I’ve been reflecting a lot upon the concept purpose the past few weeks, and, whereas I’ve not come up with any real new conclusions about purpose, I do have a few reflections to share with you. Ready? Okay, here we go.
Let’s first define the concept.
the intention, aim or function of something; the thing that something is supposed to achieve
While I understand this definition, it leaves me feeling a little wanting. Meaning, while I understand the definition perfectly well, I think it can set us up for heartbreak if we’re not careful.
For instance, what happens if the “something that is supposed to [be] achieved,” is not achieved. Then what? Hm.
I have a different way to think about purpose; and it consists of three basic concepts.
Accepting what is.
When we are fully present, each moment lives and breathes with a purpose all it’s own. Thinking about purpose this way is not about “achievement.” It’s not about striving or seeking anything. It’s about being present to what is, accepting it with an open heart and mind, and then taking the actions necessary to create anew in each moment.
Thinking about purpose this way, eliminates the need for something specific to happen. Instead, each moment something unexpected can occur, and we can accept it, and create our life anew from that space.
A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about connection. More specifically, it was titled, the Year of Continued Connection. The talk was delivered at our Community Education Instructor Forum. An event we’ve been planning and delivering for, well, almost three years now.
After the talk, I continued to reflect upon the conversation with the instructors, and the concepts they brought up, and just how important connection is in our lives. In many ways, it is the bedrock of many concepts we cherish, such as relationships, engagement, an open heart, kindness, care, and yes, compassion.
When we are deeply connected to our own humanity, we get a larger picture of our shared humanity, which increases the humility and compassion we have for ourselves, and everyone else.
In this post, I would like to elaborate on a few of the concepts outlined above as I understand them in their relation to connection. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Relationships – as I’ve written about many times, all of our relationships start with the relationship we have with ourselves. The connection we have with ourselves is the same connection we will have with the people in our lives. It just works that way. There was a time when I wondered why it was that my relationships weren’t as strong as I would have liked them to be; bottom line? The relationship I had with myself was not strong. Simple.
Engagement – when we are in relationship with ourselves, and then the people we surround ourselves with, it means that we are engaged. Engagement in this context means we have easy and difficult conversations. Both. When we hold ourselves accountable, we will do the same for everyone else, which makes navigating our relationships harder. Though harder, when we hold ourselves accountable, we get back relationships that have a deeper connection. Why? Because we are real, we are speaking our truth. That’s it.
Open Heartedness – when we are in engaged relationships there will be difficult times. For us, and for the people we love. However, when we are engaged, we won’t run, we will stand by their side, and stand for those we love, just as we stand for ourselves. And, when we are standing, we are being open to all that life gives us. We don’t pick and choose the times we are engaged and willing to stand for ourselves and the people we love. We do it all the time. Without thinking. It just happens. We create more openness within ourselves because we are living through experiences that we may have run from before; and, when we stand through all of the stormy times, our connection to ourselves and the people we love deepens even further.
Kindness – with our hearts more open in these engaged relationships, we develop more kindness for ourselves and everyone else. It happens as a result of continuing to navigate all of life’s triumphs and challenges. In essence, we become a kinder human being, because we’ve been through more challenges. We’ve become more vulnerable; and, when we become more vulnerable, yes, we get stronger, and we get kinder. All of which also creates a more intense connection with ourselves and the people we love.
Care – when we are kind, engaged, and open-hearted in our relationships, we develop more care. We have a better understanding of the human condition, and what it takes to stand for ourselves and the people we love. Every day. And, as we do this work, a deeper awareness develops within ourselves, which includes a deeper connection of care to everyone and everything.
The 3 S’s of Connection
I also like to think about connection in regard to three other concepts. Here they are.
Safety – when we stand for ourselves and other human beings, we stay engaged, regardless of the situation. A result of increased engagement is safety. When we know we won’t run at the first sight of trouble, people feel safe. And, when people feel safe with you, they will be much more connected.
Security – as a sense of safety develops in your relationships, a sense of security also develops. It has to. When we feel safe, we also feel secure. Secure in the knowledge that our relationships are a place where we don’t have to worry or create anxiety over people leaving us, or being upset with us. Now, that doesn’t mean there will never be disagreements, or even arguments; what it does mean is that people will respect each other, and speak their truth, without fear of reprisal. That’s security.
Stability – and, when we feel safe and secure, we also feel stable. The relationship we have with ourselves is more stable, which means all of our relationships are more stable.
When we have safety, security, and stability in our relationships, we have a deeper connection to those we love. It also means that we know when a relationship is not going to work. Whereas this is difficult, we stay true to our truth. The knowing we have of the kind of relationship we are creating, and want to have. Therefore, we are much more clear on the people we allow into our lives. In fact, we have much more clarity about humanity in general. Beautiful.
Connection and Compassion
With more clarity about our own humanity, we are much more clear on all humanity. I’ve written this sentence differently many times. Yet, it is such an important part of deepening our connection with ourselves and the people we love.
When we have authentic relationships, we are working hard on them all the time. And, as we do the hard work, we go through many challenges. These challenging times show us more about our own humanity, and then our collective humanity.
For instance, we can read every book ever written on being vulnerable, yet the only way to really know about vulnerability is to practice being vulnerable. It is the only way. Without the practical experience of being vulnerable, vulnerability is just information in our heads; we leave our hearts behind.
Yet, when we are open to all of the experiences life gives us, we get to learn so much more. And, it is inside of these learnings where we further deepen our connection with ourselves and everyone else.
As we deepen our connections, we also develop more compassion. We develop more compassion, because as we go through more challenges, we develop a new understanding of how hard life can be; and with this new experiential knowledge, the compassion we have for ourselves and everyone else deepens.
When we are more compassionate, we are also more patient, and have more love for people when they are struggling, because we can see ourselves in them. And, for me, one of the most magical experiences of my practice of self-inquiry over the past four years has been seeing myself in other people. It is a beautiful experience.
Remember, every connection we have in life starts with the one we have with ourselves. When we have a deep connection with ourselves, we will have a deeper connection with the people we love, and we will also become a more compassionate human being. And, guess what?
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.
Have you ever heard of the concept, the causal loop? Well, though I am familiar with the concepts that make up the causal loop, in regard to people and performance, I had never really conceptualized them like I am about to present them here.
It is important in any leadership, nay, any team environment to understand a very basic principle. Ready? Good. Here it is.
People and performance both matter. Seems like common sense, yes? Well, often only one side of the causal loop is focused on, which creates an imbalance in a very functional system. How does it work? Good question. Let’s take a look, shall we.
The Causal Loop
In any system, symmetry, or balance, is created when all the system pieces work together. With both symmetry and balance, you can move forward, or produce an output, if you like. And, like any system, when one part is dysfunctional, or is not being paid attention to, the whole system suffers. It may, for instance, still produce an output, yet there will be long-term sacrifices.
It is common for leaders to get caught up in metrics. Meaning, at some point in their tenure, and sometimes this can last the entirety of their tenure, they become obsessed with “the numbers.” It matters less what those numbers, or metrics are, what matters, is that when, as a leader, we become obsessed with results, we forget about the people that make the results happen.
Without people, results are an impossibility. Therefore, if you find yourself stuck on metrics, remember, that focusing solely on outcomes may work for a time. Really, it may. Yet, a performance only approach is not sustainable. Period.
In time, what will occur is that people will burn out, quit, and overall morale will decline. Why? Because their needs are not being prioritized. Simple.
And, like any system, if the parts of the system are not being prioritized and taken care of, the system will, in time, fail. It will always occur this way. Always.
Now, conversely if as a leader you are always focused on the people, and never focus on the performance, the system will also become dysfunctional, yet will do so in a completely different way.
When the culture of a workplace is the single focus on a team, or in a department, or in an organization or business, then leadership is missing a very important part of the balance of creating and maintaining an effective system. Performance.
Simply, there must be a focus on both people and performance for movement, and eventual traction to occur. A balance, if you like.
It is very normal on a team, any team, for the focus to shift back and forth between the workplace culture and the people, to performance. Shifting of this kind is especially normal on new teams.
I’ve written extensively about the team I work on, and have more forthcoming, and about how the entire first year was spent developing relationships. That was necessary. As it was necessary in year 2 to develop metrics, and in year 2.5 and 3 to focus on performance and people. Both.
There is a balance that can be found, and I imagine it is different on each team, and within each organizational or business culture. Yet, a leader can find it by paying attention. Paying attention to the people and the performance.
Movement and Traction
When you have achieved balance, know that the balance will never really truly be 50% people, 50% performance. Meaning, that sometimes there will be more of a focus on people, and at times on performance. It’s really most important to develop an awareness about how the causal loop functions as a system.
If you sway one way too far, you can move back to center, and vice versa.
Now, when you’ve increased your awareness about the causal loop, and pay attention to both people and performance, guess what?
Things will begin to move, and in some cases, like ours, move so quickly and beautifully, it is quite magical. And, once things start to move, traction will occur.
With traction, you are more than moving as a team. You are moving as a team while being pointed in the exact same direction all focused on the exact same goals and outcomes. Therefore, your performance and results show this truth.
Remember, it takes time to get to a balance between a focus on people and performance; and, that it is the awareness about the importance of both that matters. And, that? Well, that’s progress. Beautiful.
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.