The Platform of Desire, Part 5

IMG_2304The Desire to Connect

Desire isn't just an idea. It is a movement within us drawing us towards some value or experience or person.

This drawing, like water into the porous membrane of a sponge, is the activity of connection.

You walk into a room at a business after hours event. You register, get you name tag, and turn around and look at the crowd. Who are you looking to meet? Who is looking to meet you?

We are drawn towards particular kinds of people. What is it that us draws to them?

You sign up for an online dating service, and out of the dozens of possibilities, one person jumps off the page. Why this person?

What draws us towards this one individual rather than another?

Why can we talk about the synergy between two people who only met two minutes ago? What is it that draws us into relationships where we are prepared to trust, to be vulnerable and change our business plan immediately?

It is the intangible nature of human desire. It is beyond rational. It really isn't subrational, but rather supra-rational. It is beyond explanation. It falls into the realm of faith.

What is it about the connection of human desire that causes us to flee the safety of the fortress to venture out into the unknown to discover what lay in our heart's desire all along.

Many refer to this as a call, a voice that constantly beckons them onward, to risk all for the sake of that source of passion deep within us that refuses to be quiet.

This is the magic that happens between two people or within a team when they stop playing the game of control and risk management, and pursue a call they share to make a difference that matters.

In other words, it is love that draws us together. The love of ideas, of people and of the change that we can create together. This is the desire that lies deep within us that calls us to accept and honor its all or nothing demand upon our lives.

The People We are Drawn Toward

At a most basic level, we are drawn toward two kinds of people.

One type are those who affirm or validate who we are. They are like us or complement us by helping us see the inherent value of who we are. These relationships appreciate us for who we are right now. These are family and friends with whom we have happy moments each day.

Often these are people we've known a long time and with whom, even if we are very different in personality, we feel comfortable because of our shared life experiences together.  These are people with whom we share similar values. These are our peeps.

The second kind are those people for whom we feel a kind of longing. This longing is to be different, better, fulfilled, complete, or known for some facet of our lives that the first group cannot see. These people set a standard for their life and work that we view as higher or more ambitious, and therefore is desirable. We desire relationships with them, hoping that some of their magic will rub off on us.  We desire what we think they have. More than anything, we want their respect, and a connection to them.

These relationships may not be with people that we know or with whom we spend most of our time. The relationship may be virtual as on Facebook or Twitter. A connection is made when they like a link that we post. A social media connection with this person fulfills a longing for association with someone whom we perceive to be the person we wish to be in the future. These persons symbolize for us the values that matter to us, that may seem beyond our reach, yet live down deep within us as the desires that we have for our life and work.

We need both of these kinds of relationships. However, neither speaks to the character of the relationship, only to a type of relationship.

The character of our relationships matter.  I thought of this when I came across this selection from the Diary of Anais Nin.

"The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters. meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision."

She could easily be describing the relationships that many of us have through social media platforms. We desire connection. But too often it is superficial, lacking depth.

What then does it mean to have relationships of depth?  This is the kind of relationship that I wrote about in my post Still Waters Still Flow. There I write,

"Am I setting up an impossible scenario for our relationships? Of course I am! For without a standard, an ideal, or a vision of the highest in human experience, then there is no clear direction to the flow of our lives.

When the love I describe becomes complete within us, and seeks out others who also have found a completeness in the love within them, then a depth of relationship results that changes us. We are transformed by loving, not simply by the idea of love.

All these human characteristics that we celebrate and honor, like Respect, Trust, Confidence, Responsibility, Courage, Empathy and Self-sacrifice find a ground upon which to grow. For ultimately, flow rises from our own capacity to be the person we wish others to be.

I wish I could say that all this can come without pain or suffering but it can't. In fact, it is the very comforts of our modern life that stand in the way of a fulfilled, complete and flourishing life. Those comforts present the appearance of strength and completeness. But too often they are the curtain that blinds us to harsher realities of the world.

For still waters to run deep requires the dredging of the stream bed of our lives to remove all those barriers to flow. The more courageous, the more willing we are to raise the standards of our life and work, the more willing we are to be committed to do the hard work of changing our lives, the more willing we are to defy fear, and move into unknown territories of discovery, the more we will discover that still waters still flow bringing peace into a world of conflict."

For these kinds of relationship to flourish requires a setting or an environment for our relationships to grow. Increasingly, I'm convinced that this is difficult to achieve when the relationship is only in a virtual context.

Digital or Analog, Virtual or ... ?

What do we call the setting of relationships that are not virtual, that exist outside of an online digital social space? To say they are analog, physical or real does not capture it well. What are our relationships that exist where we live, with whom we encounter in physical proximity to one another.

Lacking an adequate terminology, I've decided to use a sacramental term that Presbyterians and other Protestant Christians use to describe the relationship of God to the eucharist, the sacramental meal that Christians observe in worship. That term is Real Presence.

I'm using real presence in a non-religious way. It is the relationship that develops between people who find their life and work connected at a deeper level of meaning and impact than with other people. The result is that they are drawn together in such a way that the traditional social media platforms are an insufficient for the purpose of the relationship. In other words, they find they need to be in physical proximity to one another often enough to advance their relationship's purpose.

To be really present, requires us to be open and vulnerable, attentive and willing to adapt to each opportunity as it appears. Real presence is living each day with intention and commitment. I realize that these are familiar words to people today. The challenge is not knowing the meaning of these words, but deriving our meaning of life from living them each day.

There are many people that I've met online with whom we now have a relationship of real presence. We are constantly in touch with the living our of our lives. We are not simply observing and commenting in a detached manner. Our relationships to one another matter. As a result, we are drawn to be with one another in a physical sense. And so we make the effort to travel to be with one another.

Let me return to my question from above. Why is it that we connect with some people and not others?  Is it because the place where we meet and develop our relationships is conducive for the kind of relationship we seek? Is it because there are certain values that we share that can flourish in either a virtual or a physical context?

This is a complex question. To understand it we must understand ourselves. To understand ourselves demands that we understand the kinds of environments that are most conducive to making the kind of connections that we truly desire.

This is an important question because so many of our connections are virtual, operating only within a digital context. Yet, we are not virtual people, digitized, pixelated images or text narratives on a screen. We are embodied persons whose whole selves experience the movement of desire flowing through us.

Developing Platforms for Desire

We are at the beginning point in the evolution of the digital world. What it will be in a decade or in fifty years is pure speculation.

I am convinced that because we are desiring beings (James K A Smith's term), that the structure of society and organizations ultimately adapt to who we are. It is never smooth, however.

Today, we are at the end of the industrial era, without real clarity about what is to follow. Current global social and political forces are aligned to avoid change as much as possible. Resistance to human evolution is futile. And at the heart of our evolution as a species is the drive our desires for meaning, healthy relationships and lives of impact.

As a result, there will always be a tug-of-war between those forces that seek to control the evolutionary course, and those who choose the freedom to adapt to change as it presents itself each day.

As social media platforms develop, change and die, new platforms will emerge to meet the opportunities that come from human social interaction. The challenge for the developers of these platforms as I've said previously in this series, is not really how to monetize the platform, but rather how maximize the ability of people of shared desires to collaborate to make a difference that matters. The mousetrap has been invented. Now is the time to make a better mousetrap.

There is much more that can be said about the relation of human desire to the virtual online world. For now, this is sufficient.

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.

Five Questions: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This is one of a series of posts that describes the purpose and use of my Circle of Impact Guides.

The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide

This guide is the most practical of the set. It is because it doesn't try to explain a set of concepts, but rather asks questions to gain clarity and direction. The value of these questions is dependent upon the consistency of their use. By this I mean, you can use them once, and gain some value, or you can use them on a regular basis and begin to see the Circle of Impact in the midst of circumstances everyday.

Using the Five Questions provides a way to both focus and broaden one's perspective.  It focuses your attention on Impact. It broadens awareness by bringing the Three Dimensions of Leadership - Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structures - together in a unified picture. In addition, it provides a way for teams to stay on track by asking the same questions on a regular basis.

The Five Questions cover five categories that are important for organizations.

Change or the pattern and pace of Transition.

Impact or the Difference that is made by your Ideas, Relationships and Structures.

Who is being Impacted.

The Opportunities that come your Organization's Impact.

The Problems that are your responsibility to resolve.

If your team can answer these questions on a regular basis, you'll find that you see problems before they reach a critical stage, and are able to act on opportunities more quickly.

The Five Questions That Everyone Must Ask guide is a tool. As a tool, it becomes more useful through use. The guide can be used in three different ways.

As a  Planning tool:

What is the Impact that you want from your Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structures in 18 months? 

What will be the Impact of the Opportunities that we now have 18 months from now?

As an Assessment tool:

Currently, what is the Impact of our Communication with our constituents?

What are the constraints that inhibit us from fulfilling the potential Impact that we identify in Opportunities?

As a Problem-solving tool:

Is our Communication problem an Idea problem, a Relationship one or a Social or Organizational Structure issue?

Who is our ideal market for the Impact that we wish to have?

How To Use This Guide:

Take a copy of the guide, and transpose the questions to a blank sheet of paper.

Answer each of the questions the best you can.

Answer them first in the Assessment mode, then from a Planning perspective, and when the Fifth Question identifies a problem, answer the question to solve the problem.

Act on what you learn each time you answer the questions.

The guide will work for you if you give it your attention on a regular basis. The late Galba Bright used to answer the question every Sunday evening in preparation for the week ahead. Over the course of a year, Galba's website - Tune up your EQ -became the most visited Emotional Intelligence website in the world.  He attributed this success to the focus that he gained through the use of the questions.

The Five Questions have no magical properties. They are just questions. But they are questions that lead to awareness and perspective, and from that position decisions can be made and actions taken that can enhance the Impact creating abilities of an organization.

The Stuff in Your Head

Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg wrote to several of us who are in an online community asking for feedback on a blog post.  He wanted some help to get the stuff in his head on to paper.

Here's  some of what I wrote.

1. The stuff in your head is your voice.

The more you write, the more you'll find what you really need to be saying. I started in blogging in 2004 at the same time I began writing a twice-monthly column for my local paper. The columns weren't bad, though not great. The blog posts were unexceptional until about a year and a half ago when I began to discover what I really wanted to say. What I discovered, in addition, is that I began to spend more time writing than reading. All my life I had been a consumer of other peoples' ideas, and through constant attention to writing, I am becoming a producer of ideas.  So, write, write, write and write some more.  As you do, you'll find yourself waking up at 3am, getting up, going to the computer, and spending five hours producing something that is personally meaningful, and takes you one step farther down the road of discovery and excellence.

2. Create a structure on which to hang your thoughts.

The easiest way to do this is write series of posts. Typically, in odd lots, of 3 or 5, or maybe even 31. Several years ago, when I knew I'd be traveling for most of the month of July, I wrote a series on questions that could be posted each day for the month. It became the 31 Questions ebook later. As I read through it today, I'm amazed a how much further my thinking has gone.

The basic idea is to create an ideological system for your ideas. It allows not only for people to follow your train of thought, but also for you to build an ideological system for influencing people in a sustainable way.  And if you are a very complex thinker like me, meaning your ideas tend to confuse people more than enlighten them, then you need ways to make it simple. That is why I started creating my one page conversation guides. The personal result is that I have a system for addressing a wider range of issues than I did before. I'm not suggesting you create diagrammatic charts. I am suggesting that you systematize your thinking so that people can get it easily, and you have an ideological platform for expressing the stuff in your head.

3. Write for yourself, your audience will follow.

The tyranny of the marketplace is that it is fickle and doesn't pay close attention. It does not follow but constantly finds you. The loyal audience will give you good feedback, but for the most part, if you try to build your writing around what you think other people are looking for, you'll not find joy and fulfillment in the process of writing. 

Writing begins as self-expression, and leads to connection and influence with others. We must not see it as a means to aggrandize ourselves with the public, but rather how we give to them in service and contribution.

Writing is a painful experience because it attacks us at our most vulnerable points. My suggestion for those who feel that they must get the stuff in their heads out on paper is to write. You can find support in the thoughts of writers like Seth Godin, especially his chapter called The Resistance in his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, and Stephen Pressfield's Writing Wednesdays posts and his essential, The War of Art.

Lastly, while you may be writing for yourself, it isn't always about you. It is about expressing yourself in a manner that provides a context for connecting with the world outside your head. Write for yourself, but write to be read, so that the influence of your ideas may make a difference that matters.

Qualifying your Network

Following our Lessons In Leadership Making the BIG SHIFT workshop a month ago, one of the participants told me/asked me the following.

"I know how to grow my network. What I need to know is how to qualify the people I meet so that I'm growing it in the right way."

This is a great question. Let's use the Circle of Impact guides (free download) for this purpose.Circle of Impact - Life-Work image

The Circle of Impact is built around three dimensions - Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structures.

Simply put, everyone has ideas, relationships and lives and works within specific social and organizational structures. This is true of everyone.

The focus of each of these dimensions is Impact creation.

Simply put, we all use our ideas and our relationships within our social and organizational structures to make a difference, to create change.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether those changes matter.

Simply put, the qualifying question that we need to ask is

Does the potential impact of this person's ideas, relationships and their social and organizational structures matter?

The only way to know is learn to ask questions that reveal the answer.

This where the Circle of Impact Connecting Ideas come in.

A starting point for qualifying someone is learning about their purpose, their values and their vision for impact. If these ideas are not clear or not well developed, then it tells you something about them.

Of course, anyone well versed in networking practice has learned to have their little spiel prepared to answer these kinds of questions.

What matters is not having an answer to what is your purpose, values and vision, but rather demonstrating how those ideas matter in action in your relationships and your activities in the social and organizational structures of your life and work.

See how this Circle is completed.

The most important aspect of discovering how to qualify your network is becoming a person who matters. In so doing, you learn to discern substance from superficiality.

Was it Gandhi who said, "Be the change you want to be.

It applies here.

Be the person of impact who creates the difference that matters and you'll find the people of like purpose, vision, values and impact.

Remember: It is better to have a small and impact qualified network than a larger network that is as thin on impact as a business card.

A Dozen Thoughts on Thinking, Communicating and Relationships

IdeaGapActionHere are a dozen thoughts that were on my mind as a new week begins. 

1. Listening is not the same as waiting to speak. It isn't nodding your head. It is being able to restate what the person said so that they know that you were listening.


2. Context matters. Just because you are an expert about one thing, doesn't mean that you are an expert in how that one thing relates to all things. Where you stand, your perspective, is just that your perspective. Respect your perspective, don't worship it.


3. Other people's context matters. Being influenced by a wide diversity of perspectives, broadens and deepens your own perspective. Build relationships with the widest possible collection of people. Your network should represent your curiosity, not your insecurities.


4. Real world experience matters. But it doesn't mean that you understand your experience. If you are not testing your ideas against experience, and your experience against other people's ideas, how can you say you are an expert? It is safer to think of yourself as a one learner among billions rather than the one expert among them.


5. IMHO isn't. Saying, "Here's what I think. What about you?" is.


6. Asking questions isn't doubting, but learning. Questions reveal truth. Questions reveal whether someone's ideas are clear, coherent, intellectually honest and have some connection to the way the world actually works. Develop strong BS filters by learning to ask hard questions.


7. Be careful of people who prohibit questions because you don't understand their "system."


8. Thinking something doesn't mean you know it. Just because a thought is in your head, doesn't mean you understand it, can explain it or apply it to someone's context. The quickest way to discover whether you understand your thoughts is to say them out loud. Verbalizing ideas is the shortest route to understanding what you really think. 


9. Practice reveals character. Before opening your mouth, and revealing how poorly thought out your ideas are, write them down, stand in front of a mirror and say them, or find someone who will listen and give you honest advice.


10. Never give a new presentation in front of an audience of strangers. Find someone who will listen and critique it first. Fix, then practice, practice, practice.


11. People's experience with you is more important than your ideas. Reverse that. Your ideas are only as good as the emotional experience that people have with them. Integrity and authenticity, not manipulation, are the keys to aligning your ideas with your audience's emotions. You must know your own emotions related to your ideas if you want to elicit authentic emotions from your audience.


12. Be your own BEST critic, not worst. Think for yourself. Don't be an expert on one thing. Be an expert of how many things are connected to your one thing. Don't accept someone's "informed" opinion as "completely and absolutely the last word." Read, study, ask questions, form your opinions, test them, practice them, write them down, speak about them from the heart and do this everyday.  In the end, you won't know more than anyone else. However, you will know what you don't know, and that will make the difference that matters.

Circle of Impact Consultation & Coaching debuts

There is “… a thinning line between life and work …” that is forcing us to step back and reorient ourselves to the future relationship of the work we do and the life we want to lead.

Until our life purpose is aligned with the work we do, and our values are aligned with the relationships we have, our vision for impact is just an idea waiting for fulfillment.

Everyone wants their life and work …

    To be personally meaningful …

            To be socially fulfilling, and …

                    To make a difference that matters.

Circle of Impact Consultation & Coaching is here to be a trusted guide toward a future that is meaningful, fulfilling and that creates the impact that makes a difference that matters.

We create an Action Plan that aligns your purpose, your relationships and the social and organizational structures where you are involved that positions you to achieve the impact that you want in your life and work.

How We Plan is How We Implement

We don’t just plan, plan some more, and once we are done planning, then act. We do Active Planning where you begin to act on your plan as soon as it is clear and practical. As you do, we review and adapt to what we learn as we go along. As a result, we are always in a planning - implementing mindset. The benefit is that this keeps us alert to changes taking place that provides us opportunities to strengthen the effect of the active planning process.

What does an Active Planning Process Look Like?

Everything is built around Conversation. When we talk, we learn and discover hidden wisdom and insight.

I ask Questions that help us discover what we need to know. My questions are focused on revealing to us the action steps that we need to make. See my 2010 Planning Guide for a list of questions that we can use.

We use the Circle of Impact as a guide to be complete, comprehensive and strategic.

Complete means we cover all the bases.

Comprehensive means we look at the whole of your life and work.

Strategic means we create a plan that integrates your goals, values, relationships and social and organizational settings.

We look at your Network of Relationships, who you know, who knows you, and who you need to know in the future. We link them together into a socially fulfilling network of relationships that enables your network to be an asset in fulfilling your purpose in making a difference.

Our Analysis of your situation, by using the Circle of Impact model, provides you a basis for a clear perspective on where you are right now, and where you’d like to be in the future.

From this perspective, we create an Action Plan that guides your decisions and actions to achieve the impact that you desire.

Your greatest leverage for achieving your desired impact is through the Social and Organizational Structures where you are involved. The action plan we create addresses how to work within these structures. The key is aligning your purpose, values and vision for impact through these structures.

The Client – Consultant/Coach relationship

My relationship with clients is modeled after the Circle of Impact. I work to make sure that our communication is clear, that our relationship is based on trust and respect; and that the structure of our work together is organized to meet your needs and within a financial framework that makes sense to you. I am honest, yet discrete, respecting the boundaries that define our relationship. I care for my clients, and believe in their potential to make a difference that matters. Our relationship begins with a conversation to clarify your needs and goals, and to see how we can work together.

This new program is the product of over six months of intense redesign of the work that I've been doing for 15 years.

Circle of Impact 2010 Planning Guide

Circle of Impact 2010 Planning Guide Questions

Starting with a client's perceived need

Transition Point - no title

Where do you begin with clients?

Are you selling them a product?

Do you begin with what they want?

Do you explore what they perceive their need to be?

I start with a transition question. 

What's a transition question?

It is a question about what they perceive as having changed. It isn't just that it has changed, but change in some relatively permanent way, as if there is no going back.

Most people have a sense that something has changed, is changing or needs to change, but don’t have a way to see it very clearly or completely.

That is where I begin.

Once they see this transition, they are more motivated to make changes that take advantage of the transition they are in.

People see problems.

They know when things are not right or in decline.

They know it intuitively, even though that can't describe it precisely.

Once they begin to see the transition they are in, I begin to talk with them about the dynamic of the Circle of Impact.

Circle of Impact- simple

This dynamic is an interplay between our ideas, relationships and the contexts where we are involved. They are always touching one another.

I have found that when I begin to talk with someone about a project, that their perception of need is often different from their actual need.

A person's perception of transition is not just an idea. It is also a product of the interaction that they have with people, as well as their involvement as participants and contributors in the social and work contexts where they are involved. These contexts are impacted by the quality of relationships and by the ideas that govern how the structure and relationships function.

If your client's group is in transition, meaning that change is happening to them, and it isn't clear where it is going, then a lack of clarity (Ideas) about policy and procedures may be affecting the comfort and security that people feel in their relationships with each other. If there is a lack of trust then the group has less capacity to manage well the transition they are in.

See how this dynamic is played out? Try this exercise.

Make a list of your clients and ask the following three questions about their situation.

1. Is my client clear about who they are and what they stand for?

2. Do they trust the people with whom they are involved?

3. Do they feel that they have an opportunity to contribute their best?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, then there is a breakdown in the dynamic of the Circle of Impact.

Helping people move from a vague sense of change to a clearer one provides a foundation for addressing the deeper issues of their mission, vision and values. I call them the deeper issues because these are not simply ideas, but are the ways we connect the dimensions of the Circle of Impact together.

Look at the above illustration.

A mission is an idea that connects a social or organizational context not only to its purpose, but also how it is organized to achieve its mission.

If your client's stated mission and the organization of their life and work are not in agreement or alignment, then you know there is an issue to address.

How will they see this disconnect between mission and structure?

One way is that no one takes their stated mission seriously. They are simply empty words.

A vision is a word-picture of the effect of a group's mission. It captures the impact that people create through the social or organizational context where they participate?

If there is no actual impact, then you know that there is a breakdown in the Circle of Impact.

Is the breakdown an Idea, Relationship or Structure problem?

Until you look closely at the dynamic you don't know. However, it is less important where the problem is than realizing that the solution comes from all three dimensions.

My experience is that all people have values, but often don't know what they are.

They need help in identifying them.

We need a real world impact picture in order to identify them.

Values function in two ways.

1. Values unify relationships. They are the bond that unites people within a social or organizational context together.

2. Values also create the strength that everything else is dependent upon. A mission is simple a statement of identity and purpose. A vision is a statement of the results of that mission. Underlying both ideas are values, and the values really are used to create the strength that we see in collaboration.

Real strength comes from our interaction with people, whether as partners, employer/employees or with clients. 

Ideas and the structure of social and organizational contexts are the tools that we use in our relationship to make a difference that matters.

The problem for most of us, including our clients, is that we have not been taught how to see this dynamic between our ideas, structure and relationships.

Helping your clients clarify the perception of their problems and the transition they are in is the first step toward bringing significant, sustainable solutions to their situations.

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.