The Importance of Brevity

When is too much, too much?

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Complexity is often a function of a number of things:

1. ) Obscuring the message.
2.) Creating an air of superiority
3.) A lack of knowledge
4.) Not knowing what to look for

Simplicity’s Impact
Developing a simplicity approach is often desirable and presents more information and insight than communicating a complex message. It may seem a paradox, but the shorter, and more focused a message is, the more the message carries.

Knowing what to look for
Knowing what to look for is an important precursor to knowing what to communicate in a simplified and targeted way. Inexperience in knowing what is important, leads to the need to communicate more information than what is needed, and likely an uncertainty in the communication.

Ways to build brevity into your life
1. Avoid constant second guessing. Learn to trust your intuition.
2. Build skills where you identify your weaknesses.
3. Learn more about what you’re working with. Increased knowledge brings with it increased ability to simplify what you are saying.
4. Where further information is needed, you can expand the message.

When working with new employees, and individuals learning in an area for the first time, be patient, and teach the skill of brevity. Anxiety about a situation needs to be managed. Keeping in mind that having all the information is not necessarily desirable, and that follow up can be a regular and routine part of the communication process.>

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Expectations and the Art of Transparency

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One of the challenges of communicating is managing expectations. Expectations can be “managed” per se, if the message communicated is clear and is free of residual meanings.

The idea of Transparency clarifies what one can expect. The alternative usually results in:

1. Co-dependent communication where we are simply saying what we think others want to hear.
2. Manipulation. We are saying something in purpose that is not really real.
3. Excuse making. We have to justify our positions rather than own them.

How many of us have been in any of these positions?

Making our communication explicit communicates a level of respect for others, even if it is not the kind of message we would prefer to present, or what others would want to hear. Being transparent, means that we are willing to take the appropriate risk to communicate true meanings, specific opinions, and bare bones knowledge, that leaves no questions, and leads not to misconstrued messages, which lead to unmet expectations.

Ways of being transparent
We exercise transparency, when we say what we mean. We help others with hard truths. It may not be immediately comfortable, but it communicates an understanding and reality to others, that suggests that you respect the other person despite the message itself. It also saves you a lot of further defensiveness and justification later, when others “find out” what the factual reality really is.

The Importance of Simple Things

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Photo by the author –

An ever present reality is that individuals are engaged in the act of being busy, or survival. “Survival” does not necessarily mean living, but rather existing.

A complex issue in today’s society is how immersed we are in doing, being, running, and reacting. How much do we miss around us? Is the mere act of being important, busy, and immersed in the activity around us, dulling our sense of what is important?

Simple Things
Simple things are around us, and we take them for granted. They invite us to engage, but our addiction to be important, depended upon, provided attention, or surviving dulls our sensitivity to the simple things that can bring an appreciation for our lives.

Like the child playing in the sand…how much do we allow ourselves to play in the sand?

Do We:
1. Look at the clouds?
2. Look at nature around us?
3. Identify what is important to us, as opposed to multiple “stake holders” who don’t recognize our efforts?
4. Read what is important to us? Pursue our dreams?

Or do we simply live, and engage other people’s dreams? When we become dulled to the simple things that are meaningful in life, we are just surviving. On the surface, we are looking, feeling, and being important, but inside we may be just existing.

ACTION ITEM: WHAT ARE WE ALLOWING TO GO BY US? WHY ARE WE JUST SURVIVING, WHEN WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE?

Dealing With Hollow Commitments

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Everybody knows it is important to invest to get results. The opposite is true when commitments are empty and we still want to get results.

It’s easy to make commitments, but painfully hard to invest and follow through.

In principle: Those that are truly committed pay their way. There are many that believe a lack of investment will still get a result. How can this be?

Why we think hollow commitments will succeed –
1. We delude ourselves.
2. We become sincerely good rational liars to ourselves.
3. We tell people what we think they want to hear.
4. We actually make up things.
5. We have a rescue fantasy that somehow, it will work out.

The effort we exert is hollow, and half-hearted. The results spotty.

What do we do to curb the hollow committ-ers?
1. We smoke them out. Ask them to prove what they have said they’ve done.
2. Measure results
3. Lay out the discrepancy.
4. Identify the co-dependency.
5. Point out reality.

Hollow commitments are just short term survival tactics for those without enough self-esteem, credibility, or resources. It is a delay tactic to create something that is not real, and it can lead to substantial set backs for others.

How do you handle hollow commitments?
What do you do when people disappoint you, and don’t invest?

Building Leverage against Adversity

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Building leverage in periods of adversity is about stepping up to take action rather than reaction.

Reaction to events empowers weakness and victim mentality.

Victim like thinking hampers the ability to develop resiliency.

When there is no resiliency, the tipping point to build leverage passes. There are several areas that can aide in building the leverage needed for adversity:

1. Influence – those with positive influence, have the right balance between sensitivity and power.

2. Focus on the right things – having the right orientation toward honorable things builds internal credibility and confidence. Those that feed on negativity are always operating from the defensive.

3. Exercise persistence and personal initiative – those that exert their energy by taking ownership are in the position to gain leverage. Victim thinking begets a defensive position with adversity, where little leverage is available.

4. Center personal activity – on what the main thing is. Keeping the main thing (or most important) out front is the key to building leverage. Distracting issues, drama, and petty issues only delay and liquidate momentum and leverage.

5. Leverage occurs when we keep meeting and working through challenges. Each time adversity is met by using our talents, skills, and knowledge, we build resiliency. We meet more challenges, which gradually develops leverage.

Leverage is not a given. It cannot bestowed, and it is not easy to attain. Without a deliberate amount of fortitude, and the right approach or mindset, we may find ourselves at a disadvantage.

Why Do You Become a Leader?

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Leadership can represent titles, positions and authority. For some that is the purpose of being a leader: Themselves. It is the power trip, and the personal identity that comes from being called a leader. In this author’s view, that is hollow victory, and has no sustainable long term benefit.

Those that don’t seek the recognition of leadership, often are the ones that have the most to offer it. Leadership is not necessarily about solidifying one’s legacy, it’s about leaving others in a better position. If we’re in a position of leadership, what is the purpose of our position there?

Those that see leadership as a position:
1. Seek power over others

2. See the system serving them, not serving the system.

3. Don’t care who is hurt in the process.

4. See people as obstacles rather than opportunities to contribute.

Others…see leadership to:
1. Engage their passion about people and what is produced for others.

2. Developing other leaders in a chosen field.

3. Derive joy from seeing others succeed, and develop. This fuels them.

4. Want to leave a legacy, rather than build one.

The truth is, those that truly lead, do so from the heart and seek to better others. They are humble, and do not seek the spotlight. They don’t necessarily see their efforts as special, but rather a response to the needs before them. Their payoff is seeing others derive benefits.

    How do you think others will view you at retirement?

A few months back, this author had an opportunity to attend and participate in a retirement party for a college mentor who had recently finished three decades in a college department. It was an honor to participate in the celebrations, but very interesting to see how this longtime professor handled talk of his legacy and contributions to the department, that he essentially developed.

Although there were numerous formal honors given, the most profound honor was the significant turnout of decades of alumni to share their best wishes. In his remarks it was evident that he gave no credit to himself, but it was clear from the turnout what impact his leadership had meant to so many others. It was also obvious that the true message was people’s presence at the event. What a message. If Leadership is about how many people you have touched, then that is the true measure and purpose of leadership.

When you consider your style of leadership, do you consider it in terms of making a difference for others, or as a collection of honors? The memory of the honors will ultimately pass, but the difference you make in others can last well beyond your tenure or life.

Resiliency Skills for Leaders, Part 2

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Sustaining your strength and focus is more than individual growth. It is about how you interface with others. Maintaining our effectiveness is about how we lift others beyond their challenges and how we gain from the contribution.

1. Remember it’s not about you. If our emphasis is on others and not our own spotlight, then we avoid creating a codependency on what we do, and instead focus and celebrate what others do as a result of our vision and direction.

2. Integrate and Listen to Others. If we are talking at others rather than listening to them, then we are missing out on key contributions that others are making. The objective of leading others is to create other leaders. If we are listening to them, then we are allowing them to lead.

3. You’re not supposed to know everything. If you know everything, then why are you leading others? Leading with the Idea that you know everything, is closing off the necessary things and people that can teach us more about leading. If we are not being influenced by others, then we have closed off potential creativity and growth within our unit.

4. See your role as a contribution. The question is: Why did we choose to lead others? If it was for personal fame or notoriety, then our gains may be shortsighted, and short lived. Only leadership that aims to make a valuable contribution can feel worthwhile and purposeful in the long run. Ask yourself daily or weekly: Why do I do this? Why do I lead? Search for the answer that comes back.

5. Make Alone Time. At the end of the day or period, absorb what you just experienced that day. Making private time to do this is not selfish, but very important in your personal discovery process, and thinking how others receive us. Use the lessons to feed your thinking and vision.

Resiliency Skills for Leaders – Part 1

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There has been much written about personal renewal. These include a variety of personal habits, health oriented skills, and stress reduction techniques. Leadership and management are very difficult, and the reserve needed from day to day is significant. Personal renewal is certainly necessary, but it is not sufficient when we consider organizational constraints and barriers.

BARRIERS
1. Multiple time sensitive demands
2. Phone calls
3. Commitments
4. Personnel or Customer problems

The need to be creative, present for others, and ready to fight “fires” within the organization can be enormous. The leader can find themselves operating from survival mode, or avoidance mode. Neither option is a preferable method and can lead to organizational drift.

RESILIENCY SKILLS
Invest consistently
Investing in others within the workplace is good for you and your employees. There is no replacement for compassion, empathy, concern and providing recognition to others for the good that is happening in the organization. Connecting, engaging, supporting, and learning from others and recognizing others, can be uplifting. The more you uplift, the more you can be lifted.

Take time to reflect
From what you’ve learned and connected with, comes the need to find a quiet place to reflect. The banter of noise, multiple disruptions, and interference does little to integrate what you are now. In order to know where you want to be, you have to reflect on where you are.

Avoid being mired in petty issues
Keeping the big picture in front of you despite the noise and interference of competing problems is a key skill to maintaining focus. Putting small issues aside, getting closure on potential distractions is a key skill and one that bypasses issues, rather than letting them control the path that is being set.

Write about what you’ve learned
Leaders that write, and reflect – and “crunch” ideas have the potential toward resiliency and personal growth. They not only reflect, but put their goals in clearer perspective. If you integrate your insights at the end of the day, your next day will be more informed.

Maintain a routine
Changes are a given, but maintaining a consistent routine is critical to dealing with the ebb and flow of a given day. Maintaining a structure that is flexible, yet adds some predictability can impact how you approach new issues that seek to derail your day.

Resiliency is a process – it requires constant development. It requires meeting problems, using skill reserves you develop, and getting closure on residual issues.

Creating More Impact with Your Staff – The Performance Review

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Performance reviews, individual supervision, group reviews can vary in how they are conducted with your staff. Organizations vary.

Individual staff (and groups) have a right to know where they stand at any given moment in the process of their work. Keeping your appraisals until the “yearly review”, or waiting until a problem develops to supply corrective action is the wrong way to do supervisory reviews.

It might appear overbearing to meet regularly with an employee, however the most supportive thing to do is have a transparent discussion with your staff members in the “here and now” and at predictable and regular points.

Reasons why regular reviews are good
There are several reasons why meeting regularly with your staff is a good idea. Several include:

1. A staff member knows where they stand – there are no secrets.

2. Regular development can occur which helps the employee make course adjustments.

3. What is expected, and what is happening can be reviewed now – not later.

4. Institutional values can be discussed, incorporated, and developed.

5. Staff knows you care, and that you are not being critical.

6. Helps build cohesion, retention of employees, and morale.

A Method for Doing Regular Reviews
Preferably reviews should be twice monthly, but can be weekly. They don’t have to be long protracted meetings, and they should have a positive, proactive and helpful atmosphere surrounding them. There are never punitive or critical remarks made. Everything said is transparent. Honesty is the best policy.

The Staff Member Creates the Agenda for the Review
The best review is one where the employee or staff member comes prepared to discuss the issues important to their work. A general outline path can be prescribed by the manager, but it is important that the employee own the outline, and set the topics that are to be discussed. The outline can consist of the following:

Accomplishments
Challenges
Areas of Proposed Development
Project Status/Progress

New Employees Need Mentored
A new employee may need further coaching in the process. Oftentimes, those least experienced in their jobs won’t know the questions to ask, or the material to bring forth. Examples and coaching may be necessary to help the staff member know how to think about their work.

Connection and Engagement is the Key
The overall process should only take about a half hour, but it is a good accountability for both the staff member and manager. These reviews are seen as ways to connect with the leader, and the leader has an obligation to serve and provide guidance where necessary. Importantly, it allows the staff member the opportunity to take initiative, showcase accomplishments, and honestly discuss problems they are having with their jobs or their experience. Opportunities to improve, and change path can be done on an ongoing basis, and more radical corrective action is unnecessary.

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