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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dilbert Part Deux

The mockery of inventories like Strengths-Finder, MBTI, DISC, etc continues on Dilbert today. I am laughing along with them!

Monday, February 26, 2018

With Friends Like These...

Thanks to those who have checked things out here at KS Leadership Development...

I received some nice encouragement from a few folks... 

AND a nifty little email from a client (you know who you are) that I think needs to be shared with everyone. He passed along today's Dilbert comic:

I can handle it! I laugh along with the rest of you. And will persevere and endure the mockery nobly. Have a good great week! 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eternal English major to describe my Top Five. To summarize, I could easily say:

  • Activator. I am always reading more than one book at a time; it ALL seems important and urgent to me! I can't wait patiently to finish one before starting another one.
  • Strategic. I select what I am reading according to what I am working and noodling on, and have a running list on Trello of all the books I want to read this year.
  • Maximizer. I will not finish a book if it doesn't grab me relatively quickly. Too many other books out there.
  • Individualization. I will often select a book because of one particular friend or client I have in mind. To read it may help me understand them more and customize my approach. (I also have Learner in my Top Ten.)
  • Input. On top of the multiple books I'm "activating" on, should I mention the three magazines (one of which is the New Yorker) I subscribe to and the 35 podcasts I try to follow?
Phew. All that to say, I love to read. I love information. I love, love, love to process and reflect and test drive whatever I'm learning from it all.

Despite the broad swath I try to cut in my reading, there is one author above all who has stirred the pot the most in the last few years. His name is Richard Rohr. My little googling, Input heart could send you onto many different websites to learn more about him, but perhaps the best place is to start here. I have learned more about contemplation, mindfulness, peace, joy, mystery, and unconditional love from his writings than anywhere else.

I reference Rohr often during my presentations, coaching, and consulting because my work focuses on the "soft skills" in the workplace: the harder to define stuff that we actually rely on more than any technical skills we bring. So much struggle at work involves interpersonal dynamics with colleagues, supervisors, direct reports, and clients. And the workplace often has very little to offer in terms of addressing those tricky tensions.

This is where Rohr comes in for me. He reminds us that "information is not transformation." In other words, we have to be willing to reflect, struggle, and become self-aware about what we bring to the table in every encounter. 

I love seeing faces light up whenever I say this with clients. Then they often ask me, "What is the first book by Rohr that you would recommend?" and right away I say, Falling Upward. Right away in the Introduction he describes the book's focus:
There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The first task is to build a strong "container" or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. 
I enjoy inviting clients (heck, EVERYONE) to see the struggles and joys in our lives as opportunities to fill our containers. Doing such personal work is often difficult, and in the midst of so many other demands intruding on our attention and time, easy to neglect. However, if we do not press in to this process, we remain immature and unfulfilled. Plain and simple.

This brings me to the subtitle of this blog. It comes from this longer quote in the Introduction:
If you are still in the first half of your life, chronologically or spiritually, I would hope that this book will offer you some good guidance, warnings, limits, permissions, and lots of possibilities. If you are in the second half of life already, I hope that this book will at least assure you that you are not crazy -- and also give you some hearty bread for your whole journey.
My desire is to create space for people and for work environments to allow for personal growth and development. I also firmly believe you cannot lead anyone until you lead yourself, so it is imperative for leaders, managers, and executives to cultivate emotional intelligence.

It is bad news for some that there are no shortcuts in this journey. My hope is that I might be a source of encouragement along the way, and I seek to provide that sustenance, at least in part, in this space. May we press in together.

Books, Balconies, Best Practices

I came across these useful resources last spring and thought they were worth reposting. Contact me at if you have comments or questions. Enjoy.

8 Ways to Read a Lot More Books This Year While it would be stretching the truth to pretend that I have not posted in 4 months because I've been too busy reading books, I will say that this article got me motivated to get more strategic in my plans to read. I've read four books so far in 2018 and am currently working through two other books. I won't ask for a show of hands for those whose ambitions to read outpace their actual accomplishments in this regard (guilty as charged!) but I did find that applying even a couple of pointers from this article was helpful... and I'll add another one he didn't mention: seek out friends who are equally motivated to read and keep each other posted on how things are going. Sure, this can get weirdly competitive if you're not careful, but so far I find myself motivated by my friends who tell me about what they're reading, and I do the same. Let's do this and prevent our brains from turning into mush!

(PS Those books I have read so far have been The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut, Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Gen Z by Barna Research Group, and Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch ... which took me over a year to read.)

How to Establish a Meeting-Free Day Each Week Maybe your work life is like mine: a strange balance of focused deskwork, endless (ENDLESS) emails, and face-to-face meetings. The emails are always screaming at me, the meetings come and go, but I sometimes stumble in really carving out that ever-elusive "balcony time" for big-picture, strategic thinking. This article helps jump start that process if you feel stuck.

5 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking All the Time I also heard this guy interviewed on this topic, and I liked the simplicity and clarity of his approach. Leadership is not always about leading the charge -- often it's the mundane but utterly necessary task of getting everyone on the same page and working together. To be a good leader is to be a good listener... These questions help to take the conversation in that regard.

6 Things Every Mentor Should Do Last numbered list for today, I promise! One of my main gigs is directing intern programs. I have had interns since 1986 (gulp!) and have formally run intern programs since the mid-nineties. In all of that time, one thing has become very clear for me: the internship experience is only as good as the excellence of the MENTOR who trains the intern. All too often I have had supervisors who treat their interns as indentured servants, or merely want them around to observe rather than actually do anything. Though a little simplistic, this article helps clarify priorities and puts the responsibility where it should be. I plan on using this to set expectations with my next round of intern mentors.

Final thoughts...
I'm slowly working through a book of quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr as a way to maintain a long-term vision for justice and healing of the deep divisions in our world. This quote really hit me the other day:

“The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.” 

(Martin Luther King, Jr)

KS Work Hacks, Feb 2018

When I run into old friends and colleagues and they ask me what I'm up to, I try to summarize it briefly in two words: "Leadership Development." But what does this look like? Meeting with executives to help them map out their management and leadership more strategically; training younger employees in how to lead teams; partnering with companies in creating smarter structures internally...

I could not have predicted this new trajectory of work, but I'm loving it! In the midst of it all, I am working hard to maintain a bank of useful (as opposed to #wasteoftime or #totallyobvious) articles that touch on many of the topics that come up in my client conversations.

So here are a few articles from that treasure trove. Hope you find one or two useful! If you want to share any feedback or ask follow-up questions, email me at Ciao for now.

These To-Do List Methods Will Help You Finally Get OrganizedI got this article from Fast Company magazine and honestly, I should list that as a separate hack! I find this magazine engaging, readable and a great way to keep up on cultural, technological and professional trends (though I'll admit I sometimes don't even understand what they're talking about!) There are not one but NINE different to-do list methods given here... c'mon! How can you go wrong? This is one of the main conversations I have with clients: HOW DO I GET EVERYTHING DONE AND STILL HAVE A LIFE?! Check out this list - I'm a fan of #4 and #6, personally.

Stop Letting Email Control Your Work Day. Yep, I could list Harvard Business Review as another magazine hack. And the best shortcut is -- their blogs are actually helpful. As for email, I know, I know... it's a necessary evil in our lives. But let's be honest, I like email better than talking on the phone! So repeat after me: "Email is not evil... Email is my friend." This article breaks it down and helps you get the power back. This sentence says it all: "Clearly, we need to learn to make email work for us and re-frame it as a tool for executing on our priorities."

How to Work from Home When You Have Kids. I work from home and have done so for many years... before it was cool, even. BUT I only have two needy cats, not children! I often encourage clients to look into creating some space at home for concentrated "head down" work, where they won't get interrupted by colleagues popping in or ever-present requests to come to yet another meeting, and many have found it helpful. HOWEVER, if you have children, this requires some strategy. Hope this article provides some pointers.

21st Century Fundraising Realities. Many of my clients are in the non-profit world, where I have spent the bulk of my career. This one's for you ! But to quote Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changing. As this article states, "Donors appear to want to be more directly involved and many gravitate to smaller groups where it might seem like their dollar goes further." This article highlights many of the new trends in fundraising. Have no fear, there is hope.

How to Manage Someone Who Thinks Everything is Urgent. Hey, I feel your pain. I had a client years ago who described her boss as a "hair-on-fire" sort of leader. She dreaded his emails, texts and meetings. If you have to work with someone like this, there are some good ideas here to help you cope.

Not Good Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. I totally dig this article! It's written by Susan Cain, who gained some fame in writing a book last year titled "Quiet" about being an introvert. As someone who has spent nearly her entire life trying to understand what "leadership" is all about, from running senior prom to running a private school to training seventy adult volunteers to training interns, I never plumb the depths of all there is to learn about leadership. This article names a very important aspect of leadership: followership! Not only does Cain provide some valuable insights regarding the ways we are all gifted differently, but she also shines a light on our celebrity-obsessed, power-worshipping culture. Don't skip it.

Strengths Finder Frequency. There's a good chance if I've had you as a client that I've talked about Strengths Finder with you. It never fails to provide excellent information on how you work and how others might get things done. This is a fun and useful chart that describes the overall frequency of each of the strengths among the millions who have taken the Strengths Finder assessment. Let me know if you want me to "translate" this chart. Enjoy!

I'll end with this: I read Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr last fall. It's a fantastic and humbling collection of his sermons. This quote stops me cold:

Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness
to a night already devoid of stars.


Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eter...