Guest contributions:

04.22.13  Uncommon Leadership 

04.02.15  Switch and Shift  

05.13.15  Better Practice Team Performance

05.29.15  Better Practice Team Performance

07.08.15  Switch and Shift 

07.14.15  Better Practice Team Performance

10.05.15  Switch and Shift 


Stacey's Reading List...

 

"Tribe of Mentors" by Timothy Ferriss

"Shortcut" by John Pollack 

"Seeing What Others Don't" by Gary Klein

"Several Short Sentences About Writing" by Verlyn Klinkenborg

"The Birkman Method - Your Personality at Work" by Sharon Birkman Fink and Stephanie Capparell

"Creative Intelligence" by Bruce Nussbaum 

"Improv Wisdom" by Patricia Ryan Madson

"Training To Imagine" by Kat Koppett

"Quiet" by Susan Cain

"Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson

"A Whole New Mind" by Daniel H. Pink

"Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman 

"Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson  

"The Leadership Pipeline" by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, James Noel  

"Life:  Selected Quotations" by Paulo Coelho 

"Deep Change" by Robert Quinn

"The Power of Full Engagement" by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz  

"The Way of the Shepherd" by Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak  

"Developing the Leader Within You" by John Maxwell  

"Mr. Peabody's Apples" by Madonna

"Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by Gordon MacKenzie

 

 

 

blog archive
Tuesday
Aug202019

Put your whole self in

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (August 19, 2019)

 

I recently attended a week long improv intensive class offered through TheatreSquared in Fayetteville taught by Jordan Haynes.  First of all, Jordan is brilliant.  He’s a gifted improvisor who will absolutely make you snort laugh!  Second, the new TheatreSquared building is stunning. We are incredibly fortunate to have a professional live theatre experience of this caliber right in our backyard. 

Class for the “adults” met every night while the “kids” met during the afternoons.  On Friday evening we each did an hour-long showcase performance followed by an all-play (adults + kids) couple of games.  It was, in the words of an audience member, “scary brilliant”.  I couldn’t have said it any better.

A bit of backstory.  The adult classes are open to all levels of improvisors – from the I’ve-never-done-this-before to those who perform regularly in multiple troupes.  (Lots of improvisors belong to more than one troupe – it’s kind of a thing).  You might think having all these skill levels together would be awkward, but it wasn’t at all.  Actually it was a hoot.  Humor, as it turns out, is the great equalizer.    

On Friday evening during the kids showcase performance, an adult class participant sitting next to me – perched on the very edge of his seat, staring at the stage wide-eyed in a complete state of awe – quietly said, “man, they’re so much better than us”.  And he was not entirely wrong.  Somewhere in my soul I felt a pang of despair. 

The kids bounded onto the stage – exuberant, creative, funny and uniquely themselves.  Their scenes were interesting and thoughtful and collaborative – they looked like they were having the BEST TIME EVER.  They were FEARLESS. 

The adults…?  Well, in all fairness, I’d say we held our own.  I’d also add the words slightly less in front of any descriptor I used for the kids:  slightly less exuberant, slightly less creative, slightly less funny.  It’s not that we weren’t fantastic too, it’s just that we were…less so

You would think that as we age with grace and wisdom and in the sureness of who we are that we’d rule the stage.  It should be a “watch-me-roar!” kind of vibe.  But it wasn’t.  While all the kids were giddy with stage presence, I noticed some of the adults trying not to panic.  Or worse, throw up.  There’s a lesson here.

Which got me thinking:  when did we (as adults) stop being fearless…?  When did we stop believing we weren’t creative - or creative enough…?  When did we decide it was better to blend into the backline rather than to rush to center stage…?  When did we become unwilling to put ourselves out there – REALLY out there…?  At what age did we start to care more about what others thought of us and less about what we thought of ourselves…?  And when did we stop channeling the Hokey Pokey where “you put your whole self in and you shake it all about”…? 

Lest you think this was merely an isolated improv moment, I can assure you it was not.  This experience echoed what I routinely hear from professional adults who are stifling some piece of their core being.  Afraid of being who they want to be, afraid to take the job they really want, afraid to say what they truly think, afraid to feel alive in a way that matters most to them.  Afraid to take – metaphorically – center stage. 

We need to come back to ourselves.  If you’re not standing in the middle of the stage shouting proudly for all to hear, “CUSTOMER #4!” (that was in a scene we did – and it was spot on!), then I’m giving you permission to “put your whole self in and shake it all about”. 

Cue the music.    

Monday
Jun242019

Perspectives of a Leadership Coach 

Originally published as a Guest Blog for Birkman.com (June 24, 2019)

I’ve changed my reading habits as of late. I’m less willing to read business or leadership books and far more interested in reading behavioral science or memoirs. Especially memoirs. A compelling memoir will leave you questioning your own mindset. I think a memoir is excruciatingly personal and perhaps the most private of all the stories we tell – both to others and ourselves. It attempts to extract meaning from events, experiences and circumstances. Sometimes the piercing questions are answered in an exactness that is unnerving. And other times these questions leave gaping holes where answers might have been. There is no correctness…only humanness.

I feel the same way about personality assessments. The right behavioral tool reads like a good memoir, it offers up the whole person from their point of view and asks others to share in their humanness. I love that. And I love that The Birkman Method personality assessment does the same thing.

The right memoir will cause you to wrestle with various versions of the truth because your truth depends on where you’re standing, what you see, and what you think. This is why a slew of people can read the same memoir and walk away with different insights, revelations or reflections. Because, well, perspective.

Your filtered reality

Perspective takes us far beyond the simple dichotomy of “I see it this way” and “you see it that way”. It introduces the notion that between two ends of a scale, there is an entire spectrum of understanding. And from my point of view, you really can’t have too much perspective.

The same occurs when you review your Birkman Mindset report. Ultimately, it’s about perspective, which is very important. I don’t know if Birkman found me or if I found it, but it has transformed my life, my work as a leadership coach, and my understanding of humanness. And we’ve been inseparable for the last 15 years. While the Birkman Signature Suite remains a mainstay in my overall business platform, it’s the newer Mindset report that has added another dimension to my Executive Coaching engagements.

By merging behavioral information (Signature) with attitudinal information (Mindset) it becomes a 360 view of your humanness: how do you see yourself, how do you see others, how do you see the world, how do others see you, and what on earth does all of that look like when combined. More likely than not, you are a walking set of contradictions. There is a push and pull to life…and there is a push and pull within all of us.

Perspective made easy

Since I was young – way before I had the right words to articulate my understanding of self and others – I’ve acutely felt that I was vastly different than “most people” in the way that I saw things and approached life. While it was no surprise that my personal scores on the Mindset report reflected my long-held feelings, it was immensely gratifying to have them [scientifically] validated. I think what we sometimes forget is that while it’s hard growing up standing out, it’s also hard fitting in. There is a constant desire for both popularity (mainstream) and singularity (beat of your own drum). It’s not until you see where you land on a particular scale in comparison to others – viewing all the shades of gray between the black and white ends – that you come to understand – viscerally understand – the complexity of our collective humanness.

Three of my four Perspectives Scale scores from the Birkman Mindset report are intense (90’s or single digits). My remaining scale score is exactly in the middle – which is perfect, because for that scale, “it just all depends”. And I love that.

 

[99 = Distinctiveness | 93 = Image Management | 2 = Social Acuity | 51 = Alignment] 

 

Mindset reveals the "why" of one's personality

Ultimately, mindset matters a great deal. And so does a willingness to stand in the middle of your own truth – to know who you are – and to own it with unabashed euphoria. It is…liberating. Much like understanding your personality, a memoir unfolds over time. The significance of that understanding may surface through subtle signs, or it might land with such a force that it shakes the very ground you’re standing on. The experience is different for everyone.

I believe that we absolutely need everyone contributing to the greater good in a way that works for them – from their perspective. But I also believe that we need everyone developing an understanding of others who are far different from ourselves. Because if all I ever do is walk to the beat of my own drum, how will I ever know what the other drums sound like? While I may be standing in the middle of my own truth, surely I can honor someone else’s truth as well. Actually I think I have to, our collective humanness depends on it.

With The Birkman Method, I rely on seven decades of research to enrich my understanding of how human behavior works – within ourselves, and among each other. When I learned to use Birkman Mindset and the Perspectives Scales, I found a greater understanding of the “why” behind our behaviors and perceptions. The application of Perspectives insights in my leadership coaching practice is transformative in helping my clients grow.

 


The Birkman Mindset report helps train individuals to become much more aware of our own filtered reality. The executive and leadership coaching experience that this certification offers allows us to increase awareness of where other perspectives don't align with our personal mindset, begin to understand the possibility of others' perspectives, and open and challenge our minds to see value in and leverage the differences in mindset among people. Are you an executive coach, decision maker, C-suite executive, consultant, or looking to make your next-level career move? The Birkman Mindset report was made just for you!

 

 

 

 

Monday
May132019

The 15 people you need on speed dial

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (May 13, 2019)

 

 

What I know for sure is that getting through life takes a village.  Humans weren’t meant to go it alone.  The road is long and the tests are hard.  We need others and others need us. 

So I thought I would share the 15 people that I keep on speed dial.  Not so much individuals but rather perspectives that I rely on as I navigate the journey that is called life.   

1.  The Artist:  Art is passion.  So much passion.  And commitment.  The Artist is not just a creative force, but a voice that reminds you to honor what stirs your soul.  We can’t truly be at our best without passion. 

2.  The Outlier:  This is the non-conformist or the misunderstood.  If all I ever do is walk to the beat of my own drum, how will I ever know what the other drums sound like…?  I’m only an insider to me. 

3.  The Truth-Teller:  There is the hype and then there is the truth.  The truth may very well hurt, but at least the truth doesn’t lie.  And the truth shared with grace and elegance will hold you accountable to your highest self. 

4.  The Dreamer:  The anthem of The Dreamer is to just imagine.  What if…?  Why not…?  How come…?  When you find yourself getting weary, The Dreamer will remind you of your greatness – and how much your efforts matter.  Just imagine that.

5.  The Genius:  Book smarts, street smarts, tech savvy, or the polymath.  When you can’t see the forest for the trees, The Genius can.  And that’s the genius of The Genius.

6.  The Storyteller:  The writer has words, the musician has lyrics, the photographer has pictures.   Storytelling is said to be the center of the human experience.  The Storyteller will help you see the arc of your own story.     

7.  The Connector:  The universe operates on the power of human connection.  If it is as simple as six degrees of separation, The Connector will know people that can help you in your journey. 

8.  The Philanthropist:  The universe also operates on the power giving – the giving of money, time, love, forgiveness, grace.  Your heart expands when you see the world through this lens.  

9.  The Optimist:  Hopeful, enthusiastic, joyful.  There is no downside to the upside.  Walk (maybe run) toward the person who shines like the sun.

10.  The Sage:  With age comes wisdom and a sense of calm in a world that is constantly in flux.  Having a perspective on perspective is the best perspective of all. 

11.  The Therapist:  Credentialed or not, having an empathic, non-judgmental perspective matters more than ever in a society that is continuously telling you that you don’t measure up.  The Therapist will unequivocally remind you that you are good enough. 

12.  The Well Traveled:  They go out there.  They’ve changed time zones, comfort zones and continents.  They’ve wandered and pondered.  And then written about it in journals. The Well Traveled offer wisdom from countless cultures and places. 

13.  The Bridge Builder:  Negotiating, making peace, building consensus with others, holding hands.  Bringing people together is an extraordinary gift.   

14.  The Devil’s Advocate:  We tend to argue like we’re right, but we should listen like we might be wrong.  Debate requires you to see the world from another point of view. 

15.  The Seeker:  The eternal quest to know more – to understand more – to be forever curious.  This is the original philosopher.  And the philosopher will help you ask the right questions. 

Yes, the road is long and the tests are hard.  And what I know for sure is that it takes a village.

 

Monday
Nov262018

Where the magic happens

I am a big fan of the sciences.  I’m an even bigger fan of the arts.  And I’m fanatic about the intersection of the two because that’s where the magic happens. 

Perhaps some context is needed. 

My background is in big business – I spent nearly 20 years at Walmart in the Logistics Division.  There, I devoured data and metrics and devised systems and processes.  While some people find that work tedious, I was exhilarated by it.  I still tend to become giddy about anything that involves a spreadsheet. 

My connection to the arts is more recent.  Nearly 10 years ago I signed up for an improv class in hopes of finding a way to deal with my aversion to change.  As I fondly tell others, I’m the female version of TV’s Sheldon Cooper – only not as hip.  Not only did improv help me more positively navigate the unprecedented amount of change coming at me in the world today, it offered me an entirely different perspective on understanding how others are wired (personality science) and what is absolutely essential in a collaborative environment. 

My immersion in this craft was a game changer that solidified my long-held belief that the best skill development is realized in a marriage of polar disciplines – a blended approach.  Ying and yang.  Duality.  Two disparate parts coming together to produce something far better than either could on their own. 

Focusing on technical disciplines will make you one kind of smart.  Immersing yourself in the arts (and humanities) will make you a different kind of smart.  And while being smart is essential, being differently smart is a force multiplier. 

With “disruption” being the new business-as-usual, it’s essential that individuals and organizations develop more holistic thinking.  Interconnectedness drives humanity, business platforms and globalization; ignoring that connection puts us all at peril.  Competencies such as creativity, innovation, collaboration and communication are more critical than ever in a world that depends on interconnectedness. 

Here’s how one facet of the arts (improvisation) intersects with a few highly desirable business imperatives:

Creativity and innovation:  Innovation does best in environments where ideas simply flow. It’s about the unencumbered asking of what if…how come…why not.  In improv, there are no wrong answers - there’s just stuff that didn’t go the way we thought it would.  These are the moments of absolute brilliance that you stumble upon while you’re busy making theater out of thin air.

Storytelling:  Storytelling is a nuanced art.  And it is quite possibly the center of the human experience.  There is almost a visceral sensation when you come to understand the world of someone else through his or her story.  Our personal perspectives often shift because these narratives change how we see the broader context of the worldIn improv work, I remind others that it’s never the what; it’s always the how.  In every scene you’re telling a story – how you tell it matters the most. 

Collaboration:  Collaboration is a horizontal construct that operates across business units throughout an entire enterprise to create seismic shifts in business thinking.  (Collaboration differs from teambuilding; teambuilding is a vertical concept because the handoffs occur up and down within a unit, operating in unison, and delivering contained value.)   The very essence of improv is collaboration.  Everyone on stage brings a brick, and together they build a cathedral.  

Speed:  There is an unprecedented rate of change rocking businesses today.  The pace of disruption is massive, rapid and turbulent.  Perhaps never before has the need to work from the very top of your intelligence been greater.  How fast can you think on your feet?  How well do you shift, morph, evolve?  These are the quintessential skills that improvisers learn to embrace.  Scenes are unscripted, unrehearsed and unexpected.  You endlessly practice responding to what you can’t predict.  You have no other choice but to become an expert at thinking faster and faster on your feet. 

Too often “the sciences versus the arts” conversation is relegated to an either/or proposition.  It’s not an either/or question, it’s a both/and imperative.  We need the sciences.  We need the arts.  But what we need most is the genius that lives in their marriage.  Because that’s where the magic happens.

 

 
Monday
Oct292018

Replace judgment with curiosity

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (October 29, 2018)

Replace judgment with curiosity.  I don’t know if these words found me or if I found them, but they have transformed my life, my work, and my understanding of human-ness. 

I also don’t know if these words represent a quote, a statement, a rally cry, or serve as simple words of wisdom.  Perhaps it is all of those things.  I absolutely do know that they have proven time and time again to be foundational in conversations around personality science, coaching for perspective, and Applied Improvisation methodologies.  

These words are that powerful.  They are that simple.  They are that life changing. 

Living in the land of judgment is a place we all know well.  We hold court there everyday, subjecting our perceived superiority other others.  Don’t believe me…?  Think again. 

Take the simple act of sacking groceries at any big box store.  You have the option of going through the checkout process being assisted by a store clerk, or doing your own thing utilizing the self-checkout system.  Either way your items will get bagged.  I have a strong hunch though that you may not sack your items in the same fashion as the store clerk – for reasons that are unique to you.  Logical even.  Perhaps this is the exact reason why you tend to favor the self-checkout in the first place.  You like your process.  It serves you better. 

I know this to be true. I have been down this road myself.  What you have in this example is the same outcome – sacking groceries.  But we tend to justify our process as the better way (right way) of doing it and then judge the other way (that’s often code for the wrong way) of that same task when someone else does it. 

And this scenario plays out all day long.  In big and small ways.  And in important and trivial ways.  We don’t even know we’re doing it.  Until we stop doing it.

My grocery store story is trivial.  But extrapolate this mindset to business strategies, sports, and loved ones.  From the boardroom to the soccer field to our most coveted relationships, we justify our own behavior.  We judge the same behavior from others.

Judgment is a burden.  It’s heavy to hold, emotionally draining, and drenched in negativity.  It is also petty.  All characteristics that paint a pretty pitiful picture of how we operate from that point of view. 

Enter the freedom of curiosity.  Curiosity is, essentially, a state of mind.  Being curious is being joyful.  It is lighthearted, open and inviting, buoyed in positivity.  It is also closely tied to happiness as referenced in a slew of recent studies published in the field of positive psychology.   

I believe people are capable of great change.  I see it all the time.  In big and small ways.  And in important and trivial ways.  Humans have a great capacity to rise above that which is holding them back.  To change their mindsets.  To shift thinking patterns.  To see the world through a different lens.

Learning to replace judgment with curiosity is about shifting your perspective.  It’s about approaching a situation from a more positive and productive outlook.  A world of possibilities exists if we take the time to be more curious.  To ask a few more questions, to be a bit more thoughtful, to be open to more and different ways of thinking and being, and to be more generous with others.  More, more, more. 

Replace judgment with curiosity.  Shifting your perspective is that powerful.  It is that simple.  It is that life changing. 

We’ve all heard what curiosity may have done to the cat, but as it turns out, curiosity is a thriving state of mind for human beings.