posted by Kim Benedict on Monday, 23 February 2015
posted by Kim Benedict on Sunday, 15 February 2015


What we are Reading

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Relevant Musings

Current thoughts on leadership.

Blogger: Mary Kay Duchene
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The Hardest Competency To Learn

Some leadership gurus say that given the large list of competencies a leader would strive to develop, the hardest one is "personal learning." I agree.  It's also, in my opinion, the most important.  To me, it's all about self-awareness.  Can I take the blinders off and hold the mirror up to my own face and tell the truth?  Can I not only accept feedback, but also ask for it, knowing that it might be hard to hear. Can I take the feedback I get with grace and a stiff upper lip, say thank you, and then make a plan to change?  And then, can I share my learning with someone and ask them to be an accountability partner and help me change?


That's a lot.  And I can tell you with 100% certainty, that if you can do this, you too can be a great leader.
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Leaders are Artists

Barb and I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit last week.  Always uplifting, energetic, and timely, they bring together great leaders from business, academia, and the church world to learn from each other.

Seth Godin was one of the speakers this year, and his message, if I had to summarize it in sentence, was that leaders are artists.  Loved his whole message, and here is my takeaway on this thought of leaders as artists.

If leaders are artists, then there is no cookie cutter, no mold, nothing to copy.  I believe this is true.  Leaders need to find their own special palet and medium. Leaders need to look into their souls and find the art that's waiting to be expressed on their canvas of life and work.

As a leader, I can't look at Jim Collins and say, "if I just do it like he does, I'll be a great leader."  That's disingenuous.  I need to find my own special formula - my own color mix.  When I do, my leadership art will feel genuine and true to those I affect and they will trust and follow me.

Not only, then, is there not a formula on WHO I am to be, but also WHAT I am to do.  There's no process or step by step instruction that will guarantee my leadership success.  Great leaders make it up as they go.  Great leaders know that they can't wait for anyone to tell them how to do it. 

Great leaders make new art every day.

What does it mean for leadership development?  There certainly are best practices to share, but as we've always said, the first step in leadership development is knowing who you are deeply and leading through that canvas.  Not only is that the first step, but it's also the hardest one.  The good news is, every leader I've known who's done the hard work of keen self-awareness has been highly complemented about their leadership skills, and has been deemed highly successful.

Go make great leadership art!

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The Learning Leader

People say the world today is changing so fast it's hard to keep up. That, in and of itself, is a reason to always be learning.  But lifelong learning isn't a new need or concept. It's been required of great leaders forever.  A great leader is always asking herself how she can improve. A great leader is always analyzing his actions so that he can do it better next time.  A great leader considers the research that's out there about great leadership and measures himself against other great leaders. 


So, if you've wiped your hands of learning, ask yourself why?  Why do you think you're done?  I can guarantee you're not! No one is.

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Our FEARLESS Leader, Chris Kelly, says that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.  I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said that fear is simply not having enough information.  The two are related in some sense.  If you're afraid, perhaps a solution is to seek more information.  I know this:  when I recognize that fear is gripping me, that's my cue to take a look at the source of my fear.  Oftentimes fear is recognizing that something is out of my comfort zone.  THAT is an opportunity!  An opportunity to learn and grow and expand that comfort zone, so that the next time I'm sitting in this particular situation, the fear will be lessened.


Sounds easy, and it's not.  So, grab a reflection and accountability partner.  Someone to help you deeply understand your fear, and someone to help you navigate the waters that feel unsettled at a minimum or outright stormy.  Grab someone who will virtually hold your hand, encourage you, and walk with you in the fear. 

At the end of it, you'll have a bigger comfort zone, and be able to give yourself a pat on the back because you used fear as a motivator rather than a wall.

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Healthy Team Conflict

The topic of conflict has been coming up frequently over the last 6 to 9 months. So much so that we've devoted four months of learning events to the topic (the first one just completed in April, on health team conflict).

Asking ourselves "Why now?," we've concluded the the economy has a lot to do with it.  As job worries increase, as employees who aren't themselves victims of layoffs take on additional work - and work that's not likely in their areas of strength, stress increases. As stress increases, so too conflict.  In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 385 million working days are spent in conflict each year.  That's costly!

However, it's not all bad news. Healthy conflict breeds innovation, creativity, better problem solutions, and increased morale! 


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For the Interim Time

I shared this poem with a colleague group this morning, and received a myriad of reactions.  Here it is for your thoughts. Think about night and day as a metaphor for change.  In terms of leadership, I think about increasing self-awareness, and the changes we want to make in ourselves as a result of that increased self-awareness. I'd love YOUR thoughts on this poem and what it means to you!


For the Interim Time, by John O'Donohue

When near the end of the day, life has drained

Out of light, and it is too soon

For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline

Makes everything look strangely in-between,

Unsure of what has been or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.

In a while it will be night, but nothing

Here seems to believe the relief of dark.

You are in this time of the interim

Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;

The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;

In this place of dusk,

Your eyes are blurred;

And there is no mirror.

Everyone has lost sight of your heart

And you can see nowhere to put your trust;

You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to squander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in false ground,

That you might come free

From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

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The Right Thing and The Easy Thing

The right thing and the easy thing are seldom the same thing…  in parenting, in relationships, in leadership.  The easy thing is a short term gain, like maintaining shareholder value. The right thing is a long term gain, like investing in an expensive product for the long term market share it can provide.  There’s a potentially tough conversation that needs to be had.  The easy thing would be to ignore it (avoiding a potential conflict)… the right thing is to have it.  The obvious upside is the positive outcome of the conversation; the intangible outcome is the effect I have on the other by modeling strong authentic leadership. And THAT leaves a legacy.

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A Simple Question

How many times has someone come into your office to complain to you about the behavior of a teammate.  Together we can make a long list of reasons why this is just not helpful, yet we find ourselves here, and we don't know what to do.  A blog I follow offered a solution to this.  Ask the following question:  "Are you gonna tell 'em or am I? Cuz someone needs to tell 'em."  I bet if you ask this question with consistency, the culture of complaining would change... 


I've shared this idea with a couple clients - they've reported they are already using this simple question.  Brilliant!

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Can Ethics Be Taught?

Barb, Dave, and I co-lead a "learning leader roundtable" of like-minded leaders.  As we worked through our material on Monday, Dave asked the question, "Can ethics be taught?"   What a stimulating conversation that turned out to be.  In the end, we all agreed that until your ethics and values are put to the test through life experiences, that perhaps you haven't really learned and owned them for yourself. 


In the end, our conclusion was that perhaps ethics can be learned, but not taught.  What do you think?

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