A Developmental Moment #7: A Conversation About Connection and Compassion

How Deep Connections Increase Our Compassion

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about connection. More specifically, it was titled, the Year of Continued Connection. The talk was delivered at our Community Education Instructor Forum. An event we’ve been planning and delivering for, well, almost three years now.

After the talk, I continued to reflect upon the conversation with the instructors, and the concepts they brought up, and just how important connection is in our lives. In many ways, it is the bedrock of many concepts we cherish, such as relationships, engagement, an open heart, kindness, care, and yes, compassion.

When we are deeply connected to our own humanity, we get a larger picture of our shared humanity, which increases the humility and compassion we have for ourselves, and everyone else.

In this post, I would like to elaborate on a few of the concepts outlined above as I understand them in their relation to connection. Ready? Good. Here we go.

Connection

Photo by Uriel SC on Unsplash
  • Relationships – as I’ve written about many times, all of our relationships start with the relationship we have with ourselves. The connection we have with ourselves is the same connection we will have with the people in our lives. It just works that way. There was a time when I wondered why it was that my relationships weren’t as strong as I would have liked them to be; bottom line? The relationship I had with myself was not strong. Simple.
  • Engagement – when we are in relationship with ourselves, and then the people we surround ourselves with, it means that we are engaged. Engagement in this context means we have easy and difficult conversations. Both. When we hold ourselves accountable, we will do the same for everyone else, which makes navigating our relationships harder. Though harder, when we hold ourselves accountable, we get back relationships that have a deeper connection. Why? Because we are real, we are speaking our truth. That’s it.
  • Open Heartedness – when we are in engaged relationships there will be difficult times. For us, and for the people we love. However, when we are engaged, we won’t run, we will stand by their side, and stand for those we love, just as we stand for ourselves. And, when we are standing, we are being open to all that life gives us. We don’t pick and choose the times we are engaged and willing to stand for ourselves and the people we love. We do it all the time. Without thinking. It just happens. We create more openness within ourselves because we are living through experiences that we may have run from before; and, when we stand through all of the stormy times, our connection to ourselves and the people we love deepens even further.
  • Kindness – with our hearts more open in these engaged relationships, we develop more kindness for ourselves and everyone else. It happens as a result of continuing to navigate all of life’s triumphs and challenges. In essence, we become a kinder human being, because we’ve been through more challenges. We’ve become more vulnerable; and, when we become more vulnerable, yes, we get stronger, and we get kinder. All of which also creates a more intense connection with ourselves and the people we love.
  • Care – when we are kind, engaged, and open-hearted in our relationships, we develop more care. We have a better understanding of the human condition, and what it takes to stand for ourselves and the people we love. Every day. And, as we do this work, a deeper awareness develops within ourselves, which includes a deeper connection of care to everyone and everything.

The 3 S’s of Connection

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

I also like to think about connection in regard to three other concepts. Here they are.

  • Safety – when we stand for ourselves and other human beings, we stay engaged, regardless of the situation. A result of increased engagement is safety. When we know we won’t run at the first sight of trouble, people feel safe. And, when people feel safe with you, they will be much more connected.
  • Security – as a sense of safety develops in your relationships, a sense of security also develops. It has to. When we feel safe, we also feel secure. Secure in the knowledge that our relationships are a place where we don’t have to worry or create anxiety over people leaving us, or being upset with us. Now, that doesn’t mean there will never be disagreements, or even arguments; what it does mean is that people will respect each other, and speak their truth, without fear of reprisal. That’s security.
  • Stability – and, when we feel safe and secure, we also feel stable. The relationship we have with ourselves is more stable, which means all of our relationships are more stable.

When we have safety, security, and stability in our relationships, we have a deeper connection to those we love. It also means that we know when a relationship is not going to work. Whereas this is difficult, we stay true to our truth. The knowing we have of the kind of relationship we are creating, and want to have. Therefore, we are much more clear on the people we allow into our lives. In fact, we have much more clarity about humanity in general. Beautiful.

Connection and Compassion

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

With more clarity about our own humanity, we are much more clear on all humanity. I’ve written this sentence differently many times. Yet, it is such an important part of deepening our connection with ourselves and the people we love.

When we have authentic relationships, we are working hard on them all the time. And, as we do the hard work, we go through many challenges. These challenging times show us more about our own humanity, and then our collective humanity.

For instance, we can read every book ever written on being vulnerable, yet the only way to really know about vulnerability is to practice being vulnerable. It is the only way. Without the practical experience of being vulnerable, vulnerability is just information in our heads; we leave our hearts behind.

Yet, when we are open to all of the experiences life gives us, we get to learn so much more. And, it is inside of these learnings where we further deepen our connection with ourselves and everyone else.

As we deepen our connections, we also develop more compassion. We develop more compassion, because as we go through more challenges, we develop a new understanding of how hard life can be; and with this new experiential knowledge, the compassion we have for ourselves and everyone else deepens.

When we are more compassionate, we are also more patient, and have more love for people when they are struggling, because we can see ourselves in them. And, for me, one of the most magical experiences of my practice of self-inquiry over the past four years has been seeing myself in other people. It is a beautiful experience.

Remember, every connection we have in life starts with the one we have with ourselves. When we have a deep connection with ourselves, we will have a deeper connection with the people we love, and we will also become a more compassionate human being. And, guess what?

We need more compassionate people on this planet.

#care, #compassion, #engagement, #human-connection, #humandevelopment, #leadership, #minfulness, #openheart, #relationships, #safety, #security, #selfdevelopment, #stability

The Reflection Series Part 9: The Power of Silence

In Leadership and Life

Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon the power of silence; and, maybe more importantly how in that absence of sound and other stimuli there lives a very powerful reservoir. One that, as many of you know, I was not in touch with for many years.

In my reflection this past week, I’ve also been pondering how in today’s fast-paced, go, go, go, culture, I do have the United States in mind here, accessing silence is even more important. The paradox? It’s harder to access. Though not for the reason you may be thinking.

It’s harder to access, not because there is less silence available in the US. In fact, accessing silence has nothing to do with spaces and places. The reason that it is harder in the US to access silence is actually rather simple. It’s not valued, nor taught. In fact, one could argue that the opposite is valued.

Fast-paced, loud, go, go, go. Right? These may be horrible generalizations, yet take a look around any metropolitan city in this country, and what do you see? People moving fast, cars driving fast, animals moving fast. Habituation to a lifestyle that proceeds all of us, yet we also help to continue to perpetuate this lifestyle. Interesting.

In this post, I want to create a space to discuss some practices that anyone, no matter where you live, can take up to secure themselves a little silence each day. These practices are common sense. No great mysteries here. Yet, it’s the planning and doing and repeating that matter most in this conversation. (Re)habituation.

(Re)habituation

Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

Well, I’ve not defined a word in a while in a post, so let’s do that, shall we? Good. Here we go.

habituation

noun /həˌbɪtʃuˈeɪʃn/ /həˌbɪtʃuˈeɪʃn/[uncountable] (formal)

  1. habituation (of somebody/something) (to something) the action or condition of becoming used to something

There we go.

So, what then is (re)habituation? It simply means the process of habituating ourselves to a different set of stimuli, actions or conditions, while letting go of the ones we are currently habituated to. Simple. Yet, when we are habituated to an action or a particular set of conditions, it can be difficult to (re)habituate ourselves to something new.

I’ve written on this topic before, and think, especially right now, it is important for everyone to consider how they can get at least a few moments of silence in their lives each day.

Just a short 4 years ago, I never created silence for myself. In fact, I thought reading and watching television was, in their own way, silent time. And, when you don’t know how to access silence, and, in fact, are quite afraid of it, then watching TV or reading a book can seem like silent time.

Yet, accessing real silence takes practice. And, guess what? Once you’ve created a new habit to access silence, and you’ve done so for some time, you begin to realize that silence is always available. Even when you are busy. A paradox? Yes, and no.

Here are a couple things you can do on a regular basis to begin to access silence.

  1. Stop – when you are super busy. Stop. Stop, and set an alarm on your phone for 2 minutes and just sit there and focus on your breath. The way the air is inhaled into your lungs and the way it is exhaled out. Just 2 minutes. Do that periodically throughout your day. You will find that in just 2 minutes of silence, you can quiet your mind a little, and gain more focus. As you practice this 2-minute silence break, increase it after a couple of weeks to 3 minutes, then 5 minutes. It is amazing how much focus and mental equilibrium can be created out of just a few minutes of real silence.
  2. Walk – calendar yourself for regular walks. You can start with a 5-minute walk. If you’re at work, maybe it’s just around the area you work, inside or out, it matters not. What matters is to focus on your breath as you walk. As you take a step, inhale in, and as you take another step, exhale out. You can even count the steps as you take them. I still do this today without even thinking about it. Habituation.
  3. Listen – when you are super busy, stop what you are doing, and listen to your mind and body. How do they feel? Are you tense? Is your mind super active? If so, stop and breathe for a few minutes, or take a walk, as described above.
  4. Repeat – the most important thing about creating a new habit, or (re)habituating ourselves out of our current habits and into new ones is repetition. Daily is best. Yet, it is also important to set a schedule you can work with and that will feel good. So, if that’s every other day, so be it. Getting started is key, and then continuing as you are able will create more workability for you inside of creating a new habit.

Alright, there are a couple of things you can do to habituate yourself into a new habit, which will help you gain access to silent time everyday. Remember, if you forget, which will happen, or feel you don’t have time so choose not to access silent time one day, it’s okay.

There are no demerits here. It’s about creating more workability by increasing your focus, attention, and mental wellness, something everyone needs, and leaders must have.

Leadership and Silence

I’ve found accessing silence one of the most powerful concepts and practices of my entire life; and, remember, the person writing this post did know how to access even one minute of real silence until about 4 years ago. True.

Yet, when we create the time to be silent, to quiet our minds, to listen to our bodies, and to just be, what we get back is so much more. We get more focus, attention, and mental wellness, and we also get more insights. Insights into our own humanity. A sacred and beautiful experience.

Here are five few ways that silence has impacted my life and leadership.

  1. Mental Flexibility – when we are mentally flexible, we are open and willing to listen and learn.
  2. Calmness – remaining calm under great pressure and stress is key to keeping yourself and your team on track and in alignment.
  3. Clarity – developing clarity means that your communications will be more clear and understandable. Communication is one of the most important functions in leadership, so being clear, concise, and understandable is key.
  4. Patience – the ability to demonstrate patience shows your team that even under extreme pressure, you will remain open and flexible. Demonstrating patience will give your team more confidence in you as a leader.
  5. Deeper Understanding – to lead, you must understand yourself well; and, you must be able to relate to all people, staff, peers, customers, clients, everyone. Developing a deeper understanding of your own humanity, means that you develop a deeper understanding of all humanity, which makes you more relatable, empathetic, and compassionate.

There are many more ways that silence has impacted my life and leadership, yet these are important for all of us, and for leaders they are critical. The ability to be mentally flexible, remain calm, have clarity, demonstrate patience, and create a deeper understanding of yourself are skills that every leader needs.

Remember, then, the next time you feel overwhelmed at work or in life, create silent time for yourself. It can even be 1 minute to start. What matters most is getting started.

It’s about accessing the silence that is always within you; and, watching that grow over time, as you continue to practice the act of creating silent time for yourself.

#clarity, #creatingnewhabits, #creatingsilence, #deeperunderstanding, #habituation, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #life, #mentalflexibility, #mindfulness, #patience, #personaldevelopment, #professionaldevelopment, #reflection, #selfdevelopment, #silence

A Blogger’s Diary 3/28/21: On Writing, Reflecting, Vaccinations, and Emotions

This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon my emotions, as you might have noticed and/or read about in some of my poems. As we continue to move forward with vaccinations, it occurs to me that there will be emotions about the pandemic that will arise for all of us. Some we will see coming, some we will not.

Before we discuss this topic more, let’s take a look at the writing that occured this week, and the writing slated for next week.

Writing

This past week, I found myself drawn more to poetry. In fact, in the past two weeks, I’ve written about 10 new poems. All of which, I will share in the coming weeks. I’ve been feeling moved this week by several concepts, which did make their way into the following pieces.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.jpg
Image credit; Eric Muhr @ Unsplash

Keeps

The poem Keeps was initially inspired by the WDYS #74 prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje. The prompt this week reminded me of my hikes in the local area in which I live. Hikes where I am present to only my footing, the scenery, such as the earth, the foliage, the beautiful sky, and any wildlife that comes by. Beautiful.

As thoughts enter my mind, I let them pass through, and remain in that moment, just walking along the trail being one with the Nature that surrounds me.

It is quite meditative to walk, practice your breathing, and just listen and watch. There is healing in each foot step, each breath, and in each moment. If you’ve not tried meditative walking/hiking, I suggest giving it a try.

Elixir

The poem Elixir was an acknowledgement to the present moment and the illusion of time. I’ve written several times about the social construction of time, and when you really understand that time, in fact, is illusory, you are freed from self-imposed limits bound in time.

We all live outside of time, yet also live in it, as we choose. A paradox, and not.

Next Week

As I mentioned previously, I’ve created a bunch of new poems, and am excited to get them scheduled. I feel more poetry coming, so will continue to write and reflect on new concepts and insights as they come.

I am also continuing to work on a post on silence. I had an insight this week about a post on communication, and will probably start that sometime in the next week or two.

Alas, I’ve not made much progress on the Leadership from Within series. Though I’ve not made much progress yet, I will continue to endeavor to write this series. I see it as a possible book in the future, and have a lot of thinking and feeling about the topic to share.

Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

Vaccinations

Vaccinations are opening up more here locally. In fact, I am pleased to report that I am on an official waitlist for my first dose. I was told I should get a call in the next week or two.

Though I am pleased about this progress, both as a State and a Country, I realize that there is much work to do across this country and the world to ensure that everyone that wants a vaccination has access.

I will not pretend to know the answers to this issue. I will say, however, that I look forward to a day when those in legislative positions and positions of power in this country and around the globe think more collectively and collaboratively about serving the common good, which includes all of humanity. Everyone, everywhere.

Photo by Diana H on Unsplash

Emotions

With anticipation and excitement also comes apprehension, fear, and indifference. It’s just how it works. Which means that whereas some people will feel the former, some will feel the latter, and many of us will feel both.

When I was told that I would be put on a waiting list for my first dose of the vaccine, I was excited and anxious. Excited about the movement, and anxious about the unknown.

It is important for me to stay grounded in the current reality, which, yes, includes the vaccination being distributed to more and more people across the State. The current reality also includes, however, the fact that some people will not want to get the vaccine and some will not have access to the vaccine due to systematic inequalities in this country and around the world.

The latter of which fills me with sadness.

It also occurs to me that the landscape of how the pandemic, and respective responses to it from a systems and organizational perspective, are still completely unknown. Which simply means taking things as they come, developing plans and iterating those plans as needed, to ensure we continue to serve as many people as possible with educational options that fit their needs. Important.

The invitation I will send out to the team this week will be to recognize the emotions as they come for what they are. Responses to stimuli in your environment, and in your mind. Meaning, emotions are something we get and feel, they are not who we are.

Emotions, like our thoughts, do not define us. We choose.

Alright, that’s all for this week.

Have a wonderful week and please stay healthy and well.

#poetry, #blogger, #bloggers-diary, #blogging, #communication, #contemplation, #covid-19-vaccination, #diary, #emotionalintelligence, #emotions, #leadership, #meditation, #pandemic, #poem, #poems, #reflections, #silence, #writing

My One Thing This Week: Creating a Vision Traction Organizer

Current Reality, Future Reality, and Gaining Traction

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Alright, it’s been a while since I’ve created a My One Thing post. As I considered this this past week, it occurred to me to write a post about creating a Vision Traction Organizer (VTO). The VTO is taken from the book Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business, by Gino Wickman.

I’ve written about the book Traction before, and highly recommend it for anyone working in the business world, both private and public, no matter the size of your business. It is a very practical and implemtable book.

Alright, so here is what the VTO for the Extended Learning Department at Linn-Benton Community College looked like in year 2.

Extended Learning, Vision Traction Organizer

As you can see, it begins on the left side with the department values and vision and then works all the way to the right displaying the department goals, and issues the department is facing. Hence, traction. Why?

Well, as I’ve written about before, the only way to make a vision a reality, personal or professional, is to actually tie that vision to day-to-day life in the form of smaller goals. When you have your day-to-day activities tied to the vision of who you want to be, or where you want your organization or business to be in, say, 3 years, you will develop traction.

Meaning, you will move toward and likely manifest that reality for yourself, or your team.

Now, since the department’s second year together, well, we’ve had some, let’s say, unexpected things occur, such as the pandemic. Yep, so now that we’ve been living inside of this pandemic for a full year, it was time to start to sketch out the next 3 years.

Here is what it looks like on my white board wall.

Albany, Oregon 2021

If you compare the two, you will see that the revenue goals are much lower than they were expected to be when the original VTO was created in our second year together. That, however, is the reality. And, as I’ve written about before, being clear on the current reality is necessary and needed in leadership.

We may not want to look at the current reality, we may want to instead run and hide from it, yet, it will only follow us if we do. And, in refusing to acknowledge the current reality, just as it is, the people that work in your organization or business, will be confused. Confused because they are not getting honest communication from leadership. Not helpful.

Further, when we don’t stand in and accept our current reality, we cannot create new realities. The only way to create a vision for the future, is to accept reality as it is. Just as it is now. Then work from there. Simple. Yet, this can be hard for people in new leadership roles. Trust me, I know how that feels.

However, you will find that your team, organization, or business, will be grateful when leadership stands in and actively communicates the current reality. For it gives everyone a real starting point.

Alright, that’s My One Thing for this week. The next step will be to take the “whiteboard wall VTO” and put it into a graphics design software package. Once I’ve done that, I will create another post and walk you through some of my thinking about Extended Learning’s next three years. That will be fun.

#business, #current-reality, #gettingagriponyourbusiness, #ginowickman, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #myonething, #selfdevelopment, #strategicthinking, #traction, #vision, #visiontractionorganizer

The Reflection Series #7: Thinking about Time Differently

Using Our Energy Level As A Measure Of Time

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

This past week I’ve been reflecting upon time management. Well, to be more specific, time management in relation to projects, tasks, and, then, after a conversation with a colleague of mine, energy.

Have you ever thought about scheduling your day by the energy you exert in relation to the projects or tasks you work on? Well, I had never really thought about my time this way either.

Or rather, I think a lot about how much energy a project or task takes, yet I have never created a system for analyzing my energy output.

Well, it’s about time, I think. Pun intended.

Before we go on further in the discussion, however, let’s first take a look at my projects and tasks in a linear format, which is the picture below.

Albany, OR 2021

I find it helpful to write out the projects and tasks I am responsible for.

Yet, in the linear version to the left, I am missing several pieces needed to get a grasp on the whole picture.

Meaning, how do the projects and tasks relate to the department priorities? Good question.

Let’s take a look.

Below is a mind map to assist in answering this question.

Albany, OR 2021

Completing the whiteboard mind map helped me see a couple of things that are not apparent when data or information is presented linearly.

Here are some of the things I learned from mapping the projects and tasks nonlinearly.

  • Most of my time is currently spent in meeting the department’s sustainability priority.
  • There are at least three commitments that aren’t connected to a department priority. They are the bubbles, or circles, that are off to the side, disconnected from the rest of the mind map.
  • We are working on systems in each program, yet they are different systems.

And here is a question that arose after reflecting upon this mind map overnight.

How does my time on these various projects and tasks vary as a function of energy output?

It is very common to measure out time in, well, units of time. For instance, project A takes X amount of time, whereas project B takes Y amount of time. Helpful.

Yet, what we also know about time is that, for instance, you can work on a project or task for an hour, let’s say, without exerting that much energy. While, conversely, you can spend 30-minutes on a project or task that requires much more mental, or physical, output. How do you then manage your time?

If you simply gauge or measure all projects the same way, you may, for instance, have a work day that is full of high energy outputs, and a day that has very little, which may cause a balance issue.

My suggestion? Good question.

Well, I plan to remap my projects and tasks by energy output. It might look something like this.

Corvallis, OR 2021

A rough sketch this is, however, even in this rough sketch, you can get the idea.

What this sketch does not take into account, or, rather, does not, at this time, have space for, are those projects that fall outside the department priorities.

More reflection for me.

Alright, that wraps up this entry in the reflection series on thinking about time differently.

Remember, if we simply use time as the only way we measure our output, without considering energy, for instance, we may be missing a big piece of the overall framework of how we schedule ourselves and our work.

#energy, #humandevelopment, #introspection, #leadership, #mindmap, #reflection, #selfdevelopment, #selfimprovement, #strategicthinking, #timemangagement

A Blogger’s Diary 2/7/21: 2 Writing Reflections, Next Week, and Movies

Alright, we’ve now entered February and are approaching the 1-year anniversary of the pandemic outbreak here locally. Phew. Hard to believe, and, yet, not. Why?

Well, in some ways this past year has gone by really quickly, and, in others, not so much. Time is an interesting construct. One I will not go into right now, promise, though if you are interested in more of my thinking on time, please take a look at, The Social Construction Series Part 5: The Social Construction of Time.

I also wrote a poem on time once.

I digress. How about those reflections? Okay, here we go.

2 Writing Reflections

Hope

Alright, the hope elfje poem was a response to Sadje’s weekly WDYS prompt, and I loved writing it. There are times when I write a poem, and all the words just flow out of me and onto the page. There are other times, where it flows out of me, and then I sit with the poem a while, and make minor, and sometimes major adjustments.

The hope poem was of the latter variety. I originally conceived of this poem as a poem about fright. Yet, as I played with the words in my mind, and looked at them on my whiteboard, it occured to me that the poem was really about hope.

That, at times, we all feel like the darkness is enveloping us, and then when we are least expecting it, a ray of light, or hope, shines upon us. Beautifully fun.

Shy

Well, what do I say about the poem shy. Hm. First, I wrote this poem two months ago probably, and just left it. I would occasionally go back to it, read and reread it, and then still leave it for another day.

Well, this past week, I read it again, made a couple minor changes, and thought, let’s post this this week. And, so that’s exactly what happened.

I was shy growing up, and was called shy and sensitive a lot. In the early 1980’s being shy and sensitive as a young boy was, well, difficult. And, I know for many young boys and girls this is still the case today in the US.

In the United States there is a fixation on being unemotional, which is, as we all know, quite toxic and unhealthy. Emotional balance and stability is needed and necessary, yet, when we shut our emotions away, we are ultimately harming ourselves and those around us.

Anyway, the poem shy was about me stepping into the light of my shyness and sensitivity. For me, they go together.

One of my blogger friends asked if the poem was about being shy or being introverted. And, well, I am actually quite extroverted, yet also have a very important introverted part of my life. A paradox? No, not at all.

Shyness, sensitivity, extroversion, and introversion, all live on a continuum, or spectrum. And, they can actually change over time and between contexts.

Writing the poem shy was a blast.

Next Week

Looking ahead, I see more poems, and an article on time and energy, which is almost complete. And, then one, I think, on patience, something that I struggled with for a very long time.

In the coming weeks, I will also be working on the Leadership From Within Series. The posts in this new series will be shorter, and will be about the many things I’ve encountered the past 4 years in my role at the community college. Will be fun.

I will also be trying out some new poem forms, such as the Hexastich. Should be a lot of fun. And, movies? Alright, let’s take a look at a couple I’ve watched over the past two months.

Movies

I’ve always enjoyed movies, and though I don’t watch as many today, I still love to curl up with a blanket and take in a good movie.

Here are a couple I’ve watched recently.

I give all of these movies at least a 7 out of 10, with the Legend of Bagger Vance being my favorite.

Alright, that’s all for this week.

I wish you well in all that you do, and hope you have a wonderful week.

#poetry, #blog, #blogger, #bloggers-diary, #blogging, #leadership, #movies, #poems, #writing

Leading From Within

An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College

Linn-Benton Community College - Home | Facebook
Linn-Benton Community College, Albany, Oregon

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.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

2016-17

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.

2017-18

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.

  • Breakdown central.
  • Remembering who I am.
  • Development outside of the college.
  • Life coach.
  • 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.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

2018-19

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.
  • Developing priorities.
  • Metrics and measurement.
  • Internal advocacy.
  • External relationships.

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.

2019-20

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.

  • Team alignment.
  • Gaining traction.
  • Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
  • Pandemic?
  • Reprioritizing.
  • Creating 5 new business models.
  • Community response.

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.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

2020-21

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.

What’s Next?

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.

#alignment, #business, #coaching, #development, #engagement, #grwoth, #humandevelopment, #leadership, #leadingfromwithin, #ledaershipdevelopment, #metrics, #pandemic, #relationships, #strategicthinking, #systems, #teamdevelopment

A Blogger’s Diary 1/10/21: On Writing, Work, The Remote Book Club, and Difficulty

Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

Well, we’ve now just about completed our first full week of the new year, which means, well, many different things for people. For me? It means that I’m back at the College, and we are continuing to move our work forward. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. For now?

Let’s take a look at this week’s posts.

Phew, that’s fun. Now, how about next week?

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve been scheduling posts in advance, so I already know some of next week’s posts, which include a few poems, haiku#2, and two more articles on development. One of the articles is on having difficult conversations, and one is the last entry in part 2 the Leadership Series.

I am also working on two new articles, which will not be posted for a couple weeks. One is on creating intention, and the second is on the law of attraction. They should be super fun.

Alright, as it was my first week back to work in a week-and-a-half, let’s take a look at how that went.

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Work

I’ve been in this current position for almost 4 years now, so the break was, well, awesome, and different. Different in that, there was more time. I didn’t work as much, so had more time for writing and other endeavors. Was nice.

However, by the last weekend of the break, I was ready to see the team. We had a great first week back, registrations are stronger than they’ve been since the beginning of the pandemic, which means we are serving more and more people each term. Amazing.

The team is well. They are continuing to use both their heads and their hearts to move our work forward, which is, well, essential.

I’ve written before about making sure we use both our heads and our hearts in our lives, well, actually recently, so will simply state here, that it is super fun to see the team’s growth, our collective growth, and the growth of each individual. Super fun.

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Remote Book Club

I am happy to write that the remote book club is alive and well. As you may recall, we are reading, Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami.

Now, I’ll admit my bias, as I have before, I am a huge Murakami fan, so I love this book. Thus far, the book is about journeying. Journey’s that occur inside ourselves and outside ourselves. It is quite fascinating.

We are only about half way through the 700+ page book, which means we will not finish it until sometime in February.

I look forward to the discussion we will have in about three weeks from now, should be pretty amazing.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Difficulty

This past week I was more present to the word, or concept of, difficulty. For many reasons, one of which is, yes, the article I wrote about difficult conversations; and, also the continued difficulties due to the pandemic.

I am leaving you this week with the Monday message I have scheduled for the team, which will go out tomorrow morning.

Here we go.

This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon the word, or concept of, difficulty. Why?

Well, the entire world has experienced many difficult things this past year. And, whereas, yes, we are beginning a new year, it is part of my everyday practice and work to recognize that more difficulties lie ahead.

However, understanding that there will be difficulty does not mean that there will only be things that are difficult.

One thing, of the many, I’ve learned this past year, is that it’s actually inside of life’s experiences, which are difficult, where we learn more about, well, everything. More about the world, the nation, the state, our local community, the college, our team, and, yes, about the human beings we are today.

I’ve also learned that no experience, or concept, such as difficulty, is free from their conceptual counterpoint. In this example, we can use the word, or concept, easily, as the counterpoint to difficulty.

When we experience something that is difficult, we know it’s difficult because we’ve also experienced things in our life that are easier. They go together. Always have, and always will. It’s how life works.

My invitation to you?

To remember, when life is giving you things that are difficult, that they will pass, and that, in some ways, when we get life experiences that are difficult, they make us appreciate the easy stuff that much more.

Corvallis, Oregon, January 2021

Wow, I’ve never used the “pull quote” function in WordPress before. That’s fun. Alright, back on track.

We will always get things in life that are difficult. It is inevitable. However, we will also get things in life that are easy, also part of life. They are, in fact, one. Inseparable. Meaning?

Enjoy them all, as you are able, my friends, and live your life to the fullest extent possible.

Have a lovely week.

#bloggers-diary, #blogging, #business, #diary, #difficult, #easy, #education, #harukimurakami, #leadership, #pandemic, #remotebookclub, #work, #writing

A Developmental Moment #4: What Does Influence Mean and Why Does it Matter?

The Differences Between Internal and External Influence and Their Relationship to Service

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

As I was pondering the next developmental moment, and was considering influence as a topic, I had to stop, and reflect upon the past three years. What to say about influence?

Well, as with most things in my life today, an insight did occur, which will now come out through me and to you. Fun.

Alright, so influence is an important topic when you are leading teams; and, well, I do believe it is an important topic in everyone’s development, regardless of their iteration of self-development, or their interest in leadership. Why?

Because, we all will, at some point, apply for a job, need to grow our network, and, or, seek new areas of self-expression. And, to be fully self-expressed, or, rather, to self-express yourself fully, it is nice to understand the concept of influence. Let’s do just that then. Take a look at how I interpret the concept of influence.

Ready? Good. Here we go.

influence

verb /ˈɪnfluəns/ 

to have an effect on the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially by giving them an example to follow.

influence something, influence how, where, etc. to have an effect on a particular situation and the way that it develops.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

There we go.

Alright, so here’s what we have for influence; to have an effect on a particular situation and the way it develops, or the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially in regard to providing them an example to follow.

Now let’s discuss influence in two different ways. Let’s take a look at internal influence, and external influence. Both are important, and both are needed. Here we go.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Internal Influence

When I write the phrase internal influence, I am referring to your influence within the business, organization, or institution in which you work.

Understanding influence as an opportunity to build cultural capital inside of the business, organization, or institution in which you work is important for a leader to consider. If your influence wanes, it may be hard, for example, to garner political support on a project your team is working on.

However, if your influence is strong, or even adequate, garnering support will be easier. Pretty simple.

What I’ve found to be most true about internal influence is that being who you really are is of utmost importance. Meaning, to be the authentic leader you know yourself to be.

Yes, we all have to make concessions at times, and, yet, we all have the creative power to effect change. And, this is true, even when our influence is bourgeoning.

A quick aside. Influence, like most things in life, lives along a spectrum. Meaning, that influence is not binary. You gain influence over time; and, it takes time.

Maybe you’re asking yourself, okay, well, how do we create influence, and effect change. Here are a few important considerations for those interested in increasing their internal influence.

  1. Relationships – as I’ve written many times, everything starts with relationships. The one we have with ourselves, yes, and then with everyone else. Being in a relationship means having easy and difficult conversations. Remembering this truth is important in leadership.
  2. Questions – asking questions is always an important step in creating influence. Often, people shy away from asking the tough questions. Ask them. It is important to your own development, and that of your teams.
  3. Creativity – being open, flexible, and innovative, is an important aspect of influencing the future. Without creativity, the past is the future, a stamped reproduction. Thus, being open to new ideas, those from your peers, and your team is essential.
  4. Integrity – doing what we say we are going to do is important to all aspects of our lives, and there is no exception in creating influence. If we are unable to make it to a meeting, or are going to be late, communicate. Open communication ensures that we are always keeping everyone in the conversation, and keeping our integrity intact.
  5. Authenticity – be who you are. You are just as you are supposed to be, so embrace your unique-self, and let that shine. There is only one you, which means there’s not another person on the planet that can create influence, or anything else for that matter, just like you. When we are authentic, people know, and respect our truth. And, if they don’t? Remember, that’s their issue. Not yours. Be who you are.

Alright, there are five examples, and considerations for you, on how to create influence within a business, organization, or institution. Remember, influence takes time to cultivate. It’s kind of like gardening. You must water your relationships, questions, creativity, integrity, and authenticity, and, when you do, you will see your influence grow.

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

External Influence

External influence is similar to internal influence, and yet, also different. You can use the five considerations aforementioned with those clients, students, or customers, that are external to your business, organization, or institution. And?

There are a couple more strategies for you to consider. Here we go.

  1. Engagement – being fully engaged at all times with those you serve is important. Meaning, that it is important to create an engagement system that you can rely upon, which will ensure your engagement is, well, like a drum beat. Your clients, students, or customers need to rely upon your engagement pattern. I write about developing my LinkedIn engagement system in the post, A Blogger’s Diary 12/27/20: On Writing, Goal-Setting, Systems, and the Holidays, which can serve as one of many examples to draw upon.
  2. Consistency – a drum beat, or pattern, on which your clients, students, or customers can rely. Important. There are lots of ways to ensure you stay on track with your engagement. You can calendar your engagements, enter them into a project management software system, or keep them in a planner. The tool matters far less, than the output of making sure to engage regularly and consistently.
  3. Reciprocity – relationships are built upon many things, and reciprocity is one. Being in relationships means sharing yourself with your clients, students, or customers. And doing so in a genuine way. Remember, people know when we are inauthentic. They can see, hear, and feel it. Just be who you are, and reciprocate.
  4. Value – our clients, students, or customers want to know they are valued. They would like value, and to know they are valued. Both. Providing value comes in many forms, and it’s not always, actually rarely, monetary. It’s about being there for your clients, students, or customers. Taking care of them, treating them with kindness, and valuing their needs.
  5. Service – in the end, it’s all about service. All of it. The service we give ourselves, and the service we give out to our clients, students, or customers. When we value our service, we are always looking for, and creating, new ways to serve. Whether that is through a new business model, a new product, or a new service. Really. Ultimately, it’s about understanding the need, reflecting on that need, and creating a bridge for that need.

Internal and external influence matter. It’s not about ego. We are leaving ego at the door. It’s about service. About taking care of people. Finding out what they need, and working with them to fill that need.

When we are in relationship with people, we are in a unique position to serve.

And, as we continue to serve, our influence grows. Influence grows as we grow and deepen our relationships. The relationships we have with those we serve. Ultimately, it’s our peers, teams, clients, students, and customers that let us know about our influence.

When we have movement in our relationships, we can see it and feel it; and, when we have traction, we know, because reciprocity flourishes as we enter into new relationships each day. And, as we enter into more relationships, our service grows; and, yes, we also grow. Fun.

#authenticity, #consistency, #creativity, #development, #developmentalmoment, #engagement, #externalinfluence, #influence, #integrity, #internalinfluence, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #questions, #reciprocity, #relationships, #self-development, #service, #value

The Leadership Series Part 2.5: Why Developing the Self is Always the First Step in Leadership

The Leadership Sociology of How we Speak and Act

Photo by Ilham Wicaksono on Unsplash

Alright, leadership sociology. What a fun phrase. What does it mean though? Good question. Let’s reset the last installment, and then we will get into that question.

In the last installment in the Leaders Series, The Leadership Series Part 2: Why Developing the Self is Always the First Step in Leadership, we began a discussion of four concepts important to leadership, which are thinking, feeling, speaking, and action. Then, in the last installment we elaborated on two of them. Namely, thinking and feeling.

Now, in this article, we will discuss the latter two, speaking and acting. Ready? Good. Here we go.

Leadership Sociology

Sociology is basically the study of group behavior. And, what do you have in groups? Yep, people. So, the study of people within context is super important. And, in fact, that’s one part of what we are doing in this series; and, we are doing so from a leadership lens.

When we reflect upon how we think and feel, we will ultimately get to a place where we are also considering how we speak, and then take action. All of these concepts are important to being, and becoming, an effective leader. Hm. When I write about effective leadership, what do you think of?

Well, in this context, I mean, a leader that understands themselves, first. Understanding yourself, who you are as a human being, is always the first step in becoming an effective leader. Why?

Because everything we do starts with us. Really. If we don’t understand why we think as we do, why we feel as we do, or speak and act as we do, we can never understand how the people we lead think, feel, speak, and act. Not possible.

However, when we are self-aware, we understand ourselves, and then? We understand the people we surround ourselves with, including our teams. Alright. Now, let’s discuss speaking and acting.

Photo by hatham on Unsplash

Speaking

When I use the phrase, speaking, I mean it in the literal sense of the word. How we use our words when we speak is important, as words and language, are very powerful. Speaking in this sense may be in actual verbal form, or in written form. Both are important.

In the article, 4 Reasons Why Language is Power, I discuss in some detail why language is powerful. For the purposes of this discussion, it is enough to know that our integrity is tied to how we speak. And, there are a few things we can use to measure our speech.

Here are a few.

  • Why are you saying it?
  • What are you saying?
  • How are you saying it?
  • When will you say it?
  • Whom will you say it to?
  • Where will you say it?

This may seem basic, and yet, to become more aware of how our speech impacts others, we must inquire into the why, what, when, how, whom, and where of our language.

There are several ways we can practice measuring our speech. Here are a few techniques I use.

  1. Write rough drafts – it is important to set out on paper, for me at least, the what and why first about my communications. It gives me a chance to print out the communication, and look at it from a different vantage point. I will also edit from paper.
  2. Email rough drafts – I always write my emails in advance, and will schedule them for a time in the near future. Sometimes that’s the next day, sometimes the next week. Depends. This tactic gives me time to reflect upon the communication some more. I have often when back and reworked an email that has already been scheduled.
  3. Whiteboard work – when I am unsure about the when, whom, and where, I often do whiteboard work about the communication. Well, actually, I often do whiteboard work about most of my communications. It is helpful to see my ideas up on a board, reflect on them, rework them, and then, send. Important and helpful.
  4. Get feedback – another strategy I use is asking coworkers for advice and feedback on my communications. As I’ve mentioned before, I am leading a statewide conversation about noncredit education, and when I have to communicate something clearly to this large group, I’ll get several people to weigh in and provide me feedback. They always see something I didn’t. Super helpful.

Another viable and valid strategy is to hold off on writing or speaking your communication until you are clear. I have actually cancelled team meetings before when the communication I needed to make to the team was just not clear enough for me.

It is much more important to have a high-quality communication that is clear, than a communication that may cause confusion.

Creating and delivering clear communication takes practice. And, that’s okay. We all need time to practice, and believe me, practicing your communication is a worthwhile endeavor. You will find that you will need to communicate less often, when you take more time to communicate clearly.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

Acting

In leadership, the actions we take, combined with the language we use, really do define our leadership. When I worked in the private sector, my supervisor once said something like “you do a very good job displaying sweat equity.”

I was very young at the time, so I had to ask what it was that he meant.

Sweat equity simply means that you are willing, and do when needed, take any action that you ask a team member to take. Simple.

One of the first things I did in my current role was to learn everyone else’s role. Why? Because it gave me tremendous information about their work, who they were as a human being, and it also provided a context for me to learn about the businesses. Very important.

Here is how I currently organize my actions.

  1. Calendar – people often say something like, “if it’s not on my calendar, then it doesn’t exist,” and, for me, this is a truth. I work on my calendar three months in advance, and have it also scheduled that far in advance. Meaning, that I have sight into, and am actively, creating future contexts for myself and the team. Helpful.
  2. Basecamp – an average project management system, yet the one we have today; and, it works very well to hold information for the team. We have lots of projects running concurrently, so having a single place to hold our next actions is important.
  3. Franklin Planner – a tool I started using last year, and it helps fill the gaps between larger pieces of work and my calendar. I will typically use the planner for tasks related to the larger projects.

And, of course, I use post-its like many people, and whiteboards to help generate and create the thinking related to all of the aforementioned.

The language we use, and the actions we take say, well, really everything about our leadership.

For instance, if we speak about creating a future reality that is inspirational and gets people excited, yet there is no action, there is an incongruence that will leave people confused about the team’s directions.

Conversely, if we act and begin to create a future reality that is inspirational and has the potential to get people excited, yet there is no speaking about this newly created reality, again, there will be confusion about the team’s direction.

You may be asking, how do you know these things?

Pixabay

Well, like most things I write about, I’ve lived through them; and, our team has grown through them, and is stronger today for doing so.

Now, once you are in action, and your team is moving, it is important to keep the momentum going. Steve Jobs said something about this concept; and, alas, I cannot find it anywhere. It might have been in the book I read recently, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.

Anway, the gist of it? If you are not continuing to innovate, which to me speaks of being in action and creating traction for yourself and your team, your business is already dead.

We must continue to move ourselves and our teams forward. And, that takes clear communication and decisive action.

Alright, we’ve now completed the first 2.5 installments in the Leadership Series. And, just the other day, as I was preparing for this installment, it occured to me that there are two other concepts important to developing yourself as a human being and as a leader. And, they are?

Hearing and Seeing.

Both are important aspects to leadership, and all of life in general, and we will cover them in the next leadership installment.

For today?

Remember, becoming a leader means first leading from within. Understanding the why, what, how, when, whom, and where of how we think, feel, speak, and act. Once we understand our thinking, feelings, speech, and actions, we can more appropriately and effectively lead ourselves, and our teams into action and eventual traction.

#acting, #creatingaction, #innovation, #languageispower, #leadership, #leadershipdevelopment, #organization, #sociologyofleadership, #speaking, #speakingandacting, #takingaction, #verbalcommunication, #writtencommunication