Honest Character Assessment

Personal character, especially as a leader, will always define the kind of impact we have on those we lead. Sound emphatic? Yes. Why? Our personal skills and abilities, the stuff that gets work done, while important, only becomes positive, engaging, and desired when we relate to others with character that builds, supports, encourages, and honors. Put another way, when we put anything else above those we work with – profits, results, success – we leave a deposit in their hearts of mistrust, dishonor, and a devaluing of their own worth. Even worse, when our words and actions don’t connect, the hypocrisy is devastating to relational truth, trust, and connection.

Let’s make this real. Which would you want in your life? A leader who can get things done despite their non-valuing treatment of you and others; or, one who makes priority and leads (mostly by their action) with their ability to help you believe you are valued and important? Asking yourself how you want to be led is insightful, and an important step towards defining yourself as a leader.

So, which kind of leader have you been to present? To answer honestly takes truth principles that can go past our own personal story we rehearse in our heads about ourselves and point to what’s real. Most, if not all of us, tend to carefully craft personal stories of who we are based more on our intentions than our actions and behaviors those around us experience in real time. If we do this over and over, no wonder why we are not trusted or believed. In contrast, our desire and action to grow in honest assessment of ourselves becomes a key “truth teller” of the kind of impact we have as leaders. Here is one of these principles to consider…

How you relate to others on your worst day reflects a truer version of your real character than that on your best day.  MGF

Take a moment to reflect on past “worst/bad days”, and what came out of you in behavior to others around you. Add to your personal assessment what have others shared with you about what they experienced on these same days. Together, the consistent details now support a more accurate storyline of your character for those days. Now that you have a more accurate reality, you now have a choice in moving forward…

  • Revise the story line to justify your behavior (denial);
  • Ignore the story line and stay on the same relational trajectory with yourself and others (denial/apathy), or
  • Embrace what you discover as a truth to process towards change (accountability/ownership).  

Personal character assessment takes detailed honesty not only with ourselves personally, but also a willingness to embrace what others have experienced from us. All circumstances, especially those we would call our “worst days”, can be catalysts for celebration (when we treat others well) AND growth (when we don’t). To value yourself means to live authentically valuing others in both your internal and external lives, no matter the circumstances, and to challenge ourselves to change when we don’t. Let’s encourage each other as valued leaders wanting to grow with more honest character assessment and change.


Unlocking Creative Vision

Leading others impacts all of us, whether we are leading or being led. In general, all leadership can be defined in one of two ways: Leadership through influence that inspires (serving others), or Leadership through positional authority.

What does each look like in real life? The first values freedom for others to become their best selves with opportunity, while the second uses power to motivate action based on stated consequences. Yes, both gets results. Beyond this, though, how are those under either leadership model connected to you as a leader? Put another way, what is the result of your leadership upon their heart? Your “leadership lifestyle”, or how you lead on a regular and consistent manner (i.e. actions arise from internal values) defines this relational truth. As such, creativity within those you lead becomes tied to this result.

The role of one’s heart and motivation, I believe, remains greater than most will consider in their personal leadership lifestyle. How so? Consider a key component for any organization/company — VISION. How one leads dramatically impacts the lens by which vision is seen, and subsequently, carried out.

Take a moment to consider the following quotes and the kind of “vision” that arises:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: FASTER HORSES.” — Henry Ford

“What you yearn for will be what drives you to explore.” — Mark Francis

Our personal sphere of leadership will be dramatically impacted by our personal leadership lifestyle, especially towards how we help unlock creativity in those we lead. Creativity needs freedom to thrive, as well as opportunities to explore. As leaders, are we creating that environment? Without, vision will diminish and become nothing more than a sign on the wall.

Here are few ideas/thoughts that could serve as a beginning point in your own self-reflection:

> If you ask for input from your team, give value to it (beyond just a “Thank You”) – even using a portion of it building increasing trust that vision is a collaborative effort.

> When a process is not being successful, seek first to find out what it is not being self-corrected by those involved – Training gap, relational disconnection, loss of confidence, etc.

> Consistently communicate and demonstrate room for “failing forward” – using failure to drive creativity, not diminish it.

> Appeal consistently to one’s heart and importance over the rule of command/process – if your team feels they are present only for your personal success, you will lose their creativity and their heart for you.

> Ask open-ended questions for discovery – highlight the unknown and its value for driving exploring.

In our fast-paced world and ever-changing circumstances, our ability as leaders to value and support personal creativity in our teams will many times make the difference between short or long-term success.


Growing Through Challenges

Ask yourself this question – When I’m faced with a challenge, either with myself, others or circumstances, what is my initial reaction?

  • Do I judge it as a weakness or failure with drama?

Or…

  • Do I focus on it being an opportunity for changing something towards greater growth and success? 

We likely all have responded in both ways. The key question lies in the pattern of our gut-level reaction. Our ability to walk in truthful self-awareness of our reactions will in fact dictate what we emphasize and focus on during these moments. Excellence in all forms arises from seeing challenges as stepping stones to something greater.

Embracing and strengthening a “growth” perspective is largely a daily choice. As such, what we practice becomes our “nature”. Impactful leaders cultivate a growth-oriented perspective which is vital to sustainable success.

Need some practice tips? Here are a few to help – I’m sure you will think of others:

  • Calibrate your Emotions – Our feelings are part of us yet, cannot lead us. They can be a window into our hearts and the beliefs we hold about what is around us. A strong reaction can be an important tip off of something deeper to be explored personally. However, when dealing with yourself, others or even circumstances, keep them in check.
  • Embrace Changes – Life ceases to be such without change. From the moment we were conceived, life reflects an on-going expression of change. This includes our internal lives of our heart, mind and will. The one constant we experience is that life will not be constant. We can make change a part of our decisions (causing growth) or contend against it and stay stuck.
  • Value the Long-term – While we all experience life “in the moment”, a long-term vision helps us hold our moments with the weight they deserve. Even in moments of great impact, whether joy-filled or intensely painful, the capacity we all have to weave these into a larger life story depends on how we hold them. We can get stuck in moments and define all of our life by them. In contrast, we can make them but a part of other moments towards something greater or even different.
  • Connect with your personal community – Our personal lives can only be fully experienced in connection with others. Isolated, personal reflection is certainly key to personal awareness and growth. However, the encouragements and support of those around us fill in and fill out what we understand of “ourselves”. If we are left to only ourselves, we become self-absorbed and self-centered humans who will disesteem others for the sake of me, myself and I. Focusing only on what others think of me devalues the reality of my uniqueness through personal awareness. Both are key for us to understand ourselves and how others relate to us. The feedback from both becomes an important, and needful opportunity for growth and change.

None of us are exempt from challenges. How we respond to them determines what kind of opportunity we embrace. As leaders, the stakes are even higher. The challenges we face and our ability to create growth from them defines both our role and effect on those we serve. Excellence arises as we recognize the best that can come from the challenges we encounter. Let’s make growth our choice!


The Reflective Pause

Do you take regular reflective pauses?

Our ability to take a pause and reflect at any point in our daily routine or crisis circumstances
serves as an impactful indicator of both a growth mindset for our journey, and an enlarging
capacity for handling complex details. The more we normalize and value this response
internally, the greater our positive effect on our spheres of influence.

What is a “reflective pause”? Simply, it is a practiced discipline of moving from reaction to
responding after a deliberate pause to examine the truthful and provable details being
encountered. Many times, reactive behaviors spring forward quickly as a release of our
emotional state in the moment. Emotions are important to process and do have a role. In and
of themselves, however, they are the least effectual reason to base our responsive behavior
upon. Instead, responses based on what is true and real in circumstances will create the
greatest opportunity for appropriate, reasonable, and potentially helpful attitudes and
behaviors that can lead to positive interactions. The ability to ascertain what is both true and
real needs some level of examination beyond the actual moment. Pausing and reflecting on
these details can provide this outlook.

Why is this quality important, especially for relational leaders? For one, a leader who values
those they lead desires to build relationship based on truth. Discovery of what is true and real is
more important than even the expression of their own perspective or opinion. Two, these same
leaders also understand that a leadership lifestyle demands personal growth as part of the
journey. Otherwise, one’s capacity to be others-centered will eventually diminish as they fight
only for their own opinions. And lastly, relational leaders are well acquainted with the fact that
life experiences, especially with others, is rarely simple and straightforward, but rather complex
and messy. They desire an enlarging “capacity” within themselves to be able to handle more
and more complexity and messiness. Reactive living, as determined mostly by emotions and
limited understanding, diminishes each of these three areas over time. In doing so, leadership
impact shifts from serving and growing others to becoming more controlling and self-centered.

How can we grow this quality within us? Here are a few tips:

  1. Make it Important to You – Personal change begins with an internal shift of priorities
    and values. Choosing this quality as important reflects that first step.
  2. Practice in Routine – Make it a point to practice your pause and reflect during a normal
    day that has no particular crisis. That which you practice in times of normalcy will
    become a part of your life expression, especially in times of crisis.
  3. Explore Actions for Your personality – For some, their ability to pause and reflect can
    happen internally, no matter whose around. For others, they need to remove
    themselves and get alone to do so. Regardless of the manner, it will require both some
    time (pause) and critical evaluation (reflect) of the details. Create action based on how
    best you can do that right now.
  4. Follow up Questions – Be proactive to follow up with additional, clarifying questions to
    ascertain with greater confidence the truth and reality of the circumstances. Asking
    instead of assuming is the mark of a truth-seeker.
  5. Make a Decision – Depending on the events, a decision is needed, whether to remain
    quiet, offer counsel or direction, or even enter a type of conflict resolution process. As a
    leader, act on in some manner the outcome of your pause and reflection. Doing so
    reinforces its value for you personally.

Cultivating a reflective pause into our daily routines positions our hearts and minds to embrace
life and all its circumstance. Doing so gives us the constant opportunity to grow stronger,
deepen our courage and enlarge our outlook that life and relationship, even in crisis, remains a
gift of beauty, goodness, and wondrous expectation. Our world desperately needs this outlook.
In fact, each of us needs the encouragement of others like this too. Let’s do our part to be that
for others. You have permission – take your reflective pause. It will make all the difference.


Our Lingering Presence

“The words, attitudes and actions we express become our presence in others when we are not around.” MGF

Consider a leader of your past that you hold with honor for their positive impact on your life. What do you feel about them? I suspect if you were to see them again today, these same feelings would spring to the forefront as you interact with them. In effect, even though years may have passed, their “presence” has remained with you through how they treated you in the past. That presence defines their life to you and how you would re-engage with them now.

Whether we are leaders or not, we all create this kind of “lingering presence” in every other human we interact with, whether intentionally or not. As such, the importance of paying attention to how we interact cannot be understated. Consistency of our attitudes/actions/words plays a key role in that which lingers as well as the frequency of our interaction. The more we interact, the more we reinforce the kind of presence we create.

As leaders, our lingering presence with those we serve becomes even more pronounced and impactful. Time together, expectations for results, conflict potential, and leadership styles all contribute to increased impact over time in a leadership environment. Realizing the outcomes of our leadership in the lives of others, in particular the kind of presence it creates, is in one way, our responsibility. I would hope we actually make it something greater — a willing priority out of respect for ourselves and for those we serve.

Determining this presence doesn’t have to be an unknown. We all have choices to help create and establish that which lingers in the perspectives of others. Here are a few choices we can make as part of our leadership journey to create the presence we want:

  • Identify Key Values – What are those qualities that are most important to you for defining your life and connecting with others?
  • Practice towards Consistency – Prioritize and drive your attitudes, actions and words with your key values.
  • Esteem Feedback – Ask regularly about what others are believing about you as outcomes of your leadership interactions.
  • Adjust Often – Be quick to own mistakes or failures and then make a change, as needed, to connect more accurately to your key values.

We all create lives that touch others. That which lingers as presence in those we lead depends on what we offer day in and day out. When a positive priority, leadership becomes a joyful encouragement in the lives of others. That’s a legacy worth the effort!


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.


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