I’ve been fascinated by the concept ever since I read about the Kaizen movement in the mid-80s.

It encapsulates the well-known saying,” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The core underpinning concept emphasizes continuous improvement through small, incremental changes.

It’s been five plus decades of doing life, raising a family, building a business, being a husband, father, brother, friend and neighbour.

Working at “doing it better”  has always been a a part of my process.

Admittedly, I haven’t always nailed it.

The business world strives for improvement in terms of ” lean ” and “agile” business practices.

It’s equally applicable in manufacturing to enhance efficiency and quality.

The concept also applies to anyone seeking personal growth in various aspects of life.

Some examples would be personal goals for saving money, getting fit, or losing weight.

By adopting this mindset, we learn how minor adjustments in our daily habits and attitudes can lead to significant change.

Here Are Five Subtle Shifts I’ve Used In My Own Life

Find Ways To Add Value

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world,” Howard Zinn

Leadership is all about looking for small yet meaningful ways to contribute.

These could be simple gestures of support during tough times or creative solutions to minor workplace issues.

They must be done responsibly and within your capacity to deliver.

Each effort deepens relationships, enhances perspective, and strengthens leadership abilities.

Focusing on adding value, even in small ways, creates a ripple effect.

It leads to substantial positive changes in your organization and personal life.

Committing To Being Fully Present

Distractions are everywhere. Focusing and being fully present is a rare and valuable skill.

Cal Newport, author of ‘Deep Work,’ emphasizes the power of concentrated attention.

This commitment involves actively minimizing distractions to enhance effectiveness in both professional settings and personal interactions.

For example, at crucial meetings, I make it a point to turn off device notifications to engage more deeply with the discussion.

This simple practice contributes to more thoughtful contributions, decisions, and outcomes.

Similarly, dedicated time for family, friends or even personal projects can convey, “Hey, I’m here for you !”

Practicing presence means being physically, mentally, and emotionally invested.

This is an essential key for effective leadership and personal fulfillment.

Maintaining Focus on Ultimate Goals

“Begin with the end in mind,” – Stephen Covey.

This principle is central to Kaizen, emphasizing the importance of clarity in your goals and objectives.

My hobby foray into film-making and videography sharpened my storytelling skills.

Every good movie you’ve ever watched has a central plot, a good script that drives it toward a conclusion, – at least it should.

Each scene has been crafted in advance with storyboards, shot lists and well-acted scripts that effectively tell the story.

Even Shakespeare knew that it was not enough just to set goals; every good writer/producer must create a system to review and adjust goals regularly.

This might involve setting aside time each week to reflect on where you’re at in your story and make necessary adjustments.

Keeping your long-term objectives in clear view ensures that your daily actions align with your ultimate aims.

Continuous goal mindfulness and realignment keep you on track toward significant results in your career and personal life.

P.S. That’s what “My Three Words” is all about.

Actively Seeking Constructive Feedback

 “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve,” -Bill Gates.

This highlights the importance of seeking out and valuing feedback.

Bill’s openness to others’ perspectives was a cornerstone of continuous improvement and relevant to his leadership.

Holding an open and welcoming posture for feedback from colleagues, mentors, or even friends and family can provide valuable insights into your strengths and areas for improvement.

Good feedback comes in various forms, such as performance reviews, casual conversations, or structured mentoring sessions.

By actively seeking and reflecting on this feedback, you can identify areas for minor adjustments that can lead to significant improvements in your leadership style and personal life.

I know this was true for me.

Cultivating Self-Discipline in Small Ways

Admiral William H. McRaven had a distinguished 37-year career in the U.S. Navy. That was followed by a 3-year stint as Chancellor of The University of Texas.

His advice: “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.”

For him, this simple daily habit set the tone for a day of achievement and order, essential for tackling more significant challenges in life and work.

Similarly, implementing small, disciplined actions like regular exercise, mindful spending, or dedicated learning time each day can accumulate substantial personal and professional growth over time.

These small, consistent acts of discipline lay the foundation for more significant achievements and resilience, demonstrating the power of Kaizen in everyday life.

My challenge this month?

Explore the principles of Kaizen and how small changes can lead to significant results for you.

 I invite you to reflect on your own experiences.

What small steps have you taken in your leadership journey or personal life that led to substantial changes?

Please D.M. me your stories and comments.

Let’s inspire each other through our continuous journeys of improvement.

Until next time.

Bottom line up front: My Three Words  (Drumroll Please)

INSPIRE. LEARN. NETWORK

Like many things we humans fuss over, the concept of a New Year can be a wee bit scary.

“I didn’t do enough. I should have done more. I failed.”

I hear this quite often. It’s amazing how much angst we can shovel onto our souls at this time of year.

Mind you, January 1 is mainly similar to January 2 or 3. Days. Just days.

Some of you are “fast start” folks who tackle the New Year experience with gusto and zeal.

New systems. New processes. New habits. Get 50 things done this week, probably by Thursday.

Me? I prefer a more measured approach.

So, for the last decade or so, I’ve been intentional about figuring out three broad themes that are personally applicable in the year to come.

Then I distill those themes down to one word for each theme.

 It’s a re-assessment of my calling in the context of my life and my work.

 If you’re still getting familiar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started it in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just plug a quick search for #my3words and see what others are doing.

It may sound simple, but it can be challenging. Two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three words are about right.

Year by year, I’ve checked back and assessed progress against my words. Last year, my words were Build, Reconnect, and Breakthrough.

And without me striving for any particular outcomes, all of this happened.

It’s downright uncanny how this type of broad visioning works – and it does.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. Instead, it’s a way to incorporate a small success system by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in the coming year.

A recent article in Bain and Co. caught my attention. It reinforced an idea I’ve been observing for some time.

Simply put, it’s this:

 

We live and work in a new era—where traditional leadership models are missing the critical element that this era requires: inspiration.

 

 INSPIRE : (From Merriam Webster)

This moving little word may be traced back to the Latin inspirare (“to breathe or blow into”), which itself is from the word spirare, meaning “to breathe.”

The definition of inspiration is the process of breathing life into new ideas. The very origin carries the sense that you can’t control or contain inspiration, like wind or air.

It evokes images from Genesis 2, where the Creator God breathes life into a lifeless form of man, shaped from the dust of the ground, and the idea of humankind becomes a reality.

Cool huh!

Inspiration connects to more creative concepts, like motivation, ambition, and artistry.

When comparing motivation versus inspiration, think of them as an effect and a cause: motivation happens after you feel inspired and want to put your idea into action.

However, inspiration, like happiness, can be a learned skill supported by a personal system. There’s no natural one-size-fits-all-all system here.

The personal systems for inspiration that I cultivate and maintain may appear quite ordinary, even boring, to some.

However, if wisdom is proven right by its results, then bam! I rest my case.

Activities that support inspiration include proper sleep, rest, exercise, time in nature, meditation, and learning new things.

Keeping an Idea Journal helps!

Then there are people who inspire me. Not just any people. A network of family, friends, and colleagues who are genuine, positive. and have my best interest at heart. (Like my grandkids)

People who uplift, encourage, and sometimes call me on my BS.

I call them my “spark people”.

You know who you are – so thank you.

LEARN

Somehow, inspiration and learning are siblings in my brain. I’ve never really gotten away from the “lifetime learner” posture.

Stepping away from a full-time CEO role to Executive Coaching and Advisory roles has been a perpetual learning curve.

Now, I’m helping to establish a charity foundation to address the pervasive housing crisis. Guess what! More learning.

My propensity to learn and grow in ways that help others is one of the things that keeps inspiring me.

 

NETWORK

This is both a noun and a verb that, in my case, involves people. It’s a carry forward of my last year’s word -Reconnect.

This is partly to restore the healthy people networks devastated by the Covid era.

80 % of whatever we do to sustain ourselves and grow happens because of our people network.

This coming year, I plan to reach out, grow, and expand my people network in new ways.

 

MY APPROACH

I interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or workout calendar.

Doing this keeps them front and center, pointing me toward my goals and grounding me in the interim work needed to achieve them.

 

REVIEW THEM DAILY

The more you review your 3 words, the better. They help me decide stuff. For example, “Should I say yes to this project?” or “Well, how does this align with my intent?”

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

Some of you have been asking about my words for months now.

 (Right back at Atcha!)

1. Please shoot me a note about your words or share it wherever you like.

2. Use the hashtag #my3words to find other people’s shared experiences, and if you’re a last-minute person, don’t worry.

3. Start when you’re ready.

I look forward to seeing what this next year has in store for us all!

Until next time.

 

“Building Your Leadership Awareness.” 

Socrates sure started something when he came up with the quote, “Know thyself.”

Self-awareness seems to have become the latest management buzzword — and for good reason.

Personality Type testing has grown to a whopping two 2 billion dollar annual enterprise. 

A growing body of research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative.

We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We become more effective leaders with healthier organizations.

My years of being a practitioner, coach, and ever-learning student of leadership have given me a ringside seat to the power of leadership awareness and the effect that it can have. 

I’ve also witnessed more organizational traumas than I care to admit. Usually, it stems from a lack of understanding, or experience from a senior leader. 

Someone in a leadership role “wasn’t getting it!”

On occasion, I’ve been an unwitting participant. So consider this my “mea culpa” disclaimer. Also, social proof that I know of which I speak.

My personal interest in self-awareness started many years ago with a simple DiSC Assessment. DiSC Is an open-source personality assessment tool. It is one of many tools that are prevalent in the business realm.

Others include Myers Briggs, Core Strengths and Birkman, to name a few.

My Own Journey With This 

My first report was shock learning for me. You see, I’m an “off the chart” type D personality. People weren’t experiencing me as graciously as I thought they were.

At the time, I knew very little about nurturing this critical leadership skill.

I knew it meant significant internal leadership work for me to do – on me. Over time and with the help of others, I learned my default responses and was able to change and “flex my style.”

A well-researched research article in Harvard Business Review suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative.

We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively.

We all want that. Right?

It provides evidence of a direct correlation between the leader’s level of self-awareness and the organization’s level of health and effectiveness. 

 So, what are the pathways to greater leadership self-awareness?  

There are actually two broad, interrelated categories. 

The first can be called internal self-awareness. It represents how we see our values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others.

Healthy Internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; it is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression.

The second category, external self-awareness, is more about understanding how other people experience us. Our personal UX. (User Experience)

Those who know how others see them invariably are more skilled at empathy and listening to others.

Leaders who figuratively can “walk in other people’s shoes” have a better relationship with them and are perceived as more effective in their leadership 

As with other things, awareness often comes slowly and progressively.

Hence, the term “dawning awareness.”

 

The infographic, courtesy of McKinsey, tells the story nicely. 

How do I get to level 5?

Here are a few suggestions that have worked well for me

Make feedback normal. Make workplace feedback safe and okay at team meetings. If you have made commitments to improve, take a moment to report on what you have done, and then ask team members to rate your progress on a scale of 1 to 10.

They may struggle the first few times you do it, but frequency will overcome timidity. The more regular you make it, the less risky it is.

Engage with a coach or mentor.

This may sound a tad self-serving because it’s what I do. (I am not looking for more work at this point) The more important part about this is that it works!

Ask someone you respect who’s candid and straightforward to be your informal coach. Meet regularly to request feedback. Make the coaching relationship public to demonstrate your sincerity about improving.

If you can afford a good Executive Coach, the Return On Investment can be significant (788%, according to this Forbes Article) 

Having a multi-source feedback system that you’ve nurtured over time yields multiple dividends.

Until next time.

 

PS if you enjoyed this, you might like Building Trust Through Feedback

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by garrett parker on Unsplash

Imagine you’re in charge at the helm of a ship, but your compass equipment isn’t calibrated correctly.

You’ll likely veer off-course, blithely sailing along unaware that critical course corrections are needed.

Just like you navigate a ship with a compass, leading a team without effective feedback is much like  sailing blindfolded. It can quickly lead to disaster!

Feedback is the compass that guides you and your team toward your shared goals, fostering a culture of trust and nurturing fruitful workplace relationships.

The Power of Feedback

Feedback is crucial for several reasons. First, it creates a clear line of communication between leaders and their teams, illuminating the path to objectives and aligning the efforts of all involved.

Furthermore, it drives professional growth, pushing us to refine our skills and expand our competencies.

Lastly, when delivered effectively, feedback builds a culture of transparency and trust.

Navigating the Feedback Seas

I recognized very early in my leadership career that I would need to foster various forms of feedback loops to suit different situations and individuals.

Each situation and each person was uniquely different,

Here are some different types of feedback that I’ve found to be very useful.

  1. Motivational feedback focuses on encouraging team members and acknowledging their efforts. This type of feedback can be particularly effective when dealing with challenging tasks or during periods of change.
  2. Developmental feedback offers the opportunity to improve an individual’s skills and competencies. It’s about identifying growth areas and providing the support needed to reach new levels of mastery.
  3. Constructive feedback involves providing specific, actionable suggestions on what an individual or team could improve. It’s not about criticism; it’s about helping people reach their full potential.
  4. Intrinsic feedback comes from within an individual. As a leader, you can help team members tune into their self-awareness and reflections.
  5. External feedback comes from outside the individual and is often in the form of evaluations, reviews, or assessments. This feedback can help employees understand how they’re perceived and how their actions impact others.
  6. Negative feedback can come across as criticism, but it can lead to significant growth and improvement when done right. It’s all about the delivery! Hard things can be discussed in a matter- of- fact manner with a tone of respect.
  7. Positive feedback acknowledges and reinforces the actions that contribute to the success of a project or organization. It can help to boost morale, improve productivity, and increase employee engagement.
  8. Immediate feedback provides a real-time learning opportunity right after a behaviour occurs. This kind of feedback is impactful as it allows for rapid adjustments.
  9. Delayed feedback conversations occur after some time has passed. It allows for reflection when feedback needs careful thought or when immediate feedback may not be suitable.

Common Sense Principles for Feedback Conversations

Despite the types of feedback, its delivery is critical. Here are some principles to bear in mind:

  1. Empathize: Treat your team members as individuals, not just employees. Be mindful of their feelings and viewpoints.
  2. Be precise: General feedback can lead to misunderstandings. Make your feedback clear and actionable.
  3. Encourage dialogue: Feedback should not be a one-way street. Cultivate an open discussion to guarantee understanding and agreement.
  4. Make it relevant and timely: Feedback should be given appropriately and directly correlate with the recipient’s actions.
  5. Focus on behaviours, not the person: Feedback should address actual activities, not be a critique of the individual.

The Voyage to Better Leadership Through Feedback Loops

Effective feedback loops empower leaders to better understand their team’s needs and provide the proper guidance, support, and motivation. Leaders who embrace the power of feedback create a culture of continuous learning and mutual respect, ultimately enhancing performance.

In essence, trust is forged through clear, respectful communication. Leaders who are adept at giving and receiving feedback not only establish an environment of faith but also enhance their credibility.

So, if you model gracious feedback as a regular part of your leadership practice, it can be the compass that steers you and your team toward success, fostering trust and enriching workplace relationships along the journey.

Until next time.

 

PS like this ?  You might enjoy  https://lorneepp.com/how-graceful-is-your-leadership/

 

 

Note: This is not the actual bridge in my story, but a very close facsimile.

 It happened some years ago but it was an adventure I’ll never forget. I was exploring a rugged and remote part of my province. My trusty truck was pulling hard in the steep terrain, and my fuel supply was dwindling.

My map showed me an alternate route that would get me back to civilization (and fuel) much sooner than going back the way I came. It meant crossing a fairly large river, but the map showed a bridge – so no problem, right?

It was almost nightfall when I got to the river. Guess what – the road led right onto a timber railway bridge!

I felt that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. My heart rate went up a notch.

This required some “thinking about it.”

Pulling aside, I made myself a cup of tea. Somehow that helped.

Looking more closely, the rails had 2×6 planks installed on either side to accommodate vehicle traffic should anyone be nutty enough to attempt a crossing.

 I started “walking the plank” on either side of the rail to check if it was sturdy enough. It seemed to be.

There’s no turning around or backing up with the truck, camper and loaded trailer on that narrow plank. Not an option.

There were no guardrails. The slightest deviance from the plank could tip the whole rig into the swift flowing waters.

My next thought was, “What if an oncoming train happens?”

Somewhere in a Western movie, some guy would always put their ear on the track to determine an oncoming train.

It worked in the movies, so I decided to try it. Nothing to be heard.

Taking a deep breath, I started the engine, aligned with the track, and started slowly and carefully inching across.

It was the longest twelve minutes of my life, my heart thumping every moment of the way.

In retrospect, as sketchy as it was, I had to trust that the bridge would get me from here to there.

I had to trust my driving skills to not go off the rails.

 I had to accept a reasonable risk of no oncoming train.

Trust is the cornerstone for building relationships and running our businesses.

It’s like a bridge, connecting us to others, facilitating communication and collaboration, and strengthening our bond.

It allows us to traverse the otherwise vast chasm of unfamiliarity, misunderstanding, and insecurity.

Just like many types of physical bridges get us from here to there, types of Trust can be viewed on a continuum.

At the one end there’s a tightrope which only allows fragile, one-way traffic. This might represent a relationship or business venture just beginning to build Trust. Next would be suspension bridge, or a hastily erected Bailey bridge over a washout and so on.

At the far end, a substantial, four-lane bridge accommodates high-speed, multi-directional traffic.

This could symbolize a well-established relationship or a successful business partnership where Trust is deeply ingrained and mutual.

Here are a few examples.

The Fragile Tightrope: Picture a trust bridge resembling a tightrope, swaying precariously with each step. This delicate construction permits only one-way traffic, making it essential to tread carefully. In relationships where Trust is fragile, any misstep or breach can easily send the participant tumbling down. It’s like walking on eggshells, constantly second-guessing intentions and actions. This kind of trust bridge limits openness and can create an atmosphere of suspicion.

The Swinging Suspension Bridge: Moving along the trust bridge continuum, we encounter a swinging suspension bridge. This structure allows for limited two-way traffic, enabling communication and interaction. Although the bridge may sway with the winds of doubt or uncertainty, Trust remains intact, albeit with some wobbles. It requires continuous efforts to maintain balance and address concerns promptly.  

The Substantial Highway:  This is the trust bridge at its strongest—a steel and concrete four-lane highway built to withstand the tests of time and traffic. This bridge enables fast and reliable connections, fostering openness, collaboration, and mutual respect. Trust on this scale allows for smooth two-way traffic, ensuring effective communication and meaningful relationships.

When the Trust Bridge Becomes Blocked, Compromised, or Broken: Just as real bridges can encounter roadblocks, detours, or even collapse, trust bridges also face challenges. When Trust becomes blocked, it obstructs the flow of communication and understanding. Misunderstandings, unfulfilled promises, and hidden agendas can lead to a traffic jam of emotions.

When a Bridge Collapses: The immediate feeling is denial and disbelief. You’re caught off-guard, especially if the bridge had appeared solid and sturdy. You may stand incredulous on one side of the chasm, wondering how such a sturdy structure could fall so unexpectedly.

Anger soon follows, kindled by the hurt of betrayal and fanned by resentment towards the person who let you down and perhaps even towards yourself for not seeing the signs.

The broken bridge also leads to anxiety, as you’re stranded, unable to reach the other side, unsure how to rebuild or find another way. Thoughts of lashing out might bubble up, but they only lead to more destruction and less resolution.

Financial damage might occur, especially if the trust bridge was between business partners or in a marital relationship where finances were intertwined.

Moreover, the stress caused by a betrayal of Trust can manifest as physiological symptoms such as loss of sleep or appetite. In some cases, individuals may even resort to thoughts of self-harm or harming others, showing the severity of the psychological impact of broken Trust.

In its aftermath, a bridge that once stood firm may be left in ruins. Moreover, the relationship might be terminated, as rebuilding a fallen bridge takes more energy and resources than building a new one.

The effects of this broken Trust may spill over into other relationships, contaminating them.

As a result, you might start questioning other bridges, even those that are well-built and sturdy, casting doubts on their stability.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Stephen R. Covey

To mitigate these adverse effects, it is crucial to diligently maintain our bridges of Trust. Frequent checks and balances, open communication, and mutual respect are the pillars that uphold these bridges.

 Friedrich Nietzsche once said:

 “I’m not upset that you lied to me; I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

Therefore, let’s work to keep our bridges strong because they are not quickly rebuilt once broken.

However, even when a trust bridge breaks, it’s essential to remember that it’s not the end of the road.

It’s a lesson, a warning sign that helps us build stronger, more resilient bridges in the future.

 “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Isaac Newton

So, let’s focus on building bridges of Trust, nurturing and maintaining them because, ultimately, these bridges connect us.

Without them, we are but islands in a vast sea.

Until Next Time.

Hey – If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy this one

(Just click on this title)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the other day, I caught myself reminiscing about the good old days of floppy disks and dial-up internet.

Ah, that ding-ding sound of “You’ve Got Mail!”

But, as much as I love a good jog down memory lane, I’m grateful for the progress we’ve made.

Thanks to our rapidly evolving digital landscape, we now have access to an abundance of knowledge at our fingertips.

So, what better way to “carpe’ the diem” than by becoming a lifelong learner?

The Lifelong Learner:

I recently came across a fascinating PDF (which I will refer to as the “The Lifelong Learner”)

The article eloquently and succinctly highlighted the important benefits of embracing learning throughout our lives.

The document reveals that lifelong learning not only enhances our personal and professional lives but also contributes to our overall well-being.

I already know what you’re thinking:

“Great, another thing to add to my never-ending to-do list.”

But fear not, my fellow knowledge-seekers!

The beauty of lifelong learning is that it can be pursued in a variety of ways – from attending workshops to reading books to listening to podcasts.

It doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be an enjoyable journey of growth and self-discovery.
As the renowned Albert Einstein once said,

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

This sentiment perfectly encapsulates the essence of lifelong learning.

The Zone of Proximal Development:

Coined by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the ZPD is the sweet spot between what we can do independently and what we can achieve with guidance.

In other words, it’s where the magic happens!

Initially the Zone of Proximal Development referred to early childhood learning where it provided  a framework for teaching tailored to each child’s individual needs.

By identifying a child’s Zone of Proximal Development, teachers and parents could provide appropriate challenges and support to help the child learn and develop new skills.

The concept of  ZPD is equally applicable to leadership development in adults!

In this context, the Zone of Proximal Development is the range of skills and abilities that a leader can develop with the help of a mentor or coach.

Just like in early childhood learning, learning in the Zone of Proximal Development in leadership development requires a balance between challenge and support.

The ZPD  concept perfectly aligns with the idea of lifelong learning, as it encourages us to continually push our boundaries and seek new challenges.

As an Executive Leadership Coach, I often witness the power of the ZPD firsthand.

Picture this: A seasoned executive, initially reluctant to embrace new technologies, suddenly finds herself leading a team of digital natives.

With a little guidance and support, she flourishes in her newfound ZPD and becomes an innovative force within her company.

Voilà – a lifelong learner in action!

From Experience:

Now, if you’re still not sold on the idea of lifelong learning, let me share a personal experience.

A few years back, at what some might consider a “more distinguished” age, I wanted to up my game skills in the area of videography and independent film-making.

I enrolled in some part-time courses at a well-known international film school.

Here I found myself surrounded by a group of enthusiastic twenty-something creatives.

They came with all the add-ons like tats, piercings, and unusual coloured hair.`
(Disclaimer- just reporting, No judgement here)

There I was, the proverbial “old dog” learning new tricks. My much younger counterparts acted as both my guides and fellow students.

This personal adventure taught me a lot about cross-generational laughing and learning.

My younger colleagues and I bonded over our shared passion for life, good coffee, and storytelling.

Our differences in age, experience, and perspective only enriched the process.

Today, I’m glad to say that I’m still in touch with friends from that learning cohort.

We continue to support and inspire each other in our creative pursuits.

As the celebrated author and motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, put it,

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”

My Call to Action:

So, my fellow aspiring lifelong learners, let’s embrace the journey and dive headfirst into the Zone of Proximal Development.

Whether it’s picking up a new language, exploring a new hobby, or mastering the latest technology, remember that the pursuit of knowledge knows no age or bounds.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a short screenplay to write.

Lights, Camera, …Action!  (I always get kick out of saying that )

Until next time.

 

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

 

 

 

Finding Focus  Marc Kleen (Unsplash)

“Guess we’ll have to wait and see” has become a running joke at my house.

My wife and I will be discussing something we plan to do in the future. First, one of us will abruptly stop. Then we’ll start laughing, and in unison, recite, “Guess we’ll have to wait and see!”

It’s been one of those years when extreme circumstances put everything in a state of flux and uncertainty.

At least in my part of the world.

First, there was extreme heat. B.C. Heat Wave Shatters Canadian Record

Then extreme wildfires. BC Wildfires 2021

Then extreme flooding. B.C Flooding  

If all of the above isn’t enough,-There’s been a spike of existential angst due to a resurgent pandemic.  Pandemic Heading into 2022 

No wonder many of us feel like we’re muddling through day by day and looking at life in slow motion through a foggy windshield.

We don’t fully understand the impact of what we’re going through right now, but at some point, there’ll be ramifications from kids losing gobs of in-school time and access to peers. Adults are becoming more insular while grappling with the stress of long-term uncertainty. Close-knit families are being torn apart by the fierce vax/anti-vax personal politics of COVID.

I’m happy to report that I’m still standing and in relatively good spirits despite all of the above.

I sincerely hope I’m confident enough to keep on trying and humble enough to keep on learning.

With this brief prologue, I’m once again diving into some of my aspirational hopes, dreams and goals with “my three words” focus exercise for the year ahead.

What Are My 3 Words About?

Well, it’s simple but never easy. My challenge every January is to come up with three words that represent the strategic directions for the year. Two isn’t enough, and four’s too many, so three’s about right.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. It’s just a way to incorporate a small success habit by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in 2022

That’s why I’ve been taking the time to thoughtfully select three words that will serve as keys to my year. If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started this in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just check out #my3words.

My Process

I spend time reflecting on the past year, what’s worked, what has not. Also, what was unclear and what was missing. But more importantly, I try to understand what I want the coming year to look like.

Sometimes, the words come out of my goals, so I’ll jot down words that capture my attention and accurately reflect my intention.

I usually talk through my goals and my three words with my wife and several close friends.

That’s always helpful.

It shaped my ideas into something more tangible. It also reaffirmed that we’re in this together, and no matter what goals I have or the words I choose, they are meaningless without mutual support.

My Approach

I try to interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or on top of my workout calendar. Doing this keeps them front and center, not only pointing me in the direction of my goals but grounding me in the interim work that needs doing to achieve them.

Here Goes

 

I’ve come to think of my words as three keys that unlock potential in the coming year.

So far, I’ve settled on:

1. GUIDE

2. CO-CREATE

3. DEMONSTRATE

Guide: It’s a noun and a verb that packs some intention into what I do. A guide fits my role as a coach and consultant. My job is to move ahead of my colleagues and clients, survey the landscape, assess risks, recommend paths of action, and communicate a cohesive plan. In my profession, that makes sense. The most famous guides in the real world were also very physically vibrant, so I’m piggy-backing my intention to stay strong and healthy into this word. It has to carry a lot.

Co-Create: This idea is a lot more simple than a guide: what do I intend to co-create with other people in any given situation? For example, when I work with the Executive Leaders and their teams, I survey and test ideas before meetings. When I talk to stakeholders or fellow board directors, I co-create a very different experience. Sometimes, with my grandkids, I get a bit lost in the actual intentions of the moment and just plain have fun, so this relates to me there as well. My job is to co-create scenarios where those around me can grow and thrive.

Demonstrate: This one’s the hardest for me to explain to you because I’m still working on it.

Recently I was helping my granddaughter sell her handmade toques at a Christmas Farmer’s market. When someone looked interested in a particular toque, we’d demonstrate by getting them to hold it, feel it, try it on and then take a phone pic to show them how good it looked. Most of the time, it resulted in a sale. (The kid cleaned up)

I know it’s marketing basics 101, but I’m learning how to scale up and maintain an online marketing presence to showcase and demonstrate my products and services. The enemies to this kind of intention are many: procrastination, fear of rejection, unrealistic negative self-talk, and on and on.

This idea, roughly, is to seek out small marketing wins in everyday opportunities. If I hit a wall or a roadblock, waste NO time, but instead go around, switch tasks, move to the next effort. If something unforeseen happens, shrug it off and find the next win.

This one will be the hardest of all 3, but it’ll make for an exciting year if I pull it off.

Review Them Daily

The more you review your 3 words, the better. I have mine scribbled into my daily planning guides and workout calendar. They help me decide stuff. For example, “Should I say yes to this project?” or “Well, how does this align with my three words?”

What Are your Words for 2022?

It’s your turn:

  1. Please shoot me a note or share it wherever you like to share.
  2. Use the hashtag #my3words to find other people’s shared experiences, and if you’re a last-minute person, don’t worry.
  3. Start when you’re ready.

I look forward to seeing what this next year has in store.

Until next time.

 

There’s zero doubt that mentors and advisors have played a significant role in my life.

Good advice and good mentorship are really synonymous. At times when I was facing decisions, weighing options, or having some sort of crisis, there’d be someone with timely and applicable words of advice that helped get me through. This has been true of career, health, personal finances, spirituality, and relationships. Finding the right kind of mentor with the right kind of advice isn’t always easy.

It’s not always just about the big picture, either.

Recently, in a high country off-road adventure, the red light on my trusty ATV began flashing and telling me the drive train was about to fail. Multiple scary scenarios raced through my brain. We were deep in grizzly bear territory and about 30 miles from the nearest civilization.

Photo by Author

The prospect of abandoning my ride on a mountainside in the heart of the grizzly bear country was definitely upping my heart rate.

However, my biking partner Trevor, wasn’t too fazed.

Photo by Author

“You had the quad trip checked, right?” Check.

“You had the drive belt replaced, right?” Check.

“The machine seems to be running fine, so the light is probably a factory thing.

Let’s just keep going and see what happens. Worst case scenario- we’ll be that much closer to home.”

Trevor called it.

We got back to civilization OK, and a short session on the University of YouTube explained everything.

Turns out the warning light was pre-programmed at the factory to come on at a certain number of hours to ensure getting back to the dealership. A motorcycle gearhead on YouTube named Oaky knew my machine’s exact make, model, and year and exactly why the light was coming on.

Like any good mentor, Trevor challenged my limiting belief and provided common sense encouragement to keep going. Oaky had the precise knowledge and expertise to help me fix the problem and reset the light

OK.

Now, if only everything else in life was that simple!

In Today’s World, We Value Self-sufficiency

After all, shouldn’t we be able to get our own lives in order without help from anyone else?

In fact, there are some aspects of life where we feel like we might be looked down on if we ask for help. Aren’t there?

Unfortunately, some cultural values and practices have dwindled through the years. For example, for centuries, the idea of formal mentoring was considered a cultural norm. Thus, one would go into a line of work involving something called an “apprenticeship” where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a skill or trade. For some modern-day disciplines, this is still the case.

The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right. Hannah Whitall Smith

Fast forward to today’s information age. Naturally, there’s an “I’ll just Google that” mindset that kicks in.

The truth of the matter is: mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship is today.

It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way. So we need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

Consider some of these benefits of mentorship:

Mentors Help Us See Things Differently

One of my favorite writers from another era is C.S. Lewis. In his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” he describes the dramatic difference between looking at a beam of light and then looking along the same shaft of light.

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside, and through the crack at the top of the door, there came a sunbeam. From where I stood, that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” C.S Lewis 

Perspective makes all the difference.

A good mentor helps us see things differently.

Mentors Challenge Us Toward A Better Version Of Ourself

 

He that gives good advice builds with one hand; He that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; Francis Bacon

 

In the 2000 movie The Legend Of Bagger Vance, a disillusioned burned-out war veteran, Ranulph Junuh (Matt Damon), reluctantly agrees to enter a local golf tournament. He used to be a pretty good golfer. However, the psychological scars of war left him struggling with PTSD. As a result, he finds the game and much of his life futile.

Enter a mysterious caddy, Bagger Vance (Will Smith), who coaches him back to the secret of his authentic golf swing. It turns out also to be the secret to mastering any challenge and finding meaning in life.

The cinematic turning point is a beautifully captured scene called “The Woods.”

Bagger helps Ranulph look “along the beam” and see what’s possible and just play the game.

Mentorship works much in the same way. You have a goal. The mentor has the expertise and experience to lead you right to what you need to achieve this goal. They’ll even point you to the resources and give you some advice on achieving this goal.

The best mentors are the ones who give their mentees the skills to succeed. This means taking the time to teach them what to do, pointing them toward resources that will be useful, and even sometimes guiding them to the questions they should be asking.

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. King Solomon

To paraphrase this ancient proverb from the good king, great advice can actually serve as a highly valuable centrepiece that we can build a strategy around.

Every situation is relatively unique when it comes to mentoring. The best mentors are attuned to the needs of the moment. While a checklist might provide guidance in a general way, finely tuned instincts are needed to know what is called for.

For example, there are times when empathy is the answer and other times when it’s tough love and vice versa.

Today, you can find thousands of hours of content and advice on virtually any topic on Youtube alone.

It’s not the volume of information that’s valuable. Is it from a reliable source?  Can you boil it down into a simple system you can quickly implement?

Remember, sincerity, dedication, and a genuine desire to help that counts most for both parties. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Until next time,