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.

The funny thing about feedback

It is better to be criticized by a wise man than praised by a fool (Ecclesiastes 7:5). Do you believe this to be true? There are people who operate as if only a fool would criticize them. Conversely, they believe that all praise is wise.

This week I was blessed by the departure of such an individual. During his end-of-year performance evaluation session he began objecting before I provided any feedback. His poor attitude has been poison in our small organization. He has been argumentative in team meetings, raising a litany of excuses and bemoaning the difficulties of job challenges without offering constructive input to make things better. He befriended another individual and the two of them spent a lot of time complaining and bolstering each other’s arguments about the unfairness of their current situation.

As individuals and as an organization, we are under construction. If we remain stagnant it is to our detriment. We will not withstand the storms of tomorrow unless we study our current strengths and weaknesses, understand the challenges and adapt accordingly.

In my leadership role, if I see a member of the team that is undermining the strength of the organization it is my responsibility to address the situation. After carefully considering the options I must approach the individual(s) and provide feedback and suggestions for changes that will help the individual and the organization.

No matter how carefully I frame the feedback, it is up the individual to receive and digest the information provided and to choose how to respond. In the case of my recent experience, the person in question, after being pressed through the “it’s not fair” portion of his reasoning, chose to leave the organization.

By nature we are prone to reactions of fight or flight. It takes a higher level of maturity to adapt and evolve rather than just try to survive intact. In our walk of faith, in our careers and in our personal relationships it is up to us to choose the path we will walk. I pray we are all seeking words of wisdom and choosing to grow and evolve rather than to cling to a stagnant version of ourselves.

Are you able to embrace feedback? What have been the most effective ways that feedback has been provided to you?

Celebrating Life

This past year was awesome. There were many highs and many lows, but the highs were all higher than the lows. I’ve been through the dark valley before so I know how important it is to appreciate time spent on the mountaintop.

Today has been a day that marks a few personal accomplishments:
I’m celebrating life – I turn 45 today.
I’m celebrating my career – from stenographer to engineer to development manager to line director and now author. Today I crossed the 50,000 word target for #NaNoWriMo and I’m still going. Finishing my first novel is a major milestone. Additionally, Guidepost magazine is publishing my 2nd story (March issue). Today the editor called to clarify a few items. I’ll soon be receiving the final draft for my approval. Today I lift a glass to the good Lord who guides me, my loving shepherd.
I’m celebrating family – Thanksgiving is less than a week away. I’m praying that the entire clan will be together for Thanksgiving…for the first time since (I’d have marked the calendar if I’d realized it was going to be the last time) maybe 2003.
But I’m also humbled and reminded to be grateful for all that I have and to take none of it for granted. Twitter and the World of Blogcraft have been alive with prayers for a woman I’ve never met, Anissa Mayhew. There are a lot of people that I respect who have written posts or Tweets that have pulled at my heart and called me into the powerful circle of prayer in the on-line community. Anissa’s life has been filled with valleys and mountains. She’s proven to be strong and faithful (based on all that I’ve read I firmly believe this to be true). She and her family need our prayers. I gladly lift up my prayers and ask that you join in.
God, Please show Your strength, Your mercy and Your grace. Bless this woman again, as You’ve so richly blessed her during previous trials. Be with her. Be with her family. Infuse her with Your Spirit. Only You can help her recover from the strokes that threaten her. Through Your steadfast faithfulness I trust You to show us Your power & might. All glory is Yours. Amen.

Monday Madness – perspective

Sometimes life is all about perspective. Glasses that are half full are also half empty. Joy is a choice we make. A gift of grace available to each of us, but a gift that must be accepted. Because joy is a matter of perspective.

A few weeks ago I signed up for the National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo) experience. I can tell you a million reasons why I don’t have time for this. I can fill my heart with fear and self-recriminations. Or I can choose joy and hope, faithful that if it’s God’s will, then it will happen and confident that if it’s not – it doesn’t matter.

I will remind myself daily to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

By stepping out in faith and free-falling into the unknown I have to trust Him. I will embrace Paul’s prayer to the Romans “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(Romans 15:13)

Meanwhile, this week feels like my last week of freedom.

A Mother’s Angst

All it is is my perspective.

Mother n – something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.

Angst n – a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.

Vent v – to relieve by giving expression to something.

Usually I save my venting for my prayers. God hears me and I trust Him. My children and my grandchildren are His. Yesterday I was called to share some thoughts that someone, somewhere needed to hear. Maybe it was you. Maybe it was me.

We are blessed and adopted children of God. Sometimes our trust is tested – how else can we demonstrate obedience? In faith, we must do what we are called to do.

Peace,