Category: Personal Growth
Do you know how long it took Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Just over four years. Four years. On one project. Wow. Good thing Michelangelo doesn’t live in an era where our average attention span is 8 seconds.
But look at what resulted. One of the most globally recognized paintings in history.
Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel randomly came to mind this weekend as I was reflecting on a project I’ve been working on for about six months now. I needed to remind myself that achieving goals requires PERSISTENCE.
You can’t expect overnight success and immediate results, particularly when you’re aiming for sustainability. Think about campaigns, new programs, or change efforts for example. Right about the time you start to get sick of it, others are just starting to tune in and get curious about it.
So how can we be persistent about the goals we’ve set out to achieve? And, how can we cultivate persistence amongst others when we’re working as part of a larger team?
Keep your eye on the prize. If it’s an extensive project, you’re bound to get lost in the weeds. Pull yourself out from time to time and remind yourself of the larger end goal. Make sure your actions are always strategically directed at that end goal.
Assess the project rationally. Don’t let emotions like frustration and possibly even rejection take over. When we throw in the towel and stomp away, no one wins. Think about what changes you might need to make to your original approach and be willing to make them.
Put yourself in others’ shoes. Think about those less involved in the day-to-day details of the project; maybe even the target audience you’re trying to impact. Meet them where they are and make sure you’re addressing the needs they need fulfilled. You will likely already be three steps ahead, which isn’t always a good thing.
Keep the project team engaged and motivated. You can do this in several ways, such as:
- Break the larger project into smaller chunks so that a “newness” comes with each phase.
- Recognize and celebrate milestones at various points along the way.
- Take time off to focus on something else…even if just very temporarily. You’ll come back refreshed.
Mentally prepare yourself to deal with unforeseen roadblocks. Michelangelo didn’t want the Sistine Chapel project to take four years, and in fact, several of the reasons it took so long were beyond his control – damp weather and illness to name a few. But these things came up, and he dealt with them, and his original game plan changed. There will be detours and roadblocks that effect your project. Period. Persistence will help you get through them.
But (There’s Always A “But”)
Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance. ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo
Sometimes we give it our all and it just wasn’t the right path, for whatever reason. Trust good mentors and colleagues and be receptive to feedback to know when to let your persistence go.
You know those handy people who can do just about anything like repair a leaky faucet or hang wall décor without it looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa? If you’ve ever asked these “chosen ones” how they learned all that random stuff, their response was probably something extremely anti-climactic like, “I don’t know…I just know how.”
Since that response is not helpful, let’s dive into a more analytical explanation for them – a theory known as the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development (which all of you L&D folks reading this post know plenty about). Typically credited to originating from the Center for Creative Leadership and having been around for more than five decades, this familiar model for workplace learning is also useful to understanding how we learn just about anything in our lives. It states that we learn:
- 70% of what we know through hands-on experience and practice;
- 20% of what we know through other people (colleagues, bosses, mentors, social networks, etc.); and
- 10% of what we know through formal learning (classroom instruction, books, etc.).
At a networking event this past week, I was taken a little off guard when someone randomly asked how I learned my trade. My first instinct was to respond with the same anti-climactic response I mentioned above, “I don’t know. I just know what I know.” After all, how often do we stop to think about how we know the things we apply in our personal and professional lives day after day?
After a brief pause though, I responded with, “Experiences and mentors.” It rolled off my tongue rather quickly, but it was so true. I’ve been fortunate to work on several diverse and dynamic projects and project teams throughout my career. I’ve also served on volunteer boards, taught courses at universities, and contributed to community programs and events. I’ve likewise been incredibly fortunate to have been both supported and challenged by mentors all along the way. Yes, I have the undergraduate and graduate degrees, and yes I’ve had formalized training…however, it’s the experiences and relationships that have taken that foundational classroom theory and instruction and turned it into a fruitful career.
Check out the brief 4-minute video below where Charles Jennings, Managing Director of Duntroon Associates in the UK, shares some of the research and applicability of the 70:20:10 theory and what it means for organizational learning.
As you watch this video, I challenge you to think of the following:
- In what areas do you wish to grow? What does your individualized learning plan look like? Make sure you’re thinking beyond the typical register for this training or attend this conference, to things like what experiences can I position myself to gain; what people can I surround myself with; what social networks can I connect with?
- If you lead a team, organization, or L&D function, ask yourself…How can I align growth opportunities for my team to this 70:20:10 model? What does the environment need to look like? What resources could I share? What connections can I make? What questions can I ask?
- If you lead trainings, workshops, and other structured learning events, ask yourself…How can I incorporate “real”, hands-on learning into the session? How can I get participants to engage with each other and learn from one another? What post-learning event experiences could help participants immediately apply the classroom instruction?
Enjoy the video and Happy Learning!
photo credit: Neil. Moralee via
How do each of you begin a new year? A valued colleague of mine, Erin Schreyer, suggests that you pick a “word of the year” that sets a tone and keeps you focused. This is great advice, and if I wasn’t so long-winded (working on it…), I’d be able to do just that. Instead, I’ve chosen four:
Live what you love.
Why? Because we only get one chance at this life thing. In 2014 (and beyond), I want to stay focused on spending my time – both personally and professionally – on the things I love. I’m thinking this might sound like a desirable feat to some of you as well, so let’s dig in.
A Personal Perspective
2014 will be a year of change for me as I officially “open shop” on my organizational development consulting practice – Core. I’m excited for the opportunities this new venture will bring to my life. It’s going to help me live what I love. How?
I LOVE… enhancing employees’ workplace experience and helping organizations thrive through engaging and empowering people practices. This is my passion, hands down. I am now able to experience a greater breadth of projects and interactions outside of just one company. I’m blessed to be kicking off my 1st quarter in business with three outstanding clients – two former employers who are near and dear, and one new partner who I’m excited to learn more about.
I LOVE…my family. As an independent consultant, outside of my client obligations, my time is mine. My children need their parents to be strong, positive, and active forces in their lives. I need the flexibility to be there for them when they need me.
I LOVE…giving back to the profession that I get so much fulfillment from. I serve on the boards of Authentic Leadership Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Human Resources Association (GCHRA). I’m looking forward to dedicating more focused attention to both groups, whose missions I very much believe in.
I LOVE…spending time with students. I’m a part-time Adjunct Instructor at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus. It’s an outlet for me. I learn and grow so much from just 3 hours each week with my students who are achieving dreams through education.
I LOVE…healthy living. I value a healthy lifestyle – both physically and mentally – so that I can bring my whole self to everything listed above. This new career path will allow me to eat healthier meals at home and squeeze in my runs during random “break points” during the day…no one will know if I sit back down at my desk full of sweat! 🙂
To be able to balance all of the things I love the most, independent consulting was the right track for me to pursue. I realize, however, that venturing off on your own is not for everyone. So lately I’ve been thinking about how others, within a more traditional organization, can live what they love and how managers can help their employees get there. Below are some tips I hope you find helpful.
How can you live what you love in 2014?
Identify what you love.
You might have some self-exploration to do. Start drafting a list. What do you love and how do you want to spend your time? This might be harder than it sounds.
Talk to people about it.
Once you figure it out, share it with the world! The more you talk about it, the more you’ll encourage yourself to spend your time doing those things – even if it means enduring uncomfortable change to get there. Seek out mentors, learn from their experience and knowledge, and have them hold you accountable.
Take control of your destiny.
Sure, some things are out of your control, but the ball is largely in your hands. What do YOU (not anyone else!) need to do to be able to live what you love? Build a plan, take ownership of it, and execute.
This is where it can start to get uncomfortable because it may require that dreaded 6 letter word – CHANGE. It could mean deciding to move on from your current position or employer. It could mean asking your boss for an international assignment. It could mean going into work an hour earlier so that you can be home for family dinners.
A long-time mentor of mine once told me, “big things don’t happen with timid actions.” What bold actions do you need to take in 2014 to live what you love?
How can managers help their team members live what they love?
- Listen. Do you know what your team loves – both personally and professionally? If not, get to know them. Listen to both their verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Facilitate opportunities. Even though I’m a firm believer that you need to create your own destiny, it certainly never hurts when someone lends a helping hand. As a leader, what opportunities can you create for your team to help them live what they love? Maybe you can connect them to people or other resources they might not be aware of. Or maybe you could offer job shadowing, job rotations, or special project assignments.
- Ask what you can do to help your team achieve their goals. Let’s say one of your team members has a passion for cycling. How powerful would it be if you said to him, “Jason, I know it’s one of your goals this year to ride more (you know this because you did #1!). What can I do to help you achieve this goal?”
- Be flexible and open-minded. If you do #3, be prepared for the response. Jason might ask to arrive later in the mornings once the sun comes up so that he can ride his bike to work. He might ask if you would support his request to the facilities team to add a bike rack to the parking lot. Being flexible and open-minded to your team’s needs is a way to help them live the lives they love.
Don’t Forget About Mindsets
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
The first sentence is very important. Not only could you strive to fill your time with the things you love; it’s equally important to develop a positive mindset to love the life you’re living…even if you’re not doing what you love all the time. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to spend 100% of our time doing things we love (I don’t care much for mopping floors – you?). If you adopt an optimistic mindset though, it’s amazing what you might find yourself loving.
This past weekend I ran 13.1 miles through the beautiful Fort Harrison State Park in the Indianapolis Marathon & Half Marathon. I was able to complete my third half-marathon, watch a good friend accomplish her first full marathon, and cheer my husband on in the last .2 of his sixth 26.2 journey. It was an amazing weekend full of friends, family, wellness, and inspiration.
One of the things that stood out to me the most from the weekend was not the beautiful fall-colored trees, or the runner dressed as Superman, or that laboring hill at mile 11. Nope, it was a woman who I encountered near the portalets. Yep, you read that right – my most memorable moment of the entire weekend happened near the porta potties! But this wasn’t just any woman, she was a
What is servant leadership?
I was lucky to be introduced to the philosophy of servant leadership relatively early in my career by one of my valued mentors. Since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying, and trying my best to practice, this approach to leadership.
As described on the Robert K. Greenleaf’s Center for Servant Leadership website, “Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.” This phrase was first officially coined by Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, published in 1970. In this book, Greenleaf describes this philosophy as follows:
The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
Okay…Back to the Woman at the Portalets
The morning of the race was cold and rainy. As always, there were loooong lines at the 30 or so portalets set up right by the start line. Hundreds of runners lined up in the pouring rain, with each breath looking like little puffs of smoke in the foggy, gray early morning hours.
About 25 people-deep, there I stood. All of a sudden I felt the rain stop. I looked up, and I had an umbrella over my head. I heard a voice say, “You looked like you could use this.” There behind me was a woman in her 40s or 50s with a huge smile on her face and an over-sized golf umbrella in her hand. She was there with her daughter, who was running the marathon that morning. After covering me for a few minutes, she then jumped over to the line next to me where a runner in her 60s or 70s stood, in shorts, shivering in the cold waiting in line. She stood and covered her.
I finally made it through the line and was in a rush to get to the start, as the horn had already blown and the runners were off. But wait – I only had one glove. What happened to my other glove??? I can’t run in this weather without gloves – I will freeze! I hear another voice behind me, “I have it…I have it!” I turned around and saw that woman again. She had my glove in her hand. She saw me drop it in the grass as I was running towards the race. “Here you go honey – good luck!”
Key Principles of Servant Leadership
There are 10 key principles of servant leadership. I am not going to touch on each one, but I wanted to share three of them that this woman exuded on that cold, rainy race morning.
1. Awareness: Servant leaders are very self-aware, but also keenly aware of the surrounding environment and the needs of those around them. As many of the runners stood in that rainy portalet line, heads down, or looking straight forward visualizing their upcoming individual performances that day, this woman was focused on the people around her and their needs. Servant leaders are observant and positively act on those outwardly-focused observations.
2. Commitment to the Growth of People: Servant leaders are committed to helping the people around them grow – personally, professionally, spiritually. One way they can do this is by providing the resources and/or tools needed for success – like the umbrella…and the glove. I would have never finished that race without that glove. I might not have even ever started.
3. Building Community: Servant leaders build a sense of community amongst teams, organizations, or any group they’re a part of. That woman helped bring the running community together that morning by being a positively contagious energy during somewhat intimidating race day conditions. It was because of her that complete strangers in my line began interacting, laughing, and connecting.
I’m not sure who that woman was or if she’ll maybe stumble upon this post, but I want to say THANK YOU for your servant leadership that morning. I will do my best to model your behavior in my everyday life. These characteristics are directly applicable in any setting, so let’s all commit to serving others FIRST and leading SECOND – at home, at work, and in our communities.
So, you may be thinking there’s an error in the title of this post. Is it missing a “Don’t” or “You can’t” at the beginning?
Nope – you read it right. It says to take your job to the grave, and here’s why…
New answers to age-old questions.
I’ve been reflecting this past weekend on the inspiring career of my aunt, Mary Jo Scalzo, who just retired as Superintendent of Oakwood City Schools in Dayton, Ohio. Mary Jo worked in a variety of roles in the education field for 41 years, including that of a teacher. In a recent article in the Dayton Daily News, she shared her passion for teaching: “No career is more rewarding than teaching. It provides an opportunity to affect someone’s life. It’s very powerful and meaningful.”
Even in retirement, Ms. Scalzo has accepted a position as Executive Director of a consortium of school administrators committed to providing quality professional development and coaching for education leaders.
As I reflect on my aunt’s career, I’ve been asking myself the following questions:
1. Will Mary Jo be “taking her job to the grave”?
2. Did she put in some late night and weekend hours and have to make sacrifices in other areas of her life?
3. Is that okay?
4. Did she make a positive impact on the lives of others through her work?
5. Would she do it all over again?
We spend a lot of time at work.
We always hear people say that you can’t take your job to the grave with you…That in the end, this is not what matters…That you need to spend more time with family and friends doing the things you love and making a more meaningful impact on the world. We’re told that if we don’t do these things, we’ll regret it in our final hour.
But wait – why can’t you make a meaningful impact, tap into your passions and strengths, and develop deep and impactful relationships with others through your work? Why are we told that putting “too much” of ourselves into our work is a bad thing?
Take a look at these staggering statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The fact that we spend on average 8.8 hours on work-related activities per work day means that we spend just shy of 100,000 hours working between the ages of 22-65.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I’m willing to sweep under the rug and approach with an apathetic attitude. Talk about something I would regret in my final hour – it would be how I spent that large amount of time!
How can I make the best use of 100,000 hours of my life?
So you might not be in a role that you feel is as impactful or meaningful as an educator, healthcare provider, social worker, organizational leader or CEO, etc. The good news is that you don’t have to be. Anyone in any role can turn those hours into something that makes an impact, something you’re proud of, and something that you don’t regret when reflecting on how you spent your physical time here on Earth.
The reality is that we have to work. That truth is not going away (unless you win the lottery), so let’s make the most of it. Here’s how:
Tap into your heart and get engaged.
A recent study by Gallup revealed that 71% of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from work. That’s one heck of a way to spend 100,000 hours! Click here to learn 6 ways to take ownership of your engagement at work and start putting your heart in the game. You will find your job much more fulfilling if you do. Don’t wait on someone else to do this for you – use your own power of choice.
Add value to those around you.
Leadership guru John C. Maxwell often shares this core tenant of leadership – add value to others. Just by saying your please’s and thank you’s, lending a helping hand to colleagues, and putting the needs of others in your workplace above your own, you can make a very meaningful impact on the lives of others. No doubt you will take those meaningful contributions to the grave. This is completely regardless of the field, role, or position level you’re in.
Align work with your strengths and purpose.
Whenever possible, align your strengths and what you may have discovered is your overall purpose in life with your career. For more on this, check out my esteemed colleague Erin Schreyer’s recent post on the topic. Erin is a certified leadership and talent management coach and strengths trainer and has very insightful thoughts to share on this matter.
Work is not everything, but it is one thing.
Work should certainly not take up your entire focus in life – there are obviously other very important facets of your life that you will take to the grave, including family, friends, hobbies and faith just to name a few. You need to determine the “balance” that is right for you so that you can live every aspect of your life to its fullest.
However, according to the graph above, it is a significant aspect of our lives, so let’s make the most of it. This post is a tribute to Mary Jo Scalzo, who made the most she could of her 100,000 hours. I hope you choose to do the same!
Written by guest blogger Amy Broughton
Senior Human Resources Generalist at Hobsons
Connect with Amy on LinkedIn
In my role as a human resources professional, primarily in a generalist capacity, I get the opportunity to talk with employees as they leave the business. You guessed it – the exit interview. Probably not the most exciting part of my job, but I think most HR professionals would agree that it’s an important part of the employee lifecycle and not a good step to skip.
In the early days of my career, I felt as if I had to take on the role of “defense attorney” for the company. I wouldn’t question the decision of the departing employee outwardly or debate every response – I went through the typical process of going over the paperwork, asking the standard questions, answering their questions, etc. The defense attorney stuff all went on in my head. I’d analyze their answers and body language and wonder what they may be holding back…sometimes thinking to myself the old cliché, the grass is not always greener on the other side.
A More Matured Mindset
As I’ve matured and am more senior in my career, there’s been a shift in my thinking, and I often find these meetings fascinating… even refreshing at times. Sounds odd, right? A primary function of my job is to focus on retention, and I put a lot of work into making my organization a great place to work. However, a while ago something clicked and here’s the reality… everyone leaves. Look around the office. At some point, everyone you work with, including yourself, will be gone.
Whether it’s a personal decision, the company’s decision or destiny, there comes a time when we all move on. The question is not if, the question is when? I no longer take it personally when someone leaves or wonder if they are making the right decision; now I think of it as a crossroads of sorts.
So, how do you know when you’ve reached your crossroad?
Conduct a Personal “Pre-Exit” Interview
Gone are the days when employees stayed at the same company for decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure of an employee in 2012 was 4.6 years. I’m not saying you need to quit your job because you’ve been at the same company for five or more years. What I am doing is encouraging you to conduct a personal and professional evaluation of your current situation.
If you are starting to question your employment situation, conduct this mini, pre-exit interview with yourself!
1. Is your job draining you? Are you feeling emotionally, physically, and/or mentally drained? If your job is exhausting, leaving you with feelings of despair and creating high levels of stress, consider moving on. Your health and well-being should be your first priority.
2. On the flip side, are you still feeling challenged? Are you getting bored, dreading the tasks at hand, and planning your next weekend every Monday morning? It’s completely normal to have days or even weeks where Friday can’t come soon enough, but if you are living for the weekend every week, you may be ready for a change.
3. Do you have concerns with the stability of the company? Don’t jump ship just because of a few slow quarters in the financial results. Every company will have their ebbs and flows. However, don’t overlook the challenges either. Be mindful of the red flags and be prepared to get off the ship before it completely sinks.
4. Does your job still fulfill your financial needs? Your employer is not responsible for your personal budget issues and compensation discussions with your manager will never be successful if driven by your need to pay the bills. However, do your homework and know your worth. If you find that you are underpaid compared to similar benchmarks and your employer is not willing or able to make an adjustment, it may be time to look elsewhere.
5. Are you passionate about your work? You don’t need to absolutely LOVE your job every day. To be honest, I’m still trying to find my true passion, and I’d venture to bet that most working adults are in the same boat. In the meantime though, you should enjoy your work, care about doing a good job, feel that it’s meaningful and know the value it brings to the organization.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Jumping Ship
Like many big decisions we face, there are times when the answer is just not very clear. We weigh the pros and cons and make our best, educated guess or sometimes simply rely on fate. Whatever the case, when you come to the conclusion that you have met a crossroad in your professional life, here are some do’s and don’ts to consider:
- Stay if you’re unhappy. You will not benefit by staying in an unhealthy working relationship, and either will your employer.
- Job hop – stick it out at least a year or two if you can. Your resume will thank you.
- Burn bridges or take things too personally; treat it like any other business decision.
- Be honest with yourself, and others.
- Have a plan before you quit. “Take This Job and Shove It” worked for Johnny Paycheck, but it’s not the most professional way to handle things.
- Stay connected with your colleagues. The relationships you’ve built shouldn’t end simply because you’ve decided to move on. Staying connected always pays off – maybe even at the next crossroad you encounter.
Follow your gut – it will lead you to where you are meant to be!
This post comes fresh off the heels of Leadercast 2013, which brought together 120,000 people in 750 “host” sites in 25 countries around the world for a leadership boot camp of sorts. The impressive speaker line-up included world-renowned executive coaches, sports icons, political officials, and best-selling authors, such as John C. Maxwell, Condoleezza Rice, and Jack Welch.
Did you happen to miss out? No worries – I will be running a series on Core Chat that will take a deeper dive into some of the concepts from the event. I’d love for you to subscribe, follow along, and contribute. If you did attend, please share your thoughts throughout the series as well. Let’s not let the dialogue die just because May 10th is over – let’s keep this critical conversation going!
The theme of this year’s event was Simply Lead. In the spirit of simplicity, this first post is the Cliff’s Notes version of Leadercast 2013. If you don’t continue to follow this series, at a very minimum you can start to Simply Lead just by reading and acting on the next 345 words – I have packaged up 7 hours of learning, 9 speakers’ insights, and 15 pages of notes into 5 key takeaways from the event.
1. Understand that leadership is not a role or title. “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” ~ John C. Maxwell
Everyone reading this post has the opportunity to lead, regardless of your age, gender, occupation, or position within an organization. How can you lead without the title? Check out the recent Harvard Business Review post on this topic here.
2. Intentionally add value to others every day.
Another great reminder from @JohnCMaxwell. Leadership is not about you. Leaders spend their energy and resources putting their followers in positions to succeed. During Jack Welch’s tenure as CEO at GE, capital rose by $387 billion. What did his day-to-day look like? He spent 70% of his time building and developing his team…and his team took it from there.
You don’t need a team in the literal sense – add value to colleagues, clients, neighbors, family, and a “followership” will naturally occur.
Okay, I need you to get a little physical for this one. Lieutenant Commander and Navy Seal Rorke Denver led us through this exercise at Leadercast (don’t worry – it’s not painful):
- Lift your arms up.
- No really – do it.
- Still waiting…
- Ok, thank you.
- Now relax your shoulders and then reach back up as high as you can.
- Now stretch them just 1-inch higher.
Give one more inch in everything you do. Ask for opportunities. Act on opportunities. Do things that are uncomfortable and challenging. Push yourself to GROW, and bring others along for the ride!
“With growth comes complexity, and complexity is the enemy of clarity.” ~ Andy Stanley
You can’t Lead Simply without staying laser focused on what matters most and prioritizing your time appropriately. You don’t need more time, you need greater focus. As mentioned at Leadercast – Mother Theresa only had 24 hours – just sayin’.
5. Stop looking for a leader to solve a problem. Be the leader who solves the problem.
The next time you’re frantically looking around for someone to solve a problem for you, stop and ask yourself, “how would I solve this problem?” – and then go out and do it!
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we take a deeper dive into some of these concepts and a few others from Leadercast 2013. If you attended the event, are there any other key takeaways on your Top 5 list?
Click here to read part 2 of the Leadercast series: The Trust Formula.
Click here to read part 3 of the Leadercast series: Goodbye Old Friend, It’s Been Real.