My 3 words and the goals that go with them

This year I was introduced to the concept of identifying 3 words to be the focus and guide for personal goals and development, rather than going through the exercise of creating resolutions that might fall to the wayside before the end of January. I wrote about how I came to my 3 words here.

For 2011, my words are: Prudence, Mercy, Humility

Prudence = the characteristic of exercising sound judgment in practical affairs; act justly.

Mercy = a disposition to be kind and forgiving; compassionate treatment of others; a blessing

Humility = the quality of being modest, reverential, never rude or self-abasing; temperance (restraint against inordinate desires or appetites).

As January nears its end I’m pleasantly surprised to realize these 3 words continue to resonate for me. But the real trick is to define SMART goals that support these words. SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. I’m sharing my goals here as an example and as a way to hold myself accountable.

  1. Exercise 4 hours per week
  2. Write a minimum of 4 blog posts per week (one each: Here, Here, Here &  Here)
  3. Read one leadership book per month, write a one-page summary for reference and share the content/learnings with my staff
  4. Save $5/week from my lunch allowance to give away in unexpected places in December
  5. Read/review one novel per month
I’m not off to a great start but I’m making progress and I’m not giving up.
Have you set goals or made resolutions for 2011? If so, how are you doing so far?

Are you a Coach, a Mentor, a Leader or a Manager?

In the world today, everyone is someone – at a minimum, you are your own boss. I don’t mean in the sense of owning your business; I mean in the sense of how you manage yourself. Whether you like it or not, you are responsible for your own actions. You’re accountable for the decisions you make. How well are you managing yourself? Seth Godin recently wrote a post that suggested the odds are that you’re doing it poorly.

Here’s a summary of the fundamental differences between the roles of coach, mentor, leader and manager:

Coach A person who trains (athletes), tutors (students) or instructs (performers).
Mentor A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. An influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Leader A guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement or political group.
Manager A person who has control or direction of an institution, business, organization. A person who controls and manipulates resources & expenses.

The differences in practice can be subtle:

Managers are individuals assigned to a specific role with defined scope, typically paid to fill that role, and responsible for the day-to-day operations and expenditures of that organization. Not all managers are effective leaders. Ideally, managers are accountable for the decisions they make.

A leader in an organization can be identified as the person that everyone tends to follow. This may not be an organizational (assigned) leader. A friend of mine worked for a local school district. She told me about a teacher that all of the other teachers’ turned to during difficult discussions. The teacher always provided sound input and her guidance was typically followed. Then the school district “put her in charge” (i.e. made her a manager) and she turned into a hated dictator. The school district quickly returned the teacher to her previous role. Had they taken the time to invest in her leadership skills they might have enjoyed a different outcome.

Leaders are not necessarily accountable (if they are not also the “manager” for the organization); a series of bad decisions or a change in conditions might cause a leader to fall out of favor or get left behind by an evolving organization.

A mentor is also a go-to person. This is an individual whose experiences and reputation make them a great source of advice. They’ve learned from their own mistakes & successes, as well as from others and they’re able to distill those learnings into practice and useful advice. Wisdom, a key attribute of a good mentor, can best be judged in hindsight. Does an individual’s decisions (and advice) generally turn out well? That track record builds a person’s reputation as a wise and trusted counselor and grows his or her sphere of influence.

The advice and opinions offered by a mentor are generally of the take-it-or-leave-it variety. A mentor is not likely to be held accountable for the failure of others, although they might credit themselves with another’s success.

A coach has an area of expertise or interest and a particular talent in helping others within that area. Not everyone with expertise has the ability or inclination to coach. You don’t have to be an expert in an area to coach.

A year ago I began a workout routine. Over time I became increasingly more proficient with my Wii-Fit exercise. A friend suggested I begin to run, but I laughed, argued, made excuses and generally avoided running. Soon my friend became my coach. Before I knew it I’d run in my first 5K. She’s not a professional runner, but she has useful experience running in 5K’s and she wanted to see me succeed. She encouraged me. She gave me tips and suggestions. And she cajoled me into finally signing up and participating in a 5K. She effectively coached me, mentored me and led me through the process of defining and meeting a specific goal.

It’s great to have someone in your life that can help you succeed but sometimes that “someone” must be you yourself. I’ve recently come to appreciate the need for me to be that person for myself. As the head of US-based operations for a Taiwanese company I rarely see or hear from my boss and when I do, his input does not typically take the form of constructive feedback, mentoring or coaching. I can choose to be a victim, remaining stuck in old behaviors or I can identify opportunities for my own improvement, set personal goals and develop action plans for bringing about the desired changed. I also have to find ways to measure progress and hold myself accountable.

I am in the process of managing myself: I have the assigned responsibility and accountability for being the best me I can be. That means I have to move from the role of “Engineering Manager” to “Director of Operations”, which carries more than just an increase in responsibilities. I need to define goals for the team and strive to meet those goals in an ever-changing climate. Failure could mean the demise of the organization (i.e. closing shop and handing out pink slips). While that may be an extreme view, it keeps me motivated to outswim the sharks.

I am in the process of leading myself: I am an avid follower of Michael Hyatt, Chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His blog is sub-titled “Intentional Leadership”. He regularly posts tips that are useful for leading, mentoring and coaching oneself and others. I am choosing my path.

I am in the process of mentoring myself: I’m paying attention to the leaders I consider effective, and those I don’t (i.e. “what not to do”). I have a stack of management & leadership books (some I’ve read before, some not) that I’m reading with a fresh eye. As I read I’m thinking about how I interact with others, but also how I interact with myself. I’m identifying a few key areas for improvement and focusing on opportunities for immediate change.

I am in the process of coaching myself: I’m setting goals, defining expectations and deliverables, and most importantly I’m devoting the time needed for these efforts. I’m encouraging myself, cajoling and pushing and striving for continuous improvement.

I am a proponent of intentionally leading myself, how about you? Are you ready to take the initiative and be accountable? Think about these questions:

  • How do you set goals/expectations?
  • How do you measure progress?
  • How do you give yourself feedback?

These are key elements in effectively learning to manage yourself to success.

"Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave…

…when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott

Once I read something that Neil posted on his blog and was flabbergasted…then realized he writes the best fiction I’ve ever found on the Internet. Bless him, he’s good!

Not long ago I was floored again – this time by the horribly immature response of Alice Hoffman to a mixed review of her novel. Not a bad review, just a mixed review. She proceeded to attack the reviewer via Twitter: she posted the reviewer’s e-mail and telephone number and she told “her fans” to contact the reviewer directly. This was a published author behaving quite badly, demonstrating for all how a lack of personal restraint can lead to public embarrassment and subsequent apologies. We’ve seen this sort of behavior from Hollywood denizens for years. Although Alice may wish to be remembered for her noble statements or her novels, she left a legacy with her hasty remarks. In the backlash of public reaction she deleted her Twitter account, but the Internet has memory and Google cache retained the information for some time.

Today I’ve been taken aback again by the drama played out between Nic and the TSA. Although Nic has “darkened” her blog (Update: her blog is up and she’s posted an apology of sorts), her post is still out there. After I watched the TSA video I did a quick Google search and found her post among the many related hits.

I’d love to believe Nic’s story because she tells it with passion and it’s compelling – but the same can be said for Neil’s work of fiction. One big difference – Neil didn’t attack a public entity. Neil didn’t create a campaign. Nic not only posted her rant, but she also posted this item on the “People’s Blog” which includes a link to her post. I found several others who had taken up her cause. Only some had updated with the TSA’s counterclaim. Google is an awesome and scary tool when it comes to research. Nic should know that her full name, home address and phone number turned up in my simple search for her story.

Today Maggie wrote a post expressing her dismay over the situation and some aspects of human behavior. Maggie’s far more eloquent than I – I encourage you to read her thoughts for yourself. If you read this you know I’m way ahead of her, worried on her behalf about the responsibility she’s shouldered in passing on information that may be difficult to verify.
In August, Nic told a story on Violence Unsilenced. Was her story there true? Perhaps Nic struggles with reality, or maybe she’s writing fiction and wants to know that her stories are believable or maybe she just has a flair for the dramatic. Today’s drama casts doubt on her tale, like the boy who cried wolf. Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed. The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth.”
I’m a regular reader of the Violence Unsilenced posts. Because I want my comments on the VU site to be prayerful and meaningful, I take the time to visit (whenever they’re available) the blogs of the victims. I want to understand them better, to appreciate their circumstances. That’s how I found myself torn by Kelly’s recent post on the VU site. Her blog took me to her husband’s blog and between the two of them I pieced together a story of two people who are in a bad place, both culpable. It’s hard for me to identify one person as abuser and one as victim – they seem to share these roles. After spending half their lives together they know where each other’s buttons are and they push them. I am still praying for them – their story has touched my heart.
But Kelly posted her accusations on a well-regarded blog and thereby afforded credibility to her side of the story. But just as we see with Nic and TSA, there are two sides to every story. It’s damaging to yourself and to others if you build up your self-righteous attitude based on the misguided indignation you’ve inspired with your half-truths.
And then there’s the mixed blessing of social media. Another TSA vs. passenger drama happened in June 2007 and was also “outed” with video footage. In that video the TSA comes off less wholesome, yet the TSA still disclosed the full video. 2+ years ago Twitter wasn’t as widely adopted (and blogs weren’t as broadly embraced) and available for the viral spreading of the woman’s claims.
In the end, each of us must decide whether we’re going to walk around (or browse the Internet) believing everything we’re told and taking up the sword for others with moral outrage based purely on their moral outrage …. or believing nothing because the world is filled with liars …. or having to apply ourselves to the arduous task of discerning the truth and deciding what we’re willing to believe based on what we know.
The world is filled with people who tell lies. That is the truth. Nic may have believed what she posted was true but her memories might have been distorted by the anxiety and frustration experienced during her delay. Or maybe she has “issues.” I don’t know Nic, but she created a cloud of doubt and uncertainty that is probably warranted.
“Only simpletons believe everything they’re told!(Proverbs 14:15)
Update: the TSA has now posted additional video footage from multiple angles.
Meanwhile, the blogging firestorm continues.

Rent – too mature for 14?

I joined my son at a birthday party for a 15-year old. His mom bought tickets for him and his friends to go see “Rent-Filmed Live on Broadway”. This is a newly released movie of the broadway production. The movie is rated PG-13, but touches on such mature subjects as homosexuality, AIDS, heroin addiction and other aspects of the bohemian lifestyle of New York City in the 80’s. It seems relatively mature subject matter.

I was the only adult with a group that included one middle-schooler, 4 9th graders and 1 sophomore. I’m much more uptight than I ever dreamed I’d be, but I was surprised that no other parents chose to attend. I met the mother of the birthday boy and I know he had already seen the production live in Houston. The kids were all reasonably mature, and no one seemed shocked or confused by the movie.

What are your thoughts? No biggie? Or should more parents have attended?