The apostle Paul couldn’t have said it better:
Php 2:3-5 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus
I am convinced that my interactions every day could use some TLC when it comes to thinking about others. Try as I might, I struggle to place others in front of me. When I do achieve that feat great things happen, relationships are built, and trust is gained. When I catch myself being more self-centered instead of others focused I do the following:
Many times, work becomes overwhelming. The computer is no longer my friend and staring at the screen at the inflammatory email I am about to send is way overboard. I get up from my desk and take a walk around the halls. I may just close my eyes for five minutes. I may focus on a task that is totally unrelated to the one I am engrossed in. All of these help me to refocus and realign my thinking.
Being Present With Others
I am in a lot of meetings. It is hard for me to be present each and every time I am around people where I “feel” there may be a lack of competency or disengagement to the process. One of the core questions I have started asking myself when someone speaks is “What can I learn from them?”. This helps me grow, stay focused, and even engage fully. I don’t bring my laptop to the meeting and try to only take notes when the meeting is virtual. It is so easy to tune out otherwise. Lastly, but most importantly, I am becoming more aware of how much I speak versus others. I am starting to eliminate my speaking in exchange for others. Awkward silence has become ok for me in meetings as I know everyone processes differently.
Asking Myself The Smart Questions
Andy Stanley has identified amazing questions we should ask ourselves before we make decisions.
- What is the wise thing to do?
- What would a great leader (replace leader with the person relevant) do?
If I truly take the time to be mindful on these questions before making decisions, I am blessed by the outcome.
How do I rub off on others? I had to really think about this question after listening to the EntreLeadership podcast featuring Dr. Jackie Freiberg on being a Person of Impact. In the podcast, three ways were mentioned on how our impact rubs off on others, Positively, Negatively, or Inconsistently. What is great about the definition of impact that Jackie gave, was that everyone has impact and we can choose how it lands with others. Of course, we all want positive impact, but we also need to be realistic to know that we can exude negative and inconsistent results as well. In transparency, I can tell you there is a lot of room for improvement for my impact. Hopefully you can glean some insight from my reflections in each category:
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.
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.
To make something easier to do or to understand.
For the last 10 days I have been doing a study on Simplify. The intro starts out with Overscheduled, Exhausted, Overwhelmed? Sound Familiar? At that point, I just knew I had to dig in and see what insights I could gleam off of the study. As each day progressed, I shared my notes with my wife, who in turn shared her wisdom about the study also. Here are some of the highlights I took away.
Throughout my life, I have heard that it was ok to talk to yourself as long as you didn’t answer back. People might think you are crazy or something. Well I must be crazy. Not only to I talk to myself, I can carry on quite a back and forth conversation. I suppose that I could just find Harvey hopping around and have the conversation with him. I might get a totally different perspective. I don’t just talk to myself though, I also leave sticky notes and take a mirage of whiteboard pictures of scribblings only I understand. I even send myself emails from myself to remind myself to do something for myself. Kind of chaotic huh.
The front of one of my daughter’s journals. Love her artwork and creativity.
I also try to do a daily recap of my day in a journal format. To be clear, most of the information on the virtual page is just work related. I have a structure with a freeform placeholder at the end. Also, I recap my previous day in the morning of the next day to put down on paper the ideas that have been percolating while sleeping. When I do it consistently, I feel refreshed at the start of the day, ready to capture the moments ahead and bend them to my will. When I don’t journal, I am often missing elements, forgetting tasks, or randomizing myself on the not important and not urgent quadrant of life.
I am constantly surrounded by a very diverse group of individuals. I can name 15 differently languages that can be spoken in my work hallway alone. Compound that with the jargon of work, more acronyms than the military, and multiple mediums of communication, it is truly amazing that anything is well communicated. This is becoming the normal world of business. It is one where time zones, cultures, dialects, colloquialisms all converge into one melting pot.
There was no update in the last 2 weeks. Just silence, crickets, and an occasional rumor that something was amiss.
At the monthly business review, Jack was informed by the development team that the feature they were working on was delayed. Sara was ill, a production bug took twice as long to fix as anticipated, and they had just received the comps a week late. In addition, the Program Manager didn’t update the status last week appropriately that was shared out to the team. A new deadline wasn’t given.
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.
Spending the time to answer this question before any decision can’t hurt.
When I heard this question asked by Andy Stanley, I wasn’t prepared for how much this question would infiltrate my thoughts and decisions. The question is becoming one that I am thinking about each time and saying where appropriate. Are you ready to internalize this question?
Andy Stanley put the question in the form of “What would a great leader do?” Replace the word leader with:
- Husband / Wife
- And the list goes on:
Maybe you have uncovered the power of this great question, “What would a great (Fill in the Blank) do?” If so, you probably already know the value. For those of you just discovering this question, let me share my thoughts: