Stop making labels

Unless you are an owner, manufacturer, or purchaser

How we create labels every day:

  • That marketer will never understand software development
  • That developer doesn’t do strategy
  • He doesn’t talk in meetings.  It is just his introvert nature.
  • Her skills assessment shows she has a temper.

I was very convicted when I was listening to this podcast yesterday.  I realize that I label people all the time, not intentionally, but I do it just the same.   The key that I got out of the message was that every time we place a label on someone, we restrict their ability to contribute and maximize their potential.  My exercise today is to figure out what labels I am applying.  Consciously I am going to write these down and see where I could change my communication style to open up and contribute to potential maximization.

Where labels come from

I also took the opportunity to figure out the labels others have given me.  This inventory is helping me to see where I am stifling opportunity because of the label. Here are some of the places I reflected on:

  • My family and children give me labels
    • One of those is a hard worker.  I need to be careful that label is not the primary way I am viewed.  I have used this label as a crutch in the past.
    • Sacrificial – Again while this can be good for most of the time, I shouldn’t use it as a badge of honor
  • My coworkers have provided me labels, some good, some not so good.
    • Competency minded – Several times I have had colleagues evaluate my interactions and this was a recurring theme.  I will need to be aware that competency is only one trait
    • Single Point of Failure – This is such an unnerving label.  I constantly strive to share because of this.
  • Labels I give myself
    • Unorganized – I am always trying to increase my productivity and make sure that I have all the answers beforehand.  Sometimes I spend too much energy
    • Servant Leadership – I need to make sure that I don’t mask unhealthy behaviors such as pride behind this.

How labels restrict opportunity

  • Labels provide specificity that may be unwarranted.  If someone labels you as a marketer for instance, they may only consult you when it is a marketing question.  However, your experiential skills may provide unique insights.
  • Labels are defined by the person labeling you.  People utilize labels as just a quick way to categorize according to their needs.  Again, be aware that you can label yourself and just fall into the categories.
  • Labels create bias.  For instance, we see this in politics.  Most people are not just Democrat or Republican, however, they restrict their thinking by making compromises they fundamentally don’t believe in just because of choosing a “label” party platform.

What labels do you use or see.

Additional Resources



Taking the first steps

What to do when starting projects are difficult

I have found it extremely difficult to get started on projects that I think are daunting.  It gets even worse when I don’t know where to start.  My mind feels sluggish, my hands refuse to move, I become paralyzed to action.

Then there are the easy start projects.

Are You a Participant or a Volunteer at Your Workplace

There is a 5 part podcast series on building your leadership pipeline that I was listening to this morning on the treadmill.  The part I was listening to was about the role people fit into the pipeline. It made me think of where I work and I started bucketing traits of participants in the workplace vs. volunteers.


  • Are just there to do the job at hand.  No extra work required.
  • The paycheck drives the decision making for them.
  • Participants can also be seen as voyeurs in that outside of the work they are doing, they just watch.  Whether what they see happening is good or bad, they don’t care and are not going to jump in to right the ship.
  • Have a what have you done for me lately attitude.  Participants expect to gain something, usually self-serving.
  • Participants only grow when they are fed by others and are picky on the nourishment that they are given.
  • They are passengers.


  • Step out of their comfort zone and take on something that doesn’t necessarily benefit themselves.
  • See a bigger picture and are willing to risk being part of it.
  • Care deeply about doing work that may only be to server others as it is part of a passion or grander plan.
  • Volunteering shows leadership.
  • Volunteers grow by feeding themselves.  They search out the nourishment that enriches their career.
  • They are in the driver’s seat.

I want to be a volunteer wherever I can.  As a leader, I appreciate volunteers, because they are stepping out for a greater purpose.




Thoughts on Developing Strengths

This is nothing new to most individuals, but really hit home to me today as I was looking at some team challenges.

  1. We all have areas where we can develop in.
  2. Without help in our developmental area, we have to discover the “deep knowledge”.  This can be painful and arduous at best.
  3. Many times the deep knowledge is only for those core areas where we want to be a craftsman.  You want those learnings to become a part of you.
  4. When working on an area to develop, keep in mind “there is nothing new under the sun.”  You should leverage the foundations that others have sweated over, poured their heart into, and shared with the world.
  5. Share the learnings of what you are developing so others can benefit.
  6. It may be that you should “outsource” the item(s) you are trying to gain knowledge about.  It may not be the best use of your time.

I will work to develop my strengths in a practical manner that is to the benefit of those around me.

Work is what you make it – 10 observations

Working in the field

I was really looking forward to a breakfast talk about work and worship in downtown Seattle.   The cogs of the work engine were grinding and a pleasant change of pace where I could soak in information was just what I needed.  I am glad I wasn’t disappointed. Here are 10 key notes in no particular order from that talk: