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?

a heart check-up for leaders

You can’t lead if no one follows.

On the other hand, a lot of people don’t think they are leaders because they don’t have a business title or position, but others are watching them and following their example all the time. We can all learn to lead better.

I had the privilege last week of attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels, the founder of the Summit, spoke first. He shared three hard-fought leadership lessons from his experience. This is my adaptation of his first point:

stethoscopeTAKE CARE OF THE HEART

“Oftentimes, leaders with the highest level of vision and passion have the lowest awareness of the spirit of their team.” ~ Bill Hybels

Leaders can get so fired up about their vision and strategies that followers begin to pay the price. The leader starts to view everyone else as caring less about the goals than they do. The leader then determines that if the followers don’t care about the vision, then the leader doesn’t have to worry about the followers’ heart… and those followers become expendable.

This attitude may not get expressed out loud, but everyone can feel it.

Some ways to protect against this error and truly care for your people:

  • Do an objective/outside evaluation. Bring in a professional team, get a coach, ask a friend. Find out what your followers are thinking and feeling. Have someone else give you honest feedback about how you are treating your team (or students, or children…) with your attitudes and actions.
  • Make sure the leader and team “own” the desired culture. If the leader does not lead by example, others will get frustrated with the hypocrisy and not embrace or apply the culture either.
  • Get serious about training the leaders who manage other people. Some people simply should not lead. If others are continually getting hurt, discouraged, held back, or frustrated by a leader – do something about it! Hybels said, “People join organizations, but leave managers.”
  • Increase the level of candor in evaluations/reviews. An easy format to use is the Start, Stop, Continue categories… and be specific! People (including children!) want desperately to know, “How am I doing?” They can’t get better or grow in areas, if they don’t know what it is that they need to improve.

The kindest form of feedback is the truth. 

  • Practice a ruthless commitment to conflict resolution. View conflicts not as burdens, but rather as opportunities to strengthen the relationship. (more on this area in a coming post!)

WOW! I have plenty to work on here… and that was just his first point! I’ll write about more of the sessions in upcoming posts.

Is there anything you would add to this list? How do you care about the heart and spirit of the people who follow you?

eradicating emotional abuse

bored
He arrived a half hour late and offered no apology for the rudeness. He sat back from the table, alternately leaning back in the chair with his arms reaching behind his head or rubbing his eyes with his hands. His eyes wandered, expressing boredom and disinterest in the conversation. He said nothing during the whole meeting.

He was not there as an observer. He was there to discuss a partnership, a potential working agreement with the other attendees. His supervisor was also in the room.

No one confronted him. No one asked if he had a problem or if there was some reason he was not participating or if the meeting should be re-scheduled. The meeting continued with tension in the room and without resolution.

The others left with a sense of frustration, time wasted, questions unanswered… and just a hint, down deep, of self-doubt… wondering if somehow they were the cause of that strange behavior, or if somehow they had done something wrong, or if the other was normal behavior and they were the strange ones to expect something different…

From the outside, from a position of healthy relationships, I wanted to scream for them… THAT IS NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR! In emotionally healthy work environments, people do not act that way at meetings! And if they did, someone would say something to them… quickly!

That was clearly passive aggressive behavior designed to intimidate, discourage, and display lack of respect and value for the others attending the meeting. It was immature, inappropriate and rude behavior.

Sadly, in an isolated setting, without healthy examples around, it is easy to lose perspective and not recognize the harmful behavior. Or when someone has been through too many situations where they are not respected or valued or validated, a person can begin to perceive the negative behaviors as normal. Psychologists sometimes identify this as learned helplessness, and it is common in physical abusive situations also. Others react with anger in return.

How can we teach the ones we care about to recognize emotional abuse when they experience it? How can we help them respond with confidence and control, without allowing the passive aggressive offender to affect their minds or the meeting?

Have you faced situations like this? What would you suggest?

Catching Fire leadership

Catching FireLast night I went to see the premiere of “Catching Fire” in the IMAX theater with my niece and other family members. She was very excited. I had not read the books, and I’m not a big movie fan, but I was there to enjoy the experience with her and make a special memory! Popcorn and candy are always fun!

I admit that I liked the movie more than I expected. I thought it was better than the first film “The Hunger Games”: on-the-edge-of-your-seat action, intertwined relationships, and a battle for the underdog. Except for the futuristic, sci-fi elements (not my favorite film genre), the story grabbed my attention, and I forgot everything about real life for the entire 2 1/2 hours.

This morning when I woke up and my mind went back to my MA courses, I started thinking about some fun connections between the movie and the leadership themes I have been studying. Here are a few of them…

The main protagonist characters, Katniss and Peeta, demonstrate leadership character with courage, sacrifice, loyalty, love and care for others, and convictions that can not be bought or beaten out by corrupt powers. They win the sympathy of many with their integrity, perseverance, and compassion, and become attractive role models for the youth.

The heroes have a compelling vision – They symbolize hope for the future and the belief for many that together they can improve life for themselves and for those who come after them. Katniss and Peeta plan some tactical steps for survival and also prepare for unknown and unexpected circumstances and challenges.

Katniss and Peeta work with an amazing team – Coaches and mentors help with marketing, strategy, spokesperson roles and survival training, providing experience, knowledge, and resources. They know they could never survive the competition without the help of others.

Partners and Alliances are a key part of the survival plan – These partnerships require trust, respect, watching each other’s back, working together, each offering their unique expertise and help from their strength areas. The intense focus on an external enemy allows them to accept and appreciate others who are very different.

These are just some ideas that I thought of quickly as I enjoyed remembering the movie. I’m sure there are many more. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, what principles do you see?

And… if you are struggling with a type of “The Capital” in your own life or at work, may the odds be ever in your favor! 🙂 The application of some of these leadership principles might help!

facilitating change

IMGP0641 webChange: heart attitudes, training styles, organizational culture… and the world!

I just returned from a week in Kenya where I greatly enjoyed a transformational time with 50 of our African staff – to help them learn new training paradigms and materials to use with their new staff. Men and women, grandparents and young singles, they came from all over the continent: Ghana, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Niger, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and more… They spoke English and French, in addition to many national ethnic tongues. They had up to 20 years of training experience or none. They work with students, business professionals, families, athletes and rural communities.

How to help such a diverse group desire, understand and prepare for change? Change is hard. Change is powerful.

We began with vision. Vision for them. Vision for their work. Vision for the organization. Vision for the world. We talked about the value, privilege and responsibility we experience when we invest in others’ lives.

They studied the character of those who are willing to change – humble, teachable, life-long learners, innovators, team players – and evaluated their own…

Our Design Team demonstrated the power of teamwork, adult learning, creative teaching methods, coaching processes and coaching groups, shared leadership, freedom to fail, and growth in community.

We also discussed the challenges and the barriers to change – their own personal internal struggles and the organizational struggles: traditions, aligning others, resources.

We modeled, and then they practiced with new tools… teaching new lessons, coaching each other, leading interactive groups, giving and receiving feedback.

Everyone ate well and slept little; we drank lots of tea; we shared life stories and prayed for each other. We became friends.

Together they decided on action points and next steps.

Our staff have a long road ahead of them. Change does not happen overnight. It does not happen easily. They will face opposition, and they will get tired and frustrated and discouraged in the process.

But I have hope for them. They are deeply committed to their people and their purpose. They serve a great God. They will help each other in a learning community. Change is healthy and necessary for the future.

I feel honored to have been part of the time. I look forward to what will happen in the future.

How do you respond to change? How do you help your people prepare for change?