Archive for May, 2011

INCLUSION AND COMMUNITY: Conversations of commitment

Lack of results or failed businesses can be traced back to the breakdown in community.Peter Block

Here’s a “burst your bubble” statement: “We are not born with the innate skill to be team players.” Yep it’s true, we are born little ambassadors of selfishness and self focus. Almost as soon as we can walk we also start excluding others at an early age… from games to tasty treats.

The behavior of exclusion is an inborn “corporate” behavior. Learning to appreciate our differences as a community, to play together nicely, and be inclusive are learned behaviors. These behaviors are coached forward by great parents and leaders.

The middle ground in this domain of inclusion and community is a deep chasm. It is not easy to go against our normal nature  and strive to be more “in tune” on collaborating with others. We know that it takes time and focus to build relationships, yet so many times businesses and families choose to take the easy road.

Let’s all snap our arm with a rubber band and then recite the following…“The things I really want (or are worth having) in life take work, effort, and commitment”. Repeat this phrase as often as needed. To cross the chasm of self-centeredness to being more inclusive (and willing to invest in building community) you will need to be intentional and goal oriented.

Families and corporations are systems made up of human beings with needs, wants, and goals. At the same time there exists a complete set of accompanying circumstances that can either hinder or enhance the ability to achieve these desired outcomes. How do successful people and businesses overcome these road blocks and take advantage of opportunities? They choose unconditionally to work and support each other. Our business environments are filled with “conditions”.

Great parenting is leadership clothed in unconditional love. Successful families have an establish set of processes, implemented through parenting. These processes have the goal to generate important collaboration and cooperation for the greater good of the family and each individual collectively. Successful families are really practicing the very things that most corporate systems, filled with adults (by age calculation), really need in order to thrive and excel in most global economies and industries moving into the future.

Great leaders, like insightful parents, demand inclusion and design the conversation for community. That is, they influence what the community will talk about. This is not about control, but framing up the vision and building “the container for how and where a successful community can happen and produce results.

Commitment is a conversation about values and goals that will in turn define/lead to action for a desired future. Inclusion is what perfects commitment and builds a robust community that shares the incredible experience of being in action; action that truly makes a difference…action that matters. Not action that is busy work.

It doesn’t just take a community/village to raise a child as Hillary Clinton wrote. It takes a community that is actively involved in a conversation of commitment. The narrative within a business or family about “what is important” builds the community. When the discourse stops so does the community.

Business Application – The need for inclusion and community is evident in and reflected by the choices customers make regarding their purchases. Customers want to be a part of a community when they purchase. Think about how our purchases reflect our values and what we care about.  Why would your customers be any different? How would having a thriving community within your workplace impact the sense of inclusion with your customers?

© The Heartwood Group, LLC 2011

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Coaching to Core Ideals – Networks of Power

This is the final post in this series Coaching to Core Ideals. There are several topics in the running and in the making! Stay tuned!

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series.

The IDEAL LEADER is a STRATEGIC LEARNER.

  1. Thinking their business “ahead” of the game and also their own skills and awareness
  2. Networks within the industry and the company to gain important perspectives and knowledge to make decisions

My desire is to make a real contribution to the narrative on how leaders can truly impact the lives of those around them and live an intentional life…an integrated life. This post completes this series on “Coaching to Core Ideals”.  I thank all of you who have stayed with me on my sporadic writing journey on this subject. The funny part about writing this post is that I have made a significant breakthrough for myself. I have been writing poetry and capturing ideas privately for years and have many more things that I want to explore…stay tuned there is more to come!

Leaders in many ways ARE their network. If that is the case then we need to define or distinguish just what a network is and it is often used as a verb. What we now refer to as networking has much to do with the connections and linkages within the domain of computers and Internet exchanges. Have you experienced trying to get your work done when the “network is down”?  Without the proper connections you are powerless and inefficient at best. You rely on your network more than you realize. It’s value becomes dramatically real when it is gone or weak at a time you need it the most in your career and personal life.

Powerful or power-filled networks expand your capacity to take care of personal and business concerns into the future. When we don’t network to create relationships we lack the ability to even find a good plumber or reliable mechanic. Individuals often make very poor decisions about customer acquisition or important career decisions because they lack a solid network of relationship. Success or lack of it in work and life can be a reflection of our ability to network. Quantity is not the answer. The quality of your network has a direct impact on the quality of your life and work!

To make connections that help you learn strategically requires some tacit personal skills in communication and a focused awareness. It doesn’t mean you need to be a polished speaker or social butterfly. It just means you need to be able to connect with people and information in a way that it makes sense to what’s most important to you personally and professionally. Joining the right association, clubs, or attending relevant industry/social events can all be vehicles for accomplishing the construction of a network. There are formal clubs and sponsored networking associations that help people build relationships and get connected. You need to enter those with a clear idea of the “forsake of why” you are building your network. Clarity of purpose and what you value in relationships is more important than eloquent speech.

Networking requires a results orientation…a clear focus on results wanted and objectives for desired outcomes. Social networking has been made possible by using the Internet to connect easily to gain knowledge and perspective from a broader community…very quickly. LinkedIn and Facebook are just two examples… and all of these venues can now be linked together using applications. Now you can network in a very efficient manner and yet this still doesn’t make the “power” point. It makes the connection, but not the construction of how you gain power. Power isn’t money. Its your increased capacity to act upon what you want in your work and/or personal life.

Learning happens when we are in relationship with people and now directly with information. A direct relationship with information is a fairly new phenomenon that has been enhanced with the Internet and access to information. There is also the increased access to lots of misinformation as well. The constructs of power for taking action requires that you must be of help to others in your network. Your network of help can be a valuable asset for you to be able to take care of all the concerns that you have in work and life. Really the key to strategic learning is engaging with others to “be of help” to them. Learning requires a relationship (something or someone).

Strategic learners are more empowered to make the best or most prudent decision.  No one can make the “perfect” call every time and yet decision making is what leaders are paid to do well. Even more important is helping others to make good decisions. Coaching leaders around decision making is foremost about awareness and perspective. You must help a leader explore their own perspective and encourage them to come up with the “real questions” that are being asked. We often are looking for answers when we really should first be looking for the right question. Find the right question and the answer will show up.

Internal or external networking is fundamentally the same. So many individuals struggle to gain good networks within their company. The reasons can be many, but most of the failure resides in the assessment of the risk in doing it, commitment, and practical access to people within the system. It’s hard to network if leaders or people don’t hang out with their organization. Go back to the 4th core value of being Accessible and you can now see how important it is that people within an organization have access to their leaders and each other. You can gain tremendous power in helping your direct reports to maneuver through this landscape.

I decided several years ago to just be open and accessible to others that “show up”. If someone needed help, I worked to help them. It didn’t mean I had to be the person they depended on…I connected them. If you can be a “place” where people can connect to get help you will get help. Try it out and let me know…your network will grow.

Well, this wraps up the posts for Coaching to Core Ideals. I am excited about the next adventures in writing and publishing. As I go forward I have some passions around sales leadership, leading transitions and transformation (especially those associated within business/agriculture), sharing poems, and many other “thought leadership” topics. Email me and make a request for any specific topic that you would like me to engage in as well. Don’t settle go for the IDEAL.

Core Ideals

In my center I live,

From my heart I give,

With my voice I build,

Relationship and meaning,

Speaking into others what could be,

Their very essence an ideal.

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Coaching to Core Ideals – Game Changer: Think Before You Lead

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is a STRATEGIC LEARNER.

  1. Thinking their business “ahead” of the game and also their own skills and awareness
  2. Networks within the industry and the company to gain important perspectives and knowledge to make decisions

Indeed some leaders start out early in their career open and excited to learn and then over time they become stale and set in their ways. Being a game changer is not easy for even the very best leaders. It can be a very challenging thing in business environments to get people to be proactive in skill development. You can make requests as a leader and if those you depend upon to implement don’t understand the “why”… it is important they will resist changing. 

My first leadership coach instilled in me the value of being aware of my thoughts and being a game changer. He would constantly challenge my perspectives and story about what was important and were my interpretations of what was going on around me correct. Out of this learning I began to be less “certain” about my own “certainty”. In other words, I hold onto to my truth and assertions with a softer grip…and even more so as I age, mature, and grow as an adult learner.

Thinking ahead is using the past wisdom to create a future with the new knowledge and understanding acquired in the present moment. As you may have ascertained by now my posts are not about grabbing ideas from popular books or catchy themes, but rather putting meat on the bone of coaching and being coached as a leader. Your skills, your growth, and your awareness of your perspective have a direct impact on the success of business results. Learner and Leader are synonymous.

A leader brings perspective that helps make the vision become reality through business results.  Business success today has everything to do with what took place much earlier in the lifecycle of planning and working. My experience in a hyper growth sales environment taught me the critical value of sound strategy…backed by a passionate vision for the future. When things are moving quickly you need a compass guide. I learned very quickly that while the team I was responsible for focused on implementing against our current plan; it was my job to keep the agreed upon business objectives and progress in perspective of the longer view. That’s what a leader must do consistently.

Thinking “the business” ahead is about leading change AND casting a vision that not only stretches those you are leading, but you as well.  You must coach leaders to be out in front of their constituents “cutting brush” for the next path. Scouting “new ground” so-to-speak is where many organizations fail to transition their leaders and they remain stuck in a reactive mode. Reactive mode is really about being stuck as a learner or not being a learning organization. How an organization approaches  learning and training indicates the strength and potency of their vision.

In order to think the business ahead you must value the time and space to actually ponder, plan, assess, and learn. It goes against our very nature to stop and think things through rather than just jumping in the pool only to find out later we forgot to fill it with water first. Abraham Lincoln said, “If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree I would spend 6 hours sharpening my saw”. Everyone gets the logic in this, BUT it is easier to espouse than to actually put into action. Especially when you are seeing the future that others just can’t or don’t want to admit to be true. We bank on wishes instead of intentions for our future…and therein lies the dilemma of trust.

Trust in leaving the immediate and critical objectives of the present moment in the hands of well skilled “others”… IS the definition of delegation.  Yet if I didn’t take the time to build the skills needed I feel challenged to delegate. “You are going to have to serve somebody”, as Bob Dylan’s lyrics proclaim. Either you react or pro-act.  Changing ahead of time requires a strong sense of trust in your own ability to make good grounded decisions and speculate based on what you learn. Your ability to learn and think ahead of the game is a competitive advantage and a cultural tenet for great businesses and organizations. Once you get this rolling it is leadership euphoria.

Knowing when the next business chapter and transition is going to be arriving and preparing for it requires a learner’s mind. I coach leader’s to grow the skills they need tomorrow right now today. Because tomorrow never comes, when it arrives it IS today. So much of what we think is important just isn’t so. It’s not…wake up and be honest with yourself. You have no right as a leader to squander the gifts and talents you’ve been entrusted with let alone the people (and their families) that depend on you.

In summary, your ability to think the business and your skills ahead is in direct relationship with you understanding what you are committed to being for your organization. I can’t tell you how many organizations know that training and development is key to the future success of their people and organization’s results. Even when budget is not the issue, taking the “6 hours” needed to sharpen the saw is devalued. Leaders will feign dedication and let their organization off the hook. It is never just about money. It is about building into yourself and others the necessary skills need to make your future happen the way you want it to. Think about the story of Noah in the old testament. No better metaphor for listening to the future and taking care of it before it arrived.

I think this poem I’ve written some years back may speak to the essence of this core value for leaders.

Thoughts on Growth

By Mark Uhlenberg

 Growth…it hurts to grow.  Growing pains…they say.

The pain of growth comes with so much stress and strain.  We resist.

Even so, like the strongest of steel your own metal is tempered.

The very metal of your own soul and being,

The emergent you is refined and the unnecessary left behind.

Now here you come! Into the core of your life,

Cutting cleaner, sharper, and more decisively through all the chaos of transformation.

You become a transformer and not a resistor…a true “being”,

Able to change, maneuver, and create peace through the myriad of choices.

You are leaving a good, strong, and well-marked path.

Your journey through life now illuminated,

And all that seek you can find you at the “cutting edge” of your life breaking into a clearing.

You are a clearing created and now prepared for all those who follow.

A voice of clarity, expectation, and generosity of spirit that brings wholeness,

An open clearing of choice… a heart born voice…

Good ground for those that are wanting and willing.

Solid ground and space for slumbering and restless souls who need a gift.

It is in this clearing where the pain of growth gives way to anticipation!

No longer asleep. No longer restless.

Now awake, alive, transforming, and transformed!

Growth is you. Embraced and created, as you will.

 © The Heartwood Group, LLC 2011

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