powerful purposeful habits

The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Early

I haven’t read a complete book in one day in… I don’t know how long. But I had a quiet, no-urgent-task Saturday, a beautiful fresh-breeze sunny day, and an empty back-porch couch all to myself. And I had a great book, full of authentic hopeful words that drew me in and gave nourishment to my soul.

It was a powerful combination –
one that doesn’t happen often.

I almost gave up on The Common Rule at first. It seemed a bit over-simplified, and after a number of heart-wrenching, mind-numbing, complex, and difficult years, I am not a big fan of “just do this…” kind of answers. However, the more I read, the more Justin Whitmel Earley captured me with his authenticity and his grasp of reality as he offered flexible options that could work for our many-varied steps on the journey.

Early writes about habits.

Habits of purpose,
habits that counter our decision fatigue,
habits that “form our hearts” and lead us to love. 

He recommends eight habits in the book. The habits focus on loving God and others and on refreshing our hearts while we resist those easy-to-fall-into tendencies that wear us down.

The habits are not about legalistic ritual. They are suggested to battle self-condemnation, anxiety, isolation, hurriedness, and injustice. The habits lead us toward peace, gratefulness, compassion, deeper relationships, and rest. Which one of us of doesn’t long for those things?

Earley’s habits are as simple as having one meal with others each day or turning off the phone for one hour a day. But they are not easy.

The eight habits of purpose

The most ordinary habits of limitation create
the most extraordinary lives of meaning.

So far, I have implemented into my days only parts of some of his suggested habits, but I am encouraged that even those have made a difference. In these days of so much uncertainty, chaos, and loss of routine, regular life-giving habits can provide help for building the resilience we need for the long-term changes we have in front of us. They certainly gave me hope and I think adding some habits of purpose into your life might give you hope too.

If you have read the book or read it now, please share with me what you thought about it. I’d love to hear from you.

What helpful habits do you have in your life? 

Your Story Matters

Graphic credit: Your Story Matters launch team

We are going through crazy times – a world pandemic never before experienced in our lifetimes. We would never have believed it if someone had told us a few weeks ago that:

  • All schools and colleges would be closed except for online studies
  • All professional sports and music concerts would cancel their upcoming events
  • International and domestic flights would be grounded and country borders would be closed
  • The Olympics would be postponed
  • Beaches and National Parks would off-limits
  • We’d be maintaining six-foot “personal cones of protection” and wearing masks out in public
  • Millions of people would suddenly be out of work
  • In some places, tax collections and school loan repayments would be postponed and some landlords would not be charging rent
  • Divided governments would be collaborating like never before on economic stimulus packages

This mind-boggling new world is affecting us each in different ways. Some are very isolated and lonely as they are in lockdown alone in their homes. Others are overwhelmed as they have suddenly taken on homeschooling and/or they are trying to work with young children underfoot, on their laps, and yelling in their ears. Many are living in vulnerable and unsafe situations in their own homes or homeless on the streets. Others are not able to stay home and are working in risky job situations to take care of the rest of us. Some have lost jobs. Others are fearful of the future. Many are stepping into creative and generous ways of helping with needs. Each story is different.

Each story matters.

I have been processing my experience during these crazy times by journaling and by writing in this blog. There have been some really hard, sad, and tumultuous effects due to this virus. We have also made beneficial adjustments in our new way of life. One thing I want to do is record the changes I have made in my life during this time so that I do not go back so easily to status quo behaviors when this is over.

I want to remember.

That is one of the reasons I am grateful that a book launch is happening right now and I get to recommend Leslie Leyland Fields excellent work titled, Your Story Matters.

Leslie Leyland Fields hosts an incredible writers workshop on a private island in Alaska. She also does a few workshops in other places, but for most of us, attending one of those workshops won’t work because of travel or cost limitations, especially now.

Thankfully, Leslie’s new book is like having her workshop brought right to your home. As you read and write your way through Your Story Matters, Leslie explains the “why” it is important to write your story and the specifics of “how” to do it. Her coaching is honest, grace-filled, encouraging and easy to follow.

The chapters are full of wonderful examples and helpful writing prompts. If you have ever believed you can’t or shouldn’t write, Leslie is about to change that. If you have ever thought about writing for publication, to process what has or is happening in your life, or to preserve family memories, now is a great time to do that.

I highly recommend using some of your time during this once-in-a-lifetime situation to write or record your experience and emotions – your story – in some way. You could compose a song, record a video, or write. Leslie’s book will help you remember and tell your story. I highly recommend it.

How are you processing and recording your unique story?


Get Leslie’s book on Amazon now!

Win Every Day – book review

Mark Miller sells chicken. He also writes books.

Blake Brown is the main character in Mark’s High Performance series of books. Blake is a fictional business leader who teaches us principles of influence and execution through his life story. In Mark’s new book, Win Every Day, Blake learns, from his son’s high school football coach, how to lead a team to consistent quality results. Whether or not you are a sports fan, the principles in this book can help you reach your organizational goals by bringing out the best in your people.

“We will not drift to greatness.

Coach Moore reminds Blake that we must be intentional – each and every day – if we want to achieve great things. That intentionality shows up in three ways:

  • Pursue Mastery – a level of skill where the desired behavior is consistent, execution is flawless, and the behavior is second nature.

On this point, I appreciated the important distinction between pressure-filled, discouraging expectations of specific behaviors and motivating goals that inspire us to aim for desired behaviors every day.

  • Own the Numbers – visible, personally-owned metrics that keep each person accountable

This is an area that is challenging in a faith-based non-profit organization – people progress is not easy to measure. However, Blake’s story has convinced me that it is worth the effort to define markers that make a difference that each person can care about and aim for… and celebrate when reached.

  • Help Others Win – teamwork that encourages and challenges each one to give his/her best effort

Blake also learns that individual “players” do not keep up this kind of intentionally without the leader continuing to coach the process and communicate well while guarding against arrogance and complacency.

I liked the way Mark integrated simple yet powerful principles into the story. I resonated with the combination of coaching the best from people, creating helpful systems, and using metrics to measure progress towards desired goals.

“Your choices are the only things you can control.
Choose wisely.

In our crazy complex and changing world, there is little we can control… but we do make choices every day. This book is an easy-to-read, helpful reminder of basic principles that make a difference to those we lead and in our results. When we are passionate about what we do, our results matter.

How might you apply one or more of these principles as you lead or influence others?

 

Win the Heart

Do you love your job? Are you excited about the work you get to do?

In my work, we talk a lot about engagement, not the pre-marriage kind of engagement, but rather the whole-hearted, full-energy, dedicated-to-our-work kind of engagement. We offer personal and professional assessments to individuals and development training to our team leaders in the hope that we can help build that type of commitment for the work we do. I’ve just read a new book that is a great resource for those of us who desire to see full-out engagement in our co-workers and wanted to share it with you.

We CARE about our people,
and we want our people to CARE about their work.

Mark Miller, author of the new book, “Win the Heart“, understands true engagement is a matter of the heart. He explains that engagement matters because people matter. He believes, “We can create a place where [people} can bring their best selves to work every day”, where people find meaning and purpose, and where they gain energy as they work.

Engagement is also an important element of organizational culture. It unlocks the potential in people and increases productivity for our mission and goals. Engagement helps to create a high-performance organization that recruits top talent, develops quality leaders, and excels in all we do.

Mark writes in a simple yet powerful way through the medium of story. The main character in the story, Blake, takes personal responsibility, as the team leader, for the sluggish indifference of his team members. Blake goes on a journey – through history and around the world – to discover the secrets that will equip him to help his team engage fully with their work.

Blake’s journey leads him to discover four cornerstones of CARE:

  • CONNECTION – conversations with clients and each other
  • AFFIRMATION – saying “thank you” and other forms of appreciation
  • RESPONSIBILITY – empowering versus micromanaging team members
  • ENVIRONMENT – a combination of mindset, belief, and resources

Through the story, Blake finds both historical examples and practical tips for how to build these cornerstone elements into team relationships. I think story is a great way to learn new concepts, and I highly recommend Mark’s book for any team leader who cares about their team and wants to ensure that the team members feel encouraged and empowered to do their best work. The examples and tips are helpful and easy to remember (maybe a bit more challenging to apply!).

Team members will also enjoy this engaging story and learn a vocabulary that can assist in conversations that will help build the optimal work experience that produces top results.

Mark’s book is a quick read, but applying the concepts of CARE will have a long-lasting positive impact on your team’s engagement. You can also visit Mark’s new website or read some of his other great books: The Heart of Leadership, The Secret, Chess not Checkers, Leaders Made Here.

I’d love to learn from you…

What motivates you to care about your work?

How have your built engagement on your teams?

coming together

I carry a heavy burden on my heart for the way our world is so fractured and divided these days. I have lived a lot of years, and I do not remember it being like this before – a very clear and determined “us versus them” – with anger, hatred, meanness, and unwillingness to listen to each other prevalent in every sector of our society.

While some segments of our population struggle for equity or validation, others defend their positions or past privilege without any heart willingness to consider a contrasting point of view with an open mind or compassion. We take sides, brother against brother, and spew ugly contempt on anyone who presents a differing story or opinion. 

Every work style preference or personality assessment I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken a lot – has shown me the obvious truth everyone else is not the same as me. Even the most simplistic assessments usually categorize people into at least four different types.  This tells me that at least 75% of the world may experience any number of life issues from a perspective or preference that greatly differs from mine. Those assessments also tell me that it is important to know myself AND respect others. They remind me that I desperately need other people – who are not like me – to fill my gaps.

What has happened to our respect for others?

What has happened to appreciating differences?

What has happened to human kindness?

Brené Brown addresses the “sorting” that we often do and experience today in her excellent book, “Braving the Wilderness“. She claims that although we desperately desire belonging, we will not find it by picking sides and lobbing grenades of division and defensiveness at each other. As a social work PhD, she is greatly concerned, as I am, by the current status of our world. Thankfully, she does not dwell only in the negative reality, but she also offers some positive alternatives:

“People are hard to hate close up. Lean in.”

Brené explains that as a social species, our greatest strength is not found in “rugged individualism” but rather in our ability to communicate, care, and work together. Connection matters – and it is in getting to know people up close that dispels the generalizations, false stereotypes, suspicions, and fears that drive us apart.

Getting to know each other up close requires honest curiosity about people who are different from me, the courage to step out of my comfort zone, and a willingness to enter into tough conversations. Not always easy to do, but the benefits gained from collective social connections make it worth the effort.

This post only scratches the surface of this topic – Brené presents a deeper perspective in her book. I highly recommend it.

For now, I chose a few action points:

  • Admit when I am no expert on a topic and ask good questions to learn more
  • Intentionally initiate to get to know people who are different from me
  • Actively listen to understand – especially deeper heart issues
  • Speak up about those beliefs I hold strongly
  • Invite others to tell me if they experience me “sorting” people

How have you experienced “sorting” or the “us versus them” mentality? 

How have you attempted to come together with others – especially those who are different from you?

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**You might also enjoy this post, “standing alone” or check out Brené’s website (she offers free reading guides for her books).

standing alone

alone beata-ratuszniak-5430-unsplash

I do not believe in preaching something to others
while not doing that same thing myself.

I’ve written and spoken on “unhurried living”, so I’ve also attempted to live out those truths in my life this year. One way I have done this is to guard a number of reading, reflecting, and/or writing hours each week. This has not been easy for me, but it has been so very worth it, whenever I’ve followed through on this plan.

So far, one of my favorite books to read was Brené Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”. Brené writes about a couple of topics in this book – all were very challenging and helpful for me.

Brené’s main topic, and the subtitle of the book, is “the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone”. She launches the challenge with a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou…

You are only free when you belong no place —
you belong every place–no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.

Although this sounds like a paradox, there is deep truth in these words. Brené claims that we can never feel like we fully belong with others until we are willing to stand completely alone (“in the wilderness”). We must learn to individually accept our authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect self so that we do not give in to the pressure to change or hide our true self so others will accept us.

Before we will ever be comfortable with others, we must believe in ourself.

Brené also claims that we connect better with others when we are more courageous with our real self – not going along with gossip, group think, or people pleasing – but risking even loneliness to speak truth and defend what we value most.

If we betray our deepest foundational beliefs to “fit in”, we will always live in fear of being “found out” as an imposter – and rightly so.

We will never experience true belonging when we live as a fake.

Belonging requires bravery and trust that the ONE who made us knew what He was doing – He did not make a mistake – and our ultimate belonging comes from Him.

Brené shares other great messages in her book, and I will write more next week. This week I want to practice true belonging. I am going to do my best to:

  • Give myself grace when I become aware of my weakness, imperfection (my 2018 theme is “embrace imperfection“) or failure
  • Lean in and bravely speak truth instead of going along with others, if I disagree
  • Offer a safe, non-judgmental response to others who offer a differing opinion – hopefully encouraging them to brave the wilderness also

I’d love to hear from you… When do you struggle to accept yourself? How have you learned to “brave the wilderness”? 

want to be a good coach?

Keith Webb's "The Coach Model"

Coaching values the coachee’s past experience, honors their knowledge and
decision-making skills, and fosters their ownership of chosen action steps. 

Keith Webb’s, The Coach Model, offers an excellent process that helps me to focus on coaching rather than talking, and enables me to help the person I’m coaching discover solutions for themselves.. You’ll notice that Webb’s five process steps spell COACH so that it easy for to remember. Here is a quick summary of how it works:

CONNECT — How are you?

A good coach begins the conversation catching up on anything that has been going on since their last time together. This “small talk” helps to build relationship trust and ensures there is no major distraction going on that might sabotage the discussion that day.  An especially difficult situation may require rescheduling the appointment or simply acknowledging the trial may lessen the pressure enough to continue with the conversation.

During the Connect time, a good coach will also ask about action steps. The question, “What progress did you make on your action steps?” positively assumes progress, validates partial completion, and focuses on what worked well. This is also a great time to address any struggle or failures and help the coachee adjust their action steps if necessary.

OUTCOMES — What would you like to work on today?

Once the past action steps have been reviewed, it is time to for the coachee to state their desired outcomes for the meeting. A good coach helps the coachee by asking questions that narrow the topic enough so for progress in the time allotted. Some questions help:

  • Explore: What might be the deeper issues? What do you want to achieve?
  • Clarify: What do you mean by…? Could you give me an example of…?
  • Focus: Which part of the problem would you like to work on today?

AWARENESS — What can you discover about this issue?

Once the coachee settles on a topic, a good coach asks lots of powerful, open-ended, questions to help the coachee reflect, increase perspective, and consider different angles that might be helpful.

A good coach will be careful to ask questions that benefit the coachee. For example, a coach doesn’t need to know all the details of past situations, so questions focus more on what the coachee wants to see in the future.

Tell me about the conflict.
vs
What would excellent resolution of the conflict look like?

COURSE — What will you do this week to move forward?

Now it’s time for action! Once again good questions help the coachee generate a variety of possible action steps, evaluate the options, and then choose the best one(s). Using SMART (Specific,Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely) ensures the coachee confirm the what, how, by when, and with what help details of their actions, increasing the follow-through.

HIGHLIGHTS —  What are your “take-aways” from our conversation?

“We build our brains by repeating things.” Keith Webb

A good coach closes the conversation by asking summary questions for the coachee to review and repeat their newly gained awareness or knowledge and useful or meaningful aspects from the appointment. This helps to embed the learning and give some feedback to the coach also.

If you want to learn more about this process and increase your coaching skills, I highly recommend Keith Webb’s book, The Coach Model. You could also attend one of his workshops. or read his BLOG

I’d love to hear from you… What are your best tips for coaching well?  What process do you use for coaching? 

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You might also like: how’s that working for you?a coaching process you can use, asking powerful questions,  or questions for a destination

how’s that working for you?

Photo by CloudVisual on Unsplash

Some of my worst experiences with people
had to do with me trying to convince someone else of my “great” idea.

In one way or another, I was displaying what Keith Webb calls my “know-it-all-ism”. It was not pretty, and it did not work nearly as well as I hoped it would. It often resulted in high resistance, defensiveness, or hurt feelings – none of which I intended, but I definitely caused that impact. Turns out, telling people what I think they should do doesn’t work very well for me at all.

I am reading Keith Webb’s book, The Coach Model, in preparation for a coaching training I get to attend soon. So far, the basic concepts are not brand new, but they are excellent reminders of key principles and practical helps. They have convicted me in many places and encouraged me in others. Rather than experience this range of emotions alone, I thought I’d share some of them with you!

First, a summary of the symptoms of “know-it-all-ism” – just in case you want to join me in the painful self-awareness process…

Keith explains that there are two types of “know-it-alls” – aggressive and passive:

aggressive know-it-alls:

  • are quick to speak
  • listen – until the other person takes a breath
  • have an answer for everything
  • win arguments, but lose respect

passive know-it-alls:

  • pretend to listen
  • maintain a smug facial expression
  • ask questions that subtly point out why the speaker is wrong
  • internally mock or criticize the speaker

Ouch. I am guilty of both of these.

How about you? Ever act like a know-it-all?

Thankfully, the book offers a better way. Keith Webb defines coaching as:

An ongoing intentional conversation that
empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.

This kind of conversation eliminates the need for me to know it all. It also releases me from the self-imposed responsibility of changing the other person or correcting whatever I feel that person is not handling correctly (yet).

A coaching conversation of this type puts the attention on what God has in mind for the person and allows it to happen in His timing – not mine. There is incredible freedom in this coaching. Keith writes that freedom often feels risky – like accompanying the person on an unknown journey – but at least it will be their journey, rather than mine. I’ll have less control, but I have a feeling that will work out better for both of us.

I’m looking forward to learning more from this book and from the training. I’ll share more in a next post – stay tuned!

Leaders Made Here – new book!

Hi All!

Leaders Made HereOne of my favorite authors has put out a new book! Mark Miller writes creatively through story about leadership and character in a way that is immediately useful to readers. Mark’s new book, “Leaders Made Here”, helps us know how to create a leadership culture that supports a leadership pipeline for our organizations. Check it out HERE!

Below is a very practical guest post from Mark for you!

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How to Create Catalytic Meetings

Most meetings are useless. I’m guessing the more meetings you attend the more you’ll agree with that statement. Think about the REAL value of the last five meetings you attended. How much action was initiated or change realized as a result? How can we generate more action as a result of our meetings?

First, let me begin by affirming the value of well-designed and executed meetings. Here’s my vision for meetings…

Meetings are a forum capable of empowering teams and individuals, identifying and solving problems, reinforcing core values, encouraging, affirming, learning, challenging, helping people grow, collaborating, building community, increasing accountability, changing behavior, improving performance and more!

If the meetings you attend don’t do these things, you should work to make it so. But, the truth is, if you can’t use your meetings as a platform to generate productive action, you’ll be wasting tremendous potential.

To create catalytic meetings, here are five ideas guaranteed to make things happen…

  1. Start with the intent to create action. All meetings are not created equal. If you attend a meeting with the purpose of updating people on projects, don’t expect this to create much activity. My recommendation is to focus 75% of your meeting agenda on performance management. Intent is the primary driver of action.
  1. Ensure closure on every agenda item. This may seem obvious – unfortunately it is not. This is not to suggest you will actually finish every item you address. However, you should never conclude your discussion without identifying appropriate next steps. There are infinite options including identifying work to be done outside the meeting or the date on which the team will address the topic again.
  1. Visually display action items during the meeting. This simple step increases accuracy and agreement. Allowing individuals to capture his or her own action items does not provide sufficient visibility for the rest of the team. This is more powerful than you can imagine. A flip chart in every meeting, used to document action items, would revolutionize most businesses.
  1. Be sure you really have an action item. Again, this is basic but often missed. Unless you know WHO is going to do WHAT by WHEN, you do not have an action item. And, to be sure everyone else knows, I recommend reviewing the action items at the end of the meeting, distributing them after the meeting and distributing them again with the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
  1. Review all action items at every meeting. Once an action item is identified, by definition, it must have a completion date. Therefore, it falls to the facilitator to be sure every agenda has a designated time allocated to review previous action items. When the team begins to hold people accountable, you will see more action as a result.

One reason meetings have such a bad rap is a lack of action. If your meetings begin to create positive action, you may be surprised how quickly their reputation will change.

Mark MillerMark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs. 

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Which of Mark’s books have you read? What have you learned from him?

Additional Resources:

You can register for Mark’s FREE Webinar on March 22 at 1PM ET HERE!

You can also read my posts on some of his other books:

Chess Not Checkers —  The Heart of Leadership — The Secret of Teams

What was it I needed to do?

Photo credit: pni / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: pni / Source / CC BY-NC-SA

Have you ever gone into a room and forgotten what you went in there to find? Ever forget someone’s name? Ever spend time looking for something because you couldn’t remember where you put it?

These are normal events for most people. At my age, however, they are becoming more worrisome. Some days I worry about losing my memory.

My dad has Parkinson’s and dementia and it saddens me to watch him struggle. I am reading books about dementia and memory loss diseases to learn how to help him, support those who do his care-giving, and understand some of his challenges.

I am also learning how to prevent or at least diminish the potential for my own memory loss. This past week, I read a great biography about a daughter caring for her dementia-affected mom: Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir. Besides communicating honesty, empathy and encouragement, the author, Martha Stettinius, offers great appendices of resources – one contains suggested antidotes for dementia.

This is a summary of what she writes:

Exercise

Studies show that thirty minutes of daily physical activity (housework, walking, weight training, etc) may be our strongest weapon against Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates growth of new brain cells.

Mental Stimulation

Add social community and mental stimulation to exercise and you have a great combination. Work, join a club, volunteer, travel, play games – especially crosswords or puzzles, learn to speak another language or play an instrument. Do these things in relationship with others and your brain continues to make connections too.

Eat Right

Nothing new here right? A good diet helps with a lot of things! Eating dark veggies and fruits, cold water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) also decreases the risk for memory loss. Vitamins E, C, and B12 may also help. Cut back on sugars and carbs wherever you can.

In addition, Stettinius suggests that you get checked if you have vision problems, sleep apnea or an infection that damages neurons. Researchers consider each of these as possible catalysts for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This all seems pretty basic and these are health tips I have heard before. I am just a bit more motivated to take them seriously each time I hear about someone else caring for a loved one who suffers memory loss… and that is often. There are 35.6 million people with dementia worldwide today and analysts expect that amount to almost double by 2030 to around 66 million and double again by 2050 to approximately 115 million.

I am going to do what I can so that I do not add to that number.

How about you? Do you need to change some habits? Or did I already ask you that?