Hey Leaders: Get Curious!

Being Curious

What does “curious” mean?  (Exactly.)

“Curious.”  It’s a strange word.

If you read it over and over it doesn’t look like how it sounds, and it barely resembles what it means.  It isn’t an adjective describing something like a cure unless you refer to a fascination (“I thought the anecdote was curious myself”), and it isn’t a conjugated verb tense when referring to radioactive units of measurement:

1 Curie, 2 Curie-um, 3 Curious…

So What is “Curious?”

The Free Dictionary defines “curious” as:

cu·ri·ous [kyoor-ee-uhs]

  1. Eager to learn more: curious investigators; a trapdoor that made me curious.
  2. Unduly inquisitive; prying.
  3. Arousing interest because of novelty or strangeness: a curious fact.
  4. Archaic: Accomplished with skill or ingenuity OR Extremely careful; scrupulous.

And of course many of us in the USA have been touched by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory character on Mars for which this blog is namesaked.

But wait!  There’s more…

Curiosity Saved the Cat

Yes, I know, I know… you probably have heard that “Curiosity Killed the Cat“… But my version is more true than the original saying.

Anyone who’s owned a cat or even observed one knows that a cat is at least 80% curious during its few waking hours. The fact that the average domestic cat lives 12-14 years easily tells me that curiosity hardly “kills” a cat.

If it did, their lifespans would probably be closer to 6 months.

And so with that logic, curiosity and the characteristics that often come with it (tenacity, patience, resourcefulness, imaginative, solution-driven, etc) can lead to survival, utmost achievement, and a perpetuation of “living” that might be unparalleled to any other characteristic.

So why don’t we hear about more leaders being described as CURIOUS?

What led to my achievement?

“Oh that’s easy: I AM CURIOUS…”

When I was asked what has led to my achievement, my response was that I am curious. With my answer, all eyebrows went up as their complementary blank stares bore into my soul.  I felt compelled to say, “Nah, I’m just kidding!” so that I could move on to a far more lofty answer, the one they seemed to have expected in contrast to my simple adjective.

But… “curious” isn’t  a simplistic answer AT ALL. And it is almost never easy. I think it’s just underestimated, as though any fool can do it and do it well.

But let me tell you, being curious is anything but simplistic or something that handled well by fools.

Getting More Curious

And so I got curious.  Again.

And this raises some questions:

  • Why aren’t we getting back to basics when it comes to linking leadership traits and success traits?
  • During these times when companies are struggling to work differently, how many truly struggle because leadership cannot embrace a new way of thinking?
  • How many truly struggle because they have lost the wonderment of asking curious questions?
  • How many truly struggle because they have lost the imagination that got them into position in the first place?

Braniac is As Brainiac Does

Good ‘ol Albert Einstein said it best when he said…

“I am not more gifted than the average human being. If you know anything about history, you would know that is so–what hard times I had in studying and the fact that I do not have a memory like some other people do… I am just more curious than the average person and I will not give up on a problem until I have found the proper solution.

This is one of my greatest satisfactions in life–solving problems–and the harder they are, the more satisfaction do I get out of them.

Maybe you could consider me a bit more patient in continuing with my problem than is the average human being.

Now, if you understand what I have just told you, you see that it is not a matter of being more gifted but a matter of being more curious and maybe more patient until you solve a problem.”  ~ Albert Einstein, as listed in goodreads.com for “curiousity”)

Question, question, question… and Get Curious

And so as I leave you with those words, ask yourself how curious you let yourself get throughout the day?  How much do you allow yourself and enable yourself to ask questions and find everyday things interesting?  Just curious… what’s stopping you?

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——————–
Christa Dhimo
Christa Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

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Leading Change: Meet Me Where I Am

Where Am I?

When an organization under goes a big change, there is often times a lot of visual evidence that something is new or different. People, places, or things are no longer how they were and the way things are done have been altered.

These things can be for the better. And they can also be for the worse.

Imagining Change

Because big change efforts need a lot of attention to the obvious, the unspoken and less-obvious things can be neglected or forgotten. And what often goes under the radar is how people feel about the new changes.

The challenge for a leader implementing change is remembering what it feels like to experience change.

When a leader, or a team of leaders, disconnects from the emotional aspects of a change effort, they may be totally unaware of the personal tsunamis that their people may be experiencing.

This can often be so disturbing that the change effort is eventually deemed a failure.

Avoiding Tragedy

To avoid the emotional pitfalls and landmines that can plague any big change effort, leaders must be able to empathize with their people. They need to get past the rush to just get everyone on board and take the time to make sure that everyone on board is really on board.

In order to help create a successful initiative, leaders need to be emotionally plugged into the heads, hearts, and souls of their people and understand that they may be dealing with hidden issues like:

  • Fears
  • Uncomfortableness
  • Disorientation
  • Distraction
  • Alienation
  • Abandonment
  • Insecurity
  • Shock

A Case in Point

Big New Change

While leading the beginning stages of a change initiative recently, the church that I attend opened a new sanctuary. During construction, we talked about our community’s vision and the purpose of the new facilities.  We lingered over models and took a tour of the unfinished building.

The future looked promising.

But when we held the first service there, I was strangely uncomfortable.

  • My “normal seat” was gone.
  • The new sanctuary had no middle aisle like the former one did.
  • I didn’t recognize any of the people who used to sit in the same section.
  • And when the music started, the volume overwhelmed me.

Tsunami Recovery

To get more settled, I moved to the back to see if it helped.  It was cold back there. The blasts of cold air made me shiver.  I was not settled. In fact, I was regretting the whole “new” thing.

All of a sudden, I thought:

“Maybe it’s time to look for a different church.”

But in an instant I retracted this thinking:

What?! What kind of reaction was that for a long-time member?

I was unsettled, confused, alarmed, cold, and looking for peace.

Speaking the Obvious

The pastor began with this, “Sometimes when a good thing happens, it can feel weird.”  He explained how moving into the new building was a milestone, but like any move, the new place didn’t feel like home yet.

He reminded us of our vision and purpose, And he acknowledged feeling at home would take a while.

I relaxed when he said, “There are so many bells and whistles that we don’t how to work.  It’s too cold in here.  It’s too loud.  We’ll figure that out.  But you have all the time you need to get used to this place.  It’s okay to feel weird until you don’t feel weird here anymore.”

The Meeting Place

He met us right where we were.  Disoriented, confused, uncomfortable—he met us right there. He didn’t try to hide the negative stuff.  My trust in him increased as he acknowledged reality.

A leader of change must think about the people affected by the change and address their concerns in the transition. they need to properly and effectively deal with what’s ending, what’s up for grabs, and what will be in the future.

How a servant leader engages in that “letting go” phase is critical to how people move through the phases.

The authenticity, integrity, and empathy of my pastor brought us into a journey together, embracing a new place, while letting go of the old.

Being Others Focused

Robert Quinn describes a necessary shift in the leader. Normally, we are more “self-focused, externally directed, internally closed, and comfort-centered.”

This means that we are:

  • More intent on our own success than others
  • More concerned about how I appear to others
  • Not open to new opinions
  • Unwilling to get out of your comfort zone

To really carry out your purpose and help people navigate change, leaders must become more “others-focused, internally directed, externally open, and purpose-centered.”

This means that we are:

  • More concerned about the common good
  • Leading out of integrity
  • Seeing questions and concerns as necessary pieces of information
  • Fully committing to the end result, regardless of personal comfort

On Vision and Hope

In a change process, the journey of the individual is related to the  journey of the leader.  As a leader is clear about the vision and direction, and is committed to getting there, people gain hope.

As a leader is honest about realities and what needs to change, people gain trust.

As their questions and concerns are met with empathy and authenticity, people become part of the change community.  As people are engaged in creating solutions, people gain energy and motivation.

The change begins when you’re willing to meet people where they are.

What tips do you have for staying authentic and empathetic in the midst of leading change?

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Andrea Buczynski is VP for Global Leadership Development-HR at Cru
She helps develop effective leaders, growing people, and healthy teams
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog

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Click2Vote - 12 Topics 2012

Hey Boy, Where’s Your Lanyard?

Lanyard

During a recent project, I ran into an issue that worried me. Not because of the issue itself, but rather for what it represents. A really big deal was made about wearing the security badge ID’s on a lanyard and not on our belts.

The Lanyard Decree

After the “lanyard decree,”  lanyards were distributed throughout our company and a memo was sent out saying that all employees, contractors, and vendors must wear lanyards. Although the lanyards were passed out, we started to notice that, for the most part, not many people are wearing the lanyards.  Especially senior leaders…

I was later told the chronology of what led us to our lanyards:

  • Someone saw my team without lanyards
  • They went to their boss to complain about us not wearing lanyards
  • Boss told them to go back to work
  • They found an obscure policy stating that all people within the building had to wear lanyards
  • Went back to boss and pointed out our violation
  • Boss said, even though not a good use of time, go ahead and point it out
  • She wrote a memo to the person(s) we reported
  • Presto – lanyards…

So after about 10 minutes of calculating, I came up with the following:

  • Total time  to “resolve this issue” = 2 weeks
  • Total hours spent on project = 70 hours (30 just for the person finding the rule about lanyards)
  • Total money spent on issue = $15,000 (70 hours at average of about $214/hour, very conservative rate for all levels involved)
  • Total return back to shareholders = (-$15,000) – that’s negative boys and girls…
  • Positive impact on organization = None
  • Value to organization = None
  • Impact on advancement of project = None

Click2Vote - 12 Topics 2012

Simply Maintaining the Same 

This is a serious phenomenon that occurs when a successful company forgets, or never really understands, what makes it successful.  While becoming successful, they turn their efforts to building infrastructure to support their success.

At some point, the company’s energy goes from becoming successful to maintaining its success; through gaining market share, building new products, etc. – to becoming more efficient, effective, better leaders, etc. All of which are powerful and can make the company more productive, but not as a stand alone.

“How many other “initiatives” are there like the lanyard one?”

At what point does an organization begin to make this kind of work okay?  Never you say?  Really?  Again, using the data from the same unscientific survey, many organizations have these types of “junkets.”

There are some groups within organizations that even encourage them!

The Cycle

Organizations have a tendency, once successful, to focus inwards as much or more than they do outwards.  The cycle, which has not been tested but has been researched, has four major phases:

Inception

This is the spark that sets the eventual company in motion.  This is generally prior to even thinking of creating an organization, it is the incubation or hatching of an idea or product that sells.

Becoming Successful

The organization is generally smaller and nimble. It has developed a great idea or product. Through things such as hard work and word of mouth. The organization begins to find a level of success that enables it to grow.  The organization is focused on selling its service, product, and the customer.

Although this is not the time of “exceptional customer experience,” the organization is laser focused on making sure that each and every customer is taken care of.  There is not focus on infrastructure, but the beginnings of “back office” support begins to take shape.

Growing Market Share

  • Once a company has reached a sustainable level of success, the focus shifts from becoming successful to increasing the reach of the organization.  Oftentimes that involves growing the number of customers that are reached and driving up the share of the market they occupy. In this phase this a focus on building the organizational infrastructure to support that growth and specialization of tasks or roles.  Sales focuses on bringing in clients, marketing focuses on spreading “the word” about the organization, customer service focuses on taking care of customer needs, etc.
  • Somewhere in this part of the cycle, the focus turns from growing the market share, to internal initiatives. It goes from outward to inward.
  • Although there are parts of the organization that still look to the customer, it is all under the veil of “what’s good for the company”.  There is growing process, bureaucracy, etc. There are a large number of employees whose roles are to manage or work within some internal function.  It is generally as many or more than or the employees that are customer facing (either for service or sales). For example: Credit Card Company – only 15% of their employees have any contact with customers, over 75% of those employees are paid $12/hour or less
  • For profit educational organization – 65% of employees have no contact with current or potential students. It is not hard to imagine that if the majority of employees have little or no contact with customers, they would not understand (or care) what the impact of their actions might be.  How could they foresee the impact to the bottom line? Experiencing competition.

Changes In the Market Landscape

  • With the burgeoning bureaucracy, organizations are often taken back by quick shifts in the marketplace due to changing regulations or competition.  Even when the shift is acknowledged or discussed, there is little understanding of how to adequately deal with it because the focus has been off the market and shifted to the internal workings of the organization. This is certainly natural and understandable, but detrimental.
  • Too often as the organization is growing it distances itself from how it started to become successful.  Of course that is not always the case, but there are many instances where it seems as if “they are making money in spite of themselves.”
  • As the market shift takes place, the organization is not prepared to meet it.  Mostly because it does not understand what really made it successful in the first place and the long denial that takes place during the decline. There is, justifiably, a focus on self-preservation.  The reaction can be to “double down” on methods or efforts that do not reap any benefits.

What Is the Best Way to Avoid “Coasting to the Cliff?”

Always stay on top of why people do business with you. Don’t be fooled by assuming that people do business with your organization for any other reason than the real one.

Key the focus of your organization outward – Make sure there is a clear “live of sight” from each employee to the customer no matter their role.

You must develop employees, make process efficient, and drive profit. It all must be at the service of gaining and retaining customers. Understand that the market is changing all the time. No company is safe from the ever-changing marketplace.

“Organizations that succeed transform.”

As stated so eloquently in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, companies must understand what is at their core, but be able to transform as the market changes.

Just as steam turns to water and water to ice, companies must understand what “brought them to the dance” and pivot on that to regularly anticipate the changing customer and marketplace.

If you think about it like a company, your prized position in the marketplace with customers erodes.

Are you focusing on what really gains and retains customers?  Do you know if your team or organization is headed for the cliff? Are you allowing team members to hang your company’s future on the necks of an albatross with a lanyard? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

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tommygrill

Articles of Faith: Tools of the Trade

David and Goliath

—————————————————————————–
This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
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Have you ever felt that you were overwhelmed with a task?  Did you feel that you were not properly prepared?  Did you look up to that sky and exclaim….

 “WHY ME, GOD???”

This happens to all of us.  But it is critical that we remember I John 4:4;  nothing or no one is bigger than our God.  He will not leave us during our most difficult journeys and trials.  Instead, the earlier trials we have already accomplished prepared us for this task.

The Right Tools

tommygrillOne of my passions is grilling.  I can grill all day long if I had the time (and that amount of food.)  One Father’s Day, my wife and daughter surprised me with a grilling kit called “Tools of the Trade.”  It had everything needed for grilling – spatula, brush, tongs, etc.

These tools were not selected randomly for this kit. Rather, they each had a specific purpose during the grilling process.

Having the right tools available made my job a lot easier, and prepared me for the task at hand.

This is also true as we go through life’s journey.  We will encounter several “tools” during this voyage that will be used at a later time to continue to move us forward.   We gain them by first living life, then learning from it.  Sometimes we will question God as to the tool that he gave us.

Is this the right one?  Will it work?

God always gives us the right tool at the right time to be successful at this moment.

Think Like a King

Let’s think about David for a second specifically in I Samuel 17.

We are all familiar with the story how he defeated the mighty Philistine Goliath, with only a Sling Shot and a rock.  Sometimes our focus is that the sling shot is his only possession to defeat his enemy.  But the most fascinating thing about this situation is that all he NEEDED was a sling shot!!

He did not need a canon, bazooka, or even an army, just a sling shot and a rock.  He went into battle properly prepared, stayed faithful to God, and was victorious in the end.

God gave him all he needed to win!

Your Leadership Toolbox

The three steps will focus leaders on building our tool box:

1) Collect Your Tools:  

David was given the sling shot by God – not a shield, bow / arrow, army, etc. but a child’s sling shot.  He was unaware that this will be used to kill a giant (it is typically used to hunt small animals.)  However, we learn that no tool is too small to use in your daily journey.  What may appear as the smallest, most insignificant tool or trait (compassion, listening, empathy, humbleness, etc) may be our best weapon.  We must continue to collect  tools during our journey

2) Have Faith in Your Tools:  

We must believe that they will work once we need them, even-though it is unproven.  By believing in our heart and not our mind, we focus on achieving the goal and not the outcome.  We leave the outcome in God’s hands (HIS word has already defined faith as believing in the unseen in Hebrews 11:1.

3) Apply Your Tools:  

There are three key areas that we need to always apply our tool

    • Family: 

We must be leaders at home first so that our spouses, children, parents, etc are influenced by our leadership.  Our tools that we demonstrate at home will maintain our Christ-centered environment.

    • Career:  

We must build those around us are work or in our career.  People we interact on a professional level will take on our behavior and personality.  It is our responsibility to show our beliefs and values in the professional setting as well as personal.  Also, by using our tools we can keep everyone focused on the task to accomplish.

    • Development of others: 

This will allow our tools to be utilized exponentially.  Once we touch one person, they touch someone else, that person touches someone else, and so on.  This becomes a perpetual chain that will build our communities.  God had already spoken to Abraham and committed to make his nation great.

Are you gathering your tools along your journey?  How effective are you using them?  Who is benefiting from your previous journeys and your testimony?

Kontinue to Konker.

**********

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Chadwick Taylor
is CEO of KONKERER Leadership
He develops servant leaders through individual development and workshops

Email | Website | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter 

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Articles of Faith: Leading through Challenges

Elijah talking to God

—————————————————————————–
This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
—————————————————————————–

We all face challenges on our path to achieving our goals. 

  • But what do we do when we face challenges from specific people?
  • Do we run from it, hide from it, or just bury our head in the sand and ignore it?
  • Do we still do this even though we have been destined to succeed?

Fleeing from Adversity

A great illustration of this is the prophet Elijah.

  1. Elijah performed many miracles in the name of God in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  He stayed loyal to God even though other people had begun to worship the false idol Baal.  However, during his greatest test, he failed.  When Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, he fled for his life.

Not only did he run, but he hid from God in a cave on Mount Horeb (I Kings 19.)  Elijah was experiencing a moment of loneliness and despair.  Even though his name means “The Lord My God”, he felt alone and hid his face from God.

It is common for us to have fear. Fear is a natural reaction to significant or unexpected challenges when they arise.

It is also common for a leader to feel threatened by others, especially when they have been successful.

Someone Always Has Your Back

But, true to his greatness, God proved that he is always there for us.

But God did question Elijah…

“What are you doing here?”

When you reach this moment of despair and helplessness, ask yourself this same question.  We don’t belong in this situation.  We have been anointed by God and already proclaimed victory over our situation and circumstances.

It is during this time, God will show his greatness to us.  It is not through a significant event (moving mountains, earthquakes, etc.)  Only a gentle whisper was the indication of his awesomeness.

During this time is when we need to be the most quiet and still.

Just as it is important to lead vocally, it is equally important to know when to sit in silence and just listen.

There will be people in our life that have always given us sound advice, but we may have chosen to ignore them.  It’s the message that they may have for us during this time that may uplift us out of this situation.

Humble Servants Listen

God told Elijah to go back and perform specific tasks.  At this moment, Elijah showed his true leadership quality…he listened.  Because he listened to God, he not only performed more great miracles, he also developed another leader who would eventually take his place (Elisha.)

Through his humbleness, he once again became great and ascended to Heaven.

Maintaining humility during this time will make sure that people are willing to help. As stated before, listening to a few wise words may be the key to pulling you through to victory.

The Leader’s Reaction

Being a leader is not easy.  The bible says that people and principalities will rise up against you.  However, when this occurs, we must remember the following points:

1) Stop: 

Our first reaction is to react.  But the most important reaction may be to just stop.  Reacting without thought may be more harmful to the situation.

2) Listen:  

Take a moment to go into a quiet place and listen to God.  God is always there for us.  He leads us through walking with us, or, carrying us.

3) Move:  

Now do what God has called us to do.  Don’t just sit there listening. God has giving us direction so now move on and keep leading according to his word.

How did you handle challenges from other people?  How did you keep control of your team and objectives?  What was the reaction of the challenger?

——————–

Chadwick Taylor is CEO of KONKERER Leadership
He develops servant leaders through individual development and workshops

Email Website LinkedIn Facebook Twitter | (313) 617-2474

Image Sources: lavistachurchofchrist.org 

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