Strategy and Vision

Strategy only has meaning when connected to vision. — Mark Francis

Identifying and understanding your vision, or where you want to go, is what gives purpose to the steps needed to get there (i.e. strategy). Doing something for the sake of simply “doing something” may look productive, but mostly leaves frustration, heart-ache, and unrealized goals after it is over. You deserve more — your teams and organization deserve more.

I’m here to help with both. Let’s visit to get you started.


The Power of the “Ask”

Challenging most, if not all of us, is an internal battle over how we often assume on others their motive or reasons rather than ask directly.  I suspect we tend to default to assumptions more commonly, which raises the question of why. What in us compels us to focus on imaginings rather than offered truth from the source? Our reasons are likely varied and usually justified in our minds. As leaders, however, I believe this key internal battle needs addressing towards a different approach for the sake of those we lead. Assuming leads to mistrust from others, while asking questions honors and elevates their perspective as valuable in the matter.

So, what goes into a good and healthy “ask”? First, our intention to listen towards understanding is a must. Going through the motions to feign value for their explanation creates greater mistrust when it becomes obvious their input didn’t matter in our subsequent actions.  If you find yourself not really interested in understanding, take some time to step back and reflect as to why. Only move forward with questioning when you can honestly work from that motivation.

Second, the specific kind of “ask” you offer is important. Clear, direct and honoring questions have a way of bringing what is valued to the forefront for both you who are asking and those who are responding. In most circumstances, an “ask” that is more open-ended gives greater opportunity for the responder to give their own thoughts without any type of “answer-prompting”. At a core relational level, asking for one’s perspective to help you understand them reflects your respect for them. Doing so consistently serves as connection points of trust-building that supports deepening relationship through time and circumstances. Impactful leaders understand this truth and make it a priority in their leadership culture.

The following are a few examples of “asks” (i.e. open-ended questions) that can help bring understanding…

  • “Can you help me understand your reaction just now to what I said?”
  • “What are your thoughts on the directions/choices I just presented?”
  • “Would you elaborate more about __________?”
  • “What am I missing in your explanation?”
  • “How do you see us moving forward?”
  • “How does the process work now?”
  • “What kind of challenges are you facing in this circumstance?”
  • “What is your most important priority to you with this and why?
  • “You used the term(s) ________________. Can you explain what that means to you?”
  • “You said you are frustrated – can you share with me what has caused this?”

As you relate to others, think about the times you assume on other’s motives or actions. Purpose to instead use the power of the “Ask”.  Doing so builds meaningful relationships of trust and honor with those you serve and further esteems the value of authentic honesty.

Mark Francis


Others-centered Self-awareness

All of us, at some point, have been challenged by what others perceive as our “real selves”. Regardless of how often this happens, our reactions to their perceptions can range from feeling gut-punched or angry to overwhelmingly encouraged. How often, would you say, others accurately describe your own thoughts of who you believe you are, including your attitudes and behaviors?   Now consider those around you…how are they feeling about what others perceive of them? Taken together, it is easy to see how relationships can get messy quick, many times based on false assumptions of one another. However, we can help create accurate awareness of others and their lives leading to fulfilling and authentic relationships, no matter their purpose.

How can we minimize the impacts of misunderstanding one another? Here are a few thoughts to encourage change:

  1. Resist Assumptions – Be ruthless with yourself anytime you assume anything. Practice recognizing when you do it and especially when you make decision based on it. Ask others to help you assess and better understand when you make assumptions with them. Sensitivity to your own heart grows in the light of offered transparency and accountability.
  2. Ask Questions towards Understanding – Clarifying questions become windows into the heart. All of us fundamentally want to define ourselves to others. Doing so helps us own our own path, and helps others see the real us.
  3. Invite Feedback – Making room for personal input from others in our life helps create increased sensitivity to the realness of our life. When we ask the question of ourselves on a regular basis, we strengthen our “others-centered” vision to look for the same in those around us.

Living life with others, whether at work or in our personal lives, can only be authentic and life-giving to the degree we continually grow our others-centered self-awareness. To be seen accurately by others becomes both a gift and a growth path to each of us. To offer the same to others strengthens your union with them and creates capacity for growth through all seasons. As leaders, this gift and growth path is ours to give to each person in our care. Let’s give it our best!


Negative Feedback as a Growth Gift?

Responses, or personal feedback, to our attitudes and actions come daily to all of us. While we all enjoy the positive ones, we can be less welcoming of those that come with disappointment, pain, questions or even anger. However, if we value personal growth at any level, cultivating our skills to find a “growth nugget” from any feedback encounter, regardless of how it comes or from whom, enhances our capacity for positive and helpful change. The ability to do this consistently means practicing the art of discoveryseparation and embracement for feedback responses, even the hard ones. I know what you may be thinking — do all responses have meaningful nuggets I can grow from? I would suggest most do, depending on how we handle the feedback. Keep reading to see what I mean.

Initially, we must first believe in the presence of and then search for a specific meaning in the core content of a response. What attitudes or actions in me are they reacting to and why? Connecting that back to our own role in the matter reflects discovery. Once identified, you now have a personal “growth” purpose for the response beyond how it was offered. What can I change? How can I do it different? These and other key questions can serve you with specifics towards improvement or change.

Now realizing a discovered meaning, separating this meaning from the way a response comes becomes important. It’s easy to dismiss feedback based on accompanying emotions, how its offered, or even who it comes from. Easy, but perhaps wasteful. How so? A response offered to inflict some negative impact on you does so if you judge it solely on this intent. However, if you find meaning despite this intent, rather than being diminished by the negative, you are rather enhanced by a greater opportunity to grow and change. In essence, you transform a negative intent to a positive outcome. Now comes the final action – Embrace.

Having a capacity to embrace a “growth nugget” in whatever form it comes creates a perspective within you to see and experience life differently. Certainly pain, disfunction, and brokenness surround all of us in many forms. But, we decide their defining impact upon our own hearts, minds and attitudes every day. Choosing to embrace a new way of seeing myself through these discovered nuggets for growth puts the emphasis on my personal change rather than the response itself. I then can emerge strengthened, encouraged and transformed for the better. And maybe, just maybe, I also can come to see others for the treasure they possess despite their present condition. Would we not want the same consideration?

Discoveringseparating and then embracing a deeper personal truth in feedback is a choosing to see myself through the eyes of others so that I can increase my self-awareness and make changes in my life AND for the benefit of others. Applying this skill values my personal growth as well as contributes to positively impacting the “others” in my life, friend or foe. What a gift I can give myself and to others!  Is that a personal legacy you want to build? If so, value feedback for what it can be – a gift!


Change Starts Inside

“What we value in our hearts manifests in our daily lives. To change what we do starts with a change in what is important to us.” — Mark G. Francis

We rarely can hide what dwells within us as our crucial life values and motivations. They tend to leak out when we are not looking, mostly when we are focused on the “ordinary” tasks and efforts around us. Co-workers, friends and family can be very helpful in these moments as they experience the true YOU. Listening to their descriptions of your actions and behaviors can be eye-opening and authentic, even in difficult situations. If personal transformation and growth is important to you, look for the revealing language surrounding you and then take personal inventory of what you value. Emphasis here towards positive change will result in positive change in your attitudes and behaviors towards your best you.


The Question “Key”

Insightful, honest and transparent questions serve as powerful “keys” that can unlock darkened vision, forgotten dreams and personal hidden truths. For too long many of us have denied this powerful tool within a relational context and defaulted to believing that these kinds of questions equaled failure. In fact, the opposite it true. One who dares to tread in this realm usually carries a higher vision of “what can be” over “what is”. Isn’t that the kind of people we want in our journey — those who can see something more and are willing to ask about it? If you are ready to take that step, I am willing to take it with you. Let’s explore how we can use this KEY to unlock your best future!


A Gift for You

What traits, in general, would mark your relationships with those you lead? Do you consistently experience strong trust, open communication, faithful encouragement and steadfast confidence? Or, do those you serve with offer significantly less than this to you? If so, do you know why?

Generally a purpose behind staff and peer reviews, we can find ourselves wondering where we stand in the eyes of others. As leaders, knowing this reality is crucial for our on-going growth and success. I would like to help.

Asking for honest, yet meaningful feedback from those we work with can be intimidating. Sometimes we wait for “formal” reviews, which unfortunately, may never come or address the core issues. What if as either a leader or team member we didn’t wait? What if we stepped out with bravery to invite others to share their insight about us on a consistent basis?

Today I am offering you the use of a couple of tools I have developed from years of experience and asking these questions. My Bridging Assessment Resource Workbook provides both assessment tools and explanations to help you collect input and make assessments about these and other questions. It is yours as a free gift. You can find it here . Please feel free to share with others, and if you would want my involvement in this process, I would love to help. Contact me for additional information and scheduling.

One last thing. If you do use these tools, it would be a blessing to hear from you about how you were impacted. Thanks for your consideration.

 


Cultural Legacy

Each and every one of us are building an impactful history, or legacy, on a daily basis. Every decision we make, each conversation we take part in, the actions we repeat, and the values we hold to all contribute to the individual culture, or relational environment, we create for ourselves and those who walk the path with us. What lasting impact or mark on the world do I want to leave? If not by our design, the answer will lie in what we practice day in and day out, more specifically how others feel around us. Impactful, life-giving leaders who leave a legacy that lives on after them treasure those around them through mutual honor and respect. They live as a leader motivated by humble honor, willing to serve so that others can discover their own worth and make their unique contribution in their sphere of influence. Whatever our organizational description we are a part of, it serves in many ways as simply the backdrop for building cultural legacy that endures, calling those after us to a higher road. What marks your legacy?


Undiscovered Treasures

One of the roles, I believe, for leaders is to search and discover the “undiscovered treasures” of personnel that surround us. Too many times we label personnel based on their history or second-hand reports as to the strengths and skills they possess. The worse part is when they start believing it. Yet, as leaders, we can make a difference and change this outcome. Through intentional attention to seek out the hidden gifts of personnel, our voice can become the defining one for others where encouragement, hope and fulfillment mark the outcome. Is this the voice you want to have? Me too. If you desire another encourager to walk with you along the way, please contact me.


Connecting verses Communicating

Thousands of emails. Tweets that fly out as fast as we can type them. Words, words, and more words. Emoticons, abbreviations, slang, and anything else that distinguishes us from others. We have become a culture of communication in forms that are visual, written, sound or all three. Daily it surrounds us, like a slave driver demanding more and more.

Into this reality, I ask what I believe is a deeper question — in the presence of all this communication, are we connecting in greater degrees? If connecting simply means staying in contact, then maybe we are. However, in my view, connecting means much, much more. Listening, seeking understanding, developing a value of other perspectives, and coming to better identify with others and their journey all reflect aspects of connecting that are especially relevant and important not only personal relationships, but also in the work environment. Are you connecting with others in these ways to greater degrees? Amid all the growing information exchange that surrounds us, I encourage you to be a connector. The impact you have will far outlive your own life.


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