Tag Archives: questions

Being Greatful

If you ever get the chance to hear Dr. Gary Krahn speak, take it. Not only is he a great speaker, he inspires greatness. In fact, his vision as head of La Jolla Country Day School is to “inspire greatness for a better world.”

The first time I heard Dr. Krahn speak was at an education conference this spring. I was riveted. It was no yawner of a lecture. He asked us to think about the world and what was important in it. He shared his experiences building a university in Afghanistan and his experiences with the challenges women face in attaining an education there. He talked to us about how the brain is wired to see what it wants to see and challenged us to check our biases and be more watchful of what information we are taking in.

This was a conference on K-12 education. Dr. Krahn raised it from an ordinary, acceptable experience to a great one. He tends to do that.

He talked about greatness more recently at a Town Hall Meeting at La Jolla Country Day School. In unveiling the new strategic direction of the school, he explained that greatness does not come by accident. You have to be deliberate in your choices and actions to be great.

In Dr. Krahn’s words:

Research has shown that the most successful people on the planet were not smarter than their counterparts in their field. They did, however, have four distinctions.

Environmental

  • They encountered advantages along the way in the form of access and mentors.
  • They were raised in an environment to question “what is” and challenge the norm.

Character

  • They had a stronger work ethic.
  • They were people of character.

Two things stand out to me here. First, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be great. Second, it takes hard work to be great. Not only does it require a strong work ethic, but it involves being a person of character. That means doing the right thing and not being lazy and slipping up—also hard.

For many of us, greatness in the big sense is too much work and sacrifice. And that’s okay! But we can endeavor to be the best that we can be and strive for greatness in our own way. Being great doesn’t necessarily mean being one of the most successful people on the planet. It can take the form of being a great parent or boss, or being a great programmer or team player, or even a great friend.

In the coming weeks, you will hear a lot about being grateful. I challenge you to be greatful.

What Is Success?

measuring successHow do you measure up?

“What’s your number?” One executive asks another, engaging in the not-so-subtle competition of whose is bigger. I am a woman so I don’t get asked this question very often. Rather, it’s about my children. “How [successful] are your kids?” That’s the prototypical question for moms. The list goes on and on depending on who and where you are in life—grandchildren, job title, cars, jewelry, sports, sexual conquests, you name it.

Social Comparison Theory suggests that we compare ourselves to others to evaluate ourselves. That sounds like a reasonable goal, but it often turns into a competition to allow us to feel good about ourselves. We strive for self enhancement by “one upping”—saying that we’ve done something better than the other person. It can be a faster car, a bigger house, a higher salary, or a kid in a better college. The SNL character, Penelope, provides an exaggerated example, which is extremely funny to watch.

What are you measuring?

money weighing you downThe point is not necessarily how you measure on these comparisons, but what measures you are using. More precisely, whose measures are you using? Yours? Theirs? Society’s? Your parent’s? If you’re like most of us, you find yourself getting tricked into being measured on someone else’s scale.

I was in a meeting to plan the next Berrett-Koehler Marketing Workshop and we grappled with the question of what it means to be a successful author. Is it the number of books sold? The amount of money made from book sales? The quantity of business generated as a result of writing the book? The impact made on society from the book’s message? Fame? Or simply the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of writing a book? It really depends on what the author defines as success (which may be different from the publisher’s definition).

How do you define success?

helping holding handsIn the end, success boils down to how you define it. As we progress through life, we tend to realize that other people’s definitions of success don’t necessarily resonate with our own ideals. Laura Garnett asked several successful CEOs to state their definitions of success in a recent article in Inc. They vary widely and include such things as accomplishments, impact on the world, happiness, family, helping others, balance, fulfillment, and legacy. What is your definition of success?

Here are four questions to ask yourself to help you define success in your own terms.
  1. What are your core values? What do you need to do to be true to them?
  2. What’s important in your life?
  3. What legacy would you like to leave?
  4. When you are 90 and looking back on your life what would you like to say? What would you regret not having done?

I’d love to hear what you define as success and other questions you ask yourself to come to your definition.

Bill Treasurer: 5 criteria for evaluating whether a risk is right or wrong for you

BBill Treasurerill Treasurer is an expert on Risk. He has graciously shared tips for assessing whether taking a risk is right for you. Millennials, especially, consider Bill’s advice. Women too. You have been raised in a risk-averse environment, but risk is actually a good thing if done right.

Bill Treasurer: 5 Criteria for Evaluating Whether a Risk Is Right or Wrong for You

When considering a risky move, most people resort to simple math, asking “What will I get and what do I stand to lose?” But big moves need to consider more than just gains or losses. It takes more than simple math to judge whether to take a risk. As explaiRight Risk book coverned in one of my other posts a Right Risk is one that is congruent with your deepest held values. It’s a risk that should help close the gap between who you are and who you aim to be. What matters most isn’t how much you stand to gain from the risk. What matters most is whether the risk is true for you. Risk should be about more than compensation. It should be about destination. Not, “What will this risk get me”, but “Where will this risk take me.”

Here are 5 criteria that you can use that will help you access your risk at a much deeper level than just jotting down a pro and con list. Using the 5 Ps won’t guarantee that your risk won’t be a wipeout, but they will increase the probability of success.

Passion: A Right Risk is something we care about intensely. Right risks are often ordeals, and ordeals involve suffering. The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb pati, literally translated as “to suffer.” By arousing the strongest, most untamed parts of our nature, and stirring up the wild mustangs in our soul, our passion gives us the raw energy and wherewithal to suffer through the anguishing moments that often accompany right risk. Ask, “What about this risk energizes me?”

Purpose: A Right Risk is taken out of a deep sense of purpose. Purpose serves to harness our passions and give them direction. Right Risks are rich with meaning. They stand for something beyond sensory or ego gratification. Ask, “How will this risk make me a more complete person? How will this risk further my life’s purpose? How will it help me get to where I want to go?”

Principle: Right Risks are governed by a set of values that are both essential and virtuous. As mentioned, risks are essentially decisions, and when facing a decision of consequences, principles form a set of criteria against which the risk can be judged. The principles that right- risk takers often use as the basis of their decision-making include truth, justice, independence, freedom, mercy, compassion and responsibility. Ask, “By taking this risk, which of my deepestly held values or ideals will I be upholding?”

Prerogative: Right-risk taking involves the exercise of choice. Right-risk takers view the power to choose as a privilege, and then honor it as such. By consistently making choices at a conscious level, they are better able to make superior judgment calls at an instinctual level — in fast-moving situations. After all of the input of naysayers and yea-sayers are considered, the Right-risk taker makes the final judgment as to whether the risk is right for him or her. Ultimately, a Right Risk is an exercise of free will. Ask, “Am I taking this risk because I have to, or because I choose to?”

Profit: A Right Risk should come with a real potential for gain. Risks are, well, risky. And in exchange for assuming the potential risk of hardship, you are entitled to some real and unequivocal upside gains. Notice, however, that Profit is the fifth “P”. It’s the criteria that should be assessed last, otherwise you’ll be in danger of getting too enamored with the pot at the end of the rainbow, which can distort your decision-making. Ask, “What gains do I hope to reap from this risk?” and “How enduring are the gains likely to be?”

Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill’s first book, Right Risk, draws on his experiences as a professional high diver. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact info@giantleapconsulting.com.

Women: Increase Your Presence in Meetings

Lessowoman running meetingns from “Managing Yourself: Women, Find Your Voice” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, and Mary Davis Holt, in the June 14 issue of Harvard Business Review.

By Joanie Connell

Last week I attended a webinar and was surprised at how useful it was. In it, Kathryn Heath summarized the findings of research she conducted with her co-authors about how women can increase their presence in meetings. A few key messages stood out to me as new and important and I’d like to share them with you.

Be actively present. This means to be engaged in the discussion, not reading emails, and to actively participate and capture others’ attention. Two things can greatly improve your presence in a meeting. First, be concise. To be concise, it helps to prepare statements in advance and practice them. Yes, that means actually rehearse what you are going to say. Women, more than men, tend to begin statements with preambles and qualifiers. Ditch the preambles and go straight for the message. You can qualify it later. Strong (sometimes blanket) statements grab people’s attention.

Make powerful statements that have a strong point of view. These statements also come out of the preparation piece. To know where you stand on an issue requires you to know what the important issues are, do your research on which position you ought to take and to know where others stand before you enter the meeting.

Being actively present also requires you to insert yourself into the discussion. I say “insert yourself” very deliberately because it is critical for you to take responsibility for being heard. Don’t wait around for others to ask you your opinion or wait around for you to get to your opinion when you are not concise. Don’t shut down when others interrupt you. The best advice I heard from Heath was: “Don’t let yourself be interrupted.” This message came from the men she interviewed. Have you ever watched men have a heated discussion? They interrupt each other, talk over each other, and talk louder and louder until they are heard. Don’t be afraid to “enter the ring” and engage in the competition for the floor.

Strategy helps. It’s not only about being the loudest or most aggressive. Timing is key. Be actively engaged by watching the conversation intensively. To use a sports metaphor, think of playing basketball or soccer and watching the ball intensively to jump in and steal the ball at just the right time. You are watching the person’s moves, anticipating where they are going and who they are going to pass the ball to.

The same strategy works in meetings. Make transformational statements and ask transformational questions at opportune moments to “steal” control of the conversation and take it in a new direction.

Heath and her co-authors offer more valuable advice, like ask for feedback and don’t ruminate over failed attempts in meetings. Prepare, practice, and persevere. It takes time to improve at anything. Keep at it until you feel that you are getting the results that you want.

One question that Heath did not address: What does it mean to be successful in meetings? Depending on the context, it could be to win, to have influence over a decision, or to help the team come up with the best solution possible. I would add to Heath’s advice that it is important to keep your goal in mind and not dominate the meeting purely for the sake of having a presence. This can alienate people, not get them on your side. Heath’s techniques can help you advance the team’s best interests if used for that purpose. After all, a good leader does, in fact, work for the team.

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Special thanks to Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence for putting together this webinar and inviting me to attend.

Guest Blog at the Rady School of Management at UCSD

I recently posted a guest blog at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego on the issue of risk mitigation.  The blog uses the recent chaos that ensued after the snowfall in the South as an example for thinking about mitigating risk in companies.  Click on this link to read the blog.  It will inspire you to ask the right questions beforehand, to be prepared and not caught totally off guard when unexpected things happen at your company.