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


What we are Reading

 mindfulnessforbeginnersbook 200


Relevant Musings

Current thoughts on leadership.

Category: Leadership

Quote in Action: Positive; able to project optimisim

" Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.     Willie Nelson

Are you, by nature, a positive thinking person or a negative thinking person? If negativism has a hold on you, change what you are putting in front of yourself. Read positive material, focus on upbeat radio or TV, select movies that embrace an affirming perspective.

What goes in your mind often comes out your actions – how will you feed your mind this week?

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Covenant or Contract?

Often times I hear or see·compelling thoughts for leaders to consider from many sources. Lyrics, stand up comics, billboards, news headlines, church sermons, television shows, any number of books·and occasionally, a license plate. It's amazing how much of·what is unintentionally·spoken·our direction can be useful.

So, here is what I'm pondering today. What kind of relationship do we really want with our fellow workers -·contract or covenant? To flush out my own thoughts, I checked in with good old Webster and learned that the definition for each word is exactly the same. "A formal agreement to fulfill a obligation," and "arrangement about action to be taken."

However, when I checked the synonyms I noted that "covenant" included alliance, pact, bond, oath, pledge, vow, and promise. Plus, accord. As in, one accord. These words deepened the meaning measureably for me.

What about for you? How do the words "covenant," and "contract" speak to you?

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Quote in Action: Selfless; Others First, Leader Second


Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.”                Nancy Astor

You know the phrases … those catchy little statements that people use to convey a message or sentiment. “That guy, he gets along with everyone,” or “I’ve never heard an unkind word come from her mouth,” or “He is one of the most “down to earth” people I’ve ever worked for.”  People want to be liked, want to belong and feel significant. A leader who links themselves into others offer a rich benefit for all people involved.

  What words would people use to describe how you link or connect?

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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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Obligation or Opportunity?

I was delighted to be part of the Building Champions conference for the MN Chief Engineers Guild last week in St Cloud. Our conversation centered on character traits that effective leaders display. I tossed out a thought that got a few folks thinking and I'm wondering what you all think. A few years back a Dateline episode shared data from a study that left me reeling. Their survey was asking, "how many close friends do you have?" Friends that, if needed, could come to your aid in an emergency. 25% of the respondents said they had zero. Zero people they could turn to. The next 50% said they had one or two people they could call. I was stunned! And, I felt incredibly blessed when I realized I had several people I could call, in a heartbeat, if needed. My point to the group in sharing this study information, was as managers we may not have any legal obligation to befriend our employees. But, as leaders, we have unending opportunity to engage with employees who, if we do befriend them, are much more likely to engage with us - as their leader and possibly as their friend. Now, I have a long history in employee management and HR so I can guess what some of you might be thinking ... but rather than assume, I'd rather ask you. Do you see the opportunity? Or do you only feel the obligation? Share your thoughts, thx!
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Necessary Endings

As Mary Kay mentioned in an earlier blog post, we were delighted with our learning at the Global Leadership Summit hosted by the Willow Creek Association.

Dr. Henry Cloud spoke to us about the somtimes necessary task of saying farewell to a staff member. While all of what he said sat with me as appropriate (and I admit my old HR brain was ticking away as he spoke), I especially appreciated one tiny bit of advice.

If you are in an executive role bear in mind that your managers need your help in many ways, but especially in matters of staff management and employee development. In particular, Cloud mentioned, "where maturity is lacking, add structure and accountability."

Do you have a staff member situation where unpleasantness has turned to angst? Get close to the manager in charge of that employee ASAP and coach them. If their maturity, in this area is lacking, you must create structure and add accountability.

Much to the chagrin of my clients, I have often said that a staff member who is under-performing is a management failure first and an employee letdown second. What do you think?

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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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Lead as if you are going to be here!

Author, Scott Eblin, posted this comment early this spring and it got me to thinking. Eblin relayed, "leaders can't control or predict the future. The most responsible thing they can do is lead as if we're all going to be here to deal with or benefit from the results of our actions. What do you do to keep yourself and your team focused in the midst of uncertainty?"

Our group here at Relevant Movement is far from having all the answers to such a big question. But one activity we have learned to keep thinking about is strategic planning. We don't consistently dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's" but we keep popping up the questions that lend us to consider our daily operations in light of future opportunities. We're on the path just like everyone else. Where are you at today?
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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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Are You “Humbitious” Enough to Lead?

Jane Harper, a 30-year veteran of IBM and a group of her colleagues offers a compelling description of what it takes to succeed in a complex, fast-moving, hard-to-figure-out world.

“Humbition is one part humility and one part ambition. We notice that by far the lion’s share of world-changing luminaries are humble people. They focus on the work, not themselves. They seek success—they are ambitious—but they are humbled when it arrives. The biggest leader is the one washing the feet of the others.

Success most often doesn’t come from our efforts alone but in our ability to include and organize the contributions of others; to coax the fragments of a good idea from the hearts and minds of others; from a practiced watchfulness that comes from knowing that a good idea can come from anyone or anywhere. The result, when it comes together—the execution of a great idea—should be humbling to any leader. It is humility coupled with ambition that correlates with results.

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What is a "talent master?"

I often pick up thoughts to share with you from a blog I follow called, Leading Blog. After reading their recent post, I wonder ... can we be effective talent masters? To do so, takes tremendous dedication and energy. Read the post below and let me know what do you think.

People deliver numbers. If you want the numbers, you need the people. As a leader you need to know how to judge raw human talent. In The Talent Masters, Bill Conaty and Ram Charan explain how to do it.

To develop talent, you need to become intimate with your people; to know the essence of each individual. Talent masters can identify a person’s talent more precisely than most people simply because they excel at observing and listening. And they institutionalize this skill to create their own supply of good judges. It simply must become part of the culture.

Talent development is not an event. It is a process. To make it sustainable it must become part of the culture. And no one needs to understand that more than the CEO. When you have an organization devoted to a person, you have a cult. When you have an organization devoted to a set of principles and values, you have a culture. Developing people simply must be a priority from the top down.

All seven principles that Conaty and Charan speak of are included in this blog post, but there are two that stick for me.

  1. The leadership team understands that the top priority for the future is developing the talent that will get it there. Talent masters spend at least 25% of their time spotting and developing other leaders; at GE and P&G it’s closer to 40%).
  2. Insist on a culture of trust and candor. You can only develop your people if you have accurate informatoin about them. You can only get that information if you talk candidly. Candor gets the truth out. It enables keener observations, greater insight, and better descriptions. Conaty and Charan state this is the most difficult part of becoming a talent master.

So, ... can be become talent masters? 


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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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DANGER! Sell leadership carefully ...

Alan Webber, founding editor of Fast Company, recently wrote in the Washington Post his response to a the question, "what key points would you tell new graduates about being future leaders?" Part of Webber's response was, "You will be told that you have a responsibility to be leaders. That what the world needs more than ever are leaders. That we suffer from a lack of leadership. That with your education, your values, your ability to apply social media, your global vision, your youthful idealism, you will be the next generation of leaders!

Now. Listen. Very. Carefully. Pay no attention to any of that. That is what we call hogwash.

Cited in the Leading Blog post of May 10, the blogger continues by saying, "Choosing to lead is one of the most rewarding decisions you may ever make. But it’s not about you. Yes, you will bring your unique and much needed gifts to the world, but not for your own sake. Your job is to use your gifts to help others express, make known and fulfill their potential. Influencing others with a purpose, a calling, and with opportunities they never imagined they had.

It’s a mindset of service. It’s a mindset of continual learning. It’s a mindset of growth.

The single biggest truth of leadership is that we build who we are by building up others.

That doesn’t come naturally to us, but it’s your calling, if you would be a leader.

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Leadership Performance Under Pressure

What matters when a leader is dealing with pressure? Undoubtedly, a lot matters ... but I'm curious how you might respond to a recent blog post that reviewed a few key points from the book Better Under Pressure by Justin Menkes. In response to what I will call "pressure management," Menkes identifies three catalysts that he believes will help a leader realize his or her own potential as well as realizing the potential of others. 

1. Realistic Optimism. Striking a balance between the known and unknown, Menkes says we must minimize the ways in which our minds distort reality. Awareness, he continues, allows us to see our role in any problem and remain humble while dealing with it.

2. Subservience to Purpose. While realistic optimism allows leaders to see and address deficiencies in themselves and the world around them, subservience to purpose gives them the drive to do so. In this framework, Menkes says, “people’s level of dedication toward the mission of the enterprise is paramount, rather than their dedication to each other….hierarchical distinctions are secondary to the overarching value system that considers the company’s noble missions its most important function.”

3. Finding Order in Chaos. This attribute is about maintaining clarity of thought and a drive to solve the puzzle. Maintaining clarity of thought is developed by learning how to manage your stress in such a way that it fuels your focus. To do this, one must seek out experiences that support your sense of competence under duress—“managing adrenaline without panic and gaining confidence that the sensations that stress induces will not lead to collapse.” The drive to solve the puzzle “manifests itself as an intense intellectual curiosity…and a pleasure in finding solutions to them.” Menkes adds, “The positive feedback we get from maintaining clarity under pressure gives us a thirst for more situations that involve pressure, and we are thus driven to solve the puzzle.”

All these attributes work together. Gaining strength in one pushes the development of the others.

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Opportunity in Conflict

As we prepare for our upcoming learning event, Standing in the Tension - Coaching through Conflict, we've perused many articles, websites, and books for material. Google the word "conflict" and you'll see 138,000,000 results - yes, that is 138 million! What struck me was, "wow, now there is opportunity!" When you have 138,000,000 chances, you are bound to come up with an opportunity for a positive result. But here is they key to that positive result ... you have to be willing to see it. Our group, here at Relevant Movement, works hard to stay aware. You might say we are "awareness junkies." I believe it is that awareness that helps us slow down, take stock of the situation, clarify what we are feeling about the issue, and then prepare a response. What helps you when you are in the midst of conflict?
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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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Manage Through Ego and Conflict

In Gold Medal Strategies, author and team goalie for the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, Jim Craig, illustrates that the principles that got them there in 1980 can be applied to any team.

We weren’t big shots. We weren’t stars. If we were going to do something great we needed each other and had to do it together. We couldn’t afford to wallow in our differences to get laid low by towing egos. We needed to manage through ego and conflict."

If ever there was a story of athletic victory, this was it. What story can you share about successfully managing conflict that led to victory? We'd love to hear it and learn from you!


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Leadership is about creating conversation

From a recent Leading Blog post I read the following and thought, "What kind of conversations am I creating?" What about you ... what conversations have you created today?

Poet and Fortune 500 consultant David Whyte said that “The core act of leadership must be the act of making conversations real.” Conversations—sometimes difficult conversations—are what build relationships. Conversations that provide the opportunity for possibility. Conversations about choice.

Leaders create the opportunity for conversation. By bringing people together for conversation they increase engagement, commitment and accountability. Leaders ask people to share their own genius and assume personal leadership. At that point the ability to listen becomes paramount.

Accountability isn’t only at the top. It lies with all of us. All of us are responsible. Possible futures are not the work of one person. They are made possible by the conversations and resulting accountability of a community of leaders.

Leadership is about creating conversations.

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Manager or Executive Leader?

We've long recognized there are differences in leading from the manager's chair versus leading from the executive chair. In his recent book, The Next Level, author Scott Eblin shares recent thoughts about moving from manager to executive. So, what do you think? Is there a significant difference between leading as a manager versus leading as an executive?  Share your thoughts with us! 
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Leadership Behavior

A fellow by the name of Steven Whitaker shared the idea that “leadership is behaving in a defined way to reach a common goal.” Which poses a few questions for us. First, what are our common goals? Second, do we recognize the behaviors we express? Third, can we connect which behaviors display leadership effectiveness? Three short questions. Do you feel these three questions are worth your time to answer? Let us know what you think!

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