Expanding our Patience While Limiting our Reactivity By Understanding and Practicing Our Emotional Intelligence
The past few weeks, I’ve been thinking more about patience, and just how important being patient is in all aspects of life. For sure, patience was, and is, something that I continue to be present to, as patience was, and still is in some ways, something that is a developmental opportunity for me.
How do you feel about the concept and practice of patience? Do you think it affects how we interpret the world, and how we, for instance, function at home and work?
I think it does affect all aspects of our lives, whether we are aware or not.
In this post, we’ll explore a couple of ways to expand the concept of patience by unpacking the stimulus response system, and by exploring ways we can increase our patience, or, conversely, decrease our reactivity. Ready? Good. Here we go.
The Stimulus Response System
In some ways we are programmed to respond to our environments. As we navigate our environments, our brain takes in data and information, let’s call them inputs, processes them, and then runs through a selection of outputs, or responses. Pretty simple, yes?
Yep, pretty straightforward. The issue? Good question. Well, if we never question our responses, and simply react, we can become reactive, which means that an event occurs and we react without pause. Super helpful in an emergency situation.
In a non-emergency situation, however, it is not always as helpful. There are ways, however, that we can slow down the stimulus response system, which creates a space for more choice.
Emotional intelligence has been written about for a long time. Very simply, having emotional intelligence means that you understand that there is a space between a stimulus and response, and you can access this space. Accessing the space between a stimulus and response, also means that you are able to make more choices and handle emotions that arise more readily. Important.
Learning about and practicing emotional intelligence is important for all aspects of life, and is particularly effective in our relationships. When we can slow down and increase our choices, we, at the same time, increase the outcomes that are possible in each situation.
Home and Work
As we learn more about our emotional selves we create the opportunity to reduce reactivity, and understand our own humanity. For instance, anger was something that was present for me a lot of my adult life. There are many reasons this is so, knowing today, I was only ever upset with myself for not living the fullest life possible. Knowing this is helpful.
Additionally, understanding that anger can arise, and not mean that I am an angry person is also helpful. We must be careful with the concepts we internalize. If we internalize concepts, such as anger, as part of who we are as a human being, we then become an angry person. It’s just how it works. If, however, we understand that anger is an emotion that, like our thoughts, will arise, yet is not indicative of who we are as a human being, we are immediately freed from the concept. Super helpful and liberating.
Further, it is important to understand that our emotions not only affect us, they affect everyone around us, even if we are unaware. It’s not possible, for example, to carry anger, and to not give it out. We will. And, when we do, then all we see is anger, because, in fact, that’s what we are creating.
However, when we learn about and practice strategies that can increase our emotional intelligence, and at the same time, slow down our reactivity, we have new choices. New ways of being, and of releasing old concepts that we once believed in.
Emotional intelligence has a direct impact on our patience. When we slow down our impulse to react to external stimuli, such as other people and events, and internal stimuli, such as thoughts and emotions, we create a space to choose being patient over being reactive. Important.
And, in the space we create to be more patient, we get to choose from a plethora of ways to respond (not react) to a person or event. Powerful.
There is one practice that has been instrumental in my practice of my own emotional intelligence, and that is meditation. I’ve written about meditation lots of times, and, in fact, it has been scientifically documented that meditation decreases reactivity.
As our reactivity decreases, we see and experience the world more slowly, our patience increases, and we are able to understand our thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. Which also means that we will understand everyone in our lives that much better as well.
And, when we understand ourselves and those we love and care about better, our relationships begin to blossom. Our relationship with ourselves, yes, and with everyone else. A beautiful cycle.
Current Reality, Future Reality, and Gaining Traction
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How often have you thought about a recipe, if you will, that will lead to developing high performing teams? Well, it’s not something that I thought about often until about three years ago.
Though I spent time in leadership in my late twenties, and early thirties, I always worked within a very defined system. And, when you work within set parameters, such as a defined system, there is room for some creativity, for sure, yet not as much as when you work within an organization that has fewer systems and structure.
It is a paradox.
With systems, you get a level of comfort and reliability. With a non system, you get the opportunity to develop systems and be innovative. While the former can feel constricting, the latter unwieldy.
They both have their strengths and weaknesses.
In this installment in the leadership series, we will discuss developing and creating high performing teams in an organization with few systems and very little structure.
Are you ready? Good. Let’s go.
As I’ve written many times, and did so extensively in the second installments of this series, it is my perspective that everything in life starts with our relationships. First, with the relationship we have with ourselves, and then with everyone around us.
And, these relationships form the basis of all that happens within the contexts we create. When people on a team are in relationship with each other, they are able to transcend difficult times with more ease. The team members, and the team, are more resilient.
There are several strategies that leaders can employ to develop high-quality relationships with their teams.
Here are a few of those strategies.
Safe – one of the first things I did in my first year on our team was create one-with-one conversations with every staff member. Literally, creating a safe space where you can get to know everyone, and they can get to know you, is an important first step in any relationship. If you assume you know them, for instance, you will miss out on the subtleties of their personality and their drive as a human being. Further, as you create the one-with-one context, the safety, trust, and reciprocity that blossoms will carry over into other aspects of the team, and will become a standard way you do business. Meaning, people first.
Learn – another strategy I found beneficial in my first year was to learn each person’s job function. Learning from the staff member about their job is the best way to understand, yes, the varying aspects of their work, and also how they perform their work each day. Furthermore, learning from them, and with them, provides you with information about how the team functions. Each person on a team is one piece of a whole, so understanding how each piece functions is important to the overall health and sustainability of the team.
Listen – when you are in conversation with someone, especially in a burgeoning relationship, listening and actively taking in their story is important. In effect, it is more than listening. As a leader, there is information about people, process, and systems, that you need to hold onto. Some of this information you’ll be able to store within you, and some you’ll need to store in other ways. For instance, I have employee files where I can hold pertinent information. Holding and storing information is how we get to know people, and keep the conversations we create with them continuous.
Value – relationships are grounded in reciprocity. Simply meaning there is some kind of value for each person in the relationship. Which, of course, means that when you are interacting with people on your team, the conversations you create with them need to be valuable to them. Sometimes these conversations will be personal, sometimes they will be about business. Likely, the conversations will be a mixture of both. Regardless, the conversations need to provide value.
Alright, there are a few strategies you can use to begin creating relationships with your team. Though I have much more to write about this topic, know that if you create safe spaces where you can learn about the people you work with, listen well to them while holding and storing information about how they are doing as human beings, and always ensure there is value in the conversations you create with them, you are off to a wonderful start.
As your relationships develop, you will naturally begin to look at how the team functions. What are their processes? What are the systems?
Well, as was aforementioned, when you work in an organization with few processes and structures, you get to create them all. Well, maybe not all, yet you do get to create many, and for surely recreate all of them.
Processes and Systems
What is a process? A process is simply a step-by-step rubric, or guide, of how something gets done. And, a system? A system is like the glue that holds all of the different processes together. Make sense? Good.
Now, in my first year on this job, I said something like, everything we do needs to have a process. At that time, there were large chunks of work that did not have a process. Whether you are on a team with lots of processes and systems or not, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your processes and systems are working well.
Ask questions – human beings love consistency and patterns, or habits. Meaning, that if, when, we don’t question the processes we use, we just keep using them. Not necessarily because they work, but because they are there, and have “worked” for so long. Ask questions. Ask, why we use the processes we do, and you will find out which processes need to either be upgraded, recreated, or created anew. We’ve either upgraded, recreated, or newly created every process in this entire department in the past 3.5 years. And, done it twice! The pandemic brought with it the need to upgrade, recreate and newly create processes again.
Upgrade – sometimes process upgrades will suffice. If the process is sound, and people know their roles and responsibilities inside the process, yet, there are still ways the process can be improved, a simple upgrade may be needed. When working in teams it is extremely important to have everyone that “touches” the process in the conversation when upgrading the process. It is likely that your team members will hold their work inside the process tightly. Meaning, changing the process they’ve been doing for years will be difficult, which is why asking questions is an important first step. Once you gain an understanding of what needs to change, based on collective feedback, you can set out, with the team, to make the necessary upgrades.
Recreate – sometimes a process will be so old that it will need to be recreated. Meaning, that though the process is old, there are still parts of the process that make sense for how the team functions and the goals they have, yet modifications are needed to bring the process into the current reality. On the team I work on, we did a lot of process upgrade and recreation in the first two years. Very normal.
Newly Create – when, however, a process no longer serves the current business or program model, it is time to create new processes. How do you know? One clear way to know is that the work is not moving forward. Another way to know is there is confusion on the team about the outputs and outcomes of the process. Simply meaning, that the outputs and outcomes of the process have probably changed, which will require creating a new process to satisfy the new outputs and outcomes. This past year, the team and I have created completely brand new processes for everything we do. Really. Everything. Why? Because every output and outcome has changed inside of the pandemic. Truth.
Document – one thing we did not do as a team until the second year was document all of our upgraded, recreated, and newly created processes. Super important. Documenting your processes ensures that you have held how the process functioned at a single point in time. And? It will likely change in the future. However, if you don’t have the process documented, you will not have a history to look back upon to understand the how, when, why, and where, for instance, of that process change. Further, people need a rubric of sorts to help them hold all of their work. Helpful.
Here is a quick example of a process map.
Alright, there are a few steps you can take to assess and begin to upgrade, recreate, and or create new processes on your team. Let’s discuss systems for a brief moment.
Systems are also needed and necessary on teams. Though, I will say, especially on teams that are highly innovative, maintaining one system can be challenging. The team and I are currently working on creating this system, which includes several parts.
Project Management System
Today, we use two of the three tools listed above. Yet, when they are organized in such a way, they can, and will for us in the next year, create a unified system of communication and connection. It looks like this.
In this oversimplified vision board, we can see how people, process, and systems are interconnected and correlated. When you are communicating with each other through your processes, and your processes are embedded in a system, each part of the whole is in communication and is connected. Fun.
Well, that wraps up this first installment of Part 3 of the Leadership Series. What’s next? Good question.
I have one more installment on developing teams to discuss with you, which will come in the next week or two. In that installment of Part 3 of the Leadership Series we will discuss getting into action and the resulting traction that occurs on teams when everyone is moving in the same direction.
Remember, leading teams is just like leading yourself, though, yes, more complex. However, when you create safety, learn, listen, and value each other, which starts with the leader, teams can become high functioning, creating amazing outputs and outcomes for the communities they serve. It is beautiful to see and be a part of.
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.
It was great to put a period on the lengthy second installment of the Leadership Series. In installment 3, we will look at creating and developing teams. Will be fun.
Alright, and next week?
Well, I already have another Haiku scheduled, as well as a Tanka poem. I also have an article on intention and the last installment in My One Thing: Creating Alignment in Our Lives.
I also have some new ideas, which I’ll get to writing about in the next month or two. Here are a few of those ideas.
The Leadership Series Part 3
A new series on leadership, called Leading from Within
An article on the law of attraction
And, of course, I’ll have new entries in both the developmental moments and reflection series in the next few weeks.
Alright, how about birthdays.
Well, my oldest son turned 21 this week, and my youngest will turn 17 in May. Phew. It is hard to believe, and then not, that these boys are so grown.
I am so impressed with who they are becoming as young men, and am so proud of them both. A lucky father, am I.
Alright, Justin’s birthday was this past week, so he was over Saturday night, and I made a spinach salad with baked tofu (breaded with panko and slightly fried), and brown sugar butternut squash bread.
Both were super tasty, though I will write that the bread was a little sweet for my tastes. Here is the recipe for the bread, and a couple of pics.
As I already mentioned, last week we had our busiest week of registration since the pandemic started. Of course, this also means that the team was super busy, and, each of them, at different times and at different levels, experienced overwhelm. Yes, me included.
On Wednesday it occurred to me, though not for the first time, that we are all inundated with stimulation, and it occurs differently inside of the pandemic. Meaning, many of us are on technology more than ever before; and it is needed and necessary to move our work forward.
However, being aware of creating quiet space is also needed and necessary. I think it is needed more now than ever before, and necessary to keep us centered and in balance.
Thus, I sent the team the following message on Wednesday. Subject line: Please read today: Taking the time needed.
Hi all, Phew, what a busy week! I am so impressed by each of you, by the work and possibilities we continue to create for our community. A record number of registrations continue to come in! And, just as our record number of registrations is a beautiful thing to see and be a part of, we have all felt, in some way this week, overwhelmed by the work we are engaged in. I’ve said what I am about to write, in just about every meeting this week. We all need to create time to put the work down, and just be. Be outside in the sun, if it is sunny as it is today, be in a quiet space in our homes, be, well, wherever you can create time for yourself that is away from technology and stimulation. I am asking each of you to continue to create this time for yourselves when needed. You will see on my calendar today at 1 pm, a walk scheduled. I will be away from my computer and phone for 45 minutes. Please do the same when you can. It can be 10 minutes, 20, or longer, just take that time, and be. Great work this week, team!!!!! Jeff
CORVALLIS, OREGON, 2021
Now, I’ve written before about being overstimulated, and being overwhelmed is similar, and, in fact, can function the same way.
We all need time away from everything and everyone.
As you move throughout your week, I invite you to create this time for yourself. Create time for yourself, to be with yourself. Just for you.
And, take that time to breathe, witness all that surrounds you and is within you, and just be.
It’s what happens when cool insights occur. Let’s reset shall we? Real quick. Here we go.
In the first installment of part 2 of the leadership series, we discussed thinking and feeling, and why understanding how we think and feel matters to our development as a leader.
And, then in the second installment of part 2 of the leadership series, we discussed speaking and acting, and why understanding how we speak and act is also important to our development as a leader.
In this, yes, promise, the final installment of part 2?
We will discuss hearing and seeing. How we hear, and how we see, are just as important as how we think, feel, speak, and act. And, that was the insight I had a couple of weeks ago. So, let’s go.
As we develop ourselves as a leader, we hear more things. Things we would not have heard before. Subtleties in someone’s voice for example, the tone and affect, their word choices, how they use them, and the words they didn’t choose to use.
Factually, we all have different vocabularies. Meaning, no two people know all of the exact same words, or how to use them, or use them in the same way. However, listening for how people use their language is important. How people use language, will provide you more information about that person.
What are some strategies you can employ to hear, or listen more intently and retain that information? Sure. Here are a couple.
Be present – one of the most important tools a leader, nay, any human being, can develop is learning how to be present. Being present means that all of your attention is on whatever context you find yourself in. For instance, you are not multitasking, or thinking about other things that need your attention. Being present is a gift to ourselves first, and then to everyone we know. In the article, What Does Being Present Really Mean, and Why Does it Matter?, I write about some of the strategies I use to ensure I stay present.
Listen – active listening is a learned skill. Meaning, it takes practice, just like all things. When we are actively listening we are present, and are engaged with the information the person is sharing. Of course, this means we are not planning a response in advance. We are rather, just being with that person and what they are sharing, providing them meaningful feedback and questions so we can learn all they have to share with us.
Take notes – I always take notes when I am in a meeting, or have someone that does. I only take down those things I need to remember. It is important to not get lost in note taking, which can happen. You need to capture important aspects of the conversation, dates or definitions maybe, or, maybe a question arises, which is usually the case with me, and it’s not an appropriate time to ask it. You can write it down real quick, and then ask the question at the appropriate time.
There we go. There are many other strategies you can employ to ensure you are hearing as much as possible. Yet these three I use daily, all day in fact, and they work well.
Okay, now let’s talk a little about seeing.
What can I write about sight? Well, that as we develop as leaders, nay, as human beings, we develop more sight. Just like we feel, think, speak, act, and hear, we see more, see differently. It is a wonder, really.
Because I am a hyper-visual learner, I see a lot more, and then? Well, I always document it somehow, and then sometimes what I see is used, and sometimes it’s not. It matters less that what you are seeing is utilized, than it is that the possibility is created to utilize this new information in meaningful ways.
Here are some strategies I use to capture what I see.
Whiteboards – as I’ve written about before, whiteboards are a highly effective tool, especially for visual learners. I have three whiteboards at home, and many at work, including two white board walls in my office. Here is my simple whiteboard process.
Write out, sometimes it is linear, sometimes nonlinear, that which I’ve seen recently. Whatever insight that might be.
Let it sit for a day or two and reflect upon it. Sometimes I will add to the insight, sometimes not.
Take a picture of the whiteboard for later use.
If the insight is usable, put it into action in my life.
Journaling – a very effective strategy for capturing new ideas. Developing a pattern for your journaling is super helpful. I usually journal at the end of the day. Some people, however, like to do so in the morning. Timing matters less, than creating the time to journal when you can.
Post-its – as crazy as it may seem, post-its work very well when you are busy. I use them all the time, and then transfer them into my other organizational tools.
Graphics software – I’ve also been recently using venngage to take the new insight’s I’ve had, and transfer them into a cool visual for myself and the team. Super useful.
Alright, there are a few strategies I use to capture all that I see. And, I do capture just about all of it. There are times when an insight I’ve seen slips through my fingers, yet, when that occurs, I know that if it was needed, it will come back.
Closing Part 2
In closing part 2 of the leadership series, I would like to leave you with the consideration that both leadership psychology and sociology, as we’ve discussed them here, are both needed as we develop ourselves as leaders.
Understanding how we feel, think, speak, act, hear, and see, starts with us. Being more self-aware of who we are as, yes, a leader, and more importantly, as a human being.
The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand the people around us, both at work and at home.
And, when we are intune with ourselves and the people around us, we can create the possibility of more movement for ourselves, yes, and our teams and families. And, then? Well, with movement, comes traction.
When we get to traction with ourselves, and our teams and families, we get back so much more. It is quite amazing actually to reflect upon all that I get back. Absolutely amazing and quite beautiful.
Remember, it all starts with us. All that we think, feel, speak, act, hear, and see.
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.
A 3-minute Reflection on 4 Things Every Leader Can Do to Create Safety on Teams
Well, we are 9-months into a pandemic, actually much more than 9-months, yet, here locally, 9-months ago was when the restrictions started. And?
I’ve been thinking about and reflecting upon just how important creating safety on teams is all the time; and, now? Even more important.
Developing safety within a team creates a context where possibilities abound. Meaning, when people feel safe, there is trust, and where there is trust, well, anything is possible. Seriously. Anything. And, now?
Living inside the pandemic for the past 9-months has been unsettling in many ways. Though I’ve written about, and we’ve discussed many times before, how much more there is to know and learn, than is known.
It is equally true that when the foundation of someone’s belief system is shaken, it can be really hard, and can make people begin to question what they thought they knew about how the world works.
Meaning that for some people, they already know there is much more to know than they know, and now what they thought they knew has been up-ended. Hard.
Right, so what can we do? How can we make sure to continue to create safety on teams so people feel like they have solid ground to stand on? Good questions. Let’s take a look at 4 ways we can do just that.
Have you ever heard about managing the real and ideal? Yes, no? Either way, it simply means that when in a leadership role it is important to always strive for an ideal, think vision, while being very clear on the current reality.
Basically you are managing the tension between what is and what you are creating. Super important. Why?
Because even though the current reality might be hard to hear, people need confirmation that what they are seeing, thinking, and feeling is accurate. The very last thing they need is false hope. Nope. They need reality.
When you stand in the current reality, there is workability. Why? Because when you are clear and the team is clear, you can continue to create the ideal free from the distraction, what if.
You will get more focus, concentration, and organization when you are clear on the current reality while continuing to create the ideal future state. More focus, concentration, and organization from yourself and the team.
We all know how important it is to listen. Very important. There might not be a more important leadership skill. Seriously. This is especially true when times are stressful.
People need someone they can come to, someone they can depend upon. Someone that is going to be present, listen, and give honest feedback. They need that, their team members need that, and, as the leader, you need that. From? From each of them. Yep.
There is immense power in being present and being an active listener.
Active listening simply means being mindful in your conversations. Be present, pay attention, empathize, and use your conversational skills to really understand, take in, and respond in kind to the person you are talking to. Important.
You will get much more back when you practice and coach people to practice active listening. More for yourself, for your teammates, and the entire team. When people really listen, they know what’s going on with their teammates, which makes for a much more productive work environment.
When the team understands the current reality and the ideal state you are creating, is practicing active listening, the likelihood for collaboration increases. Why?
Because when people feel comfortable, are able to focus, and know how their teammates feel and what they think, they are immediately more approachable. And, when we are more approachable, collaboration is just easier.
And, what do you get when your team is able to collaborate more effectively? Yep. Innovation.
When your team works together, there is a synergy that occurs, and inside of that synergy, you get ideas that take the team further. You don’t get these types of synergistic innovations from silos. Just doesn’t happen.
Of course, you cannot create an ideal reality from a very clearly defined current reality without taking action. Nope. Not possible.
Actually, the coolest thing about creating an ideal, and generating all of the innovative ideas, is seeing them executed upon. Amazing. It is one of the things I love the most about working on teams.
Yep, it is so much fun to create, and, yes, I am very creative. Yet, it is equally beautiful and fun to watch the transformation of what can be months of innovative work into a new system, process, program, training, or class. Really.
Wow, that was fun.
Alright, remember, creating safety on teams is a powerful leadership skill. Truly.
As we discussed, creating safety ensures that people can feel comfortable in the current reality, even a very stressful one, while continuing to strive for the ideal reality.
Practicing and modeling active listening also fosters safety by creating a context of respect and mindfulness, while collaboration and taking action ensures that the bridge between innovation and execution is clearly articulated and navigated.
And, when the bridge between innovation and execution is clear and ideas are being executed upon, the team will feel a sense of accomplishment, which increases the team’s morale and feelings of security and safety.
Creating safety on teams may be one of the most important things a leader can do, especially during times that are more stressful and unknown. The ability for everyone to feel safe is that important.
Now, in this article, we will discuss how we can increase our productivity by simply being the human being we know ourselves to be. Yep. Ready? Good here. we go.
Have you ever seen behind the scenes of a theatrical production? Yes, no? Well, either way, there is a ton of work that goes into creating a stage production, even a small production at a local high-school.
I remember taking, what was then called stagecraft, in high-school, and that was our job. Creating the stage, or, in sociological terms, creating the visual context for the play. Was great fun.
Erving Goffman, an American-Canadian Sociologist from the 1950’s, talks about life in terms of a play. Noting that we all take on particular personas based on socialization, yes, the context we are working or living in, and the ideas we have about who we are, and, yep, the ideas we believe others hold of us. Phew. That’s a lot of information to hold, which, hint, hint, is part of the point of this article.
I digress, back on track. Here is a short, well, relatively short, synopsis of what Goffman terms dramaturgy.
Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective that is a component of symbolic interactionism and is used in sociological analysis of everyday life. Developed by American sociologist Erving Goffman in his seminal 1959 text The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, dramaturgy uses the metaphor of theater to explain human behavior. According to this perspective, individuals perform actions in everyday life as if they were performers on a stage. Identity is performed through roles. Here, the term “role” works in two ways, referencing both the name for a theatrical character and the ways in which individuals fill roles in reality by acting as a mother, friend, husband, etc. Dramaturgy argues that the presentation of oneself through role is a way of engaging with society.
Well, think about all of the roles you take on each day. Seriously. Count them real quick. Here, I’ll do it too. I came up with 7. And, that was just a quick inquiry. A more focused inquiry would reveal many, many, more. And, you? How many did you come up with? Yep. Good.
Now, with all of these roles, and what I will now term performances, how much preparation do you do to create, deliver, and sustain these performances? Hm. Quite a bit, I bet. And, time? Yep, preparation is time. And time is energy.
Alright, so we spend a lot of time backstage, in Goffman terms, preparing for our individual performances, even when we are unaware. Yep. And, then frontstage, delivering them? Exactly. We spend a lot of energy there too. True.
And, now, let’s add in being inauthentic. If we are, let us say, working even harder on our performances, because we believe we need to look, act, and behave a certain way, either because we feel we should, or, we feel that others expect that of us, that is even more tiring. Phew. That’s a lot of tiring. Yet, there is another way. How?
By being authentic. And, guess what? Yep. When we are authentic, we save energy.
Authenticity and Productivity
When we are authentic, we save energy because, quite simply, we work less hard trying to convince ourselves and everyone around us that we are someone we’re not. As we’ve already seen, it takes a lot of time and energy just to perform our various roles, which does not include trying to perform them in ways we think we are supposed to.
Further, we all have a limited amount of energy to utilize throughout our day. We can think about our day in terms of exchanging units of energy for each task, project, or activity we take on.
As we exchange our units of energy, our stores become depleted. Now, we can recharge these energy stores by doing various things, such as taking a walk or sitting and breathing for a couple of minutes.
However, we should also covet these energy stores by being aware of our energy levels throughout the day. And? Well, when we are continuously thinking about our performances, our energy is depleted at a faster rate. Why?
Because we are distracted with thoughts and mentalizations that make the work we are engaged with more arduous. Pretty simple.
However, when we aren’t concerned about our performances, meaning we are being authentic and true to the person we know ourselves to be, our energy is saved from tasks such as worrying and overthinking. Important.
And, when we save our energy we can be more productive.
Alright, here then are three productivity byproducts that come from being authentic. Being who we really are. Just for fun, we will call these the 3 C’s of Authentic Productivity.
Capacity – when we are authentic, we have more energy for the aforementioned reasons, and we also have more capacity. More capacity to do the work we need to do, free from the constraints of spending time and energy concentrating on performing in ways that we think we are supposed to, or we think others expect us to.
Concentration – when we are authentic, we are also able to concentrate more easily. Our minds are not busy fretting about our performance. For instance, wondering what someone thinks about what we just said, or how we are acting in a particular context. When we are free from these mentalizations, we are much more clear.
Clarity – and, yes, when we have more capacity to concentrate on the work at hand, we are also more clear. We have more clarity in general about all things, and are able to complete tasks and projects with much greater efficiency and effectiveness.
There is one more bonus to being authentic. Insight.
When we have more capacity, are able to concentrate more effectively, and have more clarity, we create the possibility of receiving more insights. Insights occur when our minds are quiet. When we are quiet.
And, we are much more quiet when we are not in a continuous internal battle about who we are. When we are authentic, this battle drops away, and insights come more frequently.
Wow, that was fun.
Alright, that’s the 3 C’s of Authentic Productivity. Know there are many more benefits to being authentic. Seriously. Many more.
Pretty much everything we do, we do more effectively and efficiently when we are authentic. As we’ve seen in our discussion, worrying about our performances depletes our energy levels.
However, when we are authentic, we save our energy, and in doing so increase our capacity, ability to concentrate, and overall clarity.
You are already just as you are supposed to be. So be who you are, be authentic, embrace yourself, and enjoy each moment of every day.
Oh, yes, and, remember, when you do so, you’ll also enjoy more insights along the way. And, believe me, that’s super fun.