Questions to Shape Self-Improvement

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Questions to Shape The Year Ahead

It is that time of year when many people assess the past year and make plans for the next one. Businesses develop strategies and goals, individuals write resolutions and families plan vacations. Many individual plans involve possessions, places and events.

One of the most important, but perhaps difficult, topics to assess is personal improvement. If you are happy with yourself and your current situation, everything else will seem better. Since it is sometimes more difficult to “see yourself” and develop actions for self-improvement, here is a list of questions to help identify some candidate areas for improvement.

The list covers many topics to generate ideas. I suggest that you simply read the list, make lots of notes as you go and not try to develop or prioritize actions until later. Suggestions for next steps are discussed at the end.

 

“If you are happy with yourself and current situation, everything else will seem better.”  –Bruce Rhoades

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

Learning and Growing

What new skills would I like to develop for work or for personal satisfaction?

Am I listening to different perspectives and diverse viewpoints?

What should I read to expand my horizons?

What new challenges should I undertake?

Do I have a role model to observe?

 

Appreciation and Gratitude

What am I thankful for?

Do I tell those I love that I love them?

What are my opportunities to tell others what I appreciate about them?

Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?

How often do I praise or compliment others?

 

“Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Relationships

Am I satisfied with my relationships? Kids? Colleagues? Family?

How can I be a better partner — one that I would like to have?

Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?

Where should I be a more positive influence?

Are the people that demand my time the ones who I really want to use my time?

Are there relationships that I need to repair or let go?

Which relationships do I want to grow?

Do I feel and express appropriate emotion?

How and where can I be less controlling or bossy?

How can I improve my attentiveness and listening?

How do I want to be remembered?

 

“Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Leadership

What culture do I want to create for work, family and friends?

What kind of role model am I? What attributes do I want others to emulate?

How can I bring out the best in others? At work? With family? With friends?

Are my actions consistent with my talk?

What opportunities do I have to make a difference in someone’s life?

How can I help others to grow? Who?

How can I be a better team member?

What are my opportunities to teach?

 

“What kind of role model am I?”  –Bruce Rhoades

 

Balance

39 Traits of a Bad Boss

The Officially Bad Boss

All of us have some negative qualities, make mistakes, and mess up. After all, “We’re only human.”

But bad managers seem to collect these traits faster than a hoarder fills a house.  If you are working for someone and find yourself nodding vigorously as you read this list, you officially have a bad boss.

What traits would you add to the list?

  1. Self-centered

Everything is about him. Not the organizational goals, but his bonus. Not about the team, but about his individual performance. “How I look” is more important than anything else.

 

“Leaders enjoy giving credit to others.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Steals credit

You work all night to get it done. Instead of praising you, you find your name removed and her name prominently at the top. She basks in the light of your success and barely acknowledges your contribution.

 

“Leaders create results by letting others shine.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Bullies

Threats and intimidation mark the way he manages. You are not asked; you are bullied.

  1. Poor self-awareness

What seems obvious to everyone else, she misses. Her effect on people is something that she completely misses. She never comes back and apologizes or corrects a misunderstanding because she is just not aware of her impact.

  1. Manages up

Sure, everyone needs to manage up. But, he does it exclusively. His boss loves him. Everyone else sees that he sucks up so much that he has little time for anything else.

  1. Always right

You are frequently wrong, but she never is. She can never admit a mistake because it would threaten her self-esteem.

 

“Freely admitting mistakes is a sign of leadership.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Poor communicator

Information is withheld. Few understand what he means. More time is spent trying to decode the little communication that happens than actually listening to the message.

 

“A bad boss withholds information in an effort to manipuate.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Unable to get the best from people

People may stay in the job, but they are not motivated. No one tries to do more than the minimum.

  1. Micromanages

She dictates every last detail. There is no room for creativity or deviation from the plan. You are to execute orders and report back. Constantly.

  1. Missing in action

He is never around when you need him to make a decision or weigh in.

  1. Never praises or encourages

If you read a positive word on your performance review, your heart would stop so long you would need a doctor. You never hear a single positive word.

 

“A bad boss wallows in the negative. A leader seeks the positive.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Wants only praise and good news

You have a problem, but he will not listen. You lost an account, but you cannot bring it up. Problems must be hidden. Only good news is shared because he cannot seem to handle anything more.

  1. Disingenuous

He may praise you, but he doesn’t mean it. His body language betrays his real emotion.

7 Lessons on Giving from Jimmy Wayne

 

Walk to Beautiful

One of the most moving and true stories I have ever read is Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who  Found the Way, the story of Jimmy Wayne.  Jimmy is a country music singer-songwriter whose songs have topped the charts.  His song “Do You Believe Me Now?” was played over 100,000,000 times on the radio earning him the millionaire award. He is also now a NYT bestselling author and has a movie based on his book Paper Angels.  With all that success, he still identifies himself more as a foster kid who faced numerous challenges growing up in a difficult system.

Recently, I was visiting Nashville and met Jimmy at an event to raise money for the Salvation Army.

 

Saved By Love

Do you know how this country music star got his first guitar?  If you have participated in the Salvation Army Angel Tree Program, you will have the answer. That anonymous gift was the beginning of a musical journey.  Each year children in need fill out angel tags containing gift wishes and place them on a tree.  Jimmy received his first guitar through this program.  You can make a dream come true by helping others through the Salvation Army’s program.

After reading his compelling story and speaking with him, I thought about 7 lessons Jimmy Wayne taught me about giving and sharing.

Jimmy taught me to:

 

1. Give the gift of encouragement.

As a homeless teenager, Jimmy befriended an elderly couple, who took him in. When he speaks of this couple, and the words of love and appreciation they expressed to him, you will be reminded of the power of encouragement.  Contrast that to the words spoken by a prison guard; words that, to this day, still seem to haunt him.

Use every opportunity to encourage others with words of love and appreciation.

 

2.  Give with no expectation.

So often we give and expect something back.  True givers experience the joy of giving with no expectation.  Anything given with an expectation is not really a gift.

“Anything given with an expectation is not really a gift.” -Skip Prichard

 

3.  Give of yourself.

Bea Costner opened her home to Jimmy, gave of her time, her talent, and her love. She demonstrated the power of giving is when it comes from the heart with nothing held back.

“The power of giving is when it comes from the heart and nothing is held back.”

 

4.  Give your unique giftedness.

28 Appreciation, Gratitude and Thank You Quotes

 

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” –James Allen

 

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” –Alphonse Karr

 

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” Hansa Proverb

 

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” –John E Southard

 

“I feel a very unusual sensation – if it is not indigestion, it must be gratitude.” –Benjamin Disraeli

 

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” –Thornton Wilder

 

Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality. –Alfred Painter

 

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” -Voltaire

 

“The essence of all beautiful art is gratitude.” –Friedrich Nietzche

 

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

 

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” –Dalai Lama

 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” -Cicero

 

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Melody Beattie

 

“It is a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.” –Roberto Benigni

 

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” –Jacques Maritain

 

“Gratitude isn’t a burdening emotion.” –Loretta Young

 

“Feeling gratitude, and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” –William Arthur Ward

 

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“In everything, give thanks.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy.” –Marcel Proust

 

“Giving is an expression of gratitude for our blessings.” –Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

 

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” –William James

 

“Be thankful for what you have and you’ll end up having more.” Oprah Winfrey

 

“Silent gratitude isn’t much to anyone.” Gertrude Stein

 

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” –Henri Frederic Amiel

 

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –GK Chesteron

 

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” -Gerald Good

 

“Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.” -Confucius

 

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4 Ways to Get Appreciated at Work

 

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”  -William James

 

Undervalued

 

Usually, I would run into my friend at the gym.  He was always full of energy, smiling, and lifting more weight than seemed humanly possible.

One day, I was leaving when I noticed him arriving at the gym.  He was walking slower than normal with his shoulders slumped.  His trademark smile was missing.

Though I really didn’t have time to talk, I asked him how he was.

“I’m good,” he responded, a bit too quickly and with an even less convincing acting job than he realized.

 

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”  -William James

 

“Want to grab a cup of coffee and chat for a minute?” I asked.

We sat down at a table with our coffee.  I’m not one to waste much time and jumped right to the issue.

“What’s up?  You are clearly down.  Why?  What’s going on in your life?”

“I don’t know.  The Preds lost last night.”

I knew him well enough to know that his hockey team losing a game was not the cause of his change in attitude.  Here was a guy who would regularly bounce off of walls with his energy.

I didn’t even need to say anything.  He could read skepticism in my face.  If he missed it, I would recommend he check his vision.

“Ok.  I just feel unappreciated at work.  I turn something in, and I just get overloaded with more and more.  Every once in a while, a little recognition would be nice.  Maybe a bonus?  Heck, even a beer would be cool.”

Appreciation.  It’s what William James says is the greatest human need.

Stay at home moms (or dads):  you know what this is about more than most.  Thankless chores.  Constant demands.  And the world shows little respect for your efforts.

 

“I praise loudly. I blame softly.” -Catherine the Great

 

Reasons Your Boss Does Not Appreciate Your Work

 

There are many reasons you may be unappreciated at work.

Here are a few:

You’re not doing a good job.

You’re boss doesn’t realize the work you are doing.

Your boss is overworked and overwhelmed.

Your boss is a jerk.

Your boss isn’t skilled in recognizing others.

Your boss has childhood issues and needs therapy.

 

I shared with my friend some ideas for him to consider:

You should change your perspective.

More work may equal appreciation.  Your boss may be recognizing your good work by giving you more work.  He may not be expressing it in the way that you want to hear it, but for some people this is how it works.  More work = great job!  When you think of it that way, you may find ways to utilize this for your benefit.