we are moving out of a millennium long era of institutional stability, and into an era of transition where strength, progress and continuity is built around small entrepreneurial social movements.

These movements are of people who organize themselves around the opportunities and needs that they see at the local level around the globe. These movements are focused on meeting global needs at a local level. The birth of these movements comes from the personal initiative of people who are responding to what they see before them. They are utilizing their network of relationships formed in the virtual world to mobilize people to serve local communities on a local scale.

Here are examples.

People and their organizations raise money to provide heating oil assistance for cash strapped families.

A church opens its doors to provide a place for homeless people to get in off the street and have a hot drink and some food on cold, winter days.

Small loans are made to people who have no collateral yet have a compelling idea for meeting a market need in their community.

Citizens provide charitable leadership training to local business to help them find ways to manage a down economy.

Business leaders meet to discover how they can move beyond traditional institutional boundaries to address the need for job creation and social stability.

Marketing collaboratives form to promote products and services to local ethnic populations.

For-profit and non-profit health care organizations collaborate to serve the needs of their local community.

Children from across the United States conduct fund raising projects to build schools and implement water projects in underdeveloped communities around the world.

People leave their local community of residence and move to a local community that has experienced a natural disaster to help in recovery. Some stay for years, not just weeks or months.

These are a few examples of what is happening in local communities everywhere.They are not nice ideas waiting for someone to implement. These are ideas that people are acting on to make a difference.

Continuity between today and tomorrow is not found by waiting for better economic times to return. Instead it is found by developing new relationships between people and organizations that address issues as they exist right now.

Local communities are not at the edge of what matters globally. They are at the core.

Global communities are institutional communities. They aren't places where people live. They are highly integrated corporate structures whose influence upon life in local communities is huge.

People live in local communities. They interact with people there, as well as with those in virtual communities and global corporate ones.

As a result, for the average person and business owner, our focus needs to be local, where we can impact local people, families, schools, business and other organizations in ways that marshal the creativity that is inherent in every community. It is locally where we form relationships that enable our communities to weather the hard storms created at the global level.

Circle of Impact- simple

If you need help figuring out how to begin to care for your local community, take my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides and start talking with people. Here are some first steps.

First, become clear that you and your community is at a transition point.

The important insight here is:

You aren't looking for continuity to preserve the past.

You are looking for how you build upon the strengths and values of the past for the future.

Second, identify the issues that you most want to address.

Take the Circle of Impact and identify what kind of issue is it.

Is the issue an Idea, Relationship or Organizational Structure issue?

Whatever it is, the other two dimensions contribute to its resolution. In other words, all problems or opportunities are dynamically related to each of the three dimensions of leadership.

If you then cannot find clarity, then you have an Idea problem that is defined as both a lack of clarity of your situation and the inability to communicate an articulate way of describing to others. Because it is a lack of clarity of thought masked as a communication problem, actually begin by defining the Four Connecting Ideas.

What are the Values that are non-negotiable, that we can build upon for the future? How do these Values unify US for OUR work together?

What is our Purpose?

How can that Purpose be defined as the Impact we want to create? What difference does our purpose make?

Then define your Vision as what are we going to do through the organizational structure that we have to create Impact?

Third, ask the Five Questions.

It is important find clarity of perspective. These questions make have no answer at first. That tells you something. However, if you are persistent in seeking to find clear answers to these questions, the steps you'll need to take will reveal themselves.

What has Changed to create the situation that we must address? How are we in Transition as a Local community?

What is the Impact we want? What Change do we need to create? 

Who do you want to Impact? What difference will that make to them?

What Opportunities for the future do you gain through this Impact?

What Problems that are within your control, must you resolve in order to achieve your impact? What Obstacles do you face that you must remove?

Do all this in conversation with others. This is a way to begin to address the social and economic issues that impact your local community.

If you need additional help, contact me. Glad to help.


BlogTalkRadio Interview 11amEDT 3/18/09

I'll be interviewed by Wendy Siegel of BlogTalkRadio today at 11:00 EDT/US. The interview will go 45 minutes.

I'll be talking about the Johnny Bunko contest ,my lesson Say Thanks Every Day, and on how the Four Questions that Every Leader Must Ask can be applied by leaders in their businesses and communities. 

You can connect at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/webwendy/2009/03/18/Tribe-Talk-with-Ed-Brenegar .


Changing Jobs? - Five Questions To Ask

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Big change. Little change. It's all change.  

I was thinking about this in the context of two friends and colleagues who have lost their executive positions over the past month.  Neither leaving was entirely unexpected. However, when it happens, it is the kind of change that most people dred.

Losing a job is a big change. It is symptomatic of the transitions that we all go through in life. If we are tied to our current position, then a sudden change in employment can be devastating. However, if we look at all that we do as in the process of change, then we are of a mindset to adapt positively to this change.

If you are in a situation where your job situation is in jeopardy, or have lost your job, then, consider answering my Five Questions to begin a fresh approach to seeking new opportunities.

First ask, "What has Changed? How am I in Transition?"

Establishing a change perspective roots us in a context that allows see beyond our fear of the future, our anger at ourselves or someone else, in order to recognize the reasons why we are in the situation we are in.

Go back in time to that moment when either you were at the height of your performance and experience, or, when you remember things beginning to change. Chart out the progression of events that took place that has brought you to this point. This becomes a reference point for understanding. We'll see things that we missed or looked over because our attention was elsewhere.

The second question to ask is "What is the impact that I want to have in the future?"

What difference do I want to make that matters? What am I passionate about that directs me toward a different arena for employment?

What is it that I have to offer that makes a difference?

Think not of just the results, the outcome, the impact of the work you wish to do. Think also of what you do well that you can offer to an employer. New job searches increasingly are about mutual benefit. You have skills and expertise to offer, and you are seeking an environment where those assets can find a place to grow and expand their impact and signficance.

Third question, "Who do I want to impact?"

If you want to make a difference, what group, business or social need fits best with the assets that you have to offer? 

Think in terms of markets. You are not marketing to sell them something. Instead, you are acting to influence them by the work you have to offer them.  Who are these people? When you figure this out, then ask your network,

"Based on the skills and expertise that I have to offer, who do you know that I need to know?

Who do you know that can help me to find the people within that group that I need to reach?" 

Treat this as a systematic process of analysis and then act to reach out to those whom you need to meet.

Fourth question, ask, "What opportunities do I have right now to make a difference?"

An opportunity is a context where your skills and experience can make a difference right now.

If you cannot identify any opportunities, then more than likely your experience level in this area where you have a passion to make a difference is not sufficient to secure you a job.

Look at this realistically. Just because you dream it does not necessarily mean it will come to pass. What then do you do?

First thing to do is identify what you have to offer, and find a place where you can do so as a volunteer. If you are veturing into a new field of expertise, then finding a volunteer position in a non-profit may help. It did for me. Here's how.

I went on the board of a local non-profit. I asked them, "What do you need done?" The answer was a long range plan. I said, "I've never done that, but I'll learn." The project was so successful that planning became apart of my consulting skill set when I began my business five years later.

Opportunities are there. You have to find them or create them. And they begin with relationships, not needs. Work your network to find places to make a difference that matters, and the opportunties will come.

Divide your time between acting on those opportunities and doing the due-diligence to find employment. By engaging in impact-oriented activities while looking for work, you accomplish three things.

One, you make a difference in the area that matters to you.

Two, you network with people who share a common interest who may provide the connection to the next job. In so doing, you gain experience and potential positive recommendations from people.

Three, you don't get trapped in a cycle of self-pity, denial and depression.

Fifth question, "What problems have I created that I must address in order to put me in the best possible position to get the next job? What obstacles must I overcome?"

What kind of problems? 
Financial.

Do your best to pay down any debt that you may be caring.

Physical.

If you are not in good shape, start working out. The stress of looking for a job is a physical drain upon your health. Get some moderate exercise everyday, just a few minutes, to feel good about yourself. Your potential employers are going to be looking at this, even if they don't say so.

Emotional / Spiritual.

Join a support group. In some communities, the local office of the state Employment Security Commission has support groups for out of work executives. Many religious congregations host support groups for men and women under stress. Many professional counselors have support groups for people who work in stressful situations. There is an emotional and a spiritual dimension to how we deal with job change. Take advantage of the opportunity to grow through this transition in life.

Skills.

Sign up for courses at your local community college to strengthen or expand your skills. Community colleges have courses that begin all through the year. Enhancing your education and marketable skills is also a demonstration to your next employer of your sincerity to be at your best for them.

Big change. Little change. It is all constant change through a life's many transitions. Stay focused on the difference you want to make. Work with your network of relationships. Stay open to opportunities, and you'll come to see what is required to get where you want to be in the future.


The Four Questions on YouTube

The Four Questions that Every Leader Must Ask is a way of understanding how to deal with the challenges that we are all facing in our lives and businesses. Charles of WuMedia created a video of me talking about the Four Questions.


There are many ways the Four Questions can be utilized.
You can use them for future planning, or for a current assessment of your situation, or as a problem solving tool. Some people use them to focus on what they need to do right now. Focusing on impact or change or making difference will do that to you. To see the future can be highly motivational. The problem with seeing the future is the gap between that vision and where you are right now. The Four Questions help to bring clarity to what you need to do.

The Four Questions is also a very versatile presentation/workshop. I can present them in a small group over lunch, or in a traditional presentation format or as a workshop that is focused on developing a plan of action.  The Four Questions can help you make the transition from where you are to where you want to be. If I can help. please be in touch.


How to make a transition that matters, with new afterword

Transition through Time

I've been talking about change as a process of transition for several years.   I'm not sure very many people  paid any attention to me, at least until now.  Now, they are seeing what I see, that growth during a recession requires a tremendous amount of energy.  We have to think differently, organize differently, have different expectations for our performance. We have to be open to adapting to the situation as it actually exists.

I was thinking about this while I read Dan Pink's latest posting.  He closes the post by saying,

The bottom line: In a downturn, everything’s up for grabs. More generally, place and time lose a lot of their meaning in an outsourced, automated age.

I'd say that place and time's value changes. They are still important. Here are two examples of what I'm  doing.

Five Questsions - Simple

1. I've created a presentation built around my Five Questions that can last from about ten minutes to four hours. In that presentation, I use these diagrams to help people think more clearly about their situations. I do a lot of the same things I do in longer projects, just in a shorter timeframe. So there's the time consideration. It means that I've shifted from a focus on a few projects of longer duration to shorter projects. 

2. I've also been talking with people about collaboration in their communities. There's the place consideration.  What I'm offering to do is help them organize a Lessons-in-Leadership like event with my Five Questions presentation on transitions as the keynote. The purpose is to come into a community, bring organizations together, inject some ideas, optimism and networking into a day when many people may be at the office reorganizing their files waiting for the phone to ring.

If everything is up for grabs as Dan suggests, then that means your past assumptions may be your greatest inhibitor to success.

Do you assume that leadership training for non-profits and commercial businesses should be separate?
 
Do you assume that business training can't be charitable?
 
Do you assume that your business can get by without an online presence?
 
Do you assume that you can control your public relations message?
 
Do you assume that customer relations is primarily about the transaction at the cash register?
 
Do you assume that online social networks have no place in your business?
 
Do you assume that all you need to do is cut costs and work harder to get through this recession?

I could go on. The reality is that each of us has to aggressively challenge every assumption that we've long held about the business we are in.

What are the keys?

1. Relationships last longer than customers.
 
2. Service is more important than the product.
 
3. Trust and transparency build loyal clients.
 
4. Adaptation opens up opportunities.
 
5. Leadership is in greater demand than ever before, and more absent that ever before.
 
6. Pricing is flexible.

The time to change is now.  Don't wait a month. If you need help, I'm here. We'll talk you through the diagrams, and help you figure out how you are going to make it. You may have a vision for where you want to be, but without a way to make the step-by-step transition to it, it is just a dream.

A Personal Afterword (2014)

I'm writing this five and a half years later. Little did I know that within six months of writing the above post that my consulting practice would have virtually gone away. Yet, opportunities abound as, slowly, new, smaller projects began to emerge.

Two years after this post, I transitioned from the state-wide, non-profit board, that I had served on since its inception six years prior, to become its Interim Executive Director with the primary task of conducting a state-wide fund raising campaign.

It was both an exhilariting and a painful experience. It was thrilling to see a vision for linking groups across the state of North Carolina for fund raising, training and support began to take shape. Confirmation of that vision came soon after we began as one donor made with a $500,000 commitment. The painful part came as the Board shut the project down as operating funds diminished, eventually leading to the closing of the organization. It was the first time in my career that I had been terminated from a job. A new learning experience that I'd rather not repeat.

Within a week though, I was asked to step in as the interim pastor of a Presbyterian church an hour from my home. Two years later I'm preparing to leave as venture into another time of transition.  The experience of leading a diverse congregation that had been through a painful season of staff departures reinforced the importance of the six keys listed above. I'm grateful for my time with these lovely, caring folks.

Five years later, the Five Questions resonate as the tool, above of all my diagramatic ones, that provides the greatest clarity and grounding in reality. Once again I am, like many people, in transition. The experience of the past five years has confirmed in me three values that are essential for all that I do, and will do in the future. They are,

Personal Integrity

A Personal Intimacy of Openness, Transparency and Trust

Practice Generosity, that align with Integrity and Intimacy.

My recommendation that you take a few moments and ask yourself the Five Questions. If the answers don't come, then print off this version of the diagram. Carry it around with you. Let the questions become a part of your everyday thought process. When reflecting of a situation, ask the questions. When planning an event using the questions as a projection into the future. The more you use them, the more you will see what you need to see before others do. All the best as you do.

Five Questions - Life-Work Transitions