Poetry and Prose by #1 Amazon Bestselling Author of Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow, Co-Author of #1 Amazon Bestseller, Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women, and Jan/Feb 2022 Spillwords Press Author of the Month
It occurred to me recently that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on leadership; and, considering I spend a large portion of my week, nay, my life, conducting leadership activities, conversations, and collaborations, it seemed like just the time to create a new conversation.
In lieu of a diary entry this week, I’m going back to a previous post about servant leadership, and picking up from there, with new eyes, as it were. Meaning, it’s been almost a year since the last post on servant leadership, and I’ve learned a lot about, well, everything in the last year. Update needed.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
What is servant leadership? Good question. Here is the definition.
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”
I like to think about servant leadership as a leadership style that upends traditional notions of what leadership looks, sounds, and feels like. It is, thus, quite different. It is also harder.
Harder because servant leadership incorporates subtle elements of leadership. For instance, the emotional well-being of the self, and each person in the organization, business, and or team are of utmost importance. These more subtle elements of leadership are not always captured in other, more traditional leadership styles.
In order to fully grasp the distinction between traditional leadership, and servant leadership, let’s first take a quick look at organizational hierarchies.
In traditional conversations and discussions about servant leadership, it is common to see, read, and hear about the concept of flipping the traditional leadership hierarchy.
Traditional Leadership Hierarchy
Servant Leadership Hierarchy
The concept of the inverted triangle, seen above, is common, and while I agree with this concept, in practice, servant leadership actually plays out a little differently.
It plays out in practice differently, because the flow of information happens between everyone all the time, and does not occur in a one-way directionality, as the above example illustrates.
Let’s take a look at what I am pointing to here.
Servant Leadership and Traditional Leadership
In my previous article on servant leadership, I elaborated on the distinction between a traditional approach to leadership, and a servant leadership approach to leadership.
Simply, in many traditional leadership theories, the leader is charged with distilling information, sending it out, and then holding people accountable.
In servant leadership, however, there is a dynamic context created through leadership of the self, of which all members of the team are responsible, creating a synergy of relationships and communication.
And, yet, even in the inverted servant leadership triangle, we see that the flow of information is distinguished with arrows, which still have a one-way directionality. As we will see in the next section, this concept is inadequate to fully describe how servant leadership is practiced.
Servant Leadership in Practice: A Diamond in Theory and Practice
In a context where servant leadership is practiced, information and communication is free flowing, collaborative, authentic, vulnerable, safe, and accountable. All of these things are true.
Information and Communication
Information does not flow from the top alone, as in a traditional leadership hierarchical model, nor does it only flow from the bottom, as in a servant leadership hierarchical model.
Rather, information and communication flow all throughout the organization, business, and or team, in such a way that at all times, each person is leading their portions of work, and is in continual communication about their progress and barriers.
It is then up to the CEO or Director to ensure that the flow of information and communication is continually moving throughout the entire organization, business, and or team.
Here is a simple diagram of how I see and experience servant leadership actually being practiced.
As you can see from the three-dimensional pyramid diagram, both traditional leadership and servant leadership hierarchies are disrupted, and replaced by a nonhierarchical model.
The implementation of a nonhierarchical model ensures that each person in the organization, business, and or on the team has a voice in all matters, including the vision, mission, values, and the future direction of the organization, business, and or team.
Though the servant leadership diamond diagram is not inclusive of all of the possible communication flows, many are outlined, which gives us the basis of the conceptual framework.
The servant leadership diamond diagram, and associated conceptual framework are also practical. Meaning, it is entirely possible to implement the servant leadership diamond conceptual framework into any organization, business, and or team.
In fact, it has been done, and is done every day by the team I work on and with; and, though harder at times, it is a beautiful experience.
In the next post on the Servant Leadership Diamond Framework, we will explore several concepts that leaders will need to understand to create the appropriate context for the successful implementation of a leadership framework that disrupts all hierarchies in favor of a nonhierarchical model; creating more voice and empowerment for everyone in the organization, business, and or team.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mental Flexibility – when we are mentally flexible, we are open and willing to listen and learn.
Calmness – remaining calm under great pressure and stress is key to keeping yourself and your team on track and in alignment.
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.
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.
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.
Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve written an installment in this series. Busy, just like you. I am also continuing to work on a new leadership series, Leading from Within, the first post of which will be out in the next month.
Alright, where we left off in the last installment of the leadership series, was discussing relationships, process, and systems. All necessary and needed to prepare yourself and the team for being in action and gaining traction.
In this post we will look at roles and responsibilities, getting into action, and the resulting traction. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Roles and Responsibilities
In a team environment, defining each team member’s work and areas of expertise is important. If you don’t know, you won’t know who to hand the “ball” to, who to go to when you need help, and you will not understand what your team members do at work.
Being on a team means defining roles and responsibilities. The first time the team and I completed this task, it was hard. Hard because I came from outside of the department, and most of the people in the burgeoning department knew of each other, yet didn’t really know each other. Meaning, there were acquaintances, yet for what this team would eventually begin to create and build, acquaintances wouldn’t be enough.
We needed to really know each other, to really get each other; and, to do that, you need to dig into the individual work.
I’m sure there are many ways to define roles and responsibilities, yet I only really know how we did it, so here we go.
Defining roles and responsibilities – it is important on a new team to use the same language. In fact, I’ve not written a post about this concept, and it is an important one. When you are building a team and a culture around a team, you are creating an overarching system for how people communicate; and, using the same language consistently is key, which is why defining roles and responsibilities is an important first step.
Individual staff time – once you’ve defined roles and responsibilities, and have talked with each staff member about their individual roles and responsibilities, each staff member will need time to actually write their roles and responsibilities out. Know that they may have never been asked to do something like this, so will need some time. I think we took about 2 or 3 weeks to write ours out.
All staff meetings – once all of the roles and responsibilities are submitted, create an all staff meeting to go through them together; and, have each staff member talk through their roles and responsibilities. Important. This will give their teammates the opportunity to ask questions.
Document and file – after all staff members have sight on each other’s work, and have had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their work, make sure to document and file the roles and responsibilities. Documentation can be done many ways. If you use a project management system, that would work, as would a Google shared drive folder.
Keep them handy – how you document the roles and responsibilities matter less than that they are accessible to all staff, and are referenced often. After we completed our roles and responsibilities, I used these data to formulate portions of our very first 1W1 conversations. Helpful.
As we created our roles and responsibilities, we also worked through the results we intended to achieve in our respective positions.
Here is an example of what that looked like.
Yep, that picture is a little askew, yet you get the idea.
Setting your intention early on in a team’s formation can really assist everyone, especially if you are in a leadership position. It tells you what people are passionate about, and how they plan to achieve their goals, and results.
Once everyone’s roles and responsibilities are declared and results are clearly articulated, it’s time to create a system for getting into action.
Getting into Action
The past two weeks I’ve been reflecting more upon the system we’ve created over the past three years, which I’m going to walk you through momentarily. One thing you will notice is that within the system, there is a focus on both people and performance.
As I wrote about in the post, Causal Loop 101, a focus on people only results in a lack of action and traction, whereas a focus on performance only will result in declining morale and burnout.
Here is a very simple system anyone in a leadership position can use to move from inaction to action to traction. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Door’s always open – as I’ve written about in other posts, creating safety on your team is paramount. And, one way to do that is to ensure you are available. Being open and available for people let’s everyone know that they are the priority.
1W1’s – I’ve been conducting 1W1’s with the team for almost 4 years now. These 1W1 conversations have iterated over time. For almost 2 years they were weekly, and now? Only as needed. 1W1’s are instrumental when creating a new team. Creating relationships takes time, intention, and thoughtfulness. There really isn’t anything more important than these relationships.
Program Meetings – these smaller interdepartmental meetings have also iterated over time. Today, there is really only one program that still meets weekly. It is the most complex program, with the most staff, so that’s what feels right today.
Area-specific meetings – the registration staff also meets weekly right now. Super helpful during a time when we are not all together in our office, and can easily have ad hoc conversations. At some point these meetings will probably go by the wayside, yet not right now.
Quarterly team building – an important aspect of building teams is making sure that each person on the team has access to high quality developmental opportunities. We began quarterly team building in year 2, and though we are on a hiatus from team building right now, they will be back once we are back on campus.
Weekly messaging – as many of you know, I send the team a message each Monday morning. It is a way for me to stay connected, and give them a reflection from the week before. Something for them to ponder and reflect upon as they work through their week.
Monthly Updates – I usually send out a small monthly progress report, which lets the team know how we are performing across each program in the department. They are to keep the connection going, to give them data, and to celebrate our many victories.
Quarterly reports – these more detailed reports relay important data on how we performed against our metrics, and testimonials from students and clients. They serve two distinct purposes – give the team my sight and thinking on the current reality and landscape, and to celebrate our accomplishments.
When people on a team feel safe, know what each other do, understand their goals and priorities, and fully support the vision, you will get traction. One way to ensure that happens is to install systems into the team to ensure that there is predictability and stability.
Though our systems are mostly home-grown, they work; and, though the type of education we work in changes rapidly, just like businesses in the private sector, there is always a sense of predictability and stability amidst the chaos. Important.
You might be thinking, what does traction look like?
Well, it can look lots of different ways. One thing it is not? Just hitting a metric. That’s not it.
Meeting your goals, objectives, priorities, and metrics is only one part of the equation. Just one. The other? Developing high-quality relationships with each other that can withstand changes and chaos that will come your way. It is inevitable.
If you have the former without the latter, the team will eventually falter. If you have the latter without the former, you will achieve the former in time, and the resulting traction. Guaranteed.
Alright, that’s the last entry in The Leadership Series. It was fun. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am currently working on a new Leadership Series, the first post of which should be out sometime in April. That will also be fun. Until then, lead well.
Do you ever feel like you have so much to say, and there’s just not quite enough time to say it all? Well, I’ve felt like that some this week, so have some new posts coming in the next few weeks, which I’m pretty excited about. Before we get to that, let’s take a look at 2 reflections from writing that occured this week. Alright, here we go.
On Writing and Reflecting
I had a great time reflecting upon and writing the poem forgiven. It was prompted by the Saturday RagTag Daily prompt, by Punam. The prompt was hugs.
As I reflected upon the concept and actual practice of hugging someone, it occured to me to write about a warm embrace in two ways, which are paradoxically, and not, one way. There is something very special about the contact between two people that occurs in a hug. Magical in fact.
The concept of falling into someone’s arms is about sharing something so special with someone else that in a way in that moment the two become one, and all of life’s complexities, challenges, and even disappointments disappear and are forgiven. Lovely.
I miss hugging people. I look forward to a day when hugging people is something we all do again as a normal everyday practice.
I had an equally fun time reflecting upon and writing the poem Imagine, which was a WDYS prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje. As I considered that beautiful tower, I wondered what the tower would think about the state of the world today. I imagined, pun intended, that the tower would long for a day when people would be bustling up and down it’s steel reinforcements, and walking, laughing, and playing at its base.
Of course, as with all things we write about, imagine is also a poem about my reflections about the state of the world. The hope and knowing I hold deep inside that in due time, we will all be in-person together again, walking hand-in-hand, and laughing and playing again like we did not so long ago.
I look forward to that time.
I have several new posts I’ve been working on. Here is a preview.
My One Thing This Week: Creating a Vision Traction Organizer
The Reflection Series #8: Causal Loop 101
A Developmental Moment #5: Patience as a Concept and Practice
A Developmental Moment #6: Why Learning to Ask for Help is Necessary and Needed
Of course, I have some new poetry, which I am also excited about. More to come!
Well, last year at this time, we were just about to embark on pivoting 5 educational programs to fully remote. Something we’d never done before, pandemic or not.
And, as we prepare for this Spring Term classes, registration for which begins on Monday, I am filled with such gratitude and appreciation for each person I work with. Their persistence in the face of adversity, determination to never give up, and to always acknowledge our current reality, while creating new ways forward within that reality, is such a treat and joy.
The department has over 120 remote classes, workshops, and training on offer for Spring term, and each term, as I’ve written before, we reach more and more people with opportunities for them to be with other people. This last term, we had students from Europe and all across the US. Super fun.
Asking For Help
For a very long time, I did not like asking for help. In fact, I would say that I avoided it at all costs. It was a part of how I was raised. Part of that individualistic mentality that is so pervasive in the US.
However, it is mere confusion at best. Why? Because, as I’ve written about before, the idea that we are independent of other people is an illusion. Simple. We are interdependent, nay, really One.
Therefore, living in an illusion that you are an individual separate from the rest of humanity and the world is a space full of pain and suffering. Seriously, I know. I lived that way for a long time.
When we are aware and realize that we are all interconnected, and that, in fact, all things on this planet are interconnected, the idea of asking for help is much more palatable. In fact, when you take that idea further, and realize that you ask for help everyday without saying the words, the concept of asking for help sort of becomes a part of who you are.
That does not mean, however, that it is easy for everyone. And, in fact, when I am super busy at work, my old pattern will reappear at times, and I have to always keep asking for help present for me. Important.
When we need help, we need to ask for it. Simple. You are not deficient or in any way less efficient or effective when you ask for help. In fact, the paradox is that you are way more effective and efficient when you ask for help. Yep. True.
I have an upcoming article on asking for help, which will come out in a few weeks.
Alright, that’s all for this week.
Stay healthy and well, and have a tremendous week.
Now, I want to look at intention five ways. Here they are.
The Head and Heart
The Field of Experience
Ready? Good. Here we go.
When I use the term, or concept, head, I am referring to our intellect. The way we think about ourselves and the world. How we think about ourselves and the world has a direct impact on our intention.
For instance, if we believe we are incapable, and the world is a scary place full of bad people, our intention will follow. However, if we believe we are limitless, and that, generally, the world is full of good people, our intention will follow.
Why does this matter?
Because we are the creators of all of our experiences. And, how we think matters in relation to creating the life we want to live. If we are overcome by negative thoughts patterns, we will continue to live in a world full of those negative thoughts.
Meaning, that we will continue to get back very similar looking experiences to how we think about who we are as a human being.
We can actually say that in the head is where it all starts. Yet, it’s not where it all ends.
When I use the term, or concept, heart, I am referring to our intuition. It’s that “gut feeling” we get about ourselves and the world.
Unfortunately, in the United States, intuition is not regarded as important as the intellect, which, in my estimation, is a thinking error. It is a thinking error, because many scientific experiments, breakthroughs in theory, and research, are made through intuition, even if the researcher or scientist is unaware or in denial about this truth.
Factually, human beings feel their way through much of their lives. Feeling through that inner-knowing, which guides us through our experiences, both wonderful, and difficult.
Therefore, our intuition is a big part of how we create and set our intentions. How we feel about our personal and professional lives matter. As does how we feel about the future self we want to create.
The Head and Heart
When we have alignment between our head and our heart, our intellect and intuition will blossom. Many people have a direct conflict between their head and heart. Some are aware about this truth, and some are not.
When we are aware, we can make changes, creating alignment between the two. When we are out of alignment between our head and our heart, we are in a sort of perplexed state.
Have you ever wanted to try something new, and your intellect felt confident, yet your intuition told you a different story? Sure. It happens to us all.
However, if your daily experience, like mine once was, is like this, constantly struggling to make decisions, unsure and worried about the future, it may be because your head and heart are misaligned. It’s not a problem if this is the case, it happens.
What’s important is finding out why there is misalignment, and working towards realignment.
Alright, now that we’ve talked about the head and the heart, and alignment between the two, let’s talk about the field of experience, and setting our intention.
Field of Experience
What does the field of experience mean? Good question. In this discussion, it means all the information we take in and give back out within the contexts we navigate.
Here is a simple picture of how I view the field of experience. Yes, yes, I know, I’m not an artist. Well, not that kind of artist. You know, writing is an art. Anyway, I digress, here we go.
Now, let’s take each of these concepts one at a time and unpack them a little. Here we go.
As we can see in the above example, we have a field that we experience. That which is in front of us. And, within this field of experience, we are always receiving information. The information we receive comes in many forms, mostly in terms of verbal and nonverbal information.
We take in all of this information, whether we are aware of it or not, and assimilate it into schemas about our lives. The information that fits, makes it into these schemas, or narratives, and what doesn’t, well, we sort of block it out. This blocking is also known as a blind spot.
Now, when we are aware that we function in this way, we can work to ameliorate these blind spots. How? By being open to new experiences and new information, which we don’t quite understand, until, yep, we understand it, and can assimilate it.
And, just as we have new information coming in, we are always creating new information and sending it back out into the world, or, in this example, our field of experience.
As was aforementioned, as we take information in we also give information out. We give information out in the form of verbal and nonverbal communication. And, as we already discussed, when we have a self-view or worldview that is cynical, let’s say, we give that back out to everyone we come into contact with.
However, when we are aware of how our thinking and feeling affects the information we give out, we can create a space of personal and professional transformation. Why?
Because we have now created a space where we have a choice about how we transmit our thinking and feeling. The concept I am alluding to here is emotional intelligence, which is powerful and transformative.
Once we understand how incoming and outgoing information affects our field of experience, we can better understand how the concepts past, present, and future, also affect our field of experience.
Past Present Future
I’ve written about the concepts of past, present, and future many times. They are important to this discussion because when we are facing the past, we are recreating the past in our present moments. And, when we recreate the past in our present moments, we are recreating the past in all of our future moments too. Yep. This is the truth.
However, when we let go of those previous experiences, meaning, that we are present in our current reality, and are creating our lives and our field of experience from the present moment, we are creating a future reality that is not bound by the past.
These concepts are actually quite simple, and yet, can also be confusing sometimes if you’ve never thought about your life experiences this way.
Remember, we create our future from today, from this moment; and, when the present moment is infused with confusion, worry, or shame, for example, about our past, we are then going to recreate those same thoughts and feelings in our present moment.
And, yes, they will then go out to our field of experience, which means they’ll also come back to us just the same.
However, as I’ve mentioned, when we create ourselves anew in each moment, we are creating new realities that are not bound by thoughts and feelings from the past.
And, what happens when what we think and feel is just right? Good question.
What Thinks and Feels Right
When what we think and feel is in alignment, and just feels right, we are ready to set our intention to create ourselves anew in each moment.
It doesn’t mean, however, that we won’t at times have misalignment. It happens.
What it does mean is that more often than not, how we think and feel is aligned. Meaning, that we’ve freed ourselves from our previous worries, anxieties, and frustrations, which may impede our most creative moments.
Because, remember, if we are worried, anxious, and frustrated, we will only create more worried, anxious, and frustrated thoughts and feelings.
Again, at times we will have these thoughts and feelings. Yet, they will not dominate our present moments, because we are aware of how they function, can work through them, and let them go. Important.
Setting Your Intention
For me, creating and setting your intention simply means doing what we’ve already discussed. Now, we’ve covered a lot of information, so let’s recap real quick, so we can see how all of these concepts work together.
The Head (Intellect) – our thoughts contribute to our experience.
The Heart (Intuition) – our feelings contribute to our experience.
Head and Heart Alignment – creating alignment between our thinking and feeling is important.
Incoming Information – we receive verbal and nonverbal information all day, and we assimilate, or block, this information into our current worldview.
Outgoing Information – we are always creating and sending out information, both verbal and nonverbal.
Past Present Future – when we allow our previous experiences to shape our thoughts and feelings, we are creating more of our previous experiences in the present moment. However, when we work through and let go of our previous experiences, we are creating our present reality and future realities based on today, not yesterday.
What Thinks and Feels Right – when we have alignment between our head and our heart, it will just feel right. Meaning, that we’ll be creating our present moments and future moments from today, not our past.
Now we can see how important these concepts are to our intention. For instance, when we are living in the past, allowing our old thoughts and feelings to dictate our current and future realities, our intentions are set exactly so.
Meaning, we will get back all of our old experience. Yes, thoughts, feelings, and actions; and, we will see those things, such as anxiety, worry, doubt, and fear everywhere.
However, when we work through our previous experiences, including our thoughts and feelings, we are creating a reality free from those old patterns, or habits. And?
Our intention follows. We create and set our intention from our present moment, free from our past, facing toward the future we want to create.
Intention, whether we are aware or not, is a powerful force. An example? Sure. Here we go.
Think for a moment about a time when you’ve been upset and really frustrated. Maybe, you’ve been overwhelmed, and it’s lasted at least a few hours, if not an entire day, or a couple of days even. What did you experience in those moments, hours, and days? Yep. More of the same, yes? Of course. That’s how it works.
Similarly, think about a time when you were feeling really good, and that lasted for a couple of hours, or days. What did you experience in those hours and or days? Yes, exactly. More of the same.
Our intention is powerful, and will manifest before us that which we think and feel most passionately about. Even if that is worry, doubt, frustration, and anxiety. Thus, we must take care of our intention, and feed it positivity, hope, love, compassion, empathy, and patience.
Ultimately, we are creative beings. It’s been said and written many times, creativity is our highest calling. For me, this simply means that we are the active agents in our lives. We create our present reality, which informs our future reality.
And, we do so through the power of intention. Through the ways in which we think and feel about ourselves and the world. We create our present and future realities from this space.
Meaning that we need to take care of the space between our thoughts and feelings, between the information we take in, and the information we give out.
These spaces are dear to us, so use them well, take your time with them, and create and set your intention from this moment, facing towards the future you want to manifest.
Of course, both objectives and priorities, must be connected to your goals, and vision, so we’ll also take a look at how to connect them all.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
First, let’s use a goal that is actually part of my work today. A very practical example. Here we go.
Increase connection, collaboration, and unification of noncredit organizations throughout the state of Oregon within the next 2 years.
Alright, we’ve got a goal set. Now, let’s discuss objectives.
Where goals can be set for long-term planning, and short-term planning, in the context of this conversation we are using a long-term goal.
Our focus then is to go from our long-term goal to day-to-day activities that will connect back to our long-term goal. Creating objectives can help us do that by breaking our goal up into smaller pieces, which we can achieve in a shorter period of time.
Let’s take a look at an objective for our goal.
Create a noncredit consortium, which includes representatives from each organization that delivers noncredit education throughout the state of Oregon in the next year.
There we go.
Because our goal is to increase connection, collaboration, and unification of noncredit organizations throughout the state of Oregon within the next 2 years, we need an objective that will, well, basically, help us get there.
In this example, creating a consortium within the next year can do just that.
Alright, now we’ve got a 2-year goal, a 1-year objective, now we need some priorities.
Priorities are typically set for a shorter duration of time. They can be set for a day, week, month, and even a quarter. Alright, let’s create some priorities for our objective.
Priority #1 – Create bylaws for the non credit consortium in quarter 3
Priority #2 – Create a leadership structure for the noncredit consortium in quarter 4.
It is possible in this example, that both of these priorities can be achieved within quarter 3, however, to illustrate the example, I’ve chosen to spread them out.
The important point is that we now have a goal, objective, and priorities that are all connected. And, they all have timeframes allocated to them, so we know if we are on or off track. Important.
Once priorities are created, it is time to create next actions.
Creating Next Actions
Creating next actions, or action items, or next steps, is really about identifying the work that needs to be accomplished to meet your priorities, which then means, yep, that you are meeting your objective, and moving closer to attaining your goal.
Let’s create some next actions.
Identify bylaws needed and begin to create them in the January meeting.
Identify 2 or 3 committee members that will continue to work on the bylaws in between the January and February meeting.
Create agreement and alignment on the bylaw next actions, which are due by the February meeting.
There we go.
Now, you’ll notice that I did not create the next actions for priority number 2. The reason this is so, is that that priority is for quarter 4, and, as we complete the next actions to meet the number 1 priority, we will learn more.
Meaning, that the second priority might shift a little by the time we get to the end of quarter 3. Normal.
Recapping, we now have a 2-year goal, 1-year objective, a priority for quarter 3 with next actions, and a priority for quarter 4 with next actions still to be identified.
Before we get to the system part of our conversation, which, of course, is one of my favorite topics, let’s discuss results and metrics a little.
Results and Metrics
It’s important in all goal-setting activities, personal and professional, to identify a way to measure progress. The measurement can be quantitative or qualitative. Both are needed and necessary.
In our conversational example about the noncredit consortium, we can create a couple of ways to measure our progress. First let’s reset the goal. Here it is.
Goal – Increase connection, collaboration, and unification of noncredit organizations throughout the state of Oregon within the next 2 years.
Now, let’s set a result and a metric.
Result – Increased service to all communities as an outcome of increased collaboration between the noncredit organizations.
Metic – Total service numbers by organization.
We can even take a deeper dive with this result, by creating actually percent increases we expect, such as:
Result – Service numbers increase by 10% in year 2.
Metric – Total service numbers by organization.
Once you have your results and metrics, we need to think about how to gather the data to measure the metric. In this example, we would utilize the systems the various organizations use to gather their student service data.
Alright, we’ve now covered goals, objectives, priorities, next actions, and results and metrics. Let’s now take a look at how these components work together to create a single system.
A Single System
As you all know, I love white boards. And, yes, I’ve created two simple white boards to help us visualize the linear information provided in this post. Here we go.
In this first white board we can see I’ve used a relationship ecological system to display the connection between the self, team, organization, and community, and a vision, goals, objectives, priorities, and next actions.
They function the same way.
As we develop as a leader, we take in information from the team, organization, and community, and we give information back out the same way. It’s completely reciprocal and, well, quite lovely.
Similarly, when we create a vision, and set goals, objectives, priorities, and next actions, they inform each other. For instance, the vision informs the goals, objectives, priorities, and next actions. Just as our next actions will inform our upcoming priorities, objectives, goals, and the vision, as needed.
Okay, one more visual. Here we go.
In this simple illustration, we can see a similar pattern. The vision is the anchor, as the self is in a relationship system, and informs our goals, objectives, priorities, and next actions, which, in turn, informs our upcoming goals.
Wow, that was fun.
That concludes the second and last installment in My One Thing: Creating Alignment In Our Lives.
You can use these tools in your personal life, just as you can at work. The most important thing is to create a vision for your future self; and; to work towards the realization of that self by taking actions each day that align with the self you see yourself becoming.
Remember, you are the only one that can make that future self a reality.
How You Can Create Alignment Between Your Personal and Professional Lives, and Create a Life Part 1
In November of 2019, I went to a Nationwide Conference for practitioners of non credit education. There was a lot of valuable information at this conference, and a few book recommendations. I read often, so taking on more reading, with an already long list, is not something I do often, yet the book, The One Thing, caught my attention.
The book caught my attention, as everyone, professionally, yes, and even personally, have lots of things they want to accomplish. And, sometimes, when we have too many goals, we are unable to concentrate and move anything forward.
The basic premise of the book is to focus on that one thing that will move you forward, either personally or professionally, and let go of the rest. Yes, yes, easier said than done.
However, it got me thinking about a new series, where the goal will be to convey the one thing I’m focused on that day, week, month, quarter, or even year. And, then?
Well, most importantly, what I’m learning. Where have the obstacles been, and how did I get around them, or how did I let go as needed.
I think it will be fun, and if you find it interesting and educational, I’ll keep it going. What’s first? Good question.
One that is part of my work of the year. I would even go so far as to say it is my one thing this coming year. What’s that?
Alright, so I’ve now been in my current work position for 3.5 years, and, in that time, there has been much change. Some created internally, and some, as we’ve all experienced, created externally.
However, the change is created, the important takeaway?
Change always comes. It is part of life. An unavoidable part, as much as some people would like to remove themselves from change as often as possible. And?
I understand. Change is difficult. Yet, there is a paradox here. What’s that? Change is also beautiful. Truth.
In addition to being in my current role at the community college for 3.5 years, I also developed myself during that time, both personally, and, yes, professionally. And, the more I develop, the more I see alignment between all aspects of my life. All of them.
And, that, quite frankly is just simple fun. Many people, as I once did, create a distinction between their personal and professional lives. These distinctions, however, can leave people feeling frayed and stressed when Monday, or the first day of their work week, rolls around. This does not need to be the case.
However, it takes time to get to a place where you can see alignment in all that you do. I’ve been working on it for 3.5 years; and, I’m closer, yet still have work to do. And, that’s okay, for it’s in the work we do in life, whether personal or professional, where the experience of life lives. And, that’s being alive.
Now, what tools have I used to create alignment between both my personal and professional lives. Good questions. Let’s take a look.
Vision – as I’ve written about before, having a vision, or declaring a purpose for your life, both personally and professionally is a key ingredient in creating alignment between your work life and your home life. Here are a few that I’ve used over the years.
To increase access to higher education for everyone.
To increase access to higher education for everyone by making leadership development, creativity, inspiration, and personal transformation available to every business, employee, and community member.
I live to create new access points to education and knowledge, and part of those access points is dissemination in print and in collaborative contexts, such as leadership and coaching individuals, teams, and organizations.
Develop, Inspire, and Transform.
Alright, that should do. As we can see there are definite similarities and dissimilarities between these visions. Still a work in progress. Yet, the fun part about creating a vision, or purpose, or mission statement, is seeing your vision iterate over time. Super fun, innovative, and expansive.
Goal-setting – as I’ve written about before, having tangible goals that live inside of our visions is of utmost importance. If you don’t have goals, you will not create movement on your vision. Here are some of the goals I’ve created for both my personal and professional self.
Pull community members and business leaders to us by providing them the why.
Create new relationships with community members and business leaders.
Priorities that are tied to the vision and mission.
Continue to improve and document all processes.
Publish a novel.
Increase my fluency in Spanish.
Travel to Spain.
Now, we can see how there is alignment, and, maybe, non-alignment between the goals and the visions. For the purposes of our discussion that matters less, than that there are goals declared. For it is in the declaring of goals, and setting our intention, that there will be movement in an area, that movement then becomes possible.
Funnily enough, sometimes you can set a goal, and totally forget about it, and you will still see movement in that area of your life if you pay attention. Why? Because you’ve set your intention that something be so, that you want to create movement in an area of your life. Intention is powerful.
Alright, that’s all for this installment of the One Thing on creating alignment. In the next entry in the One Thing, Creating Alignment, we will look at how to take out goals, and create clear, and sometimes not so clear, objectives and priorities. Why is this important?
You can think about creating alignment, starting with a vision, as part of a larger process, which is like starting at the top of a funnel, and working your way down to the actions you take every day.
Because creating alignment is a part of my work of the year, it will take a couple entries to complete. However, as I’ve mentioned, this series will be an exploration of my One Thing, sometimes, of the day, week, month, quarter, and, yes, year, which is where we are starting.
I’m already thinking about a One Thing entry on baking. Hm. How fun would that be?
Remember, creating a One Thing simply means developing the ability to focus and create action around a vision or purpose we’ve intentionally created for ourselves. And, that vision might be for the day, the week, the month, quarter, or year.
It’s a paradox. In one way we can say it’s less about the timeframe and more about the focus you create on that which you want to manifest for yourself.
And, on the other, we can say, timing matters, as the more alignment we create between our personal and professional lives over time, the less of a distinction between these two realms there is; which I can say from personal experience is pretty powerful.
3 Reasons Why Vulnerability is A Key Ingredient to Creating Movement and Traction for Ourselves and the World
I’ve written about vulnerability often this past year. Why? Well, I do believe that vulnerability is one of the most important gateways to our own development. Pretty simple really.
Vulnerability conceptually is simple, as most things conceptually are. However, practicing vulnerability, well, that’s a whole different experience.
We can talk about concepts often and at length, however, when we put those concepts, like vulnerability, into practice in our lives, they can often feel very uncomfortable. And, vulnerability is no exception.
Yet, it is so important for each of us to find new ways, which are safe, to put vulnerability into practice in our lives. Safe? Meaning, where we are with people we trust and can rely upon. Important, as when we are vulnerable, we are bearing a side of ourselves that is, for lack of a better way to explain it, raw.
Raw, meaning, that these sides of ourselves have not been exposed to, what can sometimes be harsh conditions in the world, so we must take care when we practice our vulnerability.
Now, when we find those spaces and places where we can be the vulnerable-selves we know ourselves to be, so that we can grow and learn, there are many things we will get back from our environments, and ourselves, which makes practicing vulnerability quite the exquisite experience. What, prey are those things?
Right. Well, in this article we will explore three of them. Three reasons, as I think about it, why it is important for us to practice vulnerability regularly, so that we may grow into the next iteration of ourselves.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
Wow, how important is learning? Pretty important, right? Yep, I agree. Well, to learn more about the world, and the people in it, we must first, learn about ourselves. And, being actively vulnerable is key. Why?
Because we get to learn about aspects of ourselves that were previously unavailable. For instance, if you are nervous about public speaking, as I once was, and you always resist public speaking, well, you will never learn about the experience of public speaking. And?
That’s perfectly okay. However, if you are interested in tapping into a reservoir of untapped potential, then being vulnerable in the area of public speaking will be a gateway to your learning more about yourself as a public speaker.
The only way to become a public speaker is to do public speaking. You can read every book that was ever written on the topic, and still never become a public speaker. Whereas book knowledge is helpful, it is in the vulnerable practice of public speaking, for example, where we create the possibility of becoming a public speaker.
Now, as we practice vulnerability, and venture into environments that we previously resisted, we learn more about the experience of, staying with the previous example, being a public speaker. And?
Then, we get the experience of knowing what it is like to be a public speaker. Again, the only way to know what it’s like to be a public speaker is to become one. Meaning, to take one step, or one action, toward the realization of your goal to become a public speaker.
And, guess what? You get to control how big those steps are. When we actively participate in being vulnerable, we set the pace. It’s iterative. It takes time.
There was a time when I was terrified of public speaking. And, I mean terrified. Then when I was about 28, I wanted to become a leader in the company I was working for at the time. Well, there is lots of public speaking in leadership. Lots of it. And? I took one small step at a time. One step, led to the next, and so on.
And, the steps I just wrote about? That is growth. That’s what it looks like. You set a goal outside of your comfort zone, knowing you will have to be vulnerable to get there, and you take a step each day, or every other day, or once a week, or month.
Again, you control the pace.
Growth is an experience. It happens in the world by taking actions that we’ve not taken before. And, to take actions we’ve not taken before, especially when we are fearful or anxious, requires courage, yes, and it requires vulnerability.
Courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. In fact, there is a super cool quote I’ve drawn upon a few times from Brené Brown that speaks to this truth. Here it is.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” -Brené Brown
Powerful. And, it’s been my experience that vulnerability and courage are linked. In fact, I believe they are one and the same. You cannot be courageous without being vulnerable, and you cannot be vulnerable without being courageous. They are one.
Movement and Traction
Now, as you learn more about yourself, and begin to tap into your vulnerable areas, you also begin to know more and grow more. These three, learning, knowing, and growing are also linked. And, the concept that lies behind them? Yep. It is an experience.
When we are in action, and experiencing life, living our life in vulnerable ways, we are creating movement. Movement for ourselves, yes, and for those around us. Meaning, when we move our own development forward, we move the development forward of the people around us.
It’s the way it works.
And, when we continue this pattern? Well, traction will inevitably follow. Meaning, that as we continue to grow, and those around us grow, we create contexts never seen before. Seriously. It’s not possible that they’ve been seen, because you are doing things you’ve never done before. Beautiful.
It’s inside of this movement and traction, and these new contexts, where the possibility to change the world lives. And, I mean this literally. The world is always moved forward from contexts that contain both courage and vulnerability.
And, remember you do have the power to change the world. We all do. What does it take?
Learning more, knowing more, and growing more in contexts that were previously unavailable to us. And, creating these contexts takes courage, yes, and vulnerability. So?
Be courageous, embrace your vulnerability, and change the world for the better. One action at a time.