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Developing Individuals like Crafting Fine China

The other day, a friend forwarded this lovely story; it started me thinking about how artisans see the final masterpiece from a blank piece of canvas or a single lump of clay. It also caused questions as to how leaders see the potential in individuals and begin to polish the hidden gem.

There was a couple who took a trip to England to shop in a beautiful antique store to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially teacups. Spotting an exceptional cup, they asked, “May we see that? We’ve never seen a cup quite so beautiful.”

As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke, “You don’t understand. I have not always been a teacup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay.”

“My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.’” But he only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’ Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,” I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’”

“He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. Help! Get me out of here! I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet.’”

“When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please, Stop it, Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’”

“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited — and waited, wondering “What’s he going to do to me next?” An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself.’ “And I did. I said, ‘That’s not me, that couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!’”

Quietly he spoke: ‘I want you to remember,’ then he said, “I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life.

If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product.

Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”

~ Author Unknown ~

How many pieces of fine china have you helped to create in your career and lifetime? How many people have you taken the time to help mold and develop?

When you encounter a young intern or new employee who has been assigned to your team, how do your actions impact their future? Do you take the time to speak with them, learn about their goals, guide them on their way, and contribute to their future success? Or do you consider yourself too busy and important to give them any of your time?
Do you recognize them as individuals? Or do you treat them like they’re ‘just like everybody else’?

When you see the small flicker of something wonderful and new, do you take the time to cultivate that spark into the brightly burning flame it can become? Or do you snuff it out with harsh words and a cold shoulder?

Do you think back to those who spent time molding and shaping you?

So again I ask….how many pieces of fine china have you helped to shape and mold?

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Leadership Development and Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins

In 1925, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wrote the Seven Social Sins, sometimes called the Seven Blunders of the World. He published it in his weekly newspaper, later giving the handwritten list to his grandson, shortly before his assassination. His social sins consisted of a list that can be applied in today’s world when implementing leadership development and training for teams and organizations.

Gandhi’s belief was that without awareness and purposeful resistance to these pitfalls, these sins could damage both individuals and countries. In this day and age, it is important to see that several of these principles can be applied as cautionary tales to businesses and organizations as well.

In order for organizations and teams to function with a high level of productivity while maintaining a valued work environment for employees, managers, and teams, there must be:

Strong work ethics and standards
Individual and organizational integrity
Characteristics of virtue
A well-defined company culture
Attention to cultural diversity
An eye toward the greater good within the organization
Company values

These principles, as they relate back to Gandhi’s original social sins, can help shape a productive organization. When conquering and defining these ideas through strong leadership and training, organizations can be set on a path toward their highest productivity and success.

Organizations that emphasize attention to these ideals and train to cultivate the right tools and team development create a win-win for those participating in the workplace.

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Leading Teams Through Change

For most people change is uncomfortable. Yet successful organizations are frequently changing and adapting to elements that affect and enhance their productivity and help them achieve their goals.

For those tasked with leading a team and helping others to facilitate change, this may mean employing a variety of emotional leadership skills that we discussed in recent postings here. As a change leader it is important to understand that individuals react, respond and transition through change differently.

According to the Personal Transition Curve, developed by John Fisher, a leading contributor to change management theories, there are 11 different degrees of reaction and phases an individual may pass through as they are coping with change: Anxiety, happiness, fear, threat, guilt, depression, denial, disillusionment, hostility, gradual acceptance, and moving forward.

It is important to provide support, training, mentoring, and coaching to successfully see individuals and teams through change. Change is a process that affects several aspects including organizational restructuring as well as dealing with attitudes and behaviors.

Leadership and change expert Dr. John Kotter devised his 8-step process for leading change.

Essentially the steps involved are:

Establishing a sense of urgency
It is important for the company’s management to be convinced there is a need for change. Without establishing a need for change things will remain at the status quo.

Creating a leadership team
This is a core group within the organization that can lead change and lend their authority to the activity of change. In essence, they then become the guiding team who will support and direct the path toward the new reality.

Developing a shared vision
A clear cohesive vision that is easily communicated is essential to help develop a strategy to address changes.

Communicating the vision and strategy
The guiding team can employ transformation by clearly communicating the goals and vision through seminars, presentations, and other ways to target the message and facilitate change.

Encouraging action
Obstacles will always arise as each individual is dealing with their various reactions to change. It is important to encourage risk taking. If key individuals within the organization are blocking the change, it is important to identify this and take action. By dealing with obstacles swiftly and fairly there is less chance of undermining the operation.

Creating short-term wins
It is important to set achievable goals that will move the process of change forward. Break the vision and path into manageable hurdles that will facilitate activity and movement toward the greater goal. A short-term win will allow people to earn recognition and rewards on the path toward greater change.

Building the Momentum
Be persistent in moving toward the overall goals of the change. Do not accept short-term wins as final change. Understand that implementing change takes time. It is not something that happens overnight and it is important to make sure that backsliding into old habits do not take place. Continue moving forward and do not declare victory prematurely.

Lasting Change
A successful change is one that is anchored into the corporate culture. As team members associate change with their own contributions, they will see it as part of the organization that they help build. Hence they will view themselves as being a part of the change and not just enacting that change as directed by their upper management and leadership.

By understanding the reactions individuals have toward change, and systematically leading them through a process of change, strong leaders can employ different emotional leadership skills and successfully facilitate change within their organization.

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Communication and Integrative Listening

It’s September, happy New Year! Don’t worry, I do know that the actual start of the year is January. Yet for many people, September signifies the start of a major work cycle and a return to more targeted communication. Summer vacations end, children go back to school, days are shorter, and there is a sense of urgency to produce profit, and provide before the actual new year.

This is a good time of year for managers to pay attention to integrative listening. This is a psychological/behavioral skill that means paying attention to others using your whole self. Look people in the eyes when either of you speaks, be sensitive to body language, and today, I would add, keep your phone in your pocket!

Leaders who practice integrative skills communicate with empathy, working to understand where the other person is coming from, even if they don’t agree with why the person feels or thinks that way. They watch the speaker’s body language and listen to their tone of voice. They understand that communication is more than words in isolation.  They learn to respond assertively, using I messages, owning their contribution to the process of communicating, and helping to involve the other parties in the process as well.  As people practice and employ these skills, they begin to appreciate what the other person brings to the table; relationships based on trust lead to more cohesive teamwork.

Now that we have all come back to work, physically and mentally, and that “new year” sense of urgency has started to surge through our workplace, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our behavior and practice integrative skills.  Recognize how our behavior impacts others. Are our ‘contributions’ really contributing to the growth of the team and the organization?  Or are we becoming a deterrent because of our lack of communication skills?  What do you need to focus on before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2016?

Want to learn more? Contact me at [email protected]

Wise Words Newsletter’s read the rest of the September newsletter here!

Goal Setting Personal Development Professional Development

As the Year Comes to a Close, Are YOU Meeting Your Goals?

With 2015 nearly upon us, New Years’ Resolutions swim in our heads as we prepare to have a “better” year than the last. Often times though, many individuals do not take the time to do a critical analysis of the past, present, and future goals in order to properly set themselves on a path of change and growth. This can be felt both in their personal development and professional development.

Studies show that people who put pen to paper and write down their specific goals tend to be more successful at accomplishing whatever they set out to achieve versus those who do not write them down and are not detailed in their goal setting.

Our personal goals tend to be things like gaining a promotion, losing weight, getting into shape, getting finances under control, meeting someone, and so on. While these are great goals, they need to be quantified and put into manageable perspective. This often cannot happen unless you take stock of where you are and where you want to be. This is doubly true for professional goals. Critical analysis is an important aspect of getting your professional goals in line for growth and improvement.

Goal setting is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of activity. Look at goal setting as an ongoing process of improvement and change. Ask yourself hard questions like “Where do I want to be in a year, or in five years. How does my life look to me now and what steps do I need to make in order to achieve these goals?” These same questions can be applied to professional goals – it is important to ask yourself the difficult questions in order to identify and quantify your goals.

From a business standpoint, here are a few questions that will help you take stock of your current job performance and formulating goals.

As a leader, how do you assess your own performance and make changes?
As a leader it is important to provide tools and programs to assess not only your own skills and performance, but also those of the rest of your team. When you use assessments like EQ360 and EQ-i 2.0 to assess emotional intelligence and consult with an expert to put together an interactive program to improve professional performance and growth, you are setting up not only yourself, but your entire team for success in the coming year.

Do you take the time to review your personal and professional performance goals?
Improving goal setting skills and putting together a consistent review process whereby you are constantly reevaluating goals and readjusting them to fit your reality is paramount to successful progressive growth, both with personal development and professional development. Implementing a goal setting skills training program in the workplace will set each and every team member up for success. Goals cannot be static. Goals are a constant compass that need referencing throughout the year in order to stay on the correct path.

How do you garner honest feedback on your performance as a leader or manager?
Opening the lines of communication between all members of an organization is key to individual professional growth and the growth of a team. How can you set goals if you do not have a reference point on how you are doing? There are many different ways to ask for feedback from your peers, managers, and employees. Take a walk and talk, send an office survey, “feed forward”, or schedule regular one-on-one meetings – these are just a few ways to receive honest feedback. Here are some great ideas from SmartBlogs.

What do you do with that feedback?
Once you receive feedback, decide how you are going to incorporate this into a program to improve your performance and grow in your role within the organization. Use feedback to help map out your own goals.

Goal setting is an important part of personal and professional growth. It is essential to be able to assess where you are to see where you are going. Let us know if we can help you improve your performance and fulfill your goals in 2015.

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