Building With Purpose Online Conference

By avoiding difficult conversations, we hurt both the relationship and the potential for long-term leadership. That’s how I felt after my interview with Leah Zimmerman for the Building With Purpose Conference.

Worse than that, there were several “Difficult Conversations” that came to mind. Times I failed, disappointed, and let others down. I’ve learned from them, but it’s been a long and painful road. I want to commit to having those difficult conversations when they need to happen.

 

Building With Purpose

This excerpt is a part of the FREE online conference I’m hosting called Building With Purpose. This course will help you pivot during this time of social distancing and working from home.

For many of us, it’s a new experience. These experts will help you gain clarity and momentum and experience success.

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Registration is completely free and is currently open.

Building With Purpose Online ConferenceIn this conference, we hear from leading experts in:

  • Coaching
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If you’re interested in starting or growing a business or even just wondering how to maximize your time and what to do next, enroll in the free conference.

To follow up, I’m offering all attendees a complimentary session.

To redeem your session, go here.

Difficult Conversations

Leaders model the expected standard (good or bad). Parents do this, and our kids are aware of values based on how we interact and respond to the world around us. This happens in the workplace as well through employee relationships. Church, civic engagements, volunteer work. Each of these places bears the fruit of the relationship.

Unfortunately, relationships also require work. Conflict will happen. Along the way, what we model becomes vital to healthy interaction. As leaders, we need to be willing to have those difficult conversations in healthy ways. Here are three things to help you:

1.) Start From A Place Of “Best Intentions.”

This is probably the hardest for me. In conflict, it’s easy for me to make some assumptions. Mostly, I assume that I’m right. Unfortunately, this is limits the progress we can make. When I think poorly about the other person or their intentions, I am biasing the conversation and protecting myself. If I think that they automatically have it in for me, we will never be able to mend the relationship.

2.) Practice Active Listening.

This builds from the previous point. Just because I may want to think about the best intentions, doesn’t mean I actually listen to what is being shared. This challenges me to stay engaged in the process. Listen, then repeat back what is heard. Sit up straight, lean forward, and focus on the words, emphasis, and tone behind them. How are they trying to communicate what is in my best interest? Doing this gives me more information and builds rapport.

3.) Don’t Let Fear Win.

You know what almost never works out the I imagine it in my head? Life. See also: relationships, change, and 5-year plans. However, I refuse to let that dictate the direction of my life. Those conversations we have in our head also fit here. We have two options: we can let fear dictate what we do. We can shrink back, play it safe, and limit our progress. Or, we can embrace the challenge, rise to the occasion, and push through. Difficult conversations will happen. Those who get what they want (and need) out of those will be those who push through the fear and engage with the other person.

Picture of Lincoln Statue memorial with superimposed text, "Unquestionable Commitment"

Even as a young child, Abraham Lincoln was a person of unquestionable commitment.

As the story goes, he would sit in his parent’s parlor late at night listening to the conversation the adults were having. At the conclusion of the evening, he would go upstairs to his room. Instead of getting going to bed, he would instead pace his bedroom replaying the conversation. It bothered him that there were parts of the conversation he didn’t understand.

So he would replay it in his head. Over and over. Analyzing every detail until it made sense. Finally content, he could go to bed.

That was a skill that would serve him his entire life.

He became a lawyer because he understood the facts of the case better than anyone else, analyzing the details meticulously.

Widely regarded as one of the great orators of all time, he acquired that skill through his commitment to understand and effectively use words.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was no tactician. His peers included highly regarded West Point graduates and brilliant generals of considerable experience. Yet by the end of the Civil War, he was on par with any them when it came to military strategy. In fact, it was his policy that eventually won the war when adopted by Ulysses Grant.

In all matters of importance, Lincoln dedicated himself to study, master, and unquestionable commitment.

Our Own Leadership

Much could be said about this level of commitment to our own leadership. At least one report acknowledges that upwards of 49% of employees are disengaged, while another eighteen percent are “actively disengaged.”

Our people, those we have been called to lead, are showing up work in larger and larger numbers disengaged from the work they have been given.

The trend is troubling.

It needs to change.

Change starts with us.

What does our own leadership journey look like? Are we actively engaged in personal our own growth? Do we display the same level of unquestionable commitment that Lincoln did? Picture of Lincoln Statue memorial with superimposed text, "Unquestionable Commitment"

Lincoln spent time preparing. Whatever the circumstance or situation, he gave it his full attention. He committed himself to personal mastery and improving the outcome.

Change, personally and organizationally, starts in the mind of the leader. Our mindset, the way we approach not just our day but our every task will determine our ultimate outcome in life.

Those that watch us: family, friends, co-workers, direct reports, all will observe our actions and level of engagement and respond accordingly.

When our words and our actions don’t line up, they will always follow our actions.

Part of what we work on in the coaching relationship is showing up fully present. All areas of our lives must be accounted for. This means we pay attention to the following areas of health: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, relational, and financial. When we show up, fully present, fully engaged, and unquestionably committed, we see great things happen.

Three Tips For Leaders

When you’re ready to bring an unquestionable commitment to all aspects of life, it can feel like a daunting task. To help you on that journey, here are things to do today that can start you on that journey.

1.) Eliminate Distraction

One of the greatest wastes of time and energy is mental distraction. Emails. Phone calls. Text message. Phone notifications. We live in a world that prides itself on distraction. Eliminate them. Close your email application. Silence your phone. Turn off notifications. Better yet, put your phone in another room for a full sixty minutes. Give the task at hand 100 percent of your focus. High-achievers always operate by this principle and it’s what allows them to get so much done in so little time.

2.) Focus On Strength.

When interacting with fellow employees or direct reports, focus on their strengths. As Don Clifton revealed in his StrengthsFinder book, the chances of being ‘actively disengaged’ in work drops to 1% when we focus on our strengths. Eliminate distraction. Then, focus on strengths. This is true for your own, and those of your employees. Improve performance and by focusing on strengths.

3.) Expect Mastery

Expecting mastery is different than expecting perfection. We don’t expect perfection. We do expect progress. From ourselves, our employees, and from those we lead. Create a plan for intentional growth. Make it clear and compelling. Then make it inspiring and motivating. Expect to master a subject. In short, you gain unquestionable commitment by practicing unquestionable commitment.

 

Doctor examining patients knee with superimposed text: Addressing Our Pain Points

Part of what life forces us to do is to spend time addressing our pain points. The only question is how long we’re going to wait.

Pain Is A Clue

In our bodies, pain is a clue that something is wrong. Pain in our knee points to a muscular or skeletal problem somewhere. Astute doctors will look not just at the knee, but at the ankle and hip complex as well. They will examine the surrounding joints, ligaments, and muscles. A full diagnostic could reveal that the knee hurts because of a limited range of motion in the ankle.

(This idea often called the joint-by-joint theory).

A few weeks ago, I started to get a pain in my palm. What started out feeling like a bruise soon changed to a hard area and a small bump. I took out some tweezers, pulled back the skin and found a splinter embedded deep in my hand. After a few quick cuts, the splinter was out and my hand felt instantly better. Within a few days, my hand was completely better. Doctor examining patients knee with superimposed text: Addressing Our Pain Points

Pain is a clue that something is wrong.

Understanding Pain

This analogy works in all areas of life. Pain is a clue that something is wrong and we need to spend our time addressing our pain points.

The pain of loneliness, isolation or rejection.

The pain of fear and disappointment.

We all need to address the pain of failure.

The only question is, “Is this going to hurt a lot or a little?”

Eventually, we will be forced to deal with it. Like a painful knee, we might be able to ignore other sources of pain, but it will always have to be addressed.

As the swelling in the knee worsens, so does the pain. We start to use it less. We lose mobility and stability. This makes using the knee more painful, so we try to use it less. Either through medication or a brave trip to the doctor’s office, we will eventually be forced to deal with the pain.

Our lives are all full of painful experiences. Past memories, stories, emotions, and experiences all give us our story. Some are wonderful and joyous. Our wedding, the birth of the children, that long sought after promotion.

Others are more difficult. The divorce, the funeral, the separation, and the unfavorable review.

Addressing Our Pain Points

Addressing our deficiencies is the only way forward. From both personal experience and professional practice I can tell you this with full confidence: the sooner you address a pain point, the less it is going to hurt.

I once spent a year embroiled in a workplace conflict. Well, a sort of conflict. In reality, I spent most of that year running from addressing the pain point. Eventually, it was too late and the relationship was permanently damaged.

It hurt. A lot. Sometimes, it still hurts. I regret the ways in which it soured a potential friendship and broke previous friendship. By the time I got around to addressing my own character deficiencies in the conflict, it was too late and the pain was astronomical.

The next time I was in a workplace conflict, I addressed it right away. I sensed the discord, sought out the person, remedied the problem and reconciled the relationship.

It hurt…but not that much. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Instead, that person and I are still friends. We speak occasionally, think well of each other, and have built up a relationship of mutual respect.

Both hurt. However, one was a small scratch on my journey while the other was a gaping wound.

Eventually, we will all have to deal with our pain points: through counseling, coaching, professional feedback, or numbing the pain with distracting experiences and self-medicating it away. But just like our knee pain, masking the problem with pain doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it lies to us to believe that everything is okay, all the while the damage down to our body and our leadership is deteriorating. 

Conclusion

Pain ultimately cannot be managed, it must be dealt with. It will only be masked for so long before it becomes unmanageable.

May we as leaders resist the urge to deny or numb our pain and instead address it and experience the liberating freedom that follows. Don’t be like my younger self and ignore the pain points in your life. Instead, like a wise doctor, acknowledge that pain is a sign that something is wrong and run a diagnostic test to see once wrong. Once identified, address it, grow from it, and expand your leadership capacity.

Girls running in a field with superimposed text: the importance of play

On our journey to productivity, we must recognize the lighter side of leadership.

The Lighter Side of Leadership

The lighter side of leadership encompasses the play that we need to do as leaders. Unfortunately, this is often something that we forget to do.

Play in children has been shown to, “to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.”

In fact, play is so important to children that it has been declared a basic human right.

However, what we fail to realize is that play is just as necessary, just as vital, and just as beneficial to adults. Somewhere along the way, we forget to play.

Benefits of Play

“Play” as leaders extend the same benefits. Through play, we develop resilience, learn emotional intelligence, group dynamics, and practice grit. Most importantly, as leaders, we discover the benefits of laughing. Laughing lowers blood pressure and pain levels, calms tension, relieves stress, promotes creativity, and aids in the fight against depression. As it turns out, laughter really is the best medicine.

When we as leaders engage in play, both privately and with our teams, we are modeling what holistically healthy leadership looks like. We set the standard that while we take our work seriously, we don’t have to take ourselves seriously.  Girls running in a field with superimposed text: the importance of play

More than that, I’ve also become a firm believer that a team’s ability to play together is one of the easiest tests of true team dynamics and strength. One group was notoriously good at working together … or so they thought. Their meetings were very structured, a lot of agenda items were discussed, and everyone left with a list of tasks to accomplish. 

One day, I suggested that we go out together, as a group, and do something fun. Bowling, laser tag, board games, it didn’t really matter. The point was to do something together as a group that didn’t involve work. What I wanted was this group to play, to experience fun together, to find a lighter side to leadership.

It was rebuffed.

Instantly.

By all of them.

The excuses varied. Some were “too busy.” Some “couldn’t see the point.” The result was the same. This group continued to experience a slow decline in productivity, trust, and goal achievement.

Leaders without play produce leadership without vision.

Bringing in Play

All of the team-consulting activities I bring in involve play. Leadership personality assessments, team-building, corporate revisioning, sales and marketing, all of it requires an element of play. Along the way, we’re going to talk growth strategies and productivity, but not of it happens without play. 

The ability to laugh at ourselves.

To open up and be vulnerable.

A grand discovery that we don’t have all the answers. (One of my personal favorites is team-building from an escape room, if you want to know what that looks like, you can email me here).

In our leadership journey, never forget the importance of play. It keeps us grounded, builds trust with our teammates, and builds the character and grit we need to succeed.

If you want to enjoy a bit of the lighter side of leadership, watch the video below. In this installment of, “The Lighter Side of Leadership” we taste mystery cupcakes and talk about surviving life in quarantine.

Compass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."

The best leaders are always compelled by something greater. Something that is beyond them. Driven by something just out of reach, they are striving for new growth and new opportunities.

Great leaders, in short, are driven by a vision.

Guided By Vision

Vision drives great leaders.

Vision also drives great business. 

It’s popular in the business world to talk about three closely related things: mission, vision, and values.

And while similar, they are distinctly diCompass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."fferent. All are needed and all are necessary. However, they should not be equated to the same thing.

Michael Hyatt, in his book The Vision Driven Leader, makes the following distinction:

“Both mission and vision inform strategy but in different ways. Mission provides day-to-day clarity by defining the identity and scope of the business. Without a clear mission, you can easily drift off target and head into either too many directions, or the wrong direction…A proper Vision Script is…a robust document, written in the present tense, that describes your future reality as if it were today.”

This is a helpful distinction and provides clarity for where we’re headed.

Values – The moral and ethical code the leader or the business operates by. This is integrity in the personal and business sphere. A list of words (usually 5-10) that are non-negotiable.

Mission – The identity of the leader or business, defined by the practice and day-to-day operations. This is usually a sentence or two that provides strategy and action principles for the organizational culture.

Vision – The future destination of the leader or business. A full, robust manuscript that has actualized success and invites the readers into a compelling narrative of what could be as if it has already happened. This is usually much longer, much larger, and much more integrated.

Make It Compelling

Truly great leaders are able to draw people into their vision of the future. Their vision of the future is compelling, motivating, inspiring, and equipping. It guides other people into proper ways of thinking and doing.

Think of a vision board on steroids.

It’s large, comprehensive, and transformative. Vision creates the principles by which the mission is executed and the values are maintained.

A compelling vision removes any doubt about the direction we’re going and as well as irradicating the opportunity for settling or stopping short of the goal.

A vision statement covers all aspects of personhood or business to make sure that nothing is missed or left to chance.

3 Steps For Creating A Compelling Vision

1.) Take the Necessary Time

This is not a quick process. A compelling vision doesn’t happen overnight. It may not even happen in a weekend. It’s an intentional time of focus, reflection, integration, and prospecting.

Creating a compelling vision means carefully crafting words, feelings, and desires into a language that motivates, inspires, and equips.

2.) Suspend Doubt and Judgment

Too often, we are our own worst critics. We want to achieve great things but are plagued by doubt and fear.

Great leaders with a compelling vision have been able to squelch that voice.

Don’t be limited in your imagining of the future. Your current reality or availability does not determine your final destination. In the future vision, you have unlimited resources, ability, people, and technology to meet your goals.

Avoid limiting language and limiting belief. Hold space that all things are possible. Ignore the voice that tells you to play small or live in fear.

3.) Firmly Believe The Best Is Yet To Come

To craft a truly compelling and transforming vision, we must hold firmly to the belief that the best is yet to come. The products we create, the people we help, the influence we have, the legacy we leave. All of that grows and expands over time. Unleashing a force of good, we continually reach new heights, meet new expectations, and bless new people.

We must remain certain that the best is yet to come. We embrace the challenge of leaving the world a better place and know that by fulfilling the vision we are writing we will do so.

Where Are You Going?

Ultimately, the question for everyone is, “Where are you going?” For leaders, this is especially important.

No one drifts towards greatness. If we don’t pursue it intentionally, we will never reach it.

Failure to clearly articulate our desired vision of the future means we will never have it.

If we can’t firmly affix our steps to a larger purpose, we will never have one.