Thursday, April 30, 2015

April: Book Review

My morning ritual is sacred to me. 

Ever since I can remember, I have always been drawn to the morning and I have never really thought about it much. Something about getting up with a routine that makes the morning go smoothly and the rest of the day fall in place. Unfortunately, I am in no way a “morning person.” Not even close. My bed is pretty much my best friend and he tells me that mostly every night. So, what do you do when you wish you were a morning person, like the idea of a thoughtful, paced morning, but struggle to make it work? Well, if you are me, you pick up a new book.

While I was scanning the other day, I came across The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Usually, anything with the word “miracle” in it when it comes to advertising immediately throws up my skeptical face, but I read a few of the excerpts and really liked the approach. In fact, one chapter caught my eye in particular as it relates to LeaderShape and my work. The chapter is titled “Why did you wake up this morning?” What an interesting question, huh? I have seen lots of self-help books and programs that connect questions to your frame of mind, but in all that time, I have never come across that question, “Why did you wake up this morning?” I could have been a smart-ass and said because my alarm went off, but I really thought about it. What is the reason for me being in the world? What is the purpose I am going to pursue? What am I truly looking forward to today? All of these questions came to me as I was reading the very short and useful book. 

Made me think of a number of questions which then made me smile. Maybe the purpose of our mornings can be to ask good questions that get us focused on the work to do that day or the difference I want to make in the world. The ability to focus the start of the day with some space to get clear about our purpose, spend time with your inner most thoughts, and connect to the larger picture of your life. Great stuff to be wrapping our heads around in the morning. There are so many of these books around, but never forget that inspiration and motivation is some times like throwing velcro darts up against a wall…you never know when one of them will actually stick. 

Maybe that is why I do love the idea of mornings. Of course, after a cup of coffee. Let’s be real. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Partnerships and Milestones

Each year it’s exciting to take a look at the milestones of our organizational and campus-based Institute sessions. These milestones are important to us because one of the things they represent is our on-going partnerships with institutions that are also committed to making our campuses, organizations, communities, and world the best that they can be.

We are serious about the partnerships we build. This work, the work of creating a just, caring, and thriving world, is work we cannot do alone. It is work that our partners, board members, participants, facilitators, and other community members cannot do alone. But we can make an impact together. Together we create positive change.

Although we recognized our milestone partners at Program Coordinator training in October, many will have their actual milestone session over the summer. If you catch any posts or tweets from them, share our appreciation by offering them an encouragement or message of congratulations. Because we are all in this together.

Cheers to all of our 85 campus and organization partners and to those planning and participating in the 99 sessions that will occur in 2015! And a very special tip of the hat to those who are celebrating a milestone this year.

5 years
Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values
James Graham Brown Foundation
University of California-Berkeley
University of Iowa
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
University of North Texas
University of Tennessee-Knoxville
University of Texas-San Antonio

10 years
George Mason University
University of Texas-Pan American

15 years
University of North Carolina-Charlotte

20 years
Michigan Technological University
University of Georgia

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.