Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning Styles

Last weeks post, "Stupid people" was a post written more out of frustration then anything. I received some great comments on it and I'm appreciative of them. I had this post in mind, as a follow up, when John left this great comment last week,

"I have also worked with stupid people, at least I thought I had. I learned early in my career that all those stupid people really aren't stupid; some are just different. I had one lad assigned to my platoon in the Army (many years ago now) that really just didn't get it. Fitz was always wrong. That is, wrong until the day I finally figured it out. Fitz wasn't wrong - he saw the world differently than the rest of us. I learned that when someone made what looked like a stupid mistake to stop a minute and ask myself: "How would Fitz have done this?" I learned to look at the world through other's eyes when the situation called for it - all became better after that"

John made a great point. Sometimes the way we are looking at things, doesn't mean that's the way they are. We all learn differently, we all respond to different stimuli, we all see things differently then others from time to time. Does this make us stupid? No, I don't think so. Can it be challenging, yes, indeed. How we handle each of our relationships is a true work of art. We can't package up a, "one size fits all" leadership or teaching approach. That's why there are thousands of different theories and books on how to lead and on how to teach others. 

To be good leaders, we have to understand how to adapt our style to that of how each of our people learn. I have found that most of the time, honey gets you more than vinegar, and that patience is the main ingredient required to teach others. 

What are some ways that we can help our people learn or get better at a procedure or task?
  • Communication: I've found times that when someone is not performing their job or task up to par it is usually due to the fact that the process wasn't properly communicated. Something got left out, or they where rushed through the process, etc..
  • Learning style: Talk with the person and find out what ways help them learn the easiest. Some people are more visual, or they learn easier by doing it themselves, or by watching someone else demonstrate the process. Whichever way works, doesn't matter, just as long as the end result is accomplished, and that is the person learns what they need to know to be proficient at their task.
  • step-by-step: Once the process or task has been properly communicated, I like to follow up by taking them through the process step-by-step, explaining the step and why it falls where it does. I also like to explain why the step impacts the rest of the process or which step has more effect on the rest.
  • Have the expert show them: Whoever on your team has mastered the process or task, have them go through it with the person that's having the trouble. This helps the "expert" learn how to teach and mentor, while it allows the person having the trouble see how you want it to be accomplished. 
  • Have someone with a different teaching style teach them: There have been times in my career when I've not been able to teach or communicate properly with someone when trying to help them learn or get better at a task. I've often went to one of my peers and asked them to try and help the person get better. Having a different person explain, show and teach can often times make a world of difference. 
  • Have them write up a Standard operating procedure (SOP): Another good way to help someone learn a process, is to have them write their own operating procedure for the task. It helps them slow down and really look at each step. Often times it causes them to concentrate on the associated documentation with a more, fine tooth comb, approach. It also let's you see what they know about what they are doing in each step or task. 
What are some of the ways that you have found that help other's learn a new task or process?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Successful Coaching (Guest Post by Kevin Eikenberry)

Yesterday we had the honor of highlighting Guy Harris with a guest post. Today we are honored to highlight Kevin Eikenberry, the other half of the dynamic authors of , "From Bud to Boss." A leadership book that many are saying is going to be one of the top leadership books of 2011. It is being released today, with a lot of great incentives and gifts for purchasing it today. So, I highly encourage you to take advantage of the great offers that are available today for the book release. Go to to buy your copy today. 

A little more about the author. Kevin is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group , a learning consulting company that has been helping organizations, teams, and individuals 
reach their potential since 1993. Emphasizing the power of learning, Kevin’s specialties include leadership, teams and teamwork, organizational culture,facilitating change, and more.

Kevin’s philosophy in business and in life is that every person and every organization 
has extraordinary potential. Investments of time, energy, focus, and money are 
required for that potential to be realized. He believes learning is an active, ongoing process, not a passive, onetime event

Successful Coaching by Kevin Eikenberry

Being an effective coach is a leadership skill – as you coach successfully you help create the future you are leading people towards. However, being an effective coach is more than leadership – it is an important life skill as well.
We all can be more effective at coaching in our communities, in our families, with our children and at work. Truly, when we coach effectively we can make a difference in the lives of other people and our communities as a whole.
There are many ways to become a more effective coach, plenty of skills, knowledge and techniques are available. You shouldn’t expect, nor could I deliver, the tools for your complete coaching success in this brief article. Rather, here are three key elements – principles if you will – that, when applied, will automatically make you a more effective coach.

In a very real way coaching is about learning. The person being coached is learning what is working and should be continued, and what could be tweaked and improved. In this way, the best coaches are facilitators of learning. And, the best learning facilitators – and coaches – know that the most powerful learning comes from a place of discovery. When you discover something for yourself it is more real and powerful to you. More specifically, when you discover an idea for improvement – or come to that realization for yourself – you truly own the desire to improve. Plus, you’ll be a more determined and disciplined learner. As a coach you must help people discover the need for improvement and then collaboratively help them determine the solutions and next steps, rather than simply describing or defining them yourself.
The best coaches help people discover their needs and next steps.

Coaches must help people have a clear and realistic picture of the needed or desired performance expectations. Without clear expectations, how can anyone know what their performance should look like? Often the biggest gap in performance or behavior is a gap in expectations. Additionally, it is important to clarify expectations during the actual coaching process itself; what can the person being coached expect from the coach and vice versa.
The best coaches recognize the importance, value and power of assuring mutually understood and agreed upon expectations.

F – Focus on Them
One of a coach’s most pervasive traps is believing your own press clippings. Perhaps you have had some success in the past with the ideas you are now coaching others on. Perhaps you truly are an expert in that subject matter. Perhaps people have come to you for your coaching help – either in the subject matter or because you are viewed in some other way as a good coach. The best coaches always remember that coaching isn’t about them; it is about the person they are coaching. If you want to be a more effective coach, focus more of your attention on the needs, mindset and current state of the person you are coaching. Listen more, and speak less. Ask more and advise less. Recognize that while you can inspire and inform, any new actions (and their results) belong to the other person.

The best coaches are other focused.

Coaching is a complex task. However, when you rely on, and remember, these core principles, we can transcend mere technique and become significantly more effective. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine's day post

So, Today is Valentine's day. All across America people are buying up flowers, candy and gifts to shower those they love. I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of Valentine's day. It's not that I don't like to celebrate love or relationships, or that I'm cheap. The way I look at it, it's just any other day for me, it's another day I get to celebrate and affirm my love and respect for my beautiful wife.

I met my wife Jennifer on January 20, 1997. Ever since that day I've had the joy and pleasure of getting to know her. I have tried to make everyday for her as if it were Valentine's day. I want her to never forget how much she is loved and adored. She has been my partner, confidant, and the mother to my two sons. But most of all, she's been my best friend.

She's managed and supported my long deployments away from home. I never had to worry if things would be taken care of. She's the ultimate business manager and partner. My children were always loved and well taken care of. I never had to worry if she would be waiting on the pier upon my return. When people would mention to me about the sacrifices I made to be in the military, I would always tell them that the true hero was my wife, like every other military spouse out there that keeps the home front running and doing it alone. Dealing with the everyday life of a family, the homework, the sick children, even deaths in the family. Every message or email she sent me while I was gone would be nothing but that of  love and support.

I admire and love my wife for so many things. She has supported me no matter what, through the good times and the bad. She gives my son's an example everyday to what they need to look for in a wife. She accepted my two daughters as her own, and has given them another strong female figure to emulate in their lives.

So, sure it's valentine's day, but for my beautiful wife, it's just another day that I get to affirm my love for her.

Conflict? Avoid these 7 Deadly Sins (Guest post by Guy Harris)

Today, I am honored and pleased to showcase a post by Guy Harris, Co-Author with Kevin Eikenberry, of the new book, "From Bud to Boss" To be released tomorrow. You can get your copy at

Conflict? Avoid these 7 Deadly Sins by Guy Harris

As I watch and participate in conflict conversations and conflict resolution efforts, I notice patterns of behavior that consistently produce bad results. In a recent conversation with one of my coaching clients, we started to discuss these patterns of behavior. We jokingly began to call them “The 7 Deadly Sins of Conflict Resolution.”
The conversation stimulated my thinking about what NOT to do in conflict resolution.
Sometimes, knowing what NOT to do can be as helpful as knowing what TO do. Here you go…

The 7 Deadly Sins of Conflict Resolution:

1.  Continuing to talk about the past.
Other than looking at past behaviors to understand how you got into the current situation, forget about it. Talking about what has already happened just stirs up negative emotions and drives conflict escalation rather than resolution.

2.  Trying to “fix” emotions.
Emotions are simply the result of how we interpret and respond to the world around us.
We can control our behaviors.
We generally cannot control our emotions. We certainly cannot control other people’s emotions.
When we try to fix emotions, we sink ourselves in a conversation about things we cannot control. So, we get stuck in a negative conversation spiral that tends to make conflicts worse rather than better.

3.  Rushing the conflict conversation.
If a workplace conflict has grown to the point that it calls for a focused and intentional resolution conversation, it has become a business problem. And, this business problem is probably costing you more than you first realize when you consider the salaries of the involved employees, the value of work that is not being done, the cost of poor decision quality, the impact of poor information flow, etc.
Unresolved conflict gets expensive very quickly.
Since most people are conflict averse, they want to have a quick conversation to get the conflict resolved. They do not want to be involved in an emotionally charged discussion for very long. So they schedule 30 minutes to an hour for the discussion, and they send all parties back to work after the discussion in an elevated emotional state that makes them less able to do their jobs and make good decisions.
This is a bad plan.
While the specific time line for a conflict resolution conversation depends on many factors, most conflict conversations reach their peak of emotional energy at about 45 minutes to an hour. Most resolutions come after the peak emotional involvement. They rarely happen before or during the height of emotion.
If you want to resolve a conflict, make sure that you set aside enough time to get through the emotion and on to the plan.

4.  Continuing to blame others.
We all have our moments when we want to blame others for our behaviors. Sadly, focusing on blame only serves to make the conflict worse.
Blame shifts the responsibility for our behaviors from ourselves to other people. For example, “I yelled at you because you yelled at me.”  While it feels a bit like self-defense, it actually triggers conflict escalation.
Very seldom will anyone respond positively to you if you blame them. (It could happen. It’s just not very likely.)

5.  Trying to justify our behaviors.
Justification is blame’s evil twin. They often go hand in hand.
Blame is a form of justification and justification often leads to blame.
Justifying our behaviors might seem like “explaining our behaviors” to us, but it sounds like “making excuses” to others.

6.  Refusing to apologize or giving a conditional apology.
I often hear people say something like: “I would apologize if…
  • “They would apologize”
  • “They would stop doing _____.”
  • “They would do _____.”
Since I rarely see any conflict where one party is totally at fault and the other party is totally right, I find it hard to believe that we cannot find something to apologize for in the interest of resolving the conflict.
Why make the apology conditional? Why wait for them to do something so that you can apologize for your contribution?
Don’t take ownership of what they did, and don’t apologize for anything that was out of your control.
Do apologize for anything that you did to contribute to the conflict.

7.  Refusing to forgive past behaviors.
Like apology, forgiveness is often offered in a way that is contingent on the other party’s behaviors. For example…
  • “I’ll forgive them when they apologize.”
  • “I’ll forgive them when they stop doing _____.”
  • “I’ll forgive them if they will do _____.”
Forgiveness might be the offer that helps to deescalate the conflict. It certainly is the catalyst for helping you get your emotions back in line. And, it doesn’t work to resolve conflict when it is offered conditionally.
Neither you nor the other person can go back and “undo” a past behavior. When you forgive it, you move out of the past and into resolution for both of you.
Forgiveness is more about changing your own anger and letting go of the negative thoughts in your head than it is about bestowing a gift upon the other person. So, just forgive. Don’t wait for them to ask.
Some additional thoughts on forgiving:
  • Be careful how you offer forgiveness. If you come across as patronizing, it will probably back-fire on you.
  • Notice that I did not say forget. You can forgive someone for their past behaviors and have little faith or trust that they will behave honorably in the future. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing.
Watch your behaviors for signs of these “7 deadly sins.” If you see them creeping into your conflict conversations, take actions to get them out of your conflict repertoire and find a more suitable behavior.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Leadership Principles of Jesus

I came across this list by John Maxwell titled, The top 10 leadership principles of Jesus, in, "The Maxwell leadership bible" Mr. Maxwell didn't comment on each of the principles, he simply referenced scripture to each principle. I want to go over this list over the next few Sundays. I hope you enjoy it and it gives you food for thought. Here's the list as it is printed:
  1. Leadership is servanthood (Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 8:35)
  2. Let your purpose prioritize your life (Matt. 6:33; Luke 19:10; John 17:4)
  3. Live the life before you lead others (Luke 7:22, 23; John 14:11)
  4. Impact comes from relationships, not positions (Luke 9:6; John 4: 5-30)
  5. Leaders must replenish themselves (Mark 1:35 - 38; 6:31)
  6. Great leaders cal for great commitment (Matt. 10:17; Mark 8:34-38)
  7. Show security when handling tough issues (Mark 11:27 - 33; Luke 20:19-26)
  8. Credibility comes by meeting needs and solving problems (Luke 5:12 - 15; 8:38, 39)
  9. Leaders must choose and develop their key people (Mark 3:14; Luke 10:1)
  10. There is no success without a successor (Matt.28:20; Acts 1:8)
I wanted to go ahead and give you the full list, that way you can review and study it on your own and ahead of each posting. I would love to start a conversation about each point as I cover them. It's always interesting to hear and learn from others point of view. 

Today, I want to cover the first two points. 
  • Leadership is servanthood25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20: 25 - 28 (NIV) (Emphasis mine)
    • In the verses above, Jesus states 3 times, with different examples of how one is to lead. It is radically different then what most people describe for leadership. Jesus tells us that to become first you need to place yourself last. Asking, "How can I help you?" vice, "How can you help me?" Can you imagine the impact on others when you put them and their needs first? Leading with a, others first perspective, will only strengthen you as a leader. To see more of my thoughts on Servant leadership see this post, Wash your peoples feet
  • Let your purpose prioritize your life33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well Matthew 6:33 (NIV) 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10 (NIV) 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. John 17:4 (NIV)
    • In the 3 verses above Jesus states his purpose and what defined his priorities while on earth. Jesus vision was God centered, vice self centered. Jesus purpose was defined by God. When we first seek God's will and purpose for our lives, only then will we truly start to live the life we were designed to live. The end result of living out God's purpose is the glory our lives brings to God. 
    • The awesome thing is that Jesus was not the only one that God designed with a purpose. Each of us are designed by God for a life of purpose. This purpose is so ingrained into who we are that God has ordained our lives. Look what David says in Psalms about God and our purpose:
      •   13 For you created my inmost being; 
           you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
        14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
           your works are wonderful, 
           I know that full well. 
        15 My frame was not hidden from you 
           when I was made in the secret place, 
           when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
        16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
           all the days ordained for me were written in your book
           before one of them came to be. 

        17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God! 
           How vast is the sum of them! 
        18 Were I to count them, 
           they would outnumber the grains of sand— 
           when I awake, I am still with you. Psalms 139: 13 - 18 (NIV) (Emphasis mine)
  • Ordained: or·dain  (ôr-dntr.v. or·dainedor·dain·ingor·dains
a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
b. To authorize as a rabbi.
2. To order by virtue of superior authority; decree or enact.
3. To prearrange unalterably; predestine: 

Look at the meaning of the word, "Ordained." "Confer holy orders on", "To order by virtue of superior authority" Now, reflect on the fact that God has applied his purpose for your life with this same intent. Furthermore, look at the fact that we are not just a fleeting thought for God. David proclaims that God's thoughts for us outnumber grains of sand! Next time your at the beach or in a kids sand box, reach down and grab a handful of sand. Now, slowly pour it out of your hand. Try and count each and every grain of sand, that's how many thoughts God has about you. That's how important you are to God. That's why he has a purpose for your life. 

Jesus life shows us the power of a leader is when we serve others. It also shows us the power of purpose in our lives when we anchor our purpose to our creator. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

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