A Century of Difference

Amazing how much has changed in such a short period of time.

However, I do believe that the principles which people shared, and the way the Circle of Impact can be applied has not changed.

The reality is that our needs for clarity of thought, being present in our relationships, and, genuine leadership are more needed now that ever.



The other day I asked the following question as my Facebook status update.

Just thinking about how different the 21st century is compared to either the 20th or 19th. Working on a post about this. What would you all say is the difference? I'm curious.

It is an important question if we are to effectively lead into the future. Here are some of the ideas shared. (Thanks Jenni, Pat, Richard & F.C.)

The social aspect... communication in a heartbeat

The entirety of the gross data and factual information within the world is within your 1.5lb. laptop.

Less face to face social interaction. Less informal group social interaction. More social interaction at a wire's length.

Too many businesses have forgotten ... being the people business.

19th more face to face ... 20th letters and telegrams ... 21st email, mobile phones and social networks - instant responses, less thought - little or no opportunity to convey intent except by emoticons that have become part of the language. This is a change so significant that I think it's as big as the printing press being developed.

In summary, these friends are seeing changes in technology, relationships and communication. I agree. These are the core differences that are impacting us daily.

If we use my Circle of Impact framework, we can identify others. This is a valuable exercise because it helps us in two ways. First, in seeing the transition over the past two hundred years, and second, to give us an idea of where to put our energy and resources for the future.

Circle of Impact

Using the Circle of Impact to Identify Change

Ideas: The Importance of Clarity.

Today, ideas matter more than ever. In the past, the communities and places of work were fairly homogeneous, not as culturally diverse as today. Now we need to be very clear about our values and purpose, and be able to effectively communicate them in visual and tangible ways.

In the past, we could measure our business by the bottom-line, and have a pretty good idea about whether we were succeeding. Today, if we are not clear about the impact we are creating, the purpose of our businesses / organizations seem vague. Impact is the difference that matters, and distinguishes us from others in the same industry. The core meaning of impact is the change we are seeking to create, and how we know when we have.

Lastly, is having a vision that is clear about what each person brings to the mission of the organization, and by that I mean, understanding what is their potential contribution. Then knowing how it is aligned with the operating structure to produce impact. And thirdly, each member of the organization being able to articulate that vision from their own place within the organization. Same vision, different expressions of it.

Relationships: The Importance of Being Present

Today, the person who is prejudiced, condescending and exclusive toward people and other cultures is viewed as backward, narrow and insecure. Openness and welcome are important behaviors that leaders and their organizations need to exhibit.

This mindset, so to speak, is really just an entry level attitude toward relationships. At the core, what made for a healthy relationship two hundred years ago, does so today. A year ago in a post, Honor and the Lost Art of Diplomancy, I wrote,

Diplomacy is the practice of respect applied in places of diverse cultures. It is the ability of one person to be able to empathize with another person, even though their cultural, ethnic and philosophical backgrounds are not similar. ...

This type of respect is a form of humility that places the dignity of the other person ahead of one's own perogatives. It is what I see missing in much of the social and civic interaction that takes place in our society.

This aspect of relationships has always been true. The difference today is that it has to be treated as one of the strategic initiatives of the business. How the business relates to the person and the culture will have a huge impact upon how well they do.

In addition, the importance of respect, honor, dignity, and trust are now functioning within a social environment where technology mediates our relationships more and more. This is one of the most significant changes of the past two hundred years. And as one of my Facebook friends noted,

... instant responses, less thought - little or no opportunity to convey intent except by emoticons that have become part of the language. This is a change so significant that I think it's as big as the printing press being developed ...

This means that the quality of our relationships is really a matter of the person we are. Our character, integrity and values matter more than ever. They do because with many people we only have a moment to convey the depth of who we are. If we come across as shallow, narcissistic, unempathetic, or distracted, then we may never have a chance to change that impression. 

The impact of all this change in relationships and social context is that we must constantly be present with our best selves, if we hope to build relationships for the long term. To be present means that our first inclination is not to tell our story, but to ask questions to identify their story. When we know who they are and what they value, then, with genuine integrity, we can tell our story. We are able to do this when we truly approach each person with dignity, respect and trust.

Structures: The Importance of Leadership

A major change over the past two hundred years is in how businesses organize themselves. In the past, the industrial model depended upon a standardized, formal structure. Today, the complexity of doing business has placed a greater burden on workers to be problem solvers and initiative takers. The expectation that workers take greater responsibility is changing what it means to be an employee. In effect, this shift is a change in what is leadership.

In the past, leadership was a position, a title which often was personalized into a heroic narrative of the senior executive. Today leadership has become the impact that each person has within the business structure. It depends upon their ability to communicate, problem solve, relate well to others and contribute in ways beyond their job description. In effect, the skills of leadership are now the skills of an entrepreneur, and are needed by everyone within the structure.

With this shift, a company where more and more employees have the capacity to take initiative to lead, the quicker the company will adapt to changing situations with customers and in their industry.

The Difference that Matters

Here are five actions we can take.

1. Be clear about the Four Connecting Ideas of Values, Purpose/Mission, Vision and Impact. Develop an elevator speech for each, so that when the moment arises you have something clear to say.

2. Develop Ideas in Conversation. Identify three to five people with whom you work, and often have lunch, and begin to share your ideas with them. You may want to share this post with them, and see where the conversation goes. The idea is to learn through collaborative reflection.

3. Volunteer with an Organization that Serves People in Need. I have found that working with people who have lived through or are living in hard times gives me perspective on myself. I learn to appreciate what I have and gain the ability to respect those whom I may have not been able to see any value. The resiliency and adaptability of people who are in need provides us a window into our own capacity to change. 

4. Develop a Set of Questions to Ask Everyone You Meet.  What sparks your curiosity? This is how the Circle of Impact was developed. I asked questions of everyone I met. Once the Circle became clear, I began to use this as a framework for my discussions with people. Now it is printed on my business card. Do this is to take initiative because your desire is to make a difference.

5. Go Slowly on Beginning to Take Initiative. Yes, leadership is an initiative taking function. But not all organizations have embraced this idea. In fact, many think that relinquishing control over employee freedom to lead ends with chaos and confusion. It certainly can if there is poor communication and coordination between members of a team or department. Understand, therefore, that leadership in this perspective needs alignment between the three dimensions of leadership - Ideas, Relationships and Structure.

The last thing to say is that while the changes over the past two centuries have been great, the core attitudes and behaviors that make for effective leadership remain the same as always. The primary difference are the changes in the social and organizational contexts that have come through technological innovation and the growth of life and work on a global scale.

Gaining Perspective

Over the past three years, the ground upon which we stand has been rolling like the ground underneath this Vermont house after Hurricane Irene came through.

If you are still standing, congratulations. If you don't know which direction you are facing, welcome to the club.

If you have fallen, and are trying to pick yourself up, don't quit. What you've been through, in retrospect, can provide valuable lessons for the future. If you need a hand, just ask. It is how we stand together.

My Experience

Like many people, my last three years have been the hardest that I've ever faced. From losing all my clients within a six week period in the spring of 2009, to 2011 becoming the busiest, most productive year that I've had in the past decade, there are lessons I'm learning that each one of us can apply.

One of things I learned is that I was not as well prepared for the storm of the recession as I should have been. Like many people, I assumed that what I was doing was enough. It wasn't. As a result the process of the past three years has been a process of personal development that enables me to see what I need to do to make the next three years the best that I've ever had.

There are three things I did that have been infinitely beneficial. I want to share those with you in this post as a guide for how to look at the next year.  I suggest that you download my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides as a reference. Print them off, and use them for taking notes to your self. Keep them handy. They will help you gain and maintain perspective on what you are headed.

The Circle of Impact Leadership Guides

I'll give you a quick overview of each guide, and then speak to the three things to do that will help develop the impact in our life and work that we desire.



Creating Impact In Times of Transition-TP

The first thing to know is that we are all in transition. If you think, maybe, you are just in a disruptive time, and, that things will return to where they were. Look at this list of 12 transition points. This is a random list I wrote down one afternoon. I'm certain that another dozen could be identified. The point is not to be overwhelmed with the sense of disconnection, but rather to see that change is normal. 

Change is happening to us all the time. We each need to make the mental shift from seeing change as random, disruptive chaos to a pattern of change that has a logic that we can tap into and take advantage of. Once we start thinking in terms of transition, we begin to see how a process of development can unfold to our benefit. This is where we start because with a transition mindset, we begin think more opportunistically about the future.

To see our life and work this way is to see how it is a system or a network of connections between various aspects of what we do where we do it.

Circle of Impact - Life-Work Coaching
From this perspective, we can see three broad areas that every leader faces:

The Three Dimensions of Ideas, Relationships, and, Social & Organizational Structures.

The problem is learning how to align them so that they work together. Our experience tends to be more fragmented, which is where our experience of the ground never being stable under our feet is found.

The key to pulling all of this together is being intentional about the ideas that link the dimensions together. These ideas are:

The Four Connecting Ideas of Values, Purpose, Vision and Impact.

Each one of these ideas needs to be clearly defined so that they can be effectively applied.

For example: You are building your team to start a new venture. You want to select or hire people who not only share similar values, but, are also committed to the purpose of the endeavor. Bring these two ideas together in the selection of a team, and, a vision for what is possible will emerge. As a result, instead of never getting by the team formation stage, your team comes together quickly, and, moves well into the process of creating the impact that you desire.

The Circle of Impact perspective provides a way to see the whole of an organization. But just seeing it doesn't mean we know how to apply it.


The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide
The Five Questions guide is the tool that helps us clarify, focus and move more quickly into action. Ask them continually over time, and we begin to see a pattern that helps to make better decisions. This is just a tool. It isn't a magic wand to wave over a problem and it goes away. It is a tool that must be applied and acted upon. So, when you have answered the five questions, make sure that you do something specific in response, and then come back and ask the questions again.

I created the My 5 Questions template to make it easy for me to quickly answer the questions whenever the need arises. The purpose is to clarify, focus and move me to action. There is no limitation on where you can use these questions. Use the personally, professionally, with your team, your family, with clients, or with someone you meet over lunch. The questions work very well in conversation.

Three Things that Mattered the Past Three Years (2012)

It is simple. Just three things to do.

1. Care for people. Regardless of who they are. Whomever you meet each day, care for them. Treat them with respect, dignity, and compassion. I don't mean take over their lives. I mean provide them a relationship that enables them to become a better person.

2. Think for yourself. Decide for yourself who you are going to be. Act with integrity towards your own values and goals, so you can help others do the same.

3. Live opportunistically in the moment. As a planner, I can confidently say that a long-range plan is more often a closed door than open path. The best plan is knowing who you are, what values matter, and the impact that you want to achieve. The process is discovered daily in the moment to moment interaction that we have with people. This is where real freedom is found.

Afterword Three Years Later (2015)

The years 2012 to 2014, for me, were ones of dramatic change. When I wrote the above post, I was optimistic about the future. Instead, within the first year, the non-profit that I had been hired to lead failed and closed. The recession's effect upon my consulting work lingered. And my marriage ended. Hard year, but still a year of transition.

I realized, as everything was ending, that something new was beginning. I had to get to that point so that I could begin. I took the time to reflect, to heal, and, begin to set my sights forward. I found myself working an hour a week with a group of women in an addiction recovery program. A totally new and different experience for me. And, then, I came to see that I need to relocated my life and work to Jackson, Wyoming.

The Circle of Impact Leadership Guides serve as a check point to connect perceptions that I had three years ago with those that I have now.

My Values have not so much changed, but have become clearer, more definitive, and, more focused on putting them into action.

My Purpose has changed. Instead of focused on businesses in a consulting context, I am redirecting my energies towards the personal leadership of individuals.

My Vision has yet to become clear. The reason is that Vision functions in the context of relationship, in a social context of collaboration and community. I have only move to Jackson within the past month, so time for visioning with others will come.

My Impact for the future will emerge as I go through the process of aligning my life and work with The Four Connecting Ideas.

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Real Life Leadership: Inspiring ideas have little meaning unless you find ways to apply them

Today's Real Life Leadership column - Inspiring ideas have little meaning unless you find ways to apply them - follows up an event that was held last night here in Asheville.

Over 600 people gathered at the Grove Park Inn, for the first ever Western North Carolina Lessons in Leadership conference.  They heard William Kelley speak on the leadership of people in the context ofWncleaderslessonsinleadership_hea_2 running the Grove Park Inn's operations.  He was very good. A couple take aways.

1. Rule of 85/15: 85% of an employee's effectiveness is determined by the system they work within, 15% involves their own skill. He is right on the money here. Too often the organizational structure or system as he speaks of it dictates to the employee what they must do and not do.  It should be reversed. They system should exist to provide the employee to reach the full extent of their abilities and commitment to their job. Is the employee the creator of the system? They certainly are contributors. But the system is an outgrowth of leadership. It reflects the leadership at the top.  This leads to the second take away from Bill that I found valuable.

2. Leaders are responsible to their employees, not for their employees.  If an organizational leader is to lead, then there has to be a relationship. To be responsible for the employee is to take away from them their responsibility to the company. Their responsibility becomes responding, in the extreme, to orders from above.  When leaders take on the mindset of being responsible to their employees, then they are looking to communicate not only their expectations, but also the opportunity that the employee has to fulfill their human purpose of being a responsible person. This comes back to creating a system or structure that allows for this. And it takes a particular mindset on the leaders part to make it happen.  Bill used a quote from his boss, Craig Madison, CEO of the Grove Park Inn to illustrate the importance to being first responsible to our own performance so that we can be responsible to others. "Your house is in such order that you have to talk about others."  I thought that was a pretty good turn of phrase.

The other speaker on the evening was Brian Biro, a corporate trainer and coach whose focus is on "breakthrough leadership." He gave us two hours of high energy on what it takes to breakthrough those barriers in our lives that keep us from going to the level.  The experience of Brian's presentation is as much the take-away is it is the idea.  The first hour he spent talking about his career as a swim coach in California. He told a story about a swimmer named Allison.  I won't tell the story because I hope you hear him to tell some day. It isn't just in the message of the story, but the way he tells it that communicates the idea that we all fall short because we encounter obstacles that we don't feel we can over come. That we need a focus and we need the support of people to get through those barriers. The rest of his presentation was about how we breakthrough those barriers using the metaphor of board breaking to illustrate it. At the end of the evening, two women were selected, and they broke through their boards, and the crowd was electric.

My take away from Brian's presentation.

1. You have a choice about what your life can be.  It is your choice, your decision, and your responsibility.  Even with all the influences that afflict us everyday, we have a choice about how we will respond to them.  It is a matter of Personal Responsibility.

2. NOW! The Present. Brian used what he called a poem to put this in perspective.  "The past is history. The future is ... a mystery. The gift is NOW!  That's why we call it The Present!" He admits it is a bit corny, and it is. But it communicates an important message. What I do now determines what happens in the future. It isn't a matter of waiting to see. It is a matter of doing something now.  I love Aristotle's perspective of mastering life. We don't decide to be the best at something and the automatically we are. No, we grow into being the best by practice and persistence. And that starts right now.  However, Brian wasn't so much speaking about the present in this way. He was speaking more to our relationships, and how we are present with the people we encounter. You may have heard the phrase, "Not listening, but waiting to speak."  Being present means there is no future, there is only NOW!. I know that this is one of my areas to breakthrough on. My children tell me this. And I've been on a learning curve with this for a couple years. So, Brian's message was very relevant to me.

Now, here is what is interesting about last night event.

Five guys, most of them involved with Toastmasters International, decided to put this event together. I came in late to the planning as a friend of one of them.  Their companies underwrote the cost. They took time away from their business. It was a huge success. Almost 700 registered, over 600 attending, and each one loving the experience and looking to what comes next.  What do you do when you plan an event, with no idea what is to follow. I don't think last night can be repeated. The atmosphere, the electricity, the sense of something totally new for the Asheville business community. None of this can be repeated. So, how do you take a hard act to follow, and replicate it?  That is the adventure of leadership.  Learning how to take the value you've created, understanding precisely what it is, and then build upon it.

It was a great evening, and I was pleased to have a small part to play in it.  Stay tuned for the future.

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In the Moment of Contribution

Garr at Presentation Zen links to this YouTube video of Ben Zander. Watch all the way through to the end.

His emphasis reminds me of Professor William Hundert's admonition to his Western Civilization class in The Emperor's Club.

Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance.  What will your contribution be?  How will history remember you?

I like both Zander's and Hundert's thought about contribution.  It rises from the character of giving, instead of performing or acquiring. This is part of what I see in my emphasis on Impact.

Impact as the difference that occurs because of the decisions we make and the actions we take. In effect, we create change.  If we take this seriously, there is not destination in life in the sense that I'm trying to reach some preconceived spot in time where I can see that I have "arrived" at a point of completion. 

If we take these notions of contribution and impact seriously, we'll see that we must live in the moment of time that we have been given. That moment is right now. This is what Zander is saying to his audience. That moment means right now, what contribution can I make. Right now.

I see this same urgency in Tom Peter's presentations. Download this one he gave in Dubai recently. Look at slides 220-238.  Think there is no urgency for living in the moment with him?

The choice that Zander presents to Ailie the singer in the video is whether to wait to be an expert, or act now to contribute. And when she sings ... WOW! How beautiful!!!  What a transformational moment for this young woman.

We are all faced with similar choices. Wait so that we can be better, or act now and learn how to contribute.  In the words of Aristotle, we learn by doing.  We learn to contribute by trying to contribute right now.

So, who will be the benefactor of your contribution today? 

I'd like to know so that we can share that singular achievement for this day. Either post a comment or send an email.  It is in the moment that we learn. Do so, now.