Well, last week was the first week of registration, and thus far we are busier than last term, which is grand. It will be interesting to see how registration goes the next couple of weeks.
The Saturday paper today read that the Governor of Oregon was intent that all Oregonians receive vaccinations by the end of June. And, in that same press release, the Governor also stated that people working in higher education will be vaccinated by April 1.
I am cautiously optimistic. Meaning, that the plan is a good one, and I appreciate the Governor for creating a strong vision, yet with all of the challenges and changes this past year, I think, staying in our current reality, for now, is best. And, our current reality?
Well, Benton County, where I live is still categorized as extreme risk, whereas Linn County, where I work is categorized as moderate risk. Yes, precarious.
The team and I are planning to be remote the rest of this fiscal year, and if that changes, we will face those changes at that time.
Alright, let’s discuss writing. Here are two reflections from this week.
As I was thinking about writing the poem Found, I was reflecting upon living in Flagstaff, AZ, which is 7000 feet in elevation and gets about 90 inches of snow in the winter. It is an amazing little town, and is beautiful throughout the entire year. Growing up in Los Angeles, the only time I experienced snow was when we traveled to Big Bear, which we did maybe once every other year.
Living in Flagstaff for 4 years was, well, very different, in that we had to learn how to live in the snow. As I reflected upon our time there, I was thinking about hiking in the snow, which is a lovely experience. You can come upon whole meadows, which are completely covered in snow, as far as you can see.
The reflection also reminded me of being disconnected from my inner-self for a long time, and how that’s not the case anymore, and it feels, well, beautiful.
The reflection for this poem was inspired by the WDYS prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje. A beautiful picture of the Taj Mahal, with the sun rising directly behind it, reminded me of majesty and brilliance.
I only partake in a couple of prompts today, and appreciate the inspiration these wonderful bloggers create. It is super fun each week to wait and wonder about the prompt, and then to get the reveal. Wonderful.
The picture of the Taj Mahal also reminded me of humanities resilience, and the beauty in standing for each other.
I’ve been thinking more about change this past week, as some states across the country begin to relax pandemic restrictions.
It reminds me that we will all have a lot of change coming in the next year, and, well, actually the next couple of years as we all learn to live in our new realities, whatever they end up being.
It also reminds me of the necessity and need of being gentle and patient with ourselves and each other. There is a lot that can be gained when we are gentle and exercise our patience. We get more for ourselves, and we give more back out to those we love and care about.
As we continue to face new changes this coming year, remember to be gentle and patient with yourself.
I am excited to report that I have two new clients. They’ve both come through work, and I am really enjoying working with both of them.
One is a small business owner, and the other is a local professional. I’ve been coaching people for many years, and it is one of the things I enjoy most about my work. I love to work with people on their personal and professional development, just as much as I do on my own development.
It is in conversations and relationships with other people where innovation, creativity, and developmental growth can occur. And, you know, every time I have a new client, I always learn something more about myself. Every time. Reciprocity is beautiful that way.
Alright, that’s all for this week.
Be well, love well, live well, and have a wonderful week.
An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College
As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.
It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?
Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.
After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.
In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.
I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.
I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.
I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?
I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.
Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
Doing research about the position.
Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
Having conversations with staff in the department.
There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.
If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.
Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.
The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.
Here is what the first year looked like.
Remembering who I am.
Development outside of the college.
Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
Relationship development, with myself, and the team.
I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.
In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.
Here is what the second year looked like.
Process and system improvement.
People in the right positions.
Vision, mission, goals.
Metrics and measurement.
As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.
Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.
Here is what that looked like.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Creating 5 new business models.
Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.
As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.
Here is what that looked, and well, is like.
Creating all new processes and systems.
From disruption to sustainability.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
Planning for the future.
10 business models?
And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.
As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.
I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.
What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.
And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.
Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.
The Leadership Psychology of How We Think and Feel
This past week a colleague of mine and I were talking about leadership. Well, to be more accurate, we are always talking about leadership. Fun.
Anway, this colleague was talking about the upcoming leadership group training they would be facilitating, and they were talking about how important it is for leaders to understand how they think, feel, and act.
After reflecting upon the concept of thinking, feeling, and acting, which I totally agree with, another concept occured to me. Speaking. Also important.
Thus, the idea for this first-half of the two-part article on Developing the Self was created. Before we get into our discussion, however, let’s reset the first installment in the Leadership Series.
We also discussed 2 things that are very important to be clear about early on in any leadership development journey, which are
Understanding your leadership style.
In this second installment, we will discuss understanding yourself as the very first step in a leadership development journey. Why? Good question.
Let’s take a look, shall we.
There are two ways we will approach this discussion.
Ready? Good, let’s go.
Right, so, what in the world is leadership psychology? Well, in this context, we are going to address two main concepts. Thinking and feeling. Both are very important to understand for anyone in leadership.
If you don’t know why you think and feel as you do, you’ll never be able to understand how and why others think and feel as they do. Simple.
And, as a leader, you must understand how the people in your team, organization, business, and or family, or friend network think and feel. Very important.
Having an impact starts with us. Each of us. Understanding how and why we think and feel as we do is a necessity in any leadership role. Any and all leadership roles.
An entire article, nay, book can be written about how we think in regards to, well, just about everything in life. Leadership included. It’s that important.
In fact, how we think drives everything else we will discuss in this article. It all starts with the mind. The quality of our mind. Meaning? Good question.
As I’ve written about in other articles, human beings are meaning-makers. Meaning, pun intended, that we take in data, information or stimuli, and we convert those stimuli, whatever they are, into narratives.
We do this to make sense of the world, and our place in it. A simple example can illustrate this point.
If my thinking is about the past, and all of the wrongs I’ve suffered, or bad things that have happened, I will bring these thoughts, feelings, verbalizations, and actions into the present moment. And?
I, in essence, will recreate the past. Reliving, as possible, past trauma again and again. And, so will everyone else I am interacting with and in relationship with.
However, if I am aware of my thoughts, and how I think, I can work on the thought impressions, called samskaras in sanskrit, and, over time, release them.
When they are released they stop showing up as a thought. It takes time.
These samskaras, thought impressions of old patterns and habits, loose power when you inquire into why they are there in the first place. Meaning, that creating self-awareness for a leader is a crucial aspect of leadership development.
When we have some sense of our own self, we can step outside of those thought patterns or habits and create new ones.
And, it is in the creation of new thought patterns where true empowerment is found for leaders, first, yes, for themselves, and then for their teams, organizations, families, and friends.
There are four things I do on a regular basis to increase my self-awareness.
Each of these contributes to self-awareness in unique ways, and they combine to increase clarity, calmness of mind, well-being, and insight into who you are as a human being, and how you relate to yourself and everyone else. Very important.
As was aforementioned, how we think really does affect, even predict, how we feel, speak, and act, and how we feel on a general level and even on a more specific level, which is very important.
Important to how we relate to ourselves and everyone else.
I grew up in a household where people definitely displayed emotion, yet it was still hidden, and definitely not talked about. And, that’s not a demerit. Why?
Because my parents were not shown how to understand their emotions and then how to constructively talk about them. It is far more normal, especially in the United States, than people might imagine. And?
Not helpful to your own development, nor is it to your teams, organizations, families, or friends. If you don’t know why you feel the way you do, you will not understand how others feel.
And, if you are unable to understand how you and the people around you feel, you cannot talk about feelings in productive and constructive ways.
However, when you know how you feel, understand why you feel as you do, and learn how to talk about emotions in healthy ways, you can navigate more complex conversations and situations as they arise.
And, in leadership roles, nay, in life, complex situations and conversations happen all the time. Sometimes every day.
In addition to meditation, diet, exercise, and weekly coaching, there are a couple of other things I do to understand my feelings and emotional state.
Journaling, and reflecting upon how you feel, is a very important process; especially when we are truly interested in understanding how and why we feel as we do. Some questions I typically ask myself are as follows.
What is the feeling that I am feeling?
What is the thought that is driving that feeling?
Where did that thought come from?
When you understand what you’re feeling, what thought is driving the feeling, and where the thought came from, you can begin to acknowledge the feeling.
When we can acknowledge how we truly feel, we can then release that feeling once we’ve gained true understanding. And, true understanding may mean working on a thought/feeling combination for some time.
Now, I’ve written most of this section with an assumption in mind. That, the work we do to understand how we feel, is needed mostly when we experience “negative” feelings, or emotions.
The emotions and associated feelings that bring us pain, discomfort, worry, and anxiety, for instance.
Why is it important to work on these “negative” emotions and feelings?
Because if we don’t understand how we feel and why we feel as we do, we will regularly give out all of that “negative” emotion to other people. And?
And, then, yes, we are giving out all of our anger, frustration, sadness, or whatever other feeling we have to everyone around us, and we are doing so unintentionally.
If you want to see an example of how this looks, just go to the grocery store and hang out for a while. You will encounter someone that is completely unaware of their emotional state. It won’t take long.
It happens all the time, every day. As was aforementioned, especially in the United States, where there is still, yes even in 2020, stigma about talking about our emotions. Not helpful and extremely unhealthy.
Now, understanding our feelings does not mean that we run out and tell everyone that we meet that we are frustrated, for instance, and here are the reasons why. A paradox? Yes?
Understanding your emotions and why you feel as you do, helps you do the exact opposite.
When we understand why we feel as we do, we can hold our emotions more, and find the right times to talk about them in appropriate ways; meaning healthy and constructive ways. Very important.
Alright, though I have more to say on both of the aforementioned topics, for now, that concludes the first part of this second installment in the leadership series. Next?
We will take a look at Leadership Sociology. And, yep, you are correct, Leadership Sociology and Leadership Psychology are connected. They influence each other. A reciprocal relationship, if you like.
For now, remember, leadership psychology as defined here, understanding how we think and feel is an important first step in developing ourselves, yes, as leaders, and even more importantly as human beings.
When we are open to our own development, we can create contexts that are growth-oriented for everyone. It works that way.
Remember, it starts with you, with me, with each of us. Therefore, when we catch ourselves looking outside of ourselves for answers to why we think and feel as we do, we must remember to look within.
Because, my friends, within ourselves is the only place we will find the answers.
A 3-minute Reflection on Leadership and Systems Thinking
What do you think that coaching, communication, and insight have in common? Hm. Not sure?
Or, maybe, you’re thinking it’s that they’re interactive, and that’s what they have in common, and, yep, that is true. Yet there is one more. Yep.
They are all part of a single system. Each one, coaching, communication, and insight, all of them, is a piece of a larger whole. Let’s take a look at these pieces so we can see the whole. Ready? Here we go.
Alright, I’ve written about coaching before, and, even wrote about a developed model that works pretty well. Yet, guess what? Yep. That model has iterated. Today? Here’s what it looks like now.
Define the Gap
Create Next Actions
Yep, it is a complete system. And, yes, it is a system within a system. Meaning, that coaching is, yes, one piece in an overall system, and, yep, you begin with safety and end with it. Every time. Why?
Because creating safety for people is one of the most important aspects of developing high-functioning teams. Seriously. Watch.
What does it take to have a high-functioning team? Any ideas? Yep. Here we go.
There’s five. And, to have those five? Yep. Safety. Always.
In order to have high-quality coaching conversations, good communication must also be present. And, what, pray, are the components of good communication. Here are a few.
Tell your truth
Sounds simple, yes? Well, it is, and yet, is a paradox, like most things in life. Why? Because it takes practice, and a commitment to persevere. You will make mistakes. And?
That’s okay. It’s part of it.
If we think that good communication feels good all the time, or looks one way or another, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Most of my favorite conversations today are loaded with work, for both people.
Here are a few more important concepts to develop good communication.
It takes work and time. Yet, when you practice listening and being present, all kinds of wondrous things happen. Really.
Ah, yes, one of my favorite topics. Insight. Beautiful.
Well, what’s the deal with insight anyway? When we typically think about insight, we think about that moment of clarity where we learn something we’d not considered before. Right? Yep.
However, insight can come in many forms. Seriously. Here are a few.
Yep. Insights are created through collaboration, whether that is through collaboration with yourself, yes, that’s true, or with another individual or team member, or with the entire team, organization, or community.
Insights are a product of high-quality communicative contexts that are safe. Period.
A Single System
Alright, so what does creating coaching, good communication, and insight have to do with each other? Yep, you got it.
They are all a part of the relationship system. First, the relationships we have with ourselves, then, the team, organization, and community. True.
And, the relationship system is applicable in all social contexts. Meaning, you can substitute family with the team in the aforementioned example, and you have a whole and complete system for the family. Same.
There we go. That’s my 3-minute reflection on the relationships system, and why considering these pieces as connected and a part of a larger whole is very important for leaders, and, well, for everyone. Really.
In fact, one could argue, as I would, that your very relationships depend on it. Truth. Phew. That was fun.
Well, it’s been 3 months since I started blogging, and I’ve learned some, and have so much more to learn. Phew, so much.
How did I get started?
As I’ve written in other posts, when COVID-19 sent everyone home, a byproduct of the pandemic was more time. Though I continued to work, the business was/is much slower than normal. In fact, the business is completely different today, and will continue to be so.
As I was looking for another outlet for the additional time, my oldest son and I had a conversation about COVID-19, discussing if future history books would show a large increase in creativity during the pandemic. Not sure, yet it is fun to think about.
What I do know is that it got me thinking about creating a site where I could get out my own creativity, and could also invite others to do the same. Though the latter hasn’t been fully realized, the former has been, and in ways that I never anticipated.
At the time, I had no idea how far it would go, and it pleasantly surprised me for sure. Pretty cool.
I’ve actually integrated the blogging into my normal daily workflow. They are very relevant to each other, and in many ways, they feed on each other. Fun.
What have I learned?
Phew, so many things. Here are a few.
How to create, manage, update, and maintain a website – lots of work, was a steep learning curve for me. Yet, like anything, once you get into it, starting moving work forward, you learn, read other blogs, and adjust as needed.
How to connect social media accounts to websites – actually not difficult. The difficulty is in managing the social media accounts. Making the time to learn how to use them, as they are all very different. Lots of work.
How to manage my time differently – even though there was/has been more time since COVID-19 began, I had to strategically create time each day to move the work forward.
How to differentiate writing from working on the site – both are needed. I write everyday, and, at first, worked on the site everyday. Now, I still write everyday, yet only work on the site once or twice a week. Not sure if that is a proper balance, as I do know updating the site is very important.
How to follow and interact with other bloggers – much fun. I have greatly enjoyed reading other blogs, asking questions, and giving my perspective on other topics. Fun.
How to connect videos to websites – about a month ago I wrote this blog, How We Learn, and Why it’s Important to Understand, and after reflecting upon it, it occurred to me that creating videos would be super fun, and would be another way to engage with people.
How to market your blog – learning more here every day. Lots of ways to market and engage people. I will say, however, that being active and consistent is super important.
How to sign up and write regularly on medium – I had never even heard of medium before beginning to blog. You can follow me here.
I’ve learned so much, and have so much more to learn, which is why I thought this new diary series would be super fun to write.
Let’s take a look at how my blogs have iterated in the past three months.
Lots of development over the past three months. A wonderful journey thus far, and I have every intention of continuing to write in this medium.
Here are some of the topics I’ve covered in the past three months.
Inspiration and Imagination
The Sound of
That’s actually a pretty inclusive list. The letters category is really new, it was just created last week. There is only one blog in there now, which is the one about my father passing, Letters: For My Dad.
That was a tough one to write, and has me in tears now. Phew. I miss him.
Continue to write, and learn. I’ve got a long list of topics to write about, much more than the time to get them all written anytime soon. And, you know, that’s totally okay.
I see blogging as something that will continue to be a part of my life forevermore. I’m not interested in the short game, only in the long one.
I also see my work in higher education and blogging, as something that will continue to converge. Actually, I’ve just recently added coaching services to the website, which I am super excited about. You can check them out here.
I’ve got a deep passion for personal and professional development, and have been working in this field all my life. Fun.
I also get very excited about new ways to engage, and new topics to write about, which I continue to reflect upon.
Alright, that’s all for this entry. However, before I go, I would like to thank each of you.
Thank you for reading, liking posts, commenting on posts, engaging me in however you did. You are appreciated.