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

12 Secrets Your Kids (and Employees) Want You to Know

This is a guest post by my friend Lee Colan and his three children: Cameron, Grace and Lexi Colan.

Leader as Parent, Parent as Leader

The more I lead, the more I work with leaders, and the more I parent, the more I see compelling parallels between leadership and parenting. Leaders are parents, and parents are leaders. They are in different settings with parallel roles.  To illustrate this, here is an excerpt from a refreshing parenting book that was written by three children, Please Listen Up, Parents: 12 Secrets YOUR Kids Want YOU to Know. This excerpt addresses creating connections – on its surface this is also a clear priority for leaders. What is compelling is the parallel actions for parents and leaders even below the surface. As you read this, consider how you can apply these insights from kids to your own team at work and family at home.

 

“Adults are just outdated children.” -Dr. Seuss

 

Even though our technology helps us stay connected, it doesn’t mean we are really connecting. A family is made up of real connections: connections between individuals, connections to values, and connections to a bigger purpose.

 

“The first duty of love is to listen.” -Paul Tillich

 

Show us how to make connections with other people.

Remember, we learn by example. Let us see you talking to other adults at the playground, park, or museum. Nudge us to interact with other kids when we’re feeling shy. Show us that it’s OK to say “hello” and strike up a conversation. Offer to host backyard cookouts and sleepovers with our friends. Encourage us to go on group outings and field trips with our friends and their friends. It’s a great big world out there, and the more connected we feel to it, the better lives we’ll lead.

 

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” -Will Rogers

 

We also need to feel connected to our family values.

We’re navigating an endless stream of confusing messages from advertisers, coaches, friends, movies, teachers, TV, the Internet and more. Having clear family values keeps us grounded. Gen. Colin Powell once said, “The greatest gifts my parents gave to me were their unconditional love and a set of values. Values that they lived and didn’t just lecture about. Values that included an understanding of the simple differences between right and wrong, a belief in God, the importance of hard work, and education, and self-respect.” Our maternal grandfather and “family general” Ron Davis always says, “Family comes first, and they will always be there for you.” This phrase is more than just words for us. It helps to remind us of and reinforce our family’s values.

In addition to trying to live his values, our dad also wrote them down for us to make sure we knew them and had them in writing for safekeeping. Here are a few of them:

  1. Everything starts and ends with our relationships – with God first, then family.
  1. Respect the three P’s: people, property and perspectives. Leave people, places, and situations in a better condition than when you arrived.
  1. Do more than expected before it’s asked of you. Anticipate others’ needs, and take initiative. Think of others more than yourself.
  1. Give more grace to others than you think is necessary because, at some point, you will need more grace than you think you do.
  1. Perseverance and hard work beat natural talent every day. Our trials are God’s way of molding us into who He wants us to be.

When we’re not sure about what to do or how to feel in a new situation, sometimes we think about our family values to see if they can help. The values might not cover everything, but they usually do a good job of pointing us in the right direction.IMG_5358

It helps to discuss family values so we can each interpret what they mean to us. Also, keep them visible (usually in the kitchen) so the whole family can see them, refer to them and remember them, and hopefully, live by them.

We also need your help to begin to figure out how our gifts – artistic, athletic, comedic, intellectual, mathematical, musical, scientific, social, or anything else – can make the world a better place. We’re just kids, but understanding how and where we fit in the world is still really important to us.

Our dad once explained to us that sports equipment like golf clubs, tennis racquets and baseball bats all have a certain spot that, when a ball hits it, gives the best result. Hitting this sweet spot creates a long drive down the fairway, a swift crosscourt return, or a powerful homerun. When the ball hits that sweet spot, you barely feel it. The ball goes where you want it to go, even farther and faster than normal.

 

“Don’t promise when you’re happy, don’t reply when you’re angry, and don’t decide when you’re sad.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour

 

We need your help connecting to our sweet spot in life.

When we were little, you asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now it’s time for the next step, which is, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Start by helping us answer two simple questions:

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. Which tasks are easy and natural for me to perform?

You probably remember when you connected to your sweet spot in life. You knew you were “in the zone,” and other people acknowledged your skills and abilities. Maybe you connected to it when you were young, but it was probably a long process of self-discovery that lasted into young adulthood at least. So please don’t rush us. Watch for the right times to ask us these questions because those are the conversations that will help you understand us and really help us understand ourselves.

 

“There is one thing we can do better than anyone else: we can be ourselves.” -Arthur Ward

 

Help us explore new challenges and opportunities

15 Thanksgiving Quotes to Start the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here in the United States. Even outside of the USA, you can benefit from a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude. Here are fifteen quotes to get you started:

 

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.” –Amy Grant

 

“Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then they discover once a year is way too often.” –Johnny Carson

 

 

 

“I love Thanksgiving because it’s a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me.” –Marcus Samuelsson

 

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” –W.J. Cameron

 

“Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence.” –Erma Bombeck

 

“An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.” –Irv Kupcient

 

“Thanksgiving Day comes…once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” –Edward Sandford Martin

 

 

“I like football. It’s a great way to avoid conversation with your family at Thanksgiving.” –Craig Ferguson

Leading Women: Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Do women face a unique relationship with power?

Do successful women pay a “popularity penalty”?

How do women unlock their personal power?

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and an expert in empowering women. She is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed influential women for online podcasts available on her website. Her new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life is aimed at helping women maximize personal power and improve their self-esteem and business success.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her research and findings about women’s leadership, influence, and power.

 

“I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.” –Helen Keller

 

Now Is the Time

Despite some of the statistics you cite about income and other inequalities, you have a strong optimism about “now” as a wonderful time for women. Why the optimism?

I’ve been working for women empowerment all of my professional life. When I went back to college, and then during my doctoral research, very few people were talking about women empowerment. I felt very lonely.

Now, everywhere I look, people are talking about empowering women: self-help books, networking and mentoring groups, even the media. And why not? Women buy 85% of goods and services; it’s time for our voices to be heard. And as women are getting better at working together, I see a movement in which we claim our power and help one another create a better world.

 

“When we do things even though we are afraid, we grow.” -@DrNancyOReilly

 

“Successful women pay a popularity penalty.” Would you explain that a bit more? What should a successful woman do?

When a woman is successful, she risks denigration by her competitors, the media and other women and men. Studies show the more successful a woman is, the less “likeable” she is perceived to be. Look at a Hillary Clinton, when she was the most popular woman in the world and running for president, she had to deal with comments about her dress, her hair, how old she looked. It constantly undermined her credibility. Lois Phillips, one of my Leading Women co-authors, describes how women can build their credibility at the beginning of a speech, which men rarely have to do. Their credibility is assumed just because they are at the podium.

 

“One woman can change anything; many women can change everything.” –Christine Karumba

 

Think About the Next 15 Minutes

How to Live a Life of Thankfulness

A Way of Life

Thankfulness, gratitude, and gratefulness:  three words to describe a characteristic, a personality trait, and a way of living.

People who live with an attitude of gratitude are known to live longer, sleep better, and have increased productivity and happier lives.

For much of my life, I would have told you that people are thankful when they are happy, things are going well, and life is good.

But then I met people who seemingly unraveled a mystery:

  • The elderly woman in a nursing home who was in a great deal of pain. But you wouldn’t know it.  She couldn’t stop smiling and thanking me for the visit.
  • The middle-aged man who recently lost his job, his home and his family. Instead of bitterness, he was focused on thanking the people who offered him food and a place to stay.
  • The up-and-coming leader I hired who thanked me again and again for the job. Instead of an egotistical response, knowing his qualifications, he must have thanked me a dozen times for the opportunity.

As we think about gratitude, I think of the spirit inside these people.  I realized that I could not predict someone’s attitude based on circumstances.  I would meet someone who was wealthy beyond belief, but that person was miserable.  Someone else would win a major award and shrug off compliments, grumbling that it was not good enough.

Did thankfulness allow the woman to live longer?

Did the middle-aged man end up more successful based on his attitude?

Did the up-and-coming leader create success in his life because of his thankfulness?

Does gratitude help fuel success?  My opinion is that it does.  It seems to play a major role in happiness, health, and prosperity.  The order is more often gratitude first, then success and not success first, then gratitude.

 

“A spirit of thankfulness attracts others to your cause, ideas and goals.” -Skip Prichard

 

Here are a few tips I have learned from those who are truly grateful.  These people are thankful:

 

Always.

That means in the morning and during bad weather.  It seems that losing our health makes us more grateful if we get it back.  Losing money makes us thankful for a small savings account.  The death of a family member causes us to savor the sweetness of the surviving members.

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

 

With small things.

It’s not the major accomplishments; it’s the smallest, almost unnoticeable daily events.  It’s being thankful for the smell of a flower or when your football team wins a point.