purpose

Remote Working ~ Intentional Communication

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According to Jeff Robbins with Yonder,

All communication needs to be intentional.

Seems fairly simply and straight forward…but is it?

Think about it…how much time do we honestly put into choosing our words? To be fair, some of us take time to measure and analyze our thoughts before giving voice to them while others are more apt to give voice and then reflect…or not!

In face to face interactions, even though our thoughts have been voiced, we generally have the opportunity to ‘take back’, or clarify as soon as we realize the message was not received in the manner intended. Not so easy to do when communication is shared through virtual channels.

Not only do we need to pay attention to the content of our messages, but also to the channel, the breadth of who receives the message, the frequency of communication, and the amount of information shared.

Working remotely, or virtually, calls for excellence – and intentionality – in communication. In fact, it can be our life line to clients, colleagues, contractors, and bosses! So how can we ensure that we are communicating to the best of our ability…and beyond? How can we be so intentional about our communications that ‘delete’ is not the first reaction when our name shows up on someone’s screen?

I believe this can be as simple as 4WH…yup, the old who, what, where, why, when, and how. Let’s build that out…

It's for you!
It’s for you!

WHO addresses the receivers. Who needs the information that I am communicating? Who really needs to be included in the communication? Do I honestly need to hit ‘reply to all’?

WHAT considers the core or content of the message. What is the most important information that needs to be communicated?

WHERE thinks through the location of both sender and receiver. Where should each be when the communication takes place. Does the communication call for interaction that is best suited for a phone call, FaceTime, or Skype? Is privacy of utmost importance? Is dependable internet vital? Should there be limited noise?

WHEN pays attention to the timeliness of the communication. When does this information need to be communicated? When does the receiver need to receive this material: Immediately? By the end of day? No urgency at all? I like this excerpt from Fried and Hansson’s Remote: Office not Required

Questions you can wait hours to learn the answers to are fine to put in an email. Questions that require answers in the next few minutes can go into an instant message. For crises that truly merit a sky-is-falling designation, you can use that old-fashioned invention called the telephone.

HOW thinks about the channel of communication. How can I communicate this information in the most concise manner without compromising the content, urgency, sensitivity, or clarity?

WHY…perhaps the most important question of all. Why am I sending this message? What is the purpose? What is the expected outcome? What is my motive?

When you think about it, we can think through each of the 4WH filters in a very short amount of time, but the result of doing so will have long term benefit. Ready to give it a try? Ready to be intentional in your communication?

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Pondering by the sea…

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This summer was supposed to be all about relax, refresh and rejuvenate…I haven’t been doing so well at that. In all fairness there have been good reasons for the lack of follow through. Since my last blog, life has happened; teaching, case writing, surgery (I slightly under estimated recovery time), supimageporting our son and family through a decision to accept a position with Facebook in Ireland, and, most recently, listing our home. More than ever I need the 3 ‘R’s.

The good news is that we are now on holidays…by the ocean! As I write this blog my husband and I have just finished a relaxing walk along the beach—wading in the ocean—and are now sitting on some driftwood enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of what, to me, is the most rejuvenating place to be.

There truly is something about the ocean that brings perspective to life…perhaps it’s the rhythm of the waves lapping as they inch closer to high tide, or maybe the total submission of beached jellyfish as they wait for the water to rise high enough to once more embrace them in its gentle eb and flow. Or could it possibly be the absence of schedules and deadlines that happens when we ‘clock out’ and allow for deep breaths, stillness and reflection. There’s a verse that encourages us to ‘Be still and know that I am God’. Sitting here, right now, pondering life and reflecting on recent happenings, watching and recognizing the power of the ocean, certainly brings this verse into focus.

imageWithout the intentionality of stillness, we loose sight of the fact that we are not the boss of our lives! Yes, we are responsible for our decisions and choices, and need to be wise stewards of how we use our skills and abilities. Stillness provides the opportunity to do so; what are the decision I need to consider in the days, weeks and months to come? Will I have difficult choices to make? Who do I need to seek help and input from? Planning times of stillness provides the clarity and mind space to work through such questions. And…it also provides a time of healing for the mind following an intense period of personal and professional life demands.

My time over the next couple of weeks, by the ocean, is to once again re-focus by relaxing, and doing things that bring refreshment and rejuvenation, laying a healthy mental foundation for a busy time ahead.

My ‘creative’ office space…

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In my last blog I committed to do whatever I could to avoid creating cracks in my overall well being…that’s easier said than done! I can’t believe how many daily habits I am unaware of that fight against that desire.

IMG_0149
My office, office chair, view, and parking lot 🙂

A simple example is eating. My plan this week was to do research and begin developing material for a case study and summer teaching…activities I thoroughly enjoy. However, in my focused prep I loose track of time and then wonder why I can’t put two sensible thoughts together…I forget to stop and eat until my brain starts screaming for fuel. At that point I am so desperate to eat, I grab whatever is fast and convenient; sometimes my choices are good…but not always.

Then there’s the old tyranny of the urgent. I take a few minutes to check email before setting time aside for quiet reflection and meditation…you know where this is going! An hour later I’m still dealing with issues that have come up, and those led to new ‘stuff’…there goes my quiet time! Sound familiar?

Don’t get me wrong, the week wasn’t a total bust…mid-week I decided to change ‘office’ location. For a whole afternoon I sat by the lake in a comfy Adirondack chair, reading, thinking, creating…perfect! Not only did I get a lot accomplished, I ended the afternoon feeling relaxed and refreshed. 

Once again I was reminded that in order to break old habits we sometimes need a change…even if only for an afternoon. I know that being outside is what I love, especially if a lake or ocean is involved. I know that a change in scenery brings fresh thinking for individuals and teams alike. I know that when I head out on my bike (which is how I got to my ‘office’) I always throw in healthy snacks and water. I know that intentionality is key in making any change worth making.

Speaking of intentionality, I was explaining to a friend this week that my summer goal was to focus on the 3Rs: relax, refresh, rejuvenate. However, I got stopped in my tracks when she asked what that meant…what do each of those actions (yup, actions…) really entail. Great question, but I really didn’t have an answer. So, time for a little backtracking to clarify what I’m actually shooting for.

This is what I found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Relax:

  • to become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight, or stiff
  • to stop feeling nervous or worried
  • to spend time resting or doing something enjoyable especially after you have been doing work

Refresh:IMG_0145

  • to make (someone) have more energy and feel less tired or less hot
  • to give someone more of (a drink) : to fill (someone’s glass, cup, etc.) again
  • computers : to put something, (such as a page on the Internet) into a computer’s memory again in order to show any new information : to cause an updated version of (something, such as an Internet page) to appear on a computer screen

Rejuvenate:

  • to make (someone) feel or look young, healthy, or energetic again
  • to give new strength or energy to (something)

I need to probe and ponder these definitions and think through the actual working out of these actions and how they apply to my 3R summer…hmmm!

Rubber Ball or Glass Ball?

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“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls– family, health, friends, integrity–are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

― Gary Keller, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

I came across this quote today and it made me pause to reflect on how it informs my 3R summer (see previous blog). I’m fairly confident in saying that in my life, family and integrity remain front and centre no matter what. (Although integrity is informed and nurtured by attention to my spirituality…yup…more attention needed there). I truly hope that my friends would know how incredibly valuable they are to me, and know that they are right up there in my life’s priorities. Health…I’m not so sure I have given this the ‘glass ball’ consideration, rather it has fallen into the rubber ball category.

As I look back over my life, I’m again reminded that my health gets most attention when something ‘shatters’. I’m not talking about serious, life threatening, life altering scares…more the kind of reminders that say ‘ok, let’s take a step back and think about how you got to this state…again!’ Being the full out, 110%, fairly driven person I am, it seems that running full speed into these reminders is what it takes to get my attention, causing me to gear down before I’m forced to slam the breaks on.

The more I think about the ‘glass ball’ analogy, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that my health gets most attention when something cracks, rather than shatters. Cracks can be repaired, however, the more cracks an object receives, chances of restoration to it’s original strength becomes diminished without some major work being done. When we were young, body parts that cracked could heal so much quicker…like a greenstick fracture. According to the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org), a greenstick fracture may not even cause much pain or swelling, and a child could still have full use of the injured limb. That’s when we were young…

Do I really want to keep ‘cracking’ knowing full well what one crack too many could lead to? Absolutely not!

So, what can I do to stop this cycle? How can my ‘relax, refresh, rejuvenate‘ summer turn my ‘rubber ball’ approach to health into more of a ‘glass ball’ mentality? I’m thinking that this 3R focus is exactly what is required. To spell it out, I need to intentionally build in time to relax, so that my mind, body and soul can be refreshed. Once my whole-self experiences some refreshment, it will finally be ready for rejuvenation!

Sounds too simple…but maybe that’s exactly what it should be, simple. Slowing down means simplifying things, taking time for more deep breaths, more think time, more time to reflect, more time spent appreciating those special moments… I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes (author unknown).

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

For this week, my goal is to work towards acting on this quote…to look at preventing any more cracks. It’s tismart goal setting conceptme to practice what I preach about setting SMART goals, goals that produce the kinds of outcomes reflective of a life that makes room for relaxation, refreshment and rejuvenation.

Are teachers also leaders?

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What’s your favorite question to ask? For me it’s why? That’s it. It’s been the same question just about all of my life.

I find that it brings the greatest critical thinking challenges to me as I continue to work in the field of training and development. For most of my growing up years people told me what to do, I’m sure your experience was similar… we get an education and are advised what to take, then we start a career and learn the job with new rules and processes…sadly, asking why isn’t always encouraged!

This was the case until I was finally asked the question WHY DO YOU DO YOU WHAT YOU DO? What’s your purpose on this earth? Someone finally turned the table on me!

Let me ask you, have you ever written a personal mission statement? It asks the why of your life. I was at a leadership staff retreat a number of years ago when I was asked what my personal mission was …not only had no one ever asked me such a big why question…I had no answer for them. Thus started a grueling exercise of discover…and decision! The end result was…

 I want to be about equipping and encouraging others to realize their full potential.

This guided my thinking and actions in every leadership role I took on.

Over the past while I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between being a leader and being a teacher. I tend to believe that not only are they connected, but being one compels us to also be the other. So if this is true…we need to consider what kind of leader-teachers we should be.

Take a few minutes to consider this connection and perhaps open the door to look at teaching…and our post-secondary classrooms, from another perspective.

John Kotters describes leadership this way…

“Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen, despite the obstacles.”

 Can we see a connection to teaching?

 Learner centred teaching is all about putting the focus on what the learner needs in order for them to be successful. Consider how similar this is to servant leadership:

 “Putting the needs, interests and goals of others above your own and using your personal gifts to help others achieve their potential.”

 Is there a connection here to teaching?

 Our purpose should be to do all we can to help our students be successful.

Let’s assume that we are on the right track here. We all know that learning looks different for each student…the variables are endless.

So flashing back to leadership, what we are discussing is the type of leadership made popular by Blanchard and Hersey…Situational leadership. We know that this is a contingency approach that basically means IT DEPENDS. It depends on the readiness of the follower…the leader adapts his/her leadership style based on the needs of the person being lead.

  • Telling– Leaders tell their people what to do and how to do it.
  • Selling– Leaders provide information and direction, but there’s more communication with followers.
  • Participating – Leaders focus more on the relationship and less on direction. Decision making is shared with followers.
  • Delegating – Leaders pass most of the responsibility onto the follower or group. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_44.htm

 Can we connect these styles or stages to teaching?

 Let me ask one final question…Can you view yourself as a leader in the classroom? If so, what kind of leader do you want to be?

In preparing to teach a leadership class recently, I came across this question:

 If it is immoral to prevent those around you from growing to their fullest potential, are you being moral?

In other words, as a leader/teacher, am I doing all I can to help those around me to grow to their fullest potential? Hmmm!

Potential, Persuasion & Leadership

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Right now I’m sitting in a new little restaurant in Kelowna called Gratitude. Recently opened, it’s claim to fame is a menu that is gluten free, vegan, and safe for most allergies. Limited…but oh so tasty! I feel healthier just sitting here. My order…spicy root veggie soup and a toasted carrot bun with coconut butter. Very delicious.

When the server/owner delivered it to me, the salutation, ‘you are lovely and awesome’ was declared. That took me a little aback…to my shame, the first thought that came to mind was ‘now that’s a little phony…they probably say that to everyone.’ But then I thought, ‘so what if they do, how many people never get to hear those sentiments from anyone?’ Yup, slapped my own hand for that one.

So how does this connect with potential? Glad you asked. Let me guide you through my thought process. One of the courses I’m teaching this semester to third year business students is Leadership; I’m very excited to be working with these future leaders! In the first class we discussed the concept of leadership and explored the experiences of each person…interesting and often inspiring. One of the resources we included in the course pack is a Harvard Business Review called ‘Harnessing the Science of Persuasion’ by Robert B. Cialdini. The article summary states,

“No leader can succeed without mastering the art of persuasion. But there’s hard science in that skill, too, and a large body of psychological research suggests there are six basic laws of winning friends and influencing people.”

The article is adamant that this persuasion must be done in an ethical manner, and that mastery of the 6 Principles outlined can bring ‘scientific rigor to the business of securing consensus, cutting deals, and winning concessions.’

In class we watched a YouTube version of the article, and then spent time discussing it.

What we summarized from the discussion is that leaders need to setthe stage and create a reason for why people should follow them. The obvious danger is the ease with which a leader could cross over the line into manipulation…one good reason why the article stresses the need for ethical action and behaviour.

So, back to potential. I can see potential in my students, or in those I have been privileged to mentor, but if there isn’t a connection, if they don’t like me, they are less likely to give any credence to any suggestions I may offer for their growth and development. The same thing applies to any group of people or team you may lead…do they see evidence of the 6 principles demonstrated through your actions? Do you make it easy for them to follow you, or do you create barriers that in the long run will limit the positive influence you could have in their professional and personal lives?

While I initially felt like the greeting I received with lunch was phony, it did make me stop and think. If she really did know me would those be the words she would use to describe me; if not, would she maybe see the potential in me to come along side and help me grow into a person worthy of such a greeting?

It’s an oak tree!

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It’s been a while since my last blog. There are a couple of reasons for that…not the least of which being absorbed in prep for teaching my business students. One key reason is tied in with the never-ending question regarding what to write about. I can think of lots of things to say when I’m nowhere near a computer (and have just had a great cup of coffee!), or don’t have time to gather the scattered thoughts into some semblance of order. However, when a pause in my schedule presents itself, I still need to find that focus.

As always, inspiration comes from places you least expect. Our son and his family have been on somewhat of a road trip for the past few weeks. His work affords him the privilege of working

Follow @natesawatzky
Follow @natesawatzky

from wherever he happens to be…although that in itself presents problems when depending on the strength and availability of Internet connections. (I digress…). On the day they packed up the vehicle to head off on their adventure, my daughter-in-law handed me a class jar with a twig stuck in it and ask that we take care of it. Now, you have to know that our grandkids are home schooled, and are getting the most amazing education imaginable…everything becomes a teachable moment in the family, even the unending collection of ‘nature’. So, when I asked what ‘it’ was, Crystal immediately said, ‘It’s an oak tree’.

It's an oak tree.
It’s an oak tree.

After a good chuckle, I had one of those ‘hmmm’ moments. I saw a dried up twig with a couple of pathetic looking leaves clinging for dear life, Crystal saw beyond that to what it would become…a mighty oak tree with potential far greater than what we could even begin to imagine.

I’m passionate about training and development, but for me it goes well beyond the material created or the skills taught…it’s about the outcome; it’s about the people involved in the training and development. The potential is there, it simply needs to be fed, watered, perhaps pruned, and planted in an environment where it will be encouraged to growing into…who knows?

One of the reasons I love teaching and working with young business leaders is because I get to be in on the ground floor of their journey. I have the opportunity to help them see who they are and what they have to offer. I love to see the light bulbs go on as they discover their innate strengths and struggle through the questions of ‘so what?’ I love the challenging questions they present as the result of critically thinking through some theory that makes sense on paper but somehow falls short of what they have already discovered in the work world…and life in general! I love to chat with them after they have completed their first life chapter of formal training, and hear the passion bubble up as they share what’s been happening and the opportunities that they have embraced. I love seeing the ‘twigs’ grow into ‘oak trees’.

All that to say, I found my focus. Potential…plain and simple. It’s all around us, it’s in us, and it’s each of our responsibility to develop. How does that happen? Who are the

Rodin's 'The Thinker'
Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’

people we choose to spend time with to foster that potential? What do we do when ours’, and others’, potential is being squashed? So much to probe and ponder!

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom