afraid of failure?

These crazy days have required all of us to adapt in more ways than we ever imagined. We are changing the ways we work, study, shop, travel, play, and interact with each other. However, when we attempt something in a new way, we often feel incompetent, inadequate, and a fear of failure due to our lack of experience.

I don’t like to fail.

At work, we talk a lot about establishing a culture where people feel free to fail. We want people to feel free to innovate and create and attempt things they have never tried before. Disappointingly, despite the desire and communications, we struggle to develop that kind of culture. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve decided that I cannot blame the organization or the leaders for the lack of freedom to fail.  

Failure carries a lot of negative weight.

A quick google search connects the word failure to others like mistakes, quitter, and lack of persistence, conviction, or discipline. Failure is also associated with a lack of thorough planning, fully thinking-it-through, or enough hard work.

With those negative implications, failure will never look appealing or acceptable. No matter how much freedom someone offers me, I do not want to fail.

On the other hand, I can iterate. I can attempt something, evaluate how it went, make corrections or adjustments, and then try again. That is not the same as failure. 

To iterate is simply to repeat. Iterative design involves three steps: formulate, test, evaluate. An iterative process gets closer to the desired result by repeating the effort with necessary improvements. And typically, the more iterations, the better the eventual outcome.

Iteration is positive, progressive, and steps toward the goal. 

Now when I think about trying something new, I think of it as an iteration. There is no pressure or expectation for getting it perfect the first time; it’s a first pass, an experiment. I anticipate evaluating, getting feedback, making changes, and improving the process. That feels like freedom. 

Words are powerful. Maybe changing our message from “free to fail” to “free to iterate” will lighten the load for some people. It might take away the fear of stepping up, leaning in, speaking out, creating, trying something. It could foster new ideas and unheard-of-before ways of doing things that provide answers to our challenges.

If not, I’m willing to iterate and try something else. 

How do you encourage innovation? What frees you to try new things?

 

the three-quarter principle

4 drinks

Images: Alice Pasqual, Carolyn V, Mazniha Mohd Ali, Jack Carter – Unsplash

I come from a family of five children. I’ve served in people-focused work for most of my life. It didn’t take me long to figure out that other people are very different from me.

I’m not proud to admit that for a lot of those years, the varied preferences, opinions, and ways of doing things often caused me frustration, irritation, impatience, and at times, a critical demand that others yielded to what I wanted.

In college, I was exposed to my first personality assessment and began to grow in my self-awareness. Later, as part of my job and my work in leadership development, I have used a lot of those tools. I have gained further insights into my personality, my learning and work styles, and some of my core motivations. And I’ve learned about others also.

Not everyone is just like me.

Some assessments are quite complex and differentiate a multitude of variations with subtle and scaled distinctions. The most simplistic assessments usually group people into four quadrants.

From those assessments, my eyes opened to the fact that, across that four-quadrant diagonal, some individuals would strongly desire or appreciate ways of doing things that were the complete opposite of my values and perspective. 

In a simple four-quadrant model,
my preferences only occupy one-fourth of the possibilities.

In other words, when I get to do things my way, three-fourths of the other people in the room are likely giving up their preferred option. 

This realization has helped me to consider life through a new filter. Instead of entering a situation and hoping that I enjoy everything about the experience, I am learning to be satisfied if I enjoy twenty-five percent. I now recognize that the other seventy-five percent of the experience – that would not have been my preference – has been quite enjoyable for the other people there.

This consideration has changed the way I think about almost everything. I do not want my selfishness to rob others of their opportunity for satisfaction. When I enter a life or work setting, I try to remember that it is not all about me. When I humbly desire that other participants feel comfortable and enjoy their experience also, then my twenty-five percent satisfaction rate becomes less a complaint and more a success.

Today, I say that if I like the majority of what is happening around me, then I am missing out – missing out on the richness of voices and ideas and options that complement and challenge mine. I am missing out on creative, relevant, and necessary thoughts, timings, and styles that I would not discover by myself. I miss out on the full beautify and uniqueness of God’s wisdom and design.

I am so much less without the other seventy-five percent. I am not willing to miss out on that richness, even if it means a bit of discomfort for me.

What helps you welcome diversity in your life? 

searching for “both-and”

el capitan riccardo-oliva-7_5D2sLtP3Q-unsplash

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park – Photo credit: Riccardo Oliva – Unsplash

The other day my team was considering options that could help our co-workers all around the world continue to grow in authentic and dynamic faith, endure and persevere in times of suffering, and learn and thrive in community. As I listened and evaluated the suggestions, all I could think to say was… “Yes. And yes. And yes. And yes”.

It turns out we could likely use all of those options. Each particular need might vary depending on the situation, the personality, the timing, etc., but realistically, so many of the ideas were helpful and valid and worth offering. We didn’t need to eliminate one for the other. If we implement a variety of options, it will benefit more people.

After spending several weeks heart-broken and discouraged by the vast, complex, emotionally-charged challenges facing our world today, reflecting on that exercise has given me some hope. 

I am reminded today that most things are not “either-or” situations.

We are not playing a zero-sum game.

One doesn’t have to lose for others to win. We achieve more when we find “win-win” options. There is undisputed power in teamwork and shared best practices and collaboration involving a diversity of opinions and experiences and skills. We are amazingly creative, innovative, capable, productive people – when we work together.

I watched two documentaries this weekend about Eliud Kipchoge, who has run a previously-considered-impossible sub-two-hour marathon time, and Alex Honnold, who free-solo-climbed (no ropes or protective gear!) the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Both incredibly inspirational triumphs of human accomplishment.

Although they achieved individual feats, neither of the two extraordinary athletes I learned about this week succeeded alone. They both had mentors, friends, and abundant input from others with unique ideas and specialties. 

Their stories have moved me from agonizingly searching for one correct answer or one side to join, to breathing more deeply and feeling more encouraged as I view possibilities from the “both-and” perspective.

I believe we can care for each other, find cures, and survive with resilience – if we learn with and from each other, rather than judging and attacking before listening. We can correct our mistakes, forgive each other, and find better solutions – if we do it together, rather than separating ourselves into rival camps who cannot speak to each other civilly.

Rather than arguing that one solution inevitably rules out another, I am beginning the search for how to answer with “Yes. And yes. And yes”. I am not looking for 100% agreement – we’ll never have that. We will most likely need many of the options presented and some still-unknown-to-us-today combinations or inventions.

I am working hard to listen respectfully to many differing opinions and push through the anger, disrespect, and unilateral demands to identify the valid, helpful elements of truth in each perspective. This is not easy to do. Putting aside my selfishness, self-defense, fears, and hurts to listen intentionally, admit my errors, and change is very difficult work, but I believe it is an essential effort.

I am praying that many other people will offer their willing, compassionate hearts and humble, teachable minds to work together for “both-and” solutions and hope. Maybe you are one of those people.

How do you sort through disparate ideas? What helps you discover “both-and” possibilities?

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?

discover and develop your strengths

coreclaritybannerI have a new passion. No doubt about it. I love coaching people through discovery of their talents and strengths. Absolutely love it.

Successful people
understand
their talents and strengths
and build their lives upon them.

My husband and I attended a CoreClarity training last spring. That week prepared us to explain Gallup StrengthsFinder results for individuals and groups. This summer, we had numerous opportunities to coach family members, individuals, and couples.

Every time we talked through top talents with people, I watched eyes open wide in recognition, hearts soften with greater understanding, burdens of frustration and self-condemnation wash away, and hope reappear in the soul. 

It was amazing actually.

It is an encouraging experience to grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance, but it is even more powerful to grow in understanding and appreciating the important people in our lives. 

Successful marriages (or teams)
dont just accommodate differences in each other,
they capitalize on them.

If you have never done the StrengthsFinder assessment, I highly recommend it. There are specific assessments you can choose for adults, college and highschool students and even middle school students. After you receive your top five results, find someone trained in CoreClarity to review your results with you. You can do this for yourself, as a couple, for your family, or in a seminar format for your whole team.

You will learn :

  • why it is more important to develop your strengths, rather than focus on improving your weaknesses
  • how to develop your talents into strengths
  • to correct the myths that everyone thinks the same way we do or that everyone has the same talents we do plus what we see in them that we do not have
  • how your top talents affect each other and how your combination creates the unique you
  • how different talents intensify, combine, or collide with other talents
  • how talents understanding helps build and repair relationships, improves problem solving and teamwork
  • how to use your talents to enhance your career

You might also want to attend a facilitator training so you can coach others!

Do you already know your top talents? How have you applied that knowledge to your life and relationships?

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about CoreClarity or StrengthsFinder. I’ll be glad to help in any way that I can!

how to reach Mars

IMGP9160In all of history, only 12 people have walked on the moon. A lifetime of study and preparation, many years of training and practice, teamwork, and the perfect performance of gazillions of rocket components and wires had to synchronize exactly to make those outer-space steps possible. It was inspiring and challenging to hear about the missions and visit the Kennedy Space Center with my team. Many of the principles that enabled those amazing accomplishments are also relevant to the big goals we attempt today.

Which of the following can you apply to your next challenge?

DREAM THE DREAM

No one had ever put a man on the moon before, but dreamers believed it could be done. They envisioned it, and then they figured out how to make it happen. Today, we must do the same – look ahead, see the future, consider the possibilities. Lane Arbuthnot, an engineer for the Apollo 11 flight, encouraged us to imagine ourselves five years into the future: What is your dream? What do you envision for your life/family/work/mission? How do you want the future to look? and then ask “What will we need in order to reach the goal?” IMGP9162

SACRIFICE

Astronauts gave their lives in pursuit of the mission. We may or may not have to pay the ultimate price, but a great dream will cost us something. I am asking myself these questions: What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to risk? Financial security? Reputation or ridicule? Comfort or convenience? Time? IMGP9169

FOCUS

When we visited the Launch Control Center, it was interesting to observe that all the work stations faced away from the huge windows with a view of the rocket and launch pad. Each person’s concentration and attention were vital for the success of the mission – they were not mere spectators. Are there things in your life you need to re-arrange in order to better concentrate on your dreams and goals?IMGP9197

OPEN COMMUNICATION

In the Launch Control Center, the “Public Affairs Officer” desk sat right next to the “Launch Director”. That openness provided honest communication of launch attempts – successes and failures. Today information and truth is powerful and necessary for alignment and accountability. I know that I often underestimate the need to communicate vision, expectations, feedback, and gratitude. How about you? What could you communicate more often or more clearly?public affairs desk

PEOPLE VALUE AND PRIORITY

Although the rockets and spaceships are definitely impressive, the tour guides consistently emphasized how important the people were to the mission. Over 400,000 worked together on the Apollo 11 flight! Human Resources played a crucial role on the leadership team; hiring, developing, and even firing when necessary…ensuring that all collaborated well. Every person counts when accomplishing an incredible mission! How are the relationships on your team or in your family? Do they know they are uniquely important? Is each person maximizing their strengths?

For NASA, the next goal is Mars! Many people working together will apply these principles to make that dream come true. What is your dream? What will it require?

chess not checkers

I don’t even know how to play chess, but I loved this book! chess not checkers

In typical Mark Miller style, he writes the book as a story, weaving humor, wisdom, care, and pragmatism in a quick, easy-to-read format. The main character, Blake Brown, takes a new CEO job in a struggling organization. Work is frustrating and drudgery, teamwork is non-existent, morale is weak, and customers are going elsewhere. The game has changed, old strategies aren’t working, and losing is miserable for everyone.

Blake begins to meet with a chess master mentor who teaches him four simple – yet essential – principles for playing a new game in today’s complex world:

1. BET ON LEADERSHIP – Identify and invest in emerging leaders. Mark gives excellent tips about developing yourself, your team, and the organization.

“…proactively develop your leadership.
The earlier in their career you invest in them, the better.”

“Leadership growth always
precedes organizational growth.”

2. ACT AS ONE – We know this as alignment, and it requires excellent communication. Mark describes it with a helpful illustration:

“Think of your organization as a car
driving at high speeds down a bumpy, dirt road.
The car will constantly be knocked out of alignment.
Part of your never-ending role is to keep the organization
aligned on what matters most.”

3. WIN THE HEART – Greater engagement happens when you allow people to contribute their unique gifts and work using their personal strengths.

“This is the way you need to look at your people.
When you deploy them thoughtfully,
you create greater value.”

4. EXCEL AT EXECUTION – This involves the important areas of resource allocation, measurements, and systems versus personality design.

“To help your team improve execution,
measure what matters most.”

There is much more in the book. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy today!

Any leader who implements these timeless principles will grow personally and improve the game plan for their team and their organization.

Which of these principles is most urgent for your situation? How can you apply new and improved strategy in your context?

Check out the great book trailer video HERE!

You can also find Mark Miller blogging on his website, Great Leaders Serve.

I also wrote a summary and review of some of Mark’s other books: The Secret and The Heart of Leadership. 

do it right the first time

IMG_0934I was enjoying a delicious grilled dinner out on the patio with my husband. It was peaceful, slightly cool (for Orlando!), and quiet. We were enjoying the scenery, the casual conversation, and the good food.

And then I saw it.

A bubble on the roof of the porch. What’s that? It wasn’t there before! Doesn’t look good…

The opinion of a friend, a chat with the neighbor, calls to the HOA, and a visit from the builder all confirmed – a small missing piece of flashing on the roof meant rain water eventually got under the shingles.. and through the wood… and through the paint… and caused a big ol’ mess.

Weeks later, I’ve had many men hanging from my roof, and I’ve been seeing daylight where it shouldn’t be. I heard lots of people passing the blame – the builder should have supervised, the roofers should have done it right, the inspection guys should have seen it (turns out they don’t actually ever go ON the roof anymore), the stucco guys should have said something…and the painters…. and so on.

It has been an awful lot of work to repair one small detail that wasn’t done right the first time.

A missing three-dollar, couple-feet-long piece of flashing has required 15 or more people visiting my house, tar paper and shingles pulled off and replaced, plywood cut out and nailed back in, mold inspections, new stucco, and new paint. The builder will do further inspections over our whole roof and the roofs of all the other homes constructed by the same company in our neighborhood. Thousands of dollars worth of labor and material. Whew!

At work, I am also part of “re-modeling” work on a training project that had some “small” pieces missing. It has been ten times more difficult to “fix” the job than it would have been to create it well in the first place. A solid foundation could have saved a lot of time, frustration, blame passing… and provided a better product.

These fiascos have me thinking about my own efforts and work. Do I give my best at all I do? Am I committed to quality work? Or do I try to rush through and miss important details?  Do I supervise well? Do I speak up when I see that someone else is not doing a quality job? Or do I just care about MY part?

All work – building homes to writing training materials – requires that everyone involved do quality work to create a quality job. It’s a lot easier to do it right the first time.

What do you think? What makes you committed to doing things right? Or what makes it difficult for you?

 

 

facing future challenges

googleAlmost two years ago, my organization made a major shift to Google for our email client and file and calendar sharing. It has been a painful headache for some and an immense joy for others. I fall more towards the joy side, although it has been a steep learning curve for me too.

I am a learner, and I love systems that help me interact with others – even globally – while getting work done, so Google has won me over. I think Google has figured out some key principles that can make a big difference for the future. Here are a few of them:

  • Power has shifted from the organization to the client/consumer, and expectations are higher than ever. We can’t offer a sub-par product, at least not for long. Bad reviews trump clever marketing. Today, great products win. 
  • Most organizations today set up to minimize risk, not maximize freedom and speed. We tend to hoard information and restrict decision-making power. We need to move and change faster. We need to let go and empower.
  • We need more “Smart Creatives” – people who combine technical knowledge, business expertise, and creativity. They can do amazing things and have big impact. We need to recruit these people and provide an environment for them to thrive.
  • Smart Creatives like authenticity, small teams, plans that offer freedom and fluidity, involvement in decision-making, LOTS of communication, crazy goals, prototypes, and freedom to fail.

Communication is as important as decision-making,
and like decision-making,
it is something that most leaders think they are good at.

They are mostly wrong.

These principles challenge me when I think about my work and how I view the ideas and opinions of the coming generations… even my children.

If you want to think more about these ideas, you will enjoy the following SlideShare presentation. It is the basis for my content above.


What do you think are key principles for leaders and organizations as we move towards the future?

discomfort with diversity

diverse handsHow great is my committment to diversity? Do I give lip-service to the concept or do I live out my convictions with my attitudes and my actions?

I have been considering these challenging questions a lot in the past weeks, after reading two posts that tied diversity to discomfort. The basic premise explained that diversity will cause discomfort for me.

When I work, worship, or play with people who are different from me, they will present words, ideas and ways of doing things that are different from my personal preferences.

That might be more discussion or less than I like. More noise or less. Different music. Different flavors. Different values. More technology or less. More detail or less. Quiet work space or open collaboration. Different colors. Different styles. More emotion or less. More time together or more time alone. Spend more or spend less.

Because not everyone is like me,
if I am comfortable all the time, then others are not.

I work with diverse teams and with a great variety of people from all over the world. Each of my friends and each member of my family is different. If I truly want to invite, encourage, and empower the unique people around me, I must feel uncomfortable some of the time… and not just tolerate the discomfort, but really embrace it as a means to greater diversity.

  – gender – race – age – nationality – personality – religion – family background –
– economic class – political party – experience level – strengths and weaknesses –

All of these differences can cause discomfort and even conflict… but they are the source of rich diversity at home and at work.

diversity

Photo credit: estherase / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Instead of having a goal to make everyone happy; we could each willingly accept unhappiness some of the time, knowing that means someone different feels satisfied.

Rather than seek my own way, I am slowly learning to become more comfortable with my discomfort and celebrate – and even intentionally seek out – diversity that challenges me.

How do you react to situations that make you uncomfortable? What do you do to embrace diversity?