A Quick and Easy Mindfulness Practice at the Office

No longer considered as “woo-woo” as it once was, mindfulness is now getting the attention it is due. Its benefits are documented and confirmed by empirical research. Well-known and high performing leaders such as Jack Dorsey, Russell Simmons and Tim Ferriss are naming mindfulness practices as part of their daily rituals. Like those leaders, you too can add to your high performance with a daily mindfulness practice. And that practice can be quick and easy – right in your office.

So what exactly is mindfulness? Put simply, it’s being conscious of the present. Mindfulness practices come in a variety of forms such as mediation, yoga and qigong, just to name a few. Even walking, which is easily accessed, can be done with mindfulness. Regardless of format, the practices center around a state where attention is not distracted by anything other than what is happening right now.

An awareness to your energy offers a painless way to be present at and during work. Tapping into the  the present state of your energy involves awareness of the four centers as described below:

  • Physical Energy: awareness of body sensations
  • Mental Energy: awareness of thoughts
  • Emotional Energy: awareness of feelings
  • Spiritual Energy: awareness of breath

By learning to observe these energy centers without passing judgment, you can cultivate the skill of mindfulness. That skill is what helps you manage energy, which as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz note underlies high performance.

“Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skillful management of energy.” – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

As a meditator and yogi, I know first-hand that managing energy can be challenging. I also know that with practice, the constant flux of energy between balance and imbalance becomes readily noticed and more easily adjusted. How?

The walking meditation below offers an easygoing way to start. This  meditation can be done in your office, in a hallway or outside. A couple of minutes is all you need to tune-in and recalibrate. Are you ready to give it a try?

Mindfulness – Walking Meditation

Begin by  releasing expectations of what your practice should be and what it should provide. Set an intention to be in the moment as an oberver:

  • Be where you are in the moment. You are not where you were yesterday or where you hope to be tomorrow. You are here in the now.
  • Be an observer, like a fly on the wall, to what is transpiring in the four energy centers. Avoid getting caught up in what you notice.

Next prepare to move into the walking meditation.

  1. Stand and let your feet ground into the earth below.
  2. Close your eyes or gaze softly ahead.
  3. Bring awareness to your four energy centers:
    • Body: notice physical sensations such as hunger, soreness, fatigue as you move your awareness from head to toes. Label what you notice and let the labels go.
    • Mind: notice thoughts coming and going. Are they clear or cloudy? Racing or smooth? Do your thoughts want to stick around? Are they distracting? Label what you notice and let the labels go.
    • Emotions: notice the emotional state you are experiencing. Where are you feeling that state in your body? Are you satisfied with the state? If not, tune into the state you want to experience. Label what you notice and let the label go.
    • Spirit: notice the sensation of your breath. Is the texture smooth and even or jerky and uneven? Is your breath fast, slow, somewhere in between? Does it feel deep or shallow? Label what you notice and let the labels go.
  4. Keep your your eyes closed or maintain the soft gaze. Take two deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale
  5. Begin to walk, taking steps that correspond to inhales and exhales. Inhale while stepping forward with one foot. Exhale while stepping forward with the other foot. Continue this mindful walking pattern of synchronizing the breath with each step you take.
  6. If you find that you have stopped synchronization, that’s ok. Observe without judgment. Turn in the opposite direction and begin again.
  7. After a couple of minutes, return to a standing position and scan your energy centers again.
  8. Make note of any shifts from the first scan to the second. What did you notice about your awareness during the walking meditation?

Try this a couple times a day for a week. See what happens. Breaking in the day for mindfulness is healthy. You may notice you are more attentive, more focused and more vibrant after a break. With practice, you can grow your ability to tune into what is happening within you and around you. In turn, you will be better at using the information you have gathered to recalibrate your energy throughout the day.

With the many benefits of a mindfulness practice, might there be a place for it in your leadership?

Why Multi-Dimensional Leadership?

For the “collaboration” and “inclusion” required in today’s world, a multi-dimensional model of leadership serves better than the outdated hierarchical (one-dimensional) structure. It’s a change though to go from leadership based upon a few to leadership where everyone leads in one-way or another. In multi-dimensional leadership, people, regardless of title or role, are empowered to lead with agility and fluidity.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the Pope Francis Challenge with Atlanta’s Habitat for Humanity. What a great experience from two perspectives. First, people were fulfilled by meaningful work and a deep sense of belonging. Secondly, the organizational system developed and evolved for effectiveness throughout the day.

This build was not my first with Habitat. I had participated in full-day working sessions here in the states  and been on blitz builds internationally. These builds have occurred in various locations with diverse people from dissimilar cultures, speaking different languages. And yet, my experiences have been similar from one build site to the next in this regard: people who don’t know each other connect around a common goal, form a well-functioning organizational system and produce amazing results in short-order.

“How does that happen? What’s the secret?,” I’ve wondered after each experience. With the Pope Francis build, however, I was inspired and curious to do more than wonder. I wanted to understand the organizational systems I had been part of. By studying what occurred, I uncovered that a dimensional leadership model was behind the effectiveness of all these builds.

Dimensional Leadership Starts with Engagement & Empowerment

Four factors at each work site set the stage for engagement and empowerment at the individual, team and group levels:

  • Meaningful purpose to serve with personal responsibility
  • Interconnectedness built on a willingness to create from each other
  • Collaborative ways of leveraging resources to continually adapt
  • Awareness to the environment, adjusting and accommodating as required

These four factors drove people’s desire to participate. But there was more. Full permission.

By that I mean that there was no hierarchy at the build sites. United around a common vision and the tasks at hand, participants stepped up with full permission to serve as a leader in one way or another. By leading in one way or another, they provided, in various ways, what was needed from moment to moment.

They were leaning into what Karen and Henry Kimsey-House call a multi-dimensional leadership model. In their book Co-Active Leadership: 5 Ways to Lead, the Kimsey-Houses say the following about that model:

“In any project or community, there are many different leaders, each leading in different ways with people changing roles fluidly. [ …] We are all leaders in one way or another, and when we choose to be responsible for what is happening around us, we are able to work together in a way that includes and utilizes the unique talents of everyone.” (Kimsey-House 20-21 in the iBook format)

Dimensional Leadership Evolves with Agility and Fluidity

Karen and Henry explain their model and define each of the five dimensions as follows:

Multi-dimensional leadership: a system, characterized by agility, in which leadership is not driven by roles and titles, but rather by what is needed in the moment.

This leadership model offers five ways to lead. The five ways described below are designed to work together with agile leaders shifting fluidly from one dimension to another.

dimensional leadership

Dimensional Leadership from Co-Active Leadership: 5 Ways to Lead

  • Leader Within – engaging self-acceptance and self-authority and showing up with integrity and open heartedness
  • Leader in Front – offering guidance and inspiration, inclusion and connection while providing clear direction and rationale
  • Leader Behind – supporting and encouraging others while providing what is needed behind the scenes
  • Leader Beside – creating partnerships around the common vision and demonstrating a willingness to lead or follow depending on what is required
  • Leading in the Field – expanding attention to connect with the energetic field that surrounds life and brings forth intuition, instinct and knowing

Participants, grounded in their Leader Within, flowed in and out of Leader in Front, Leader Behind, Leader Beside and Leader in the Field, depending on the situation.

Most participants showed up without pre-assigned roles or titles, and it’s safe to say that they did not have knowledge of this model or an intention to lead. And yet, there it was in full working order just as Karen and Henry described in their book.

“In this multi-dimensional model of leadership, everyone has within them the capacity to lead, and any organization or community is most dynamic, most alive, and most productive when there is a commitment to leadership at every level.” (Kinsey-House 27 in the iBook format)

Productivity resulted for sure. But more than that, aliveness was felt throughout the workplace. Play, creative giving, shared laughter and insights, exploration and a pursuit of excellence permeated the space. Participants gave themselves fully to the experience and received all that the experience had to offer in return.

With out a doubt, these communities of volunteers were dynamic, alive and productive. Why? We were all truly part of a whole that was bigger than the sum of its parts.

Imagine if there were more workplaces like the one I just described. What could your leadership and organizational system find with leaders at every dimension?

Interested in learning more about this multi-dimensional model? A great place to start is by reading Co-Active Leadership: 5 Ways to Lead by Karen and Henry Kinsey-House.

3 Principles to Avoid Being an Empty Chair Leader

An empty chair leader does not hold the best interests of the organization to heart. Instead he puts his own interests ahead of all else. And by doing so, he instills a lack of credibility in his leadership and thus operates from a disadvantaged position.

These truths rang loud and clear when I met a senior leader whom I’ll call George. George was an empty chair leader, failing to see a more effective way to lead. With a few changes in approach, he could have filled his seat at the table. Moreover, he could have had an engaged team sitting around the table with him. How?

George was new to the organization, pulled in from the outside by the CEO to lead a business unit that had recently been acquired. While he may have been a fit for past assignments, he did not have skills to engage his new team and the wherewithal to understand a different business model. From day one, George was ineffective.

Behind the scenes, he was known as the empty chair leader. And because he was not equipped to engage, he set himself and the organization back. He was a struggling leader with a frustrated team.

George didn’t get the hard rules and the changing dynamics of leadership today. He had an old playbook. That playbook was not serving him, the team he led or the business for which he had responsibility.

3 Principles to Avoid Being an Empty Chair Leader

Be servant-first instead of leader-first – George valued self-interest above service to others. My first introduction to him was at an off-site meeting. He awkwardly barged into that meeting and hijacked the agenda.

With no regard for the leader facilitating the session or the importance of the topic at hand, he created a new agenda on the fly. This agenda was all about him.

George let the attendees know how important he intended to be at an upcoming event and dominated the day with his desire to shine on stage. This approach may have been sound in meeting his one need, but it was ill conceived for the long-term. In a few short hours, the team uncovered his insecurities and identified his self-interest.

Good leaders put their needs aside in favor of the larger group. They choose to make sure they are meeting the highest priorities of those they are leading. Their focus is on the productivity and health of their organizations. One of their core beliefs is that this focus enables people to perform as highly as possible.

Be knowledgeable about the people – George was uninterested in those he led. He exhibited no curiosity about them and did not asked questions such as:

• Why do you come to work?
• What is your backgrounds?
• What values are at the core of who you are?
• What motivates you?
• What leadership style do you employ?
• What do you do outside of work?

Because he didn’t know answers to those basic questions, he used a “one size fits all” style for leading. And he masked his indifference with tactics such as brushing people aside, leaving active listening skills behind and cutting people off to control the conversation. George had no means to understand what help his leaders needed and how the help could best be provided.

Good leaders who know their people are adaptable and flexible with their style. They recognize that “one size fits all” leadership is not the best approach. Depending upon the situation, they are able to adapt according to who they are interacting with and what is needed in the moment.

Be present to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts – George had a few men on the team who were his go-to guys. These guys were the ones he sought out for advice, counsel and decision-making.

He managed with a select few. By doing so, he missed out on diversity of thoughts, experiences and backgrounds. And without diversity, he did not make sound decisions. As a result, his credibility suffered.

George failed to understand that most of his team had previously been in a “community.” He could not see it, so he could not leverage it. Many on his team were close-knit colleagues who knew each other’s functional organizations well. They had a real sense for collaboration and knack for helping each other.

Good leaders create an organization that is about the collective whole. The organization becomes a community where people:

• Show up to be at their best.
• Participate with a sense of collaboration
• Know they are supported and in turn support others
• Purse excellence

Within a year, three of George’s key executives submitted letters of resignation. Others were on the hunt for something new. Why? Being a part of his organization was exhausting.

George failed to do the hard work of leadership. Apathy set in. Frustration levels reached the breaking point. His team members knew there was a better way.

Before George took the helm, the leaders in his group had passion. Their people mattered, and they mattered to each other. Their customers counted. And they had mastered the art of accountability and responsibility for results through collaboration.

Maybe if George capitalized on what was already there and used the three tactics highlighted above, he would have avoided the reputation as an empty chair leader.

How well do you serve others, know your people and believe in the power of the whole?

GATE – A Tool for More Effective Leadership

One of the areas in which I spend considerable time is emotional intelligence (EQ). It is top of mind for many of my clients, and it is an elective class I teach to high school students, our future leaders. Regardless of the age, title or phase of life, EQ practices help with many things, including response flexibility.

Response flexibility refers to the ways in which your emotional responses inform decisions. An emotional response begins when the brain is triggered:

  • The nervous system produces feelings (emotions) in the body.
  • The mind creates thoughts.

Combined, these two responses to the trigger help you assess and encapsulate your experience. The way in which you appraise, summarize and respond is done with great speed. Thus without awareness, discerning the cause and effect of your triggers is difficult.

Practices for self-awareness to discern the cause and effect raise your EQ. With an elevated EQ, you are better able to choose how you will respond to a trigger. One simple practice for raising your EQ is the GATE model. This model brings awareness to the following:

G – Goals

A – Actions

T – Thoughts

E – Emotions

With GATE, you bring attention to the webs that are created with the continuous stream of goals (G), actions (A), thoughts (T) and emotions (E) that run through your mind. An initial thought leads to an emotional feeling. That emotion produces an action. The action causes a new thought, which prompts another thought and then an emotional feeling. That feeling is followed by the establishment of a goal.

On and on it goes. GATE webs are being spun from almost every thought you have. The thoughts you use to make the webs result from behaving with either a “reaction to” or “action from.”

“Reacting to” is not the preferred response for an effective leader. But how to move from “reaction to” to “action from?”

Employing response flexibility – that is what enables a shift from “reaction” to “action.” This flexibility comes about from slowing down and distancing yourself from the GATE web. Specifically, you are cultivating self-awareness.

You are removing yourself from the center of the GATE web and stepping to the sidelines. From this position, you can observe the causes and effects in the chain of events from three perspectives:

  • Inside yourself
  • Outside yourself
  • With the goals, actions, thoughts, emotions (GATE)

To illustrate observing the cause and effect from the GATE, let’s look at two examples. The first example is reactive, and the second is active. Both examples are in response to the same initial thought and emotion:

  • Example 1 – Reactive response that builds on the initial emotion and does not discern cause and effect:

T: Initial Thought – There is much to do with time running down to the wire.

E: Initial Emotion – Panicky feeling in the gut

 

G: Goal – Make them see I am serious about on time completion of the project

A: Action – Threaten to fire the team if they don’t deliver results on time

T: New Thoughts – Poor performers. They deserve to be fired.

E: Emotion – Seething

This GATE web is being made with negative emotion, management by intimidation and disengaged employees.

  • Example 2: Active response that comes from self-awareness, shifting emotional response and discerning triggers for “cognizant” decision.

T: Initial Thought – There is much to do with time running down to the wire.

E: Initial Emotion – Panicky feeling in the gut

 

G: Goal – Work together to complete the project on time

A: Action – Serve the team. How do I help them with issues and risks?

T: New Thought – With focus, we can push this to completion.

E: Emotion – Determined

This GATE web is being spun with a shift to positive emotion. From that emotion, servant leadership and engaged employees are possible.

 

By fully embracing what is going on, shifting emotion and discerning cause and effect can help you with “conscious” choice. Instead of being helplessly dragged by the GATE web into reactive behavior, you are able to choose how to react to your triggers.

How well do you discern cause and effect for “conscious” decisions about your leadership behavior?

Improv Techniques Beneficial in Leadership

A colleague and I recently sat down to watch a webinar together. The topic was interesting. The content was informative. The two speakers were esteemed in their professions. And the delivery between the co-leaders was well done. That is until it wasn’t ….

With a sharp and curt vocal tone, we heard one of them interrupt the other and chirp, “I take exception to what you are saying and must jump in here.” In that instant, the webinar lost something. An uncomfortable pause filled the space. The respectful exchange between the co-leaders hit a bump. In a short minute, the momentum that had been building during the program began to evaporate.

My colleague and I turned toward each other. One of us muttered, “that was bad” as the other nodded in agreement. Both of us had recently completed a leadership development program that incorporated improvisation (improv) in its curriculum. Thus, we recognized how helpful improv guidelines could have been for those co-leaders.

Improv? you might ask. Yes, improv is associated with comedy, but its methods have a place in leadership. Setting up for success in improv is much like setting up for success in business.

At the core of improv is acting and reacting with spontaneity. To do that well, a performer must be present and aware of all that is going on around him. The same holds true for leaders. They must be present and aware.

According to Kip Kelly at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, improv requires the ability to listen and be aware of others. It entails clarity in communication and confidence to proceed unscripted according to a few basic guidelines. In the case of this webinar and in most workplaces, leaders must be agile in order to respond to the unexpected and facilitate a community among participants.

Let’s look at three basic improv guidelines and how they help build cohesion and agility among teammates.

  1. The first rule is to ensure your teammates remain credible.

Cutting a person off to challenge the “facts” is rarely an engaging tactic. Rather it can throw up a block and bring things to a halt.

It is human nature to want to look good. But when done at the expense of others, it can be unproductive. In teamwork, credibility is not about one versus the others. Rather it is the system as a whole that matters.

  1. The second rule is to say “yes, and ….”

The importance here is that one does not have to agree with or even like what was said. “Yes, and” is simply language that demonstrates respect and paves the way for brainstorming, collaboration and problem solving. Those two words act as a builder from which another point of view can flow without discrediting others.

The “yes” simply acknowledges the point that was made by others. It also indicates openness to another perspective. The “and” then gives the opportunity to make a point or clarify what was said: “Yes and another way to think about it is …..”

  1. The third rule is there are no mistakes, only opportunities.

Saying “I must take exception to what you are saying” is clearly throwing your teammate under the bus. That short sentence sheds light on incompetence and notes a mistake. Moreover, it might be what shuts down others and takes away what there was to build upon.

In improv, there is a responsibility to look for opportunities. That means trusting teammates and embracing what is going on in the moment. Engaging with the skill of real-time adapting as new information and situations emerge is critical. It will help to capitalize on the opportunity to say or create something new and then move on.

Change the Scenery and Get Moving for Impact

A first-time manager (I’ll refer to her as Lisa) made a brilliant choice to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. During an awkward meeting, she reached a quick decision to change the scenery and get moving. The impact of this decision turned the meeting from ineffective to productive. Lisa’s decision is worth sharing.

As Lisa and I prepared the announcement of her management position, we identified a potential stumbling block. We considered the possibility of resentment on her new team. There was one individual who might feel he, not her, was deserving of the promotion. To address this potential issue, we ensured my talking points were solid for why Lisa was the right fit. We also role-played scenarios that could come up during her meeting with him.

Our intuition was right. During the team meeting, this individual’s resentment was clear. While he acknowledged the points I made to answer why Lisa, he had not totally bought-in to the new structure. He was on the fence. Thus, I knew a productive meeting with her was essential to ensure he was on board.

Just as we anticipated it might be, their meeting was awkward. The energy was uncomfortable. Tension permeated the space. His body language was closed, and his energy was low. Discussion was laborious, not flowing with any ease. The meeting was doomed unless something changed.

Recognizing she was not going to make progress in this atmosphere, Lisa asked for a change in venue. She suggested that they bundle up for the winter weather and take a walk around the campus. Once outside, the energy around them shifted. It was lighter and more vibrant. As they walked at a brisk pace, conversation began to flow more naturally.

By changing the scenery and engaging in physical movement, a safe and courageous field emerged between them. They were able to open to one another, articulating what each felt and needed from the other. Creativity emerged as ideas were shared. Those ideas were then built upon. Enthusiasm for what was possible began to come forth.

The meeting turned into a productive one. In fact, when she suggested they move back into a warmer place, he declined. He said he was enjoying the walk and the conversation.

As this story illustrates, changing the scenery and incorporating movement can have a positive impact. Here’s why:

  • Movement helps burn off and thus reduce nervous energy. The body / mind connection is real, so shifting the way the body feels through movement can alter the state of mind.
  • Movement changes the breathing pattern. Walking helps the body create more carbon dioxide naturally. This results in more efficient breathing. Adjustments to more efficient breathing can help restore balance in emotional energy.
  • Movement provides sensory distraction. The cold temperatures, the wind, the crunch of ice, and feet on the ground – These distractions help the brain process new things. Processing this new information makes it harder to hang on to what had been experienced. By letting go, the freed mental energy can be applied in a new direction.

Along with the benefits of moving, the side-by-side position while walking suggests, “I am by your side. I am on your side.” This position can help disarm defensiveness and engage relaxation. It evens the playing field, so to speak. By evening the playing field, an opening for new ways of working together can develop.

Try changing the scenery and incorporating movement in your meetings. In addition to the physical and psychological benefits of movement, you might find yourself tapping into new ways for thinking creatively. Tensions may dissipate. Openness may be more readily available. Communication might start to flow with more candor. Increased energy levels and shifts in moods could result.

Why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?

How You Lead, Show Up & Inter-relate is a Choice

You are always at choice. Yet, too often conscious choice may be held at arm’s length, allowing you to easily slip into comfortable, but not serving, ways of being, doing and reacting. Conscious choice begins by acknowledging that you are always at choice and recognizing choices contribute to outcome.

“Being at choice” and “tuning into choice” are two parts of the “choosing consciously” process. Conscious choice begins with an awareness of your current emotions and the perspective you are holding. Deciding to capitalize on that awareness opens you to opportunities and outcomes. Here’s a true story that shows you how.

Giving assistance and receiving help wasn’t something I intended to do when I went to a yoga class recently. All that changed, however, when the yoga instructor asked us to work in pairs for partner yoga.

What! My mind raced with ways to get out of this partnering. I did not want any part of it. It’s fair to say that my attitude instantaneously shifted, allowing negativity, fear and dread to creep in.

As my partner acknowledged me, he smiled warmly. That smile triggered an internal awareness. I became aware of my emotions and reactions to them. With awareness, I was at conscious choice.

I decided to make an attitude-adjustment and adopt curiosity. Negativity, fear and dread began to melt away. The story I had told myself was morphing into a new one. Optimism about the possibilities began to emerge.

Once class ended, I reflected. My initial thoughts about partnering were wrong. Reflection helped me see it was a good experience due to conscious choice.

Here are three learning points from my experience:

  • How you leader is a choice: In my assisting role, I chose to step into servant leadership, wanting to put my partner’s needs first. I made sure he felt safe and that his needs for the experience were being met. I stepped outside my level one, attentive to where he was and what he required to go further. Treating him with respect, I inspired him to explore the edge and tread into new territory.

Lesson 1: Choosing to serve first in leadership allows the innate feelings of wanting to serve rise to the top.

  • How you show up is a choice: I recognized that my emotions and state of being were not serving. An adjustment was in order, and I chose to engage with positivity. I opened myself to being an involved, agreeable and trusting partner while letting my vulnerability and an energetic alignment seep into the partnership. I allowed to all the class could be.

Lesson 2: Choosing positivity broadens the range of thoughts and emotional responses to the experience.

  • How you inter-relate is a choice: The partnership worked because we both chose self-awareness in order to be fully present, relationship-awareness to connect to each other and situation-awareness to benefit and learn from the experience. By tapping into those three levels of awareness, we made an authentic connection as two individuals and became one with the relational system we had formed.

Lesson 3: Choosing to honor the beauty in interdependence allows for reaching out, connecting and supporting authentically and naturally.

Choice is a powerful force: who you choose to be in the moment, how you choose to show up for the experience and what you choose for inter-relating to all that’s around you. Being at choice matters, so come into awareness and choose consciously.

5 Leadership Lessons from a Kindergarten Classroom

This year is my second as a volunteer in the Atlanta Public Schools. I volunteer as a reader to a kindergarten class in an underserved community. And yes, my favorite day of the month is when I start my morning in the classroom.

While they are learning skills in math, reading, and music, just to name a few areas, I too am learning. My education, however, is about “being, connecting and leading.” The children, the teachers and the school’s loving atmosphere allow me to be in the present moment, experience our inter-connectedness and recognize that leadership lessons are all around me.

So what have I learned about leadership from these five year olds and their teachers? Here are five lessons:

1) Ask for help – The children recognize when they are not getting something on their own. Many times, I have been asked, “Can you help me?” They know a request for help saves time and energy. It gives them a boost for seeing concepts more clearly and aids in the pace of completing their assignments.

Good leaders don’t go it alone. Recognizing they can’t do it all on their own, they ask for and accept help.

2) Be courageous –The children demonstrate enthusiasm for embracing a new challenge, taking action and staying the course. At points along the learning continuum, they have no qualifications for sounding out words or thinking through a math problems. Yet, they force themselves forward into new territory. They attack the challenge at hand and stay the course. Sure enough, they break through with new discoveries that enable movement to what is next.

Good leaders don’t hesitate or hang back from challenges. They are courageous, taking risks for the sake of moving forward.

3) Live with constant curiosity and open-mindedness – The lean into wondering and questioning in order to develop their capabilities. They open their minds to learning new things. They use their “beginner’s minds” to ask curious questions: “why,” “what,” and “how.” And they welcome experiences that facilitate their learning and satisfy their desire to know more.

Good leaders expand their perspectives and build upon what they know. They never stop learning and accept curiosity and open-mindedness as skills required for success.

4) Acknowledge the small things – The children thrive on feedback for a job well done. “Good job with that math workbook.” “High five for great spelling.” “Put a sticker next to your name for reading that page.” Praise is a way in which small steps are celebrated and confidence is boosted. The teacher know that praise is a method to keep them engaged and inspired to move forward.

Good leaders acknowledge success and appreciate progress. They don’t wait for the end objective to be complete. Rather they praise a long the way. In doing so, they keep people motivated and stimulated.

5) Know your people – Every child is different. Even at five or six, they have their own experiences, ways of learning, cultural backgrounds and beliefs. The teachers identify the differences and provide opportunities that enable each child to reach his or her potential. They know which children thrive on stretching themselves. And they know the children who don’t readily accept a challenge. They know which children are the introverts and which are the extroverts. And based upon what they know, they help develop skills and capacities to prepare the children for the next phase of their education.

Good leaders understand their people. They know how to best capitalize on what each brings to the table. They know how to structure team work to optimize talents. And they know how to stretch people so they work at the edge of their comfort zones and expand their skill sets.

Improve Communications with a Daily Check-In

After reading Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni, I changed my meeting schedule to follow the meeting format presented in the book. The change was beneficial. It opened us up not just to more useful meetings, but also to more effective communication and teamwork.

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communications.” – Mike Krzyzewski

Of the four meetings in Lencioni’s structure, the one that impacted us most was the Daily Check-In.

  • The Daily Check-in is a short meeting set for the same time each day. Its purpose is to provide a daily forum for information exchange. Lencioni specifically designs it to be for sharing schedules and activities.

Particularly important for us, as a geographically dispersed team, was the opportunity to touch base with each other. We verbally communicated and personally connected each day. As a result, we were better aligned and had a stronger sense of belonging.

The Check-In was structured around what we called The 4 What’s:

  • What happened yesterday that needs to be reported?
  • What is happening today that needs to be communicated?
  • What are my top priorities for the day?
  • What help do I need?

The answers were short and focused. With a round robin format, all team members spoke to apprise others of what was going on and request support as required. Any points that needed further clarification or more depth were either addressed on the spot or sidelined for follow up. If sidelined for follow up, calendaring occurred during the meeting.

The Daily Check-In I led with my team followed the Daily Check-In led by my boss, our CEO. Many on my management team followed my Daily Check-In with one of their own. This cascade of Daily Check-Ins opened us up to regular communication from the top down. In our culture, it was an important way to exchange information, share priorities and rally around our shared purpose and team priorities.

How might a Daily Check-In serve your team or your culture?

For more information on the Daily Check-In and the other three meetings (weekly tactical, monthly strategic or ad hoc strategic and quarterly off-site), I recommend reading Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.