Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#Day7: Distracted

Lately I have found myself to be distracted. Regularly and truly distracted. This distraction has hindered my ability to gain traction on the things I want to accomplish. And then I’m unsatisfied with my progress (or lack-there-of). And then I find my mind drifting to “all the things I should be doing” when what I really should be doing is paying attention to what is going on in the moment. I’m aware of this distraction and I’ve allowed my attention to be split when it shouldn’t be (like in a meeting or when a colleague pops in my office). I think to myself, “If I just do this one thing right now, then I’ll be able to pay attention.” But that isn’t really true.  

I don’t like being distracted. I don’t like how the distraction exacerbates the feeling that, because I’m not focusing on people and projects in the best way that I can, I am failing. It’s time to get off the distracted and failing track. Here’s what I’m thinking…

How I Want To Be
For me, being thoughtful about what I want to do and recognizing how it connects to the “bigger picture” (like the goals and mission of LeaderShape and the goals of my life beyond work) always energizes me. Once I have (re-)established that connection, organizing my work also brings about an enormous amount of satisfaction and focus. So how do I want to be right now? I want to be connected, clear-minded, and ready to take meaningful action.

How I’ll Get There
One of the reasons my mind is all over the place right now is because I haven’t spent time thinking. To think, I need to slow down for a minute but how can I do that when I am distracted by all of the things that I should be doing right now?? Do you see what happens there? So I am taking time to think, pushing the urge to “just do something” away.

You might be like me and love a good list.  I love a good list so much that sometimes I jump right into making one without – you guessed it – thinking. After my thinking time, then I get my list-making time. Until then, I put down the pen (right after this blog post J).  Think, then write.

As much as I love a list, it isn’t worth the paper it is written on if it isn’t organized in a manner that sets priorities, next steps, etc. I’m going back to some of David Allen’s Getting Things Done techniques that have worked for me in the past. My copy of Allen’s book is sitting on my desk and ready for review. I’m feeling good about this as a first step to organizing my work and goals. (But not before I spend time thinking!)

Let It Go
Oh, Elsa, how your famous three words are burned in my brain. But you know what? There are some things that I can let go. There are the tangible things, the “to-dos” that I can let go of until later. This will allow space for higher priority goals.

Then there is the mental mess that comes from criticizing myself for not having the level of focus that I want, need, think I should have, etc., etc., etc. By letting that go, I also let go of another distraction. I’m already feeling relief as some of the distraction lets go of me as I write this post.

#Day7 means a lot of things to a lot of people and it can change over time. It is about keeping the lessons of LeaderShape alive, staying in action, continuing to grow into the person you want to be, embracing possibility, living with integrity, working to create a just, caring, and thriving world, and more. Currently my #Day7 is about staying in action to do good work. To do this, what I need right now is to lessen the distractions and incorporate ways in which I can actually get to the good work.

What about you? Do you ever find yourself caught up in being distracted? What does #Day7 look like for you right now? Tell us in the comments section. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I'm on a Conference Call

The staff at LeaderShape spends a lot of time on conference calls. These calls are a great opportunity for us to build relationships and to prepare for upcoming LeaderShape programs. For some, these calls can feel awkward. And sometimes conference calls are easy targets for jokes. Take this video for example. It is a pretty hilarious take on how challenging a conference call can be.

And still, conference calls can be an advantage to us! They help us connect with each other live and in real-time. We are able to tackle issues in the moment (no waiting on an email chain to reach everyone) and we have a better chance of understanding one another (just hearing the inflection in another’s voice can provide clarity of tone).

So how can we make this sometimes-awkward experience as meaningful and productive as possible?  Here are some practices that we have found contribute to being an outstanding conference call participant.

If you have documents that support the agenda and goals of the call, review them in advance and have them accessible during the call. Not only can this help you to be a positive contributor to the call, it shows respect to the person who has coordinated the call.

It’s also important to think of your own role and responsibilities for the call. Are you a contributor to the call? Are you there to listen and learn? What do you need to think about and do to be ready to participate? 

As soon as you dial in, be ready to attend to what is being said on the phone. This includes the automated greeting and instructions given, should you be using a conference call service. The prompts given before you enter the meeting often contain helpful information, such as how to mute and un-mute your line.

In the video we posted above, there are environmental sounds that become distractions on the call. Do your best to find a space that allows you and everyone else on the call to focus on the discussion, not the barista. If you do find yourself in a place where noise distraction is unavoidable, consider letting folks know up front. If you have to manage the noise, do so quickly and use that mute function.

It’s easy to multi-task while on a conference call. After all, the world loves to multitask in general and, in this situation, no one can actually see what you are you doing. There is a downside to multi-tasking though - and that is having your attention split. By focusing on just one thing, the conference call, you can learn more and you can participate in a meaningful way. It also shows that you respect the people involved in the conversation and are invested in the topic being discussed on the call.

Let’s not contribute to the kind of conference call that was depicted in that video. Instead, let us engage in these calls in such a manner that we are doing good work. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Book Review: Community

Wow, what a month.

March was a blur. Not because of the nasty weather – ok, a little bit because of that – but of all the traveling, activities, and events that occurred in my life. From Tampa, to Chicago, to Arizona, to New Orleans, and back to Champaign, there were many nights when I didn’t know where I was when I woke up (no wise cracks).

Anyway, in the middle of it all, we held the Co-Lead Facilitator Retreat for the Institute program. What an amazing, talented, and challenging group we have the privilege to work with. I have never used the phrase “herding cats” before until I started with working with this crew. They give so much to the program and we try hard to provide them with an experience each spring to help them improve their abilities to deliver the curriculum and be present while doing so. 

In preparing for the retreat, I re-read a classic on my shelf, Peter Block’s “Community" because we were focusing on how to infuse the concept of community throughout the six days of the Institute. Simple task on the surface, but not so easy in practice. Block speaks about community in ways that I hadn’t thought about previously and one simple quote hit me and the staff hard - “How are we going to be when we gather together?” Such a simple question and yet amazingly profound. 

How many times have you asked that question before a meeting, before joining a team or organization, before choosing your friends? See what I’m getting at? Being intentional about how we enter community, how we enter the lives of others when we are the outsiders, how we create a space that can be safe and challenging at the same time. How we learn from each other. 

We started some hard and worthy conversations at the retreat, but didn’t get to finish them. Do we ever really finish those conversations that matter? The ones that have a huge impact on the our lives and the world? My thought is no. Once we think we have it all figured out, be careful. Being open to community, being a member of community, is not easy. It is very hard at times. My good friends in fraternity and sorority work are dealing with these questions about community now. Our colleagues who do business in Indiana and other states where threats to our community exist or could exist are dealing with these questions. 

They never escape us. We never solve them. That is the beauty of them. The work. 

I encourage you to pick up Block’s book, read it, think about it, and have a conversation about it with the communities you find yourself connected to. Stay engaged. Stay together. Make time to argue. Make time to be messy. Build a community that includes everyone and lives in possibility. 



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Making an Impact, Not Just an Impression

While at ACPA, we had the chance to catch up with Taylor Phoumivong, 2012 LeaderShape graduate. After hearing about his LeaderShape experience and the start of his graduate work, we wanted to share his story with the rest of our community. 

“Lead with integrity. Disregard the impossible.” Who would have ever guessed that after three summers, these words would still be guiding principles that drive the work that I have the pleasure of doing each and every day? I am product of the Summer 2012 ATO/DG LeaderShape session held at Camp Sumatanga in Gallant, AL. When I left the state of Arkansas that summer with an open mind and stomach full of nerves, I wondered what this program would offer me that others before it did not.  

After attending the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Annual Convention in Tampa, FL this past month I realized how much of an impact the LeaderShape program has made on me over the past few years since I left the hallowed camp grounds of Camp Sumatanga. It is the connections that were made during team building activities, the very vulnerable state of emotions that were brought out through critical cluster group conversations that I remember so vividly three summers ago. This program is a true testament to challenging students to think outside of themselves and really figuring out what it means to lead in a way that aligns with the values and beliefs that each person holds within oneself. 

After LeaderShape I began to think about my role in creating positive change in the world. Who do I want to become as a professional? What jobs are out there that align with how I want to help people in the future? What job would challenge me in a way that would continue to shape me and motivate me to become a better person than who I was the previous day? 

I currently serve as a graduate assistant in the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and am pursuing a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. I believe that this path was heavily impacted by the people, the brothers, and the mentorship that I was able to gain through my involvement in LeaderShape. The idea of leading with integrity is something that I strive to do in my everyday interactions with my peers, students, and coworkers. I realize the amount of work that needs and has to be done in the world of Fraternity & Sorority Life and have dedicated myself to become a catalyst for the elevation of Greek Life on our college campuses across the nation. 

In short to those reading this, I challenge you to make an impact not just an impression. How will you impact someone today? 

Taylor Phoumivong is a 2014 graduate of Arkansas Tech University. He is now at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, pursuing a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. His interest areas within student affairs includes Greek Life, Orientation, and Multicultural Affairs. His ultimate career goals include creating more opportunities for access to higher education and working towards the development of Asian American and Pacific Islander students on college campuses. He currently holds membership with the Association of Fraternity & Sorority Advisors (AFA), National Orientation Directors Association (NODA), and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) where he is one of the Coordinators for the ACPA Ambassadors program (under the Standing Committee for Graduate Students & New Professionals).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Imagine a World Where…

Earlier this month we partnered with ACPA on a project for their national convention in Tampa, FL. In the marketplace of the convention we set up a booth and invited people to reflect on and respond to this statement: “Imagine a World Where…”.

And this is what happened.

At the Institute we talk about "embracing a healthy disregard for the impossible." The responses to this prompt truly brought this idea to life. Each person who contributed can see potential in the world. Our campuses, communities, and countries can be better when we embrace the possibility that contributing to the causes and people we care about will indeed create the world we imagine. And through the variety of lenses and experiences that others in our community give voice to, we become open to possibilities that we didn't even consider individually. 

Our challenge to the LeaderShape community is to remember each day how we want to see the world. To make decisions that support the creation of the world we imagine. This is how we build a just, caring, and thriving world.

To our friends who weren’t able to join us at ACPA… what is your response to this prompt? How are you helping to create that world? Tell us in the comment section.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

#Day7 Inspiration

Keeping the spirit of the Institute alive and continuing the work that was started during those six days can be both exhilarating and demanding. There are times when we need a little inspiration to keep going! Check out the seven quotes that we selected with the hope that they will be something you can come back to whenever you need an extra push to keep going. Because we need you to keep going! To keep living with integrity, to keep believing in possibility, and to continue making a difference in our communities and in the world.

Live with integrity, respect the rights of other people, and follow your own bliss.
Nathaniel Branden

There is no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you are meant to be.
Oprah Winfrey

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we much step up the stairs.
Vance Havner

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
Anne Frank

Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.
Paulo Coelho

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.
Lin Yutang

In response to those who say stop dreaming and face reality, I saw keep dreaming and make reality. 
Kristian Kan

And did you know that each day LeaderShape sends out a quote through the Daily Inspiration? If inspiration through quotes is your thing, you can subscribe here!