What's In Your Christmas Stopping?

To me the most remarkable part of Christmas is how everything goes from ridiculously busy to a remarkable stop.

The end-of-year reviews, the 2013 planning, the rehearsals, the concerts, the shopping, the cooking, the visits, and then the pause.

When I walk into a candle lit church, all the chaos seems to melt away. We stop, we remember, we give thanks, we hope.

On Christmas, my running also becomes an ironic form of stopping. After the presents and before the cooking, I take a brisk trek through our small town with all the closed stores and restaurants. Everyone there is stopping too.

I wonder what others are doing and thinking in their stopping. What do those closed doors offer? What inspirations are brewing? What hopes are catching spark?

What Starts from Stopping?

What’s about to start after the stopping?

I recognize that for many there is pain in the stopping. Quiet time does not always equate to peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you. In our family we also have concerns that weigh heavy. Stopping can sometimes be too quiet.

I am also so grateful to all who cannot stop this holiday. Police, firefighters, military, call centers, convenience stores. There are many people “going” to empower our stopping. Thank you.

May this holiday season give you the peace of stopping, today or in the year to come. Enjoy the quiet along with the joy.

What will you become in your Christmas stopping?

In Peace and Joy,

Karin

What’s In Your Christmas Stopping?

To me the most remarkable part of Christmas is how everything goes from ridiculously busy to a remarkable stop.

The end-of-year reviews, the 2013 planning, the rehearsals, the concerts, the shopping, the cooking, the visits, and then the pause.

When I walk into a candle lit church, all the chaos seems to melt away. We stop, we remember, we give thanks, we hope.

On Christmas, my running also becomes an ironic form of stopping. After the presents and before the cooking, I take a brisk trek through our small town with all the closed stores and restaurants. Everyone there is stopping too.

I wonder what others are doing and thinking in their stopping. What do those closed doors offer? What inspirations are brewing? What hopes are catching spark?

What Starts from Stopping?

What’s about to start after the stopping?

I recognize that for many there is pain in the stopping. Quiet time does not always equate to peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you. In our family we also have concerns that weigh heavy. Stopping can sometimes be too quiet.

I am also so grateful to all who cannot stop this holiday. Police, firefighters, military, call centers, convenience stores. There are many people “going” to empower our stopping. Thank you.

May this holiday season give you the peace of stopping, today or in the year to come. Enjoy the quiet along with the joy.

What will you become in your Christmas stopping?

In Peace and Joy,

Karin

Thanksgiving Grace and Grappling: Growing Beyond Easy

Today I offer my grace of thanksgiving for all that I have been given. I also whisper a humble grace for the messy work that is helping me to become.

May you too be blessed in your grappling this Thanksgiving.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanksgiving Grace

Today I am deeply grateful for…

  • My caring husband who believes in possibilities
  • My children who amaze me with their insights, caring hearts and contributions
  • My extended family and pit crew who make my work possible
  • My creative and tenacious team who accomplished what most believed could not be done
  • An opening heart leading to deepening relationships
  • A social media infrastructure that makes it possible for me to collaborate with leaders from around the world
  • Amazing new connections now growing into friends, mentors and supporters
  • Saying yes

Thanksgiving Grappling

But also surprisingly grateful for..

  • Time stuck in airports
    … giving me time to think
  • Realizing my strengths have downsides
    … which is forcing me to fine-tune
  • Feeling a bit stuck
    … which is causing me to consider
  • Choices that ticked me off
    ….which reaffirmed my values
  • Being too busy
    … which is forcing me to prioritize
  • Friends and colleagues who are grappling too
    … so we can work on this junk together

Gratitude is tricky.

It’s easy to feel full of thanksgiving for the good parts. It’s a bit harder to feel grateful for the messy and uncomfortable aspects of our lives.

Perhaps that’s exactly the work for which we should be most grateful.

May you find a strange peace and joy in your grappling this Thanksgiving.

Namaste.

Labor Day Reflections: A Saturday Salutation

Labor Day was first organized in 1882 by labor unions as a celebration of the contributions of working class Americans. Although not a big union supporter, Grover Cleveland formalized it as a National Holiday in 1894. There is some good background here for those who want to know more Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day has always seemed to me to be one of those unsung holidays where the meaning gets a bit lost. As a child I mostly remember it as the first day off school, and the day my mom made me stop wearing my white shoes to Sunday School. Teaching Your Kids About The Meaning of Labor Day.

What Does Labor Day Mean Today?

So where does that leave us today? For some, this holiday still carries much of its original meaning, and a good time to reflect on history and progress.

For the many of us, the idea of defined working hours and schedules has morphed not due to changing rules or regulations, but because of the nature of our work, the virtual connectivity of our remote teams and expanded real-time technology. Many leaders and vital contributors (myself included) are always connected, and even on labor day will have their phones by their sides available as needed.

Labor Day Reflections

And so, I offer this Labor Day exercise as an opportunity for reflection as you celebrate your work, and the work of your teams.

  • What brings you energy in your work?
  • What has been your most significant accomplishment this year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Who are you most proud of on your team?
  • How do you rest?
  • Is it enough?
  • What’s next?

I would love to hear your insights on your labor day reflections through your comments.

Some upcoming topics: Leading and Following in Remote teams, Large Group Innovation, and Humility.

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Is Fitness a Leadership Competency?

As a yogi, I believe in the connection between body, mind and spirit. I also know that my fitness routine is a vital aspect of who I am as a leader. For me, time spent on fitness is time to think, to clear my head and to become mentally and physically stronger. When I am exercising more and eating right, I feel better.

I lead better.

Would I go as far to say that fitness is a leadership competency?

I have been reluctant to write directly about this question.

Why?

Because I also see great leaders for whom this regimen does not seem necessary. Different leaders with different bodies, dispositions, ways of managing stress and processing techniques seem to be doing just fine–great actually.

And so, I share my recent thinking and writing to start the conversation. I invite your thinking and ask you to share your opinion.

Leader Athletes: Training For the Long Run (this week’s post on Lead Change Group). I am grateful to all the wonderful leader athletes who read, retweeted and offered their insights via their comments. I also amazed by the distances some of these leaders have gone in their athletic and leadership lives. It’s worth reading through the comments. I am also delighted with the support and friendship I am finding through The Lead Change Group. I am finding many kindred spirits.

Road Warrior Wisdom: 3 Ways to Health and Fitness on the Road (A recent post on 3 Plus International). A great group of women leaders mentoring and supporting one another.

And then I invite your thoughts on any of the following questions or other comments.

  • Do some need it more than others?
  • Is it important for you?
  • Why?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Email as a Reflective Practice: Thoughtful Writing to Spark Conversation

Having a Reflective Practice means finding a deliberate way to stop and think. It’s a ritual you do regularly to pause, consider, and learn. So, can email be a good medium on which to build a reflective practice? Stop laughing.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
~ Peter Drucker

Now of course, I hate most email as much as the next guy. But after years of having large and geographically dispersed teams, I have found that email can be transformed into a useful tool for reflection and creating deeper connection with my team.

A Few Examples

Weekly Reflections

One tool I often used is a weekly reflection email. I ask the team to reflect on a few key questions..and send me a note each Friday. I always start with these 3, and then sometimes mix in an extra bonus question depending on what is happening in the business.

I am most proud of…

I am concerned about…

I need your help with…

To be frank… not everyone loves this (and I make it optional). But usually the people who resist it the most are the ones who reap the most benefit. I have used this technique for years, across some very diverse contexts and people. Of course, this is not a substitute for regular face to face connection, but can offer a nice supplement.

For some, this is a way to share some good news without seeming boastful. Others seem to feel safer putting something in writing, rather than surfacing tough issues in person or on the phone. I have been surprised about how some heavy professional and personal concerns have come up in these emails throughout the years. When they do, I always write back and ask if we can talk live. The answer has always been yes… and the conversation is rich.

 Mid Year, End of Year Letters

As part of the mid year appraisal and check in process, in addition to the normal fare, I ask each member of my team to write me a letter as if it were the end of the year.

Yikes… this has been the best year of my career…

I am so proud that…

My team accomplished…

I learned so much about…

I will never do ___ again.

I find people typically bring a good bit of humor to this exercise, and also dream BIG about their accomplishments (many mention a promotion). I also find that they include personal dreams and aspirations as well. The humor creates a fun and light opening to the meeting that follows. But after we laugh, we talk about how it’s not really that crazy, and talk about how they can accomplish those big goals.

Of course, I bring the letter out again in the end of year discussion (earlier as appropriate), and it is great to see how much they have accomplished. If their vision has not been fully accomplished, we build it into the plans again for the next year.

Kermit the Frog as Leader? It's Not Easy Leading Green

Growing Leaders of All Ages:

Part of my mission for this blog is engaging leaders of all ages in the leadership conversation.  Today, I present a guest post from Jared Herr, age 12.  If you are a leader of any age, interested in collaborating on a guest post on leadership, let’s talk more.

Kermit is a strong leader in many ways:

  • He works to make the muppets the best that they can be
  • He is inspiring because he always tries his hardest
  • He brings misfit animals together and makes them a team
  • He always has a plan
  • He is a collaborative decision maker 
  • He is self-reflective 

What are Kermit’s leadership challenges?

  • He takes things too personally
  • He has trouble giving tough feedback
  • He needs more work-life balance

Jared’s advice to Kermie

You are a caring amphibian and always try to make others the best they can be. You put the muppets in roles where you know the can succeed.  You are a role model of hard work, and get all of those crazy animals pulling together as a team.  You inspire them to care about one another.

Kermit, one of your greatest strengths as a leader, self-reflection, is also your challenge.  You may want to check out Karin’s post (is strength your weakness).  For example,  you will double and triple check yourself to make sure every muppet is in a part of the show. But when things go wrong, you take it out on yourself. You always point out things you messed up with or things you should have done. I think you feel a lot of pressure being a leader.

I wish you could have more confidence in your decisions.  Once when you fired Miss Piggy (she deserved it), you ended up face down on the floor (of course, that may have something to do with dysfunctional love, but that’s another post).

You are so nice.  I worry sometimes you have trouble confronting or giving the tough coaching messages.  You always lead to victory in the end.  You might save some time if you could give more direct coaching along the way.

Kermit, you sure seem to face a lot of pressure as leader of the muppets.

I worry that you feel like as their leader, you need to be with them 24/7, and you don’t get much personal time.

All said, it is not easy leading green.  And you have a nice track record of results.  Keep up the great work.  I know you will continue to grow into an amazing leader.

Kermit the Frog as Leader? It’s Not Easy Leading Green

Growing Leaders of All Ages:

Part of my mission for this blog is engaging leaders of all ages in the leadership conversation.  Today, I present a guest post from Jared Herr, age 12.  If you are a leader of any age, interested in collaborating on a guest post on leadership, let’s talk more.

Kermit is a strong leader in many ways:

  • He works to make the muppets the best that they can be
  • He is inspiring because he always tries his hardest
  • He brings misfit animals together and makes them a team
  • He always has a plan
  • He is a collaborative decision maker 
  • He is self-reflective 

What are Kermit’s leadership challenges?

  • He takes things too personally
  • He has trouble giving tough feedback
  • He needs more work-life balance

Jared’s advice to Kermie

You are a caring amphibian and always try to make others the best they can be. You put the muppets in roles where you know the can succeed.  You are a role model of hard work, and get all of those crazy animals pulling together as a team.  You inspire them to care about one another.

Kermit, one of your greatest strengths as a leader, self-reflection, is also your challenge.  You may want to check out Karin’s post (is strength your weakness).  For example,  you will double and triple check yourself to make sure every muppet is in a part of the show. But when things go wrong, you take it out on yourself. You always point out things you messed up with or things you should have done. I think you feel a lot of pressure being a leader.

I wish you could have more confidence in your decisions.  Once when you fired Miss Piggy (she deserved it), you ended up face down on the floor (of course, that may have something to do with dysfunctional love, but that’s another post).

You are so nice.  I worry sometimes you have trouble confronting or giving the tough coaching messages.  You always lead to victory in the end.  You might save some time if you could give more direct coaching along the way.

Kermit, you sure seem to face a lot of pressure as leader of the muppets.

I worry that you feel like as their leader, you need to be with them 24/7, and you don’t get much personal time.

All said, it is not easy leading green.  And you have a nice track record of results.  Keep up the great work.  I know you will continue to grow into an amazing leader.

Beginning With Questions

Beginning well is an art. Taking a deliberate approach to how we start something new, can lay the groundwork for future success.

Firefighters Beginning Well

Last night I had fish tacos with about 20 firefighters.

Well, not actually real firefighters– yet, that will happen tomorrow after graduation.

This was a team of new “recruits” finishing their 12 week, intense, training academy ready to begin their new lives of public service.

The tacos were not remarkable, but the energy and excitement in the air was palpable. This was a group of folks up to something. Each recruit I spoke with had a different background and reason for joining. What they had in common was the passionate expression that this is what they “were meant to do” next in their lives.

What a feeling to be surrounded by new beginnings.

What struck me most throughout the evening was the intense level of questioning.

Mostly I heard the questions these recruits were asking themselves. It was an interesting parade of extroverted self-reflection.

  • What is the most important contribution I will make?
  • How will I respond to fear?
  • What will this mean for my family?
  • What will my role be on the team?
  • What if?

As leaders, the questions we ask ourselves are vital, particularly as we start something new.

Here are a few questions I find my self pondering as I enter a new gig or start work with a new team.

Leadership Questions for Beginning Well

About the Work

  • What one thing will our organization be known for above all else?
  • Where can we have the biggest impact to the big scene?
  • What’s the most broken?
  • What shouldn’t we change, no matter what?

About the People

  • Who are the rock stars, and what do they need?
  • Who is already leading this team?
  • Who can I help?

About Me

  • What strengths must I leverage to lead this team well?
  • What mistakes did I make in my last role, which I can’t make again?
  • Which of my weaknesses are likely to surface here?
  • Who do I need to call on for help?

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