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 standing, welcome to the club.
If you have fallen, and are trying to pick yourself up, don't quit. What you've been through is, 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 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. You'll need to download the eight Circle of Impact Leadership Guides. I encourage you to print them off, and use them for taking notes to your self. Keep them handy over the next year. 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 you and me make 2012 a year of impact for us both.
The number one thing to know first is that we are all in transition. 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.
One of the patterns that I've identified is that there are three broad areas that every leader faces. The Three Dimensions are Ideas, Relationships and Organizational Structure. The problem for most of us is that have never been shown how to align them so that they work together. Our experience is more fragmented, which produces the experience of the ground never being stable under our feet.
The key to pulling all of this together is learning to utilize the four Connecting Ideas. They are your Purpose or Mission, Values, Vision and Impact. At this point, it is enough to say that each of these need to be clearly defined so that they can be effectively applied.
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 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.
Now if you look back at the first guide, you'll see the ascending S-curves. Keep this image in mind as you answer the questions. Because some of the actions you'll be taking are to stop doing some of the things that you've been doing, so you can begin to do new ones. The Five Questions helps you gain perspective for taking effective action.
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.
Here's a MSWord version and a PDF version for your use. My suggestion is that create a folder to save each time you answer the questions. Often I'll write them out long hand, and transfer my answer to the template and save them for future reflection.
I also use these questions in my coaching relationships. I find leaders, while they know a lot, often lose perspective, and this helps greatly to return them to a point of clarity and focus.
The Circle of Impact was developed primarily to address business organizational leadership situations. Over time, I began to see that my clients and workshop attendees were also talking about personal issues. As a result, I came to the conclusion that I could translate the Circle of Impact into a personal perspective of Three Life/Work goals. The are to find personal meaning, to have relationships that are fulfilling, and to have a life that makes a difference that matters. As you can see from this guide, The Connecting Ideas are an important part of how we approach our personal lives. This is especially true of the values upon which we base our life. It is therefore, simple to use the My 5 Questions template for personal development as well.
The other three guides provide a picture of how a social network can fit into a traditional hierarchical organization; the different ways people relate to change, and finally, a practical guide to developing the practice of gratitude in organizations.
The Three Things that Mattered the Past Three Years
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.
My Hope for 2012
I have very low expectations that this years election season will bring the best out in people. But I hope you will make a greater effort to care for people than win political debates. I hope that you will not let the media or the candidates tell you what you should think or what your values should be. Stand on your own so you can find others that will stand with you. Care for your local community, and focus on local issues so you can be more closely connected to your neighbors. Finally, believe that we can be better than we have been, and become an example to others of one is making a transition from what you once were to what seek to be in the future.
All the best for a 2012. Come back regularly in the new year as I have lots of plans. One of them is to create as series of ebooks that provides a more structured system for utilizing the the Circle of Impact Leadership Guides.