Tag: relationships

What is your game within the game?

“Game within the game” is an expression that comes from sports. Athletes are committed to improving as they play. This is different from practice. This is about choosing to focus on one aspect of their performance as they play their games.
You have probably seen the same principle with your kids in soccer. In each game, you or their coach gives them something to work on during the game:

Getting back faster on defense
Passing the ball quicker after receiving it
Maintaining the proper distance from team mates

Major league baseball pitchers are always working on something because in addition to winning the game, they want to improve throughout the season. So, they work on

Being faster to the plate to reduce stealing by baserunners
Throwing more first-pitch strikes to get ahead in the count
Changing the mix of pitches they use so they keep hitters off balance

When Amy was small, I received feedback from other family members that they thought Amy was scared of me. I was surprised and taken aback at first. Upon reflection, though, I could see what they were seeing. Amy was cautious and unsure whenever she spoke with me. So I identified three separate behaviors I could incorporate to help her gain confidence in our interactions:

I built in three hours each week to do whatever she wanted to do.
When she came to me, I set aside whatever I was doing and gave her my full attention.
I never criticized anything she was doing—especially mistakes.

I kept this list in front of me and worked on it and worked on it. Eventually she returned to being carefree and expressive around me.
Choosing something to work on is key to improving performance. Working on it intentionally for two weeks will make it natural, intuitive, and available to you every day.
Here’s my question: What is your game within the game at home? Our families are far more important than sports, yet it’s not often that we think about getting better. Amazing if you think about it, isn’t it?
Here are my top candidates for your game within the game at home:

Responding thoughtfully each time a family member asks a question
Setting aside technology for periods of time and being fully present
Offering to help with chores that other family members usually do
Making and accepting more invitations to do things that other family members like doing
Taking blame out of the conversation
Being willing to share more about your day

Everywhere in life, our sense of well-being is centered on learning and getting better. And getting better takes deliberate practice. It requires picking something to focus on and then working on that behavior until it becomes instinctive.
Normally, the practice is done separately from the activity. The truth is, in the world of parenting, we’re not generally given much time to practice. We’re just expected to go out there and parent every day.
This is where the idea of “game within the game” enters. One of the things we can all do is find practice in the activity itself.
There are four steps:

Deciding what you’re going to focus on.
In the midst of the activity, you occasionally step outside of yourself and say, “Alright, how is it going? Am I doing what I intended to do? What am I learning? What is happening?” Just look at it as if you were outside of the situation.
Then—really important—afterward, take time to reflect back. “I intended to do this. Now, how did I do?”
Then use that knowledge to decide what to be intentional about next.

Focus on improving your weaknesses as a parent because that is what will make you great.

Q&A with Mindy Hall, PhD, author of Leading with Intention

There is much insight to gain from Mindy Hall and her answers below, but perhaps my favorite is her personal motto: “I want it to matter that we met.” It is obvious to see through her work as CEO of Peak Development Consulting and author of Leading with Intention: Every Moment Is a Choice that she truly believes every interaction is an opportunity, that every action has an impact, and that one person alone can make a difference.
Read on below, and you can also find Mindy at Peak Development Radio, the Growing Your Organization blog, and through her contributions to Entrepreneur.
 
Paul: I love the concept of intention and I often express it in my work as “this shall be.” Would you please explain the power of intention as you see it?
Mindy: Leading with intention is built on a foundation of awareness—of ourselves, our mindsets, our impact on others, and of the context in which we operate. It is about being mindful of how we “show up” in the world, what tone we set, and having both an understanding and ownership of the contribution we make to any dynamic.
 
Paul: You have over 25 years of experience in developing leaders and working with some of the country’s top companies – what are the signs of someone not working with intention?   
Mindy: Most leaders come to their leadership more from an intuitive place than an intentional place. Don’t get me wrong, there are many leaders who do quite well from an intuitive place, but time and time again I have seen the impact of leaders who don’t just rely on intuition and old patterns of how they lead but rather make a conscious choice of how they are going to lead. It can be small things like how present a leader is when someone is talking with them; or as large as shaping the whole culture of an organization. What leaders model is what companies become, and the tone they set has a direct correlation to the business outcomes that are achieved. When someone is not leading with intention, they are leaving tremendous potential on the table for their organization to be more.
 
Paul: What’s the first step to becoming more intentional?  
Mindy: The first step in becoming more intentional is in ratcheting up your self-awareness of how you “land”/how you “show up” in an interaction, how you are experienced. When I coach executive leaders, I focus my efforts around three layers of growth – you can think about it visually as three concentric circles: The innermost circle is Awareness, which is simply the cognitive aspects of understanding one’s behavior…having the awareness to see how you are impacting others. Integration is the next concentric circle, and it represents the behavioral element of turning that cognitive data into action – intentionally choosing how you want to impact others and then doing what you say you want to do. Embodiment is the outer-most circle, and it represents consistency over time. It’s like any new thing we are trying to do; it takes understanding how to do it, then doing it, then repeating it over and over again until it becomes a new way of operating. It’s like deciding you want to get physically fit; you have a cognitive understanding of what that will take (perhaps a couple more days at the gym per week or a few more runs in the park), and then you start to incorporate that behavior into you routine. As you do that consistently over time, it becomes a new way of operating.
 
Paul: Like most people, I worry a lot about technology and multi-tasking – and how they seem to be eroding our ability to be present. How can we get back to treating each moment with the attention it deserves?
Mindy: To me it’s simply about making the choice to do so. I think we have forgotten the simple truth that we are 100 percent responsible for how we behave in this world. Circumstances may dictate curves in the road sometimes, but how we show up in the face of those is entirely within our hands. How we choose to be present or not is entirely within our control.
 
Paul: Your philosophy is that “I want it to matter that we met.” This is a fantastic perspective for anyone, but I think it may be particularly helpful for young people starting off their careers and developing their networks. Can you share a bit more on this?
Mindy: Every interaction is an opportunity; every action has an impact; every moment is a choice.  I am a big believer that one person truly can make a difference in this world and that, although our challenges may seem large and overwhelming, if we focus on affecting the universe of people that we are in contact with on a daily basis, it is much like a pebble in a pond with ripples that emanate, impacting not only those we are in contact with but those they are in contact with as well.
 
Paul: Your blog post – Meet Your Heroes – reminds me of the notion of not settling for less than what might be possible. Please tell us about this concept.
Mindy: When I started my doctoral program, our university president stood up and said, “You are not getting a PhD; you are becoming one.” He encouraged us to put ourselves in the circle of people we admired – the authors, the theorists, the practitioners – to reach out and be in conversation with those individuals. The story I had about these people was that they would not make time for someone who did not have the same status; my story could not have been more wrong. It pushed me to move beyond my self-generated perception and opened up wonderful doors and opportunities for learning that otherwise would not have been possible. It boiled down to simply pushing beyond my comfort zone.
 
Paul: A big part of your expertise is learning. What are some of your best practices when it comes to learning?
Mindy: For my own learning, I am a big reader. Right now, I’m reading Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School by Idris Mootee. He describes design thinking as the “search for a magical balance between business and art; structure and chaos; intuition and logic; concept and execution; playfulness and formality; and control and empowerment.” It’s stretching my thinking in lots of good ways.
 

Q&A with Chris Taylor of Actionable.co

Chris Taylor spends his days working to change the world of work – one conversation at a time – through his company’s flagship program, Actionable Conversations, as well as the book summaries and thought leader interviews at ActionableBooks.com.
Founded by Chris is 2008, Actionable.co started off as a passion project and has since turned into something much bigger. On his site, you will find access to over 1000 summaries of business books in bite-size format, all for free. Each summary consists of a brief overview of the book, one key message, and two ways you can easily integrate that message into your life in five minutes or less.
Below are Chris’s thoughts on the importance of building relationships in the workplace, getting the most value out of a book, and his takeaways from spending an entire year reading a book a week.
Enjoy!
 
Paul: You are a big advocate of relationships, especially at work, and say they are the #1 engagement factor. What are some best practices that you’ve learned over the years?
Chris: When we consider the fact that we spend more waking time with our colleagues than we do with our spouse on most given days, it’s wild to think how little time we spend proactively cultivating relationships at work. Beyond the transactional “I need this, you need that” interactions, one of the simplest things we can do to improve relationships is to engage in what my business partner refers to as “middle talk” – something that lives between the “small talk” about weekend activities and discussing the weather and the “big talk” about life purpose, deep desires, etc. Middle talk, then, is about the work we do, the impact we’re having (both with external stakeholders and our immediate working groups). Structuring in as little as one hour of “middle talk” conversation per month can help a team feel more connected and better heard, understood, and appreciated by their peers. This, in turn, drives employee engagement.
 
Paul: What is the best way to get people to value conversation and make it a priority?
Chris: Like most good habits (exercise, diet, sleep, etc.) the true value is experienced, not told. We recommend that clients make the first three conversations mandatory, with a conversation from the outset that engaging in these conversations will be a personal choice… after each person clearly understands the value (or lack thereof) that comes from the regular interaction. Frame it from the outset – we’re going to have three conversations over the next three months as a group… then we can decide (individually and as a group) if there’s value in continuing to have them. From what we’re seeing right now, 92 percent of teams decide to continue the conversations after those first three. The value of conversation is a fundamentally human need… we just need to be reminded of that sometimes.
 
Paul: In 2008, you decided to read one personal development book a week for an entire year. What were some unexpected outcomes of this project?
Chris: There were a couple major advantages for me in that project. First and foremost, I was amazed by how many other people gravitated to the idea. Not the idea of “reading” a book a week, per se (lots of people have done that or more), but in the act of applying one concept from each book to my life and/or business. We live in a time of information overload – there’s already, freely available, way more content than any one of us could consume in a lifetime. The value is not so much in knowledge collection so much as it is in knowledge application. Others saw value in the logic of consuming less but applying more and chose to engage in the conversation, which led to the business that is now Actionable.co.
The second outcome from the project was a natural connection to a world of thought leaders and passionate content experts. As I finished each book I would write the author, thanking them for their work and sharing a link to the Actionable Summary I had created with my key takeaway from their book. No ask. Just a connection and stated appreciation. As a result, I was fortunate enough to forge some great connections, many of which have expanded into deeper relationships and friendships today. Thinkers like Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Susan Cain, Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek and more were gracious enough to invite me into their homes and professional circles. Those connections have heavily influenced my life and business practices.
 
Paul: One big takeaway I’ve read was that “ideas are only valuable when applied.” What made you come to this conclusion? And are Actionable Books reviews a product of this belief?
Chris: When I started the “book/week” project in 2008, I was a year off the heels of a failed business venture that had sent me down a pretty dark path. Over the course of 2007 I consumed business and personal development books at a voracious pace – three or four a week… but nothing was changing. I was learning a lot, but my life was the same as it had been at the beginning of the year. I realized (around September) that while reading might be fun/interesting/distracting (pick an adjective), unto itself it didn’t create value. It was only through the act of applying what I’d learned that I could make any difference in my life. So, on the dawn of 2008, I decided to change my strategy – (a) slow down the reading pace, (b) identify the key concept from each book that I wanted to practice, (c) build a clear test activity that I could repeat daily for the week, and (d) communicate the plan with a group of individuals who could hold me accountable to the exercise. Then I was able to proactively reinvent the way I interacted with the world.
 
Paul: What has been your favorite book to review?
Chris: Tough call. I’m a big believer that the right book at the right time for the right person has the power to unlock untold latent potential. So I’d be hesitant to recommend or comment on one specific book for the content’s sake. That said, I remember reading Steve Farber’s Greater Than Yourself shortly after meeting Steve at his home in San Diego. Live texting with him while I was reading the book was pretty memorable. It added a whole new dimension to the book.
 
Paul: Can you give us some advice on the best way to get value out of a book?
Chris: Don’t get caught up in trying to suck all the value from the book. A well-researched, well-written book will have 15+ gems that you could apply. But you won’t. Not all of them, at least. Better to focus on the one thing that you want to apply from the book. Write it down. Commit to a time frame and a new habit. Try it out and reflect. One idea applied well is infinitely more impactful than a lot of “maybe someday I’ll use that.”

HIGH-PERFORMING TEAMS PART I: CREATING SPACE WHERE EVERYONE FEELS SAFE

A group of researchers at Google completed an intensive two-year study of more than 180 teams looking for the key characteristics of their high-performing teams. The New York Times article on the study is worth your time.
Two elements stood out:
1. Psychological safety—people felt safe to talk.
2. Broad participation—all team members have equal opportunity to contribute to the group conversation.
There was nothing Google did in advance to help create the high-performing teams. The researchers were simply curious to see if they could discover the distinguishing factors that might be able to guide other teams to better performance.
Let’s explore the notion of psychological safety. What allows people to be self-expressed in groups?
This is a broad question, and there are many possible factors. Therefore, it’s always good to put the question to your own group and find out what they need in order to feel it’s safe to say or ask anything.
Asking the question is the beginning of your group’s exploration, which is the most direct approach, but I’ll offer my top candidates for increasing the psychological safety in your group:
• Take the time to get to know each other.
• Make listening and attentiveness the norm.
• Don’t make negative comments—be less judgmental.
• Work to understand defensive tendencies—taking things personally.
Take the time to get to know each other—don’t wait for team building.
To get the real power out of your team meetings, it’s imperative to get to know each other in a way that gives you permission to say or ask anything—in a way that makes challenging, back-and-forth conversation accessible. It may seem as if you know each other, but you probably don’t—at least not in terms of what is possible.
You can deepen your relationships without waiting for special team-building events. Working on relationships requires deciding to make time for it. It’s simple, but not easy. It means making a commitment, then shifting priorities to allow the time for making connections. You are busy—perhaps busier than you would like to be. Still, part of working in an organization demands that you find time to create and maintain the relationships you need to be successful.
As Tom Scheuermann at Oregon State University puts it, “It’s either pay now or pay later. If we ‘pay’ with spending a little time building relationships, we will avoid ‘paying’ later with having to re-explain things, deal with bruised egos, or handle confusion or colleagues who don’t seem to care enough to deliver on time.”
In the face of this reality, make spending time with your colleagues a priority. Making this small adjustment in your priorities can involve only a couple of hours a month, yet still make a real difference. The benefits of deeper relationships, while perhaps not immediately apparent, will allow for more effective communication and reciprocal support.
In meetings, you can put this perspective into action when you:
• acknowledge people when they enter the room.
• check in with people a few minutes before and after the meeting.
• give people your complete attention when they speak during the meeting.
• acknowledge when someone’s comments add to your thinking.
• speak respectfully when you disagree.
• notice who hasn’t spoken yet and invite them into the conversation.
Make attention and listening the norm in your meetings.
Consider that there is a way of listening that allows people to speak authentically.  A wonderful book by Michael Nichols, TheLost Art of Listening, makes the point that people typically listen to comprehend or to follow along in a conversation rather than to participate nonverbally in a way that lets the person speaking know you “got” what they said.
Nichols says that just listening without adding to or changing the conversation is what is important. Reassuring someone isn’t listening. Trying to solve the problem isn’t listening. Just listening is listening. And when people feel we are interested and paying attention, they will speak about the things that matter to them.
Yet we don’t listen very often, at least not in a way that is magical. We interrupt. We finish other people’s sentences. We pretend to listen. Sometimes we don’t even pretend.
Attention and caring are tightly connected. If you pay attention to someone who is speaking in a meeting or you pay attention to your small kids when they want to talk, they will interpret that you care. On the other hand, if you engage in side conversations or multitask with other work while people speak, they will make up that you are not interested. This will erode the safety and permission that exists in the meeting.
Always remember that your attention is a gift.
Don’t make negative comments—be less judgmental.
This is a tough one because the human mind is wired to continually assess and make judgments. The mind is fast—very fast, but American psychologist Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming a Person, noted how this capacity to assess and judge can interfere with true communication:
The major barrier to interpersonal communication lies in the very natural tendency to judge—to approve or disapprove of the statements of the other person . . . Our first reaction to most of the statements which we hear from people is an immediate evaluation, or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling or attitude or belief, our tendency is, almost immediately, to feel “that’s right,” or “that’s stupid,” “that’s reasonable,” “that’s incorrect.” Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of the statement is to him.
Given the hardwired nature of this tendency to assess and judge, it isn’t productive to try to stop doing it. Still, because it can get in the way of your ability to understand and support others, there are ways to keep this judgmental mechanism at bay:
• Be curious.
• Remind yourself that the other person’s views are as legitimate as yours.
• Give the person speaking the benefit of the doubt; assume positive intent.
• When negative thoughts do occur, notice them and then set them aside and intentionally refocus on listening for clarity, understanding, and value.
Understand defensive tendencies—taking things personally.
“If you’re a person, then it’s personal.”—Denzel Washington, The Preacher’s Wife
One of my mentors consistently reminded managers: “Everyone is a little bit scared and a whole lot proud. And if you remember this, you’ll be better with people.”
You’ve also heard the phrase, “It’s nothing personal—it’s just business.” The only problem with this phrase is that, if there is a person involved, it is personal.
People sometimes set up criticism or disagreement or feedback with comments along the lines of “This isn’t personal … ” or “Don’t take this personally, but … ” From their point of view, perhaps it isn’t personal. Still, why did they say it? Because they know that it will feel as if it is personal. And they’re trying to avoid a defensive response, which is a deeply instinctive strategy to avoid being hurt.
“There is no sport in hurting me. It’s so easy.” —Alais, The Lion in Winter
Clearly, we’ve got work to do on both sides of the equation. We should do everything we can to avoid putting people on the defensive, embarrassing them, or teasing or discounting them. And we should resist the impulse to take offense and give ourselves time to put things into perspective so we can be the kind of person we want to be when we respond.
“Try not to offend, and give up your right to be offended.” —Ron Adams, Oregon State University
The capacity to work intelligently together depends in part on our realization that we are human beings and thus hardwired to be defensive when we think we’re being attacked. This is especially true during difficult situations or when collaborating across organizations or working virtually. In circumstances like these, where there’s less opportunity to deepen relationships, putting attention on being more thoughtful is essential.
One final thought: Good relationships are possible when people are comfortable with one another. How easy are you to be around?
You can learn more about personal effectiveness, conversation, relationships and meetings here.
Thank you for reading.
Regards,
Paul
Originally published on LinkedIn September 14, 2016

On June 26th, Forgiveness Day, Forgive Yourself

Traditionally, forgiveness is thought of as something you apply to someone else—someone who has wronged you or hurt you in some way.
But there is another, very empowering perspective—forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer has done some wonderful research on mindfulness. In one of her writings, she describes regrets as illogical emotions. What she means is that it’s illogical to regret what — in a particular moment — we had a good reason for whatever it was we did. It’s only later that we add a story that says we shouldn’t have done it or should have done something different. The regret is an add-on after the fact.
Forgiving yourself is a path out of that story. Life happens, mistakes are made, but the danger lies in getting stuck in the past. Life is tough enough without carrying that baggage. Airlines let you carry on only so much baggage. We should follow the same advice.
One of my favorite reminders in life comes from Mary Karr, an American poet. It’s a line from a piece she wrote on depression.
Your head’s a bad neighborhood: Don’t go there alone.
Perhaps it’s time to pull out a pen and paper and look at where you might need to move on.

What do you need to forgive yourself for doing?
What do you need to forgive yourself for not doing?
What is the cost of continuing to carry these regrets?
What will forgiving yourself allow into your life?

By writing these down, you can acknowledge what happened in the past and then declare that you are starting fresh. This is completely different than trying to convince yourself that you or someone else deserves to be forgiven. This is about saying, Enough already! I’m moving forward.
One of the powerful things that forgiving yourself provides is access to being mindful in the present moment. People often aren’t present or attentive because they’re either worried about the future or regretting something about the past.
Here is an excerpt from an enlightening book, Little Book of Forgiveness by D. Patrick Miller:
Forgiveness replaces the need to anticipate fearfully with the capacity to accept gracefully and improvise brilliantly. It does not argue with fate, but recognizes the opportunities latent within it. If necessity is the mother of invention, forgiveness is the midwife of genius.
To find your missing creativity, release a little of your attachment to the worst injury ever done to you…then celebrate the opening of a door through which your childlike nature can come back to you.
One last comment: The word regret can throw you into a world of thinking about big events, but the smaller, everyday moments or actions can also linger longer than they should as regrets. We wish we would not have wasted that evening or said what we said to a loved one or hit that bad golf shot. The point is that when the last experience lingers, it impacts the current moment. So forgive yourself and move forward into better moments.

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