Powerful Questions

What Defines Importance for You?

your authentic self

If a stranger were to watch you for a week, how would they know what is important in your life?

We all carry around a picture in our head of what’s important.  And if we talk about our values, materials wants and needs, beliefs and “why’s”, we can find a way to share that picture with someone.

My question is a little different.  If someone were to shadow you, what would they say?  How do you act towards what is important in your life?

One way they could probably tell is by the amount of time you spend on certain activities.  The assumption is that if it’s important, you spend more time doing it.  You know that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Your soul and spiritual life is important but as a percentage of time…not so much.

You spend most of your life at work.  Does that make it most important?

Can “quality time” replace “quantity of time” as a way to determine importance?  Does your passion matter?

I obviously don’t have the answers to these questions and yet I think they are worth pondering.  How will you SHOW people what’s important in your life?  When you find your answer, then your true self is obvious to everyone.

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The Language of Time

iStock_000069185021Kenneth Burke once said about humans that “Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal.”  His statement is probably the most accurate when we talk about time and how we use it.  Here are three examples.

The opposite of life is not work.  It’s easy to get upset about a lack of work-life balance.  Unfortunately, the opposite of life is not work.  It’s death.  The opposite of work is non-work.  Really, isn’t the choice among work, recreation, spiritual, community, personal wellbeing, etc.?

Balance is not a static state.  We think about have work-life balance as if it were a set of weights and measures.  Take some time from this side of the scale and put it on the other and then you’ve got balance.  Unfortunately, time does not stand still.  After all, time keeps moving on.  The minute after you think you’ve achieved a state of balance, you lose it.

We don’t control time.  Time continues to do what it does despite our best efforts to manage it.  When we give up the futile effort to manage time and switch our focus to managing what we do with our time, then powerful shifts happen.

If we are really listening to Kenneth Burke, when we change our language we change our possibilities.  For example:

  • Pay attention to what you are doing. You can be so into the flow that time concerns go away.
  • Think about time as flowing. What does balance mean to you now?
  • Take a long-term perspective. How’s your balance over the course of a month?  A year?

Changing our language is not an easy task.  We’ve spent a lifetime creating these images and relationships in our heads.  How will you start to be less concerned with balance?



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Weekend Love, August Twenty-Ninth

iStock_000065250231Here are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently. This handful of links takes you to tools or insightful content. Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file if it fits the mood.

I spoke with the Plano, Texas Chamber of Commerce this last week about time management.  I’m not sure there is a more fitting topic for a coach to address.

I always start from the perspective that there isn’t enough time for everything, but there is enough time for the important things. Here are three of the articles that helped shape my thinking.

How do you compare earning money to other options?  Frank Sonnenberg askes eight questions to get to the answer.  His questions can be found in the article, 8 Reasons Why Money’s Not Worth What You Think.

Grace Bluerock has worked in hospice care for the last six years.  Here are Five Life Lessons I Learned from the Dying.

Did you know the phrase “work-life balance” didn’t show up until the mid-80’s.  Before that it was “work-leisure balance.” The difference shifts your thinking a bit, doesn’t it?  Read more from Eric Devaney in Should You Strive for Work/Life Balance? The History of the Personal & Professional Divide.

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Do What I Do

do what you tellI have had the opportunity to observe many leaders in business. When I think back, there are a couple of people who commanded leadership through their person, not their position.  One of them is Gaylin Olson.  I always considered him as an authentic leader.  He understood people. He cast vision.  He built alignment to goals. He was, and still is a fun loving, humble man.

Authentic leadership begins with doing the things that you ask others to do.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old expression, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  That won’t get you very far.

If you don’t do what you tell others to do, then you appear to be a hypocrite, arrogant, or inauthentic.  You’ll lose respect and with it your credibility to attract and keep people on your team.

What can you do?  Here’s how to get started.

Be on time.  While you may think your activities are more important, that doesn’t cut it with your team.  Look through their eyes.  When you are late, you are saying (with your actions) that they are less important than you.  If you are going to be late, let them know.  Be respectful.

Keep your commitments or change them. If you promise to follow up, do it. Or change your commitment by asking the person to follow up with you.  If you commit to sending material, doing a meeting, keep that commitment or change it.

Be professional.  Do you really want to be known for your tantrums?  How about getting a reputation as having a short fuse and explosive temper?

  • Don’t swear
  • Don’t raise your voice
  • Be polite. Say please, thank you, and hold doors for people.
  • Correct in private. When I first started in direct sales, I was given some advice that I’ve tried to follow religiously.  You praise in public and fix in private.  No one likes to be demeaned in front of the group.

Take responsibility.  If something goes wrong under your direction, admit your mistake. There’s some very good research to indicate that accepting responsibility is the first step to improvement.  It also let’s your team know that it’s okay to make mistakes and that you’ll work to fix things.  Don’t be afraid to apologize.  Saving the relationship may be more important that refusing responsibility for failure.

Share the successes.  Really, you didn’t do it all on your own.  When the accolades come, you need to share them.  Catch your team doing things right and tell them that.  Share the glory in both public and private.

You may be the leader.  When you act like one, your people will keep you there.

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Weekend Love, July Twenty-Fifth

employee complaintsHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently. This handful of links takes you to tools or insightful content. Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file if it fits the mood.

If you want to find out what others think about you, then you’ll have to find a way to ask them.  Lou Solomon reports on a Harris poll about The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders.  Most of them even fit direct sellers and other entrepreneurs using independent contractors.

Want to know the best way to not look dumb?  Ask Questions.  Dan Rockwell gives you some great examples and he explores the topic, What If You’re Not That Smart?

When’s the last time you did a simple SWOT analysis of your business.  As you prepare to move into the Fall season, maybe you should think about one.  Dan McCarty gives you the basics in his article, How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis.

I absolutely hate text messages.  It’s great to find out I’m not alone.  Michael Hyatt agree when he writes about 3 Reasons I Hate Text Messages.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be on a wilderness retreat that is completely off the digital grid.  Some might say I’ve simply gone fishin.’  In any case, I’ll  catch up with you the week of August 11.


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The Art of Coaching

What is happiness questionHow do you explain passion?  How do you know with every core of your being that something is perfect or impossible?  The answer lies in what Michael Polanyi calls “The Tacit Dimension.”  Tacit knowledge is what we know that we would struggle to say.

Think about young Tim, a teenager just coming to grip with the concept of “love.” I can picture this 13-year-old boy coming to his father and saying, “I really love Betty.”  Dad, after calming down, would ask “What makes you think you’re in love?”  Tim has some ideas, but can’t come close to telling the whole story.

Tim’s problem is the one we all have.  We know more than we can say.  This is why we can recognize a face but not describe it.  It’s those hunches that gamblers play.  It’s those brass rings that let us say things we don’t even remember knowing but they fit the conversation perfectly.

Coaches get a lot of business because of this fundamental human characteristic.  Good coaches ask question to let you say what you know.  Great coaches ask questions to support you in digging deeper into what you know but haven’t said.

Michael Polyani, a scientific theorist, refers to this aspect of human knowledge as “the tacit dimension.”  We know more than we can tell.  And the more we tell, the more we know exists behind those statements.

Interestingly, we can’t get at our tacit knowledge by being told.  We only recognize that deeper knowledge when asked about it.

That’s why coaches matter.  They can ask the questions.  They are curious.  They take what you say and ask for what’s behind it.  Coaches have great metaphors to describe this:

  • Peeling back the layers
  • Unpacking this box
  • Digging deeper

The ability to do this well is not an easy skill.  It takes thought and training.  Learning the science of coaching helps, but understanding the right question at the right time is really about the art of coaching.  (And even great coaches can’t tell you everything about how they do it.)  How can you learn:

Engage with a mentor coach.  Your mentor can help you take apart a coaching sequence so you push your understanding deeper.

Practice mindfulness.  Think more about your second question than your first.  Take time to ask a question that pushes into the tacit dimension.

Get training.  Coach training gives you the opportunity to appreciate the art of coaching.  Investigate possible coach training programs and find one that seems to resonate with you.  Your tacit knowledge will help you find the right one if you listen to it.


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Free Will

Viktor Frankl, Free Will

A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.  What he becomes—within the limits of endowment and environment—he has made out of himself.

~Viktor Frankl

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

~Viktor Frankl

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

~Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was not an American.  He was a survivor of the holocaust.  His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is considered by the Library of Congress as one of the ten most influential books in America.  He understood independence and freedom.

When we talk about “unalienable rights” we are speaking of our right to choose.

Whether high born or low we have this right.

Regardless of color or sex or creed, we have this right.

We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we will react to them.

Happy Independence Day!

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Weekend Love, June Twentieth

DiSC MapHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently. This handful of links takes you to tools or insightful content. Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file if it fits the mood.

Ever wonder how to sell to different DiSC styles?  Leslie Ye of Hubspot Marketing provides some core insights when she writes about How to Sell to 4 Different Personality Types.

If you are ever in a position where you have to rationalize a summer vacation, Fiona Moriarty provides you with five solid ideas when she writes about Five Reasons Why Smart Leaders Take Vacation.

For me, Naomi Dunford produces incredible insights when she writes.  This article about the difference between truth and the PR truths we tell ourselves is tough to ignore.  Understanding this may be The Greatest Leap Your Business Will Ever Take.

Not too long ago I wrote a blog about what you might say in a commencement address to a younger you.  Tiffany Sauder had a similar idea when she wrote Advice to My 24-Year-Old Self: 8 Career Lessons I Learned the Hard Way.  It’s solid advice.  In fact, it still fits me.

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What Will You Say in Your Commencement Address?

iStock_000015553717I spent most of this past week in San Antonio at the Direct Selling Association Convention seeing what different companies were doing for coaching and leadership development (but that’s a post for a different day).  At one luncheon, someone at the table was explaining how he were going to have to leave early so he could get to their high school to be the commencement speaker.  Everyone I could see gave a heart-felt OH.

Who among you cannot (without lying) say you never dreamt of giving a commencement address?  Yeah, it may have been a fleeting thought, but I am willing to bet that you at least had an image of yourself standing on a stage saying wise things to all of those students about to embark on adulthood.

So let’s play Back to the Future!

You have the chance to go back to your high school and give the commencement address at your graduation ceremony.

What would you tell the younger you?

How could you make the younger you listen?

I can’t begin to answer those questions for you.  Next time you have a break, jot down some key points on a notepad.  What do you think your work mates would say to these questions?

Now let’s play Back to the Future, Part 2!

You have a chance to go 20 years into the future and meet your older self.

What would you ask?

What would s/he tell you to do or not do?

The real bottom line is very simple:  Do what you would tell your other self to do.

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Three Keys to Extraordinary Results

performanceEver meet one of those people who always kick themselves when things don’t go right?  I have one as a client.  I finally asked him to write his thoughts on some items.  I won’t claim credit for creating these three keys.  The honors for this list go to a coaching client who was searching for “extraordinary results.” He’s a mental bruiser.  He says things as straight forward as he can.  Here are the three keys.

Talking about what went wrong is not going to make things go right.  You only deliver results by taking actions that will lead to the results you want.

Do not deviate.  Pick your goal.  Don’t waver.  Don’t change.  Don’t make excuses for inaction.  Just go.

  • What’s the result you’d kill for?
  • How does this result align with my mission?
  • How do my methods align with my values?
  • Who is on my side?

Everything I miss or get is my fault.  Accept all the blame you can.  When you give excuses or blame others, you are giving them the power to dictate your results.  Once you accept that it’s all your fault, you can do something about it.  Anything less gives control to luck, circumstance, and other people. This is an incredibly freeing statement!  You no longer have to shame, blame or justify. You just move forward.

  • How do I recover from my mistake?
  • How did I miss the signs?
  • What do I need to change?
  • How will I make sure the results are going to be different?

Get someone to hold you accountable.  Don’t just keep it in your head.  Find someone to talk with about goal.  The words you say will tell a lot about what’s really going on.  And don’t pick a softy.  Find someone to ask the hard questions and not just agree with you when you want out because life gets tough.

  • What are you hearing?
  • Where am I off track?
  • Here’s what I want you to ask me.
  • Thank you.

The guidelines are tough.  And they will lead to incredible results. What are your rules for making sure that you will get your results?

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