Welcome All!

If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Value and Power of Questions

Several times before I blogged about what I perceive to be the value and power of questions - a certain kind of questions. If, every day, you and I replace a few assumptions, statements, and judgments with a question, a lot would be won: interest, support, curiosity, learning, understanding, collaboration, and increased self-knowledge to name just a few gains.

Examples of questions I like to ask my customers and myself are:

à How would things change if you’d choose the opposite perspective?
à What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
à What might you be missing here?
à What do you want to see when you look back ten years from now?
à What moves you? How do you move others?

There are many more examples, of course. Six questions from Stephen Covey’s book The Third Alternative that I value are:

1.    What’s my story? Do I need to change the script?
2.    Where might I have blind spots about myself?
3.    How has my cultural programming influenced my thinking?
4.    What are my real motives?
5.    Are my assumptions accurate? In what ways are my assumptions incomplete?
6.    Am I contributing to an outcome – an end to the story – that I really want?

Covey relates these questions to involvement in a conflict situation, but they are, of course, applicable in many situations.

I wish you a question-rich 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

May you live your life...

Thoughts to inspire, thoughts to provoke, thoughts to reflect, thoughts to oppose… as long as thoughts and ideas stir up something, whether it be support or opposition, I feel they are dong their job: stimulating dialogue, reflection, learning, and expansion of our minds.

Below some thoughts and ideas from people alive and deceased, known and unknown. May it stir you up, may it create brain activity.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant: May you live your live as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law.

If you think about this, what a burden this would be, but also what an eye opener and a shocker. Just living like this even one single day opens your eyes to the sometimes huge discrepancy between how we think we live according to our values, and how we really live and treat people, nature, property, and animals. How aligned are you and I really with what we say our values and priorities are?

Harvard Professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George: Be likeable, but don’t make decisions just so others will like you.

A distinction too often forgotten: Likeability refers to things such as showing interest in others, treating people with respect and dignity, being kind and helpful, and acting honestly. This is very different from making decisions so others will like you, which stems from a deep-seated drive to avoid discomfort and pain, or perceived discomfort and pain. This in turn keeps many of us from doing what’s better, what’s best, or just what’s right in the face of pending disapproval and opposition. Thinking mistakes are generally at the heart of this mechanism rather than just plain lack of assertiveness or personal courage: We often exaggerate the possible consequences of unpopular decisions. We often treat temporary loss of approval as permanent or long-term. We often generalize opposition to one of our many actions as opposition to our total person and all our actions. This is not smart, this is not according to reality, and it certainly isn’t helpful in creating a more honest, transparent environment in which we really learn and decrease blind spots, stalemates and unnecessary compromises.

Greek philosopher Thales: The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.

I think it’s not so much knowing yourself that is difficult, but acknowledging what you know about yourself, and acting on it. Sometimes we are too proud, other times we are too afraid. We too often (and the ‘we’ includes ‘me’ of course) choose to remain blind to our own critical flaws. We might choose a couple of minor shadow sides to work on or to work around, but are we courageous enough to handle the significant ones? And maybe this is not even the right question. As positive psychology and its results has taught us, the longtime focus on improving our weaknesses may show less results than leveraging our strengths more effectively. Either way, truth to what you know about yourself and acknowledging your whole person and the effects of both your strengths and your weaknesses still leaves much to improve on for most of us.

Blogger ‘Leadership Freak’: Get what you want by wanting the right things.

I believe there are many different ways in which we are suffering from wanting the wrong things. We often chase objectives according to what our superiors, our loved ones, our social status, or any other standard imposes on us or: what we think they impose on us. Looking at wanting the wrong thing from a different angle, we often want big things without starting with smaller accomplishments that motivate and pave the way to our bigger goals. A third perspective is that we often want things without really recognizing, appreciating and leveraging what we already have or are. We are chasing the next big, hot thing with the chase seeming more important and rewarding than the accomplishment and the appreciation of what’s already there.

Just some thoughts.
To get you and me thinking.
A different way.
Because only when we think different,
We create different.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What will you start, stop, continue? Right here, right now – not January first?

New Year resolutions irritate me.

I said it. I wrote it.

I briefly hesitated. Shall I replace ‘irritate’ by something less strong?
It’s rather rigid and judgmental of me to get irritated about something like New Year resolutions, especially if they're not even mine. 

But I do, because they totally don’t make sense to me. One of procrastination’s biggest allies is a resolution for the future. Why wait one more month, week, day, or even an hour?  If you know where to go, how to go, how to be, what to do, what to stop, and what to start, why do you have to wait for a certain symbolic date?

You don’t. It’s just another excuse to let you off the hook for right now. I did this so many times with smoking. I was going to quit at the beginning of summer. I would quit on January 1st. I was most definitely going to quit after that party… Until, on a very regular, normal day, right after and before another fun event, I stopped. Yes, with the help of a loving friend, and no, not postponing it even one more hour.

How to do this? Simple (maybe not easy): Be true to yourself. Be honest. Be realistic. And be determined.

Better 1 action put to real practice than 10 ideas that remain floating between that desirable future accomplishment and here-and-now implementation.

Right now, a couple of minutes before noon on the 17th of December, 2012, I can tell you I will continue to work hard and smart to:
- Judge slowly.
- Question regularly.
- Listen intently.
- Fail humbly.
- Serve daily.

My stop and start list I’ll keep to myself. It’s not about me. It’s about you. What will you start, stop, and continue to do as of NOW?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tough conversations

As leadership expert Geoff Aigner found in his own research, the biggest road block managers and leaders (but anyone alive, really) must overcome is their reluctance to engage in tough conversations, usually for fear of being unkind. There is a common mistake at work here: confusing compassion with kindness. Leaders who truly care about the development and growth of their employees are able to push through the awkwardness, and tell it straight. Just like parents who really care about their children, adult children who care about their aging parents, friends who care about their friends… the list goes on, beyond the workplace.

Tough conversations can be and usually are the most valuable conversations we have. If you throw caring, courage, and candor in the mix, you will be able to provide people with information and perspectives that others might have too, but are unwilling to share. Tough conversations help us decrease our blind spots. Tough conversations force us to move away from self-distortion and ego-saving defense mechanisms. Tough conversations, if held well, decrease the need for cover-up practices. Tough conversations are tough in the here-and-now and become some of the strongest bonds between people.

What are you afraid of? What is holding you back? What skills do you need to strengthen in order to start tough conversations? Why not start now? Mistakes are okay. These types of mistakes aren’t fatal, you know.