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
Monday
Oct052015

Understanding How You're Wired

Original publication at Switch and Shift (October 05, 2015)

Republished as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (October 26, 2015)

While no personality assessment can perfectly analyze all the behaviors that make you uniquely you, that’s still no reason to shy away from these insightful tools.  In fact, I would encourage you to take several of them.  The cumulative results from taking multiple assessments establishes credible data points and provides trend markers (positive correlation from assessment to assessment) - which can provide a fairly accurate description of who you are overall.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and keep learning, as a student of behavioral sciences:  An increased understanding of your personal preferences, or more simply, “how you’re wired”, gives you a better understanding not only of yourself, but those around you.  These insights into human behavior are invaluable.  Understanding how we tick allows us to put ourselves in the place of most potential.  Understanding how others tick drives human connectivity. 

The format of assessment data varies widely from instrument to instrument.  Colors, charts and commentary all serve to convey pieces of behavioral blueprints.  While the design of one instrument may appeal to you, the narrative language used in another may resonate more strongly.  This blending of data from multiple sources gives you the most robust view of your personality.  

How we use behavioral data is varied as well.  Certainly it helps us to better understand our core personality.  It also provides significant insights into how others differ from us, what we can do to expand our effectiveness, and what we really mean when we talk about perspective. 

To expand on that a bit: 

Self:

Understanding how you’re wired takes patience; being comfortable with what you discover takes grace.  The best version of who you are lives along side the worst version of who you could be – which is equally frightening and freeing.  After all, we are who we are.  Behavioral assessment data simply brings clarity to both sides of that equation.   And once we have clarity of self, we can begin to see others in a more generous light.  

 

Others: 

We live in a time of unprecedented human connectivity.  Therefore the ability to understand self in relation to others has never been more important. “Me” behaviors must learn to coexist with “you” behaviors.  While we still need everyone contributing to the greater good in a way that works for them, we also need everyone developing an understanding of that which is different from them.  The brilliance of personality assessments is that they start a conversation – a conversation about how people are different.  We are all wired differently.  We have different interests, different needs, we prefer different environments, we enjoy different interactions, we express different emotions.  Different.  We are all humans.  We are just differently human.  

 

Range: 

Humans have an enormous capacity to exhibit a wide range of personal behaviors.  We just tend to gravitate toward our personality preferences. The challenge is that sometimes we need a behavior that we don’t own (that means a behavior that is not a preference). Learning how to “borrow behaviors” increases our effectiveness in navigating a wide array of situations and interactions.  Essentially, it’s learning to be comfortable stepping outside of our comfort zones. A wider range of behaviors creates options and choices.  And choices are powerful.

 

Perspective:

Assessment data begs the question “is ‘that’ normal…?”.  Unwavering response: “no”.  There is no normal.  Normal operates on a relative continuum.  Our personalities operate on a similar continuum.  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 a spectrum of understanding.  Perhaps ultimately, we learn to replace judgment with curiosity.  In the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer, “If we change the way that we look at things, the things that we look at change.” 

 

The behavioral sciences landscape has the potential to change even more. What we learn from the BRAIN initiative* could impact the way we view personality. Science has recently discovered that the brain changes throughout life, which suggests we have the potential to learn, unlearn, and relearn.  And that changes everything.  “How you’re wired” may become the basis for every other conversation. 

 

*  The BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought. Source NIH.gov.

 

Sunday
Sep272015

Improv Advice in Translation...

I have found that most advice is worthy of thorough examination.  Often advice pertaining to one discipline – with just a bit of translation – has meaning in other disciplines.  This translation process allows for more perspective and greater insight. 

As a case in point:  the more I study improv, the more parallels I see to other areas of my life.  What follows is some improv advice in translation. 

Improv advice:  In an art form as social as improv, being easy to work with is nearly as important as being talented or funny.

Personal advice:  Never underestimate the importance of likeability.

 

Improv advice:  Play a character whose worldview you completely disagree with.  Playing an earnest opposite will push you and make for good theater.

Life advice:  Learn to replace judgment with curiosity.  Seek to understand different perspectives. 

 

Improv advice:  No one on Earth has mastered improv.  Even the best have bad shows from time to time.  Don’t think about quitting after an off night.

Business advice:  No one on Earth has mastered leadership.  Some days are brilliant, and some days you want to bang your head against the wall.  Don’t think about quitting after an off day. 

 

Improv advice:  If you’re doing good physical improv and being emotionally expressive, silences can last forever and still be compelling theater. 

Business advice:  There’s a reason silence is golden.  Not every discussion requires input; not every thought should be shared out loud. 

 

Improv advice:  Insulting someone else’s comedy will not make your comedy better.

Life advice:  Take the high road; there’s a lot less traffic on it. 

 

Improv advice:  Whether you’re paid to do it or not, improvisation is as professional as you make it. 

Business advice:  How you do anything is how you do everything.

 

Improv advice:  Be specific:  “Mom, I wrecked your car” is fine.  “Mom, I accidentally drove your Honda Accord into the pool” is better.

Business advice:  Specific and timely communication matters.  In the absence of either, people will create their own storyline.  And it probably won’t serve you well. 

 

Improv advice:  There is no failure in improv.  There’s just stuff that didn’t go the way we thought it would.

Personal advice:  Failure is a harsh word – we should be careful what we assign it to in life. 

 

Improv advice:  If a scene needs a kiss, kiss. 

Business advice:  If someone needs to do something (standup for the underdog, mentor the intern, rally the troops, clean the restrooms), by all means, be that someone.  Follow your gut instincts.   

 

Improv advice:  Be the support character more often than the main character.  Make the story about someone else.    

Life advice:  It’s not all about you. 

 

Improv advice:  Just bring a brick.  Together we’ll build a cathedral. 

Business advice:  You don’t have to have it all figured out.  Just bring your best self and your best ideas, merge them with the best contributions from others, and watch amazing things happen. 

 

Improv advice:  Don’t try to be the most clever person on the stage.

Business advice:  Listen more than you talk.  You may be the smartest one at the table, but you’re not the only one at the table. 

 

Improv advice:  Do what is natural, what is easy, what is apparent to you.  Your unique view will be a revelation to someone else. 

Business advice:  Not everything is rocket science.  Simple, plain, elegant – that’s what works. 

 

Improv advice:  Listen to what you are given.  Focus on what is being offered, not on what you want to say.

Life advice:  The mind that is occupied is missing the present. 

 

Improv advice:  Enjoyment is a way of approaching an activity, not the activity itself.

Business advice:  Some assignments will suck.  Really suck.  But your attitude and your approach to the assignment does not have to suck. 

 

Improv advice:  In the end the thing of most value is you bringing yourself to the stage. 

Life advice:  In the end the thing of most value is you bringing yourself to your calling. 

 

Here’s the funny thing I’ve noticed:  the more parallels I see to other areas of my life, the more I want to study improv.  Which brings me full circle.  How’s that for an insight!      

Monday
Aug032015

Once upon a time...

Business books don’t have a monopoly on leadership lessons.  How do I know that…?  Just make your way to the back of any Barnes & Noble bookstore, acquaint yourself with the kid’s section and you’ll see exactly what I mean.  Seriously.  Pull up a tiny chair, tuck your knees under your chin, and spend a few minutes immersed in stunning artwork and timeless lessons. 

Here are five amazing reads no one should miss.  

The Day The Crayons Quit!

Author:  Drew DayWalt

Illustrator:  Oliver Jeffers

Read the extremely popular new kid’s book The Day The Crayons Quit! and you’ll witness your entire leadership team drawn out in rich, vibrant colors.    

This book is about life and contribution from the perspective of crayons.  The book is also a metaphor for how we treat human capital in the workplace.  Trust me, it’s all in there.  The over-worked…the miss-labeled…the favorite…the unused.  Those who operate within the lines and those who don’t.  Some are happy.  Some are feuding.  Others are tired and empty.  One is even naked!  NAKED! 

That’s probably enough of a spoiler. 


Mr. Peabody's Apples

Author:  Madonna

Illustrator:  Loren Long

Madonna has authored 5 children’s books, all New York Times best sellers.  The stories are timeless, the illustrations are exquisite, and the life lessons practically fall off the pages and land in your lap.  In Mr. Peabody’s Apples, we’re reminded that words have power. What we say, and to whom we say it, matters more than we know.  And sometimes it’s impossible to undo what the wrong words have done.  

 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Author:  William Joyce

Illustrators:  William Joyce and Joe Bluhm

“If you have lived your life with books, as I have, you will be drawn into this world.  In fact if you are a book person this is your world.”   No truer words have been said than those shared by an online book reviewer.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was such a huge success as a book that it was made into an animated short film and an interactive app.  It’s brilliant.

At its heart it’s a poignant parable of what we all hope to accomplish in our lifetimes - to find work that stirs our souls.  And when life comes full circle, to see that the end of our chapter is the beginning of someone else’s.  

 

Exclamation Mark

Author:  Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrator:  Tom Lichtenheld

This book is about fitting in…and standing out (perhaps the hardest dichotomy to master in life).  Exclamation Mark takes us on a journey to find that place where each of us matters – where we can come alive and do our best work.  This book is a refreshing call to action:  find out where you add value and go do more of that.  

Now go make your mark.  (exclamation, exclamation!!) 

 

What Do You Do With An Idea?

Author:  Kobi Yamada

Illustrator:  Mae Besom

At first ideas seem like scary things.  We wonder why they’re here.  We worry what people will think.  We fear we’ll be seen as different.  What Do You Do With An Idea?  You embrace it of course.  Because ideas become big things, brave things, smart things, and even silly things.  This book is for every brave believer who has ever doubted the power of an idea.  

“And then I realized what you do with an idea…  You change the world.” 

 

Wisdom awaits us all.  And sometimes it’s found in the most unexpected places. 

 

 

Wednesday
Jul082015

Employee Engagement is the Wrong Question

Original publication at Switch and Shift (July 08, 2015)

I never expected I’d write about employee engagement.  Fundamentally, I dislike the discussion for one simple reason:  I think it’s the wrong question to be asking the workforce. 

Gallup, with extensive research dating back to the late 1990’s, is regarded as the authority on the topic and created the Q12 survey.  Annual statistics report employee engagement percentages across three spectrums: actively disengaged, not engaged, and engaged. The 2014 Gallup numbers came in at 17.5%, 51.0%, and 31.5% respectively.  I find that the numbers fluctuate only a couple of percentage points from year to year.  So for all the talk on the topic, not much changes. 

From my perspective, here’s the miss. “I” am the fundamental equation in the question, and yet no one is asking me about “me”.  Engagement surveys don’t inquire about personal well-being or my individual level of happiness.  Shouldn’t the individual be the primary conversation…?  I think so. 

Generally speaking, engagement discussions tend to get lumped into a couple of buckets.  All worthy conversations, but secondary ones. 

The role of the organization

Engagement commentary overwhelmingly implies that the organization is at fault for poor results.  Apparently the organization must bear the burden.  That seems unbalanced.  Does the organization play a role…?  I believe it does.  Is the role that it plays primary to a more engaged workforce…?  I believe it isn’t.  I want to see organizations excel in all the ways that matter to its particular workforce*, but I find it unlikely that individual engagement will be solved by the collective actions of the entity.  Engagement is an individual decision that I make, or don’t make.

The influence of leadership

After pointing to organizational gaps, another common thread is the overarching statement of, “leaders hold the key to employee engagement”.  I could go along with that statement if “leader” meant “self”, as in self-leader(ship).  But that’s not what it means.  The statement suggests that I’ve acquiesced control of my personal engagement to another party. If I were genuinely happy, would I send in my vote by proxy…?  I don’t think I would. 

The financial impact

Studies are quick to point out the negative financial impacts resulting from the nearly 70% of the workforce that is categorized at actively disengaged or not engaged, targeting front-line productivity to bottom-line profitability – and everything in between.  Yet there is wealth beyond the P&L statement.  There is untold wealth that happiness has the potential to create for mankind.  The quest for individual happiness has far greater staying power.  Organizations will continue to come and go over time, but humanity endures. 

For me, in the end, what is missing is all this cacophonous conversation on employee engagement is the truest, deepest, most basic human question of all:  Am I happy? 

And please don’t dilute that question.  It’s not “am I happy at work”, it’s not “am I happy with my boss”, it’s not “am I happy with the vision of the organization”, but – as a human being – am I happy with myself, am I happy with who I am, am I happy with the life that I lead…?  Happiness is the driver to a life that contains engagement.  Happiness begets engagement, not the other way around.  

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky is the author of The How of Happiness:  A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.  Her book analyzed studies and reported that nearly half of our happiness is set by genes and life circumstances beyond our control; the other half by our own actions and choices.  So even though genetics and life experiences influence my happiness, there are still actions and choices that I can choose to make to cultivate greater happiness over the course of my lifetime.  Am I doing those things…?  Making those choices…?  That’s the fundamental question.  

And maybe, just maybe, we’re starting to make progress on the happiness front.  Greater numbers of people are embracing contemplative practices (mindfulness, meditation, centering) and creating simplified lives (less stuff, more experiences).  There is a deep yearning to understand what truly brings joy and how that joy can be central to a life. I have to believe that once we get a real sense of what makes us happy, we gravitate toward work that matters, in organizations where we flourish, along side people we are genuinely excited to see every day.  Once I’ve made those decisions, then ask me if I’m engaged.  Actually no, don’t ask me that.  Ask me if I’ve come alive.  Because what we need is people who have come alive. 

Happiness is an individual decision; a choice I make.  And happiness begets engagement.  Let’s get to the root of the discussion.  What we need is for the human race to discover happiness. 

“Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.” (Rumi)

 

*  Reputation, safety, diversity, pay and benefits, valuing people/customers/co-workers, work tasks and processes, resources, recognition, performance management, training and development, innovation, communication, and leadership.  Source Gallup. 

 

Wednesday
Jun242015

Social Media: "I'm probably doing it wrong!" (part 3 of 3)

This is the final post in a 3 part series where I’ve shared my perspective on the questions that I’m asked the most (mainly around emotional intelligence, reading interests, and social media).  This post looks at how I handle social media.  And it should probably come with a warning label:  the following contains high snarky-ness.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  

Social media is a tough arena for me to navigate.  It’s loud and ubiquitous.  It’s as if the designers forgot to install an off switch.  As an introvert, the constant cacophony makes my head hurt.  But unless I plan to live under a rock, or move to my own island (don’t laugh, you actually can buy an island - these are things introverts know), learning to cohabitate with social media is a necessity. 

The view from my perspective. 

It is mind-numbing the amount of tweets that fall into the “I’m so great…look at me…this is what I’m doing / eating / watching / wearing / complaining about.”  Closely followed by the insane number of tweets featuring miss-spellings and bad punctuation.  With very little effort you can find both in the same 140 characters.  Somewhere the grammar Gods are crying.  When “what color is this dress” nearly crippled Twitter bandwidth, I wanted to weep for humanity. 

But – and this is an enormous but – there is also amazing content by gifted thinkers who are using this platform as a voice to rally the human race.  To start real conversations with real implications in real time.  And that is simply brilliant. 

My favorite use of twitter…?  The “favorites” feature.  Any tweet I “favorite” becomes neatly tucked away for future reference.  Cloud storage at its finest.  (Whatever that means.  Sigh.) 

 

I am fascinated by what goes viral.  It tells us something about the culture of our society.  What exactly, I’m not entirely sure.  Take the following videos for example: 

*  Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball  762.m views (3.42 minutes)

*  What Does The Fox Say…?  507.8m views (3.45 minutes)

*  Lil Bub Magical Yule Log.  2.7m views (This is an hour long video of a cat in front of a fireplace.  The cat does not move.  I kid you not.) 

*  Sir Ken Robinson – Do Schools Kill Creativity…? 8.0m views (20 minutes)

*  Susan Cain – The Power Of Introverts  3.8m views (19 minutes)

Pop culture and the love of cute cats and woodland creatures aside, as the intellectual content or the time commitment increases, views decrease.  Rapidly. 

And then there’s Kahn Academy, an education platform that reaches 7 million students a month with free education.  Some 300,000 teachers around the world augment classroom learning with these videos.  What does the fox say indeed! 

 

Perhaps since I’m not conducting a job search, I don’t maximize the potential of this platform.  I do however find it to be an amazing electronic Rolodex.  That’s pretty handy. 

The ability to publish a post, share an update, follow influencers, and join groups creates a wealth of information and a level of strength that comes from massive connectivity.  It also appears to offer personal validation that might be lacking in traditional face-to-face exchanges.  I’m impressed by the amount of good will continuously offered within a host of networks.  

One thing still makes me laugh though – the profile content.  In the quest to advocate for skill sets and prove self worth, the embellished language and over-used corporate jargon is hysterical.  It’s like playing buzzword bingo!  It’s all about the “value-added holistic approach using dashboard metrics and leveraging systems to navigate the gray in a disruptive innovative environment where boiling the ocean creates greater thought leadership”.  Eye roll.  Just once I’d like to come across an entry that reads “I’m good at fixing the copier”.  Every company wants that candidate.  They could set their own salary.  Long live the electronic resume! 

Social media is a part of our lives whether we like it or not.  So really it’s a matter of our attitudes as we interact with it.  And isn’t that the truth about so many things in life – it’s a matter of attitude. 

 

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