Vision – Help or Hurt

Last week I led a group through a Visioning exercise. At the end, I asked “What’s the use of a personal vision?” The group answered that personal vision can provide motivation and hope while serving as an internal guiding light. A personal vision can be used to make decisions, prioritize the use of time, inform the actions taken and determine what leads  will be followed.  As the group wound down its contributions one voice piped up, “A personal vision can hurt.”

I was intrigued because I have never associated hurt with personal vision. I said, “Tell me more,” and other voices joined in the conversation.

Having a personal vision can

  • Make you lose your family and friends
  • Be frustrating when you don’t know how to get to it
  • Make it difficult to exist in the present time
  • Make you lose hope when you can’t see it coming through.
  • Cause you to lose patience with your current life
  • Make you wish that you never thought about it.
  • Be too big

I was grateful that the group shared these insights – I now  had a new way to look at the resistance some persons have around personal vision and why some may refuse to develop one.  I was left with empathy for persons who have not yet defined their personal vision – maybe  they cannot yet see beyond the hurt or do not know how to mitigate the hurt or maybe they are afraid that when the personal vision coin is tossed  the hurt faces them and the help lies in the dust.

I left that session with renewed commitment to support my clients to trade the hurt in for help.

And what about you, does your personal vision help or hurt? Tell me more

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a Keynote Speaker,  Executive Coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an Accountant.

Catastrophic Fantasy – Blog 100

Last night I missed my 100 Blog.  I got home early enough but by 7.30 p.m. the power was out.  It returned about half an hour later and then was off again.  By then I resigned myself to the thought and fell asleep.  It returned sometime later and I decided to stay in bed.

This was a deliberate decision to go with the flow, not to force my will on a situation and to leave it as it is.

These notions of surrender, go with the flow and accepting a situation as it is served me well today.  It was Day 2 of the Strategic Planning session and my CEO facilitated the session.  Usually I am very rigid about time and activities when facilitating so I was surprised that I surrendered the meeting control and supported him during the process.

This process of surrendering has not been easy for me and I know that I have not mastered the art of acceptance.  I expect to see these themes  repeated in my work and when I deal with people until I get the hang of it.

Actually I am looking forward to always surrendering since it is pretty easy and rewarding.  I don’t have to strategize how to get my own way, or fuss that things are not happening the way that I planned or throw a tantrum because this is not what I wanted.  It is not that I lose interest, it is that I can put the situation in perspective.  So what if I did not do Blog 100 last night, what is the catastrophic fantasy about not doing it?  The world did not end, I still have internet access and I am doing the Blog now.  So what if the CEO led the workshop? We got the results and whatever was not discussed in the room I will discuss with the relevant players to get the reports completed.

It seems simple enough, but it took a while for me to get here.  I think that the renovations, having to trust contractors, accepting schedule and price changes and accepting that I had no control provided the catalyst to push me to where I am.

What do you do when things don’t go as planned?  What has pushed you to acceptance?

This is NOT Cool – Blog 86

I got up on Saturday and went to co-facilitate the session as agreed during the week.  When I got to the session the guy said, “We conducted that session after dinner last night.” I was stunned since the venue was one hour and 30 minutes from my house, in a rural area.

I responded “This is not cool.  It is Ok to have the session according to the client’s needs but you could have sent an email or called to tell me that I was no longer needed.”

He then suggested, “You could have called,” and went on to blubber about the arrangements that we made and that both internet and mobile access were limited at the venue.

I noticed that as he spoke he did not look up from his computer, he made no eye contact with me and he never apologised.  Instead, he offered that I stay for the morning session since he was discussing the 12 principles of innovation to which I said, “No thank you.  I have no reason to stay.”

His last comment in our less than five minute exchange was that I should call his office on Monday so that we could arrange a meeting later that day.  I responded that I won’t be calling him, since I had never done so before.

Then I left the room.

As I drove home, I decided that I would invoice him for the time spent discussing the workshop as well as my driving time, to communicate the value of my wasted time.  Since I truly believed that he would not pay the invoice, this would be an indisputable unresolved matter that would  naturally end the relationship.

Later in the evening as I sat on my friends’ verandah I was reminiscing about how my connections work.  The people in my life show up for me, we make plans and more or less stick to them.  We are considerate and courteous to each other, when we mess up we apologize and move on.

This morning when I got up I had a good laugh at myself.  “Can you imagine getting dressed for dinner and when you get to the restaurant your date is burping and saying that he had the meal without you.  Do you then send an invoice for the time you spent traveling to the restaurant or the time spent deciding where to eat? Will you date that person again if they pay the invoice?”

As I laughed at the ludicrousness of my previous decision I felt more  aligned with how I feel when with my friends and I knew exactly what I should do.

  • I am not going to invoice him for my time.
  • I am declining from giving attributes to his behaviour.
  • I am not responsible for making excuses or figuring out how or why it happened
  • I do not want to work with someone who will not call to say the game has changed.
  • I do not want to work with someone who can’t apologise for an oversight.
  • I am not going to work with someone who can’t look me in the eye.
  • I am not going to work with someone who ignores my feelings.

The most important decision that I have made is that I am still going to reach out to new persons and build new connections. I also accept that not all of these will be a good fit for me.

What do you accept in your professional life that differs with your personal life?  What would it be like if you aligned the two?

Redefining Service – Blog 85

I am reflecting on the two days that I spent facilitating strategic sessions. I notice how my practice is changing and how differently I show up in front of a group.
My first thought is that I did not stick to the script. Before I do a facilitation, I carefully plan an agenda, with all the games, icebreakers and activities to make the points, to bring the team to realization and at times to wake them up. This time I did not use the games that I planned, because the team was not ready for them. Instead of following my carefully planned agenda I let the team lead and followed the twists and turns that they presented during the workshop.
I also did not achieve the objective. I am results oriented and before the session, I work with the team lead to agree desired outcomes. My belief was that at the end of the strategic session, the team should leave with strategies or projects that they are going to embark on over the next two or three years. These are the things that will address an identified issue, resolve a problem, grow the business or take the business to a whole other level. Not so this time. At the end of the session, there were no plans or projects. Yet, the team lead was satisfied. His team had dealt with issues that previously were unnamable. Together they had defined and understood a nebulous issue that was hampering productivity and together were able to name it, and make it tangible and real.
The third thing I noticed is that I pushed back and challenged harder than before. I am always polite with clients saying,”Thank you,” for contributions. Today I called them on contradictory statements, pushed for the truth and even questioned whether a team member was being the devil’s advocate or misaligned with the team’s overall objectives
As I ponder on what made the difference I realized that I relinquished control of the process to participants and became a follower in the process. For once, the participants guided the process.
I also carefully listened to the participants. When they were quiet I did not force a game on them, when they were silent I listened to their expressions and when they were pensive I left them to think.
I can only conclude that I have become a greater servant of the team. I think that while my intention was always to be of service to the team, I always pushed my agenda. I gave myself ticks in the box for the games and activities that were done and praised myself for wittingly thinking of a game that matched the situation. Today as I truly matched the mood and pace of the team, and stayed with them where they were at and did not shift their focus to where I wanted them to be or where I thought they should be I was truly in service to the team. What a different session.

Do you serve from a position of what they need or what you think they need? What would it be like if you changed perceptive?

Regional Connections – Blog 84

Today I am in Barbados, resting after a full day.
I spent the day facilitating a strategic session with a team of managers. It was great to support the team as they bravely looked into the mirror and saw themselves as they were. Whether they liked the images or not I admired their bravery and acceptance of the work that they needed to do.
I was also lucky enough to be interviewed by Barbados Today about Lead Your Team To Win. The young interviewer was astute in his line of questioning. He seemed to be quite passionate about his work and generally happy to be doing what he did. At the end of the interview I commented that it was obvious how much he loved his job and he concurred.
When I got to the hotel I received an email from a Jamaican woman who has been emailing me since May this year about training on Change or Die – The Process Improvement Manual. I sent her the flyer for the October 2014 training session and she promptly followed up with registration.
I am just thinking of what a great day I had and the number of people that I connected with from different Caribbean countries on this one day. I am thinking of how to extrapolate the experience and to have more contact with people all over the region. Something new to think about.

What are you thinking about? What connections do you want to increase?

Two Years Is a Long Time – Blog 83

Two years ago when Change Or Die was published I received a Linked In invitation from a guy with a pretty impressive resume and Ivy League MBA.  I was intrigued by him, but when we met face to face, he rubbed me the wrong way and I swore that I would never work with him.

Two years later he calls me and says, “ I want to use you to facilitate a team building workshop for my client.”  My ears perked up at the word “use” yet I said; “Sure, let’s meet and chat.”

Two years has been a long time for me and a lot has changed in the way that I view the world and how I think the world views me. Back then I would have been pissed at the word use, and would have corrected him, “You mean that you would like to work with me.”  Now I know that the word has nothing to do with me.  It is how the man expresses himself and perhaps how he feels about people.  Now I don’t take it personally since the word has nothing to do with me because he can only use me if I sign up to be used.

After meeting with him today, I said yes to co-facilitating a team building workshop. I see this as a learning experience since I have never co-facilitated a workshop and I am intrigued to see how our different styles show up.  I intend to be in full learning mode on Saturday, as I learn about myself and how I work with a person like this.

As I drove home tonight I reflected on how I moved from saying Never to Yes.

I am not going to be his bosom buddy, but I have a greater appreciation of the frames that he is operating from and how differently we see the world.   I have no fear if he thinks that he is using me or that he will steal the games or activities that I bring to the table on Saturday.  I sincerely believe that he can take what he wants and I will still be in tact. After all, I learned what I know from others and it is with joy that I pass on what I have learned.

Today I was proud of myself that I was able to recognize difference, not judge the difference and commit to work with someone despite the difference.

Who do you have trouble working with because they are different from you?  What do you need to change?

Feeling Good – Blog 82

Today I spent the day coaching clients in the South of the island – about an hour’s drive from my home.  As always that was a wonderful experience, an opportunity to serve and hold the space for people to explore the issues that are front of mind for them.

I drove home slowly in blinding rain, grateful that I suffered no skids and made it safely home.

Tomorrow I return to the office and prepare for the facilitation of strategic planning sessions in Barbados.  I am looking forward to ending the week leading the management team through a process that will determine the strategies they want to implement over the next two years.

I had a satisfying day and I am looking forward to ending the week in a different island doing the same thing – being of service.

As I wind down for the evening I can only think of how appropriately Nina Simone’s classic “Feeling Good” fits me today.

How was your day? How are you feeling?

Birds flying high, you know how I feel.
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel.
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
For me

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good, yeah.

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel.
River running free, you know how I feel.
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good.

Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean,
don’t you know?
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean:
Sleep in peace when day is done,
That’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me.

Stars, when you shine.. you know how I feel.
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel.
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good,

Getting to nth – Blog 76

I launched my book – Lead Your Team To Win – last Friday with a webinar. I sold books to the local bookstore and I started a rounds of media interviews.  I spoke to my publicist today and she is gearing up for more promotions in 2015 and more publicity and book launches.

At work I am getting ready to facilitate strategic sessions in Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada and Trinidad.  Each session takes the utmost in planning, ensuring that I have the right blend of activities so that participants stay attentive during the sessions.  I am highly conscious of how the knowledge that I have acquired in 2014 takes its place in my ever growing toolkit.

At home, I met with the decorators as we decided what colour best suits the walls and the order of jobs that would take us to the end of the year.  I know full well that this work will spill over into the 2015 New Year.

At some point in time I would like to be over everything.  I would like to be at a nth position with the book.  This is where the whole world knows about Lead Your Team To Win and every conference organiser calls on me to speak.  At nth, people sign up in droves for my one day seminars and my webinar attendants are at maximum capacity.  I will spend every working hour facilitating the development of the safe space and coaching leaders how to do it.

Then I will no longer be doing strategic sessions because I just would not have the time.

My house will be reflective of the vision that I have for it in my head with all the marvelous counter tops, exquisite fabrics and gorgeously painted walls.  I will walk into wonder everyday since everything will be exactly as I see it in my mind’s vivid imagination.

Today I am a long way away from the nth, but it’s great to have a target, something that I am moving towards.  In reality I know that some of it will not happen exactly the way that I dream it.  The reality is that two years from now when I write my third book I may be interested in coaching and facilitating a totally different skills-set. My present job can morph into something totally unexpected and the facilitation of strategic sessions can be outsourced.  I may just wake up one morning and want my walls in a different colour.

I love dreams because they are free and keep me buoyant as I float from one state of wonder to another.  I don’t have to stay with any one experience, I can glean what I can from it before moving on.

Dreams are fickle, they are not constant like my personal vision.  Therefore I do not to hold on to them for too long but let them go to the Universe so that she can have her final say in the outcome. Then whatever I get I graciously receive and joyously celebrate.

Here’s to never getting to nth, because then what?

What are you dreaming about now?

Me in Teams. Blog 54

When you are accustomed to being in charge, like me, it isn’t easy to work in teams. When I work the spotlight is usually on me.  I love its warmth and as a true performer, I show up knowing that when I am done there will be applause all around.  It’s part of the reasons why I work.  I love when my clients have an “Ah Ha” moment during a coaching session and I am excited when they move forward.  I love when I facilitate a group and the members leave the room committed to an agreement.  And of course I am thrilled when a client is excited with the results and wants to work with me more.

These feelings are about my ego; they are my pat on the back that I have done a good job.  It’s a heady feeling that propels me to work and assist clients get to where they want to be.

Over the last week I worked as part of a five member team with a client in Budapest and I marvelled at how different it is to work in teams.  This was a team of competent professionals in the respective fields of Organisational Development, Coaching and Facilitation who successfully work with clients in our own paradigms.

The notion of true teamwork without a declared leader, flipped the notion of individual stardom on its head.  As I reflect on how we worked together I can see what worked and did not work for us to work in harmony as a team.

The individual decisions of the team members are not important.  While is important that we each contribute to the decision making process; once the decision is made we each have to suck it up and go with the team.

There can be no stars in the team, everyone shares the spotlight to present a balanced experience for the client.  When any member hogs attention, the team appears imbalanced and uncoordinated.

The team has to stick to the game plan.  When a member changes tactics midstream, other team members bristle and the tension is seen in their facial expressions and body language.  Without knowing why, the client senses the shift in energy and interprets this as a lack of competence of the group and negatively reacts. Not a good scene.

Group members also have to suck it up.  Things may not go the way that we like but even as the maverick goes off on a tangent we have to stick with him and gently bring the engagement back on track.  In front of the client is not the place to shout him down or reprimand him, we have to let him go his own way and when he is finished artfully steer the work back to where it should be.  This calls for the team to be flexible since we may have to change the game plan to recover from this situation.

Team members who work as individuals within the team represent particular challenges that are not easy for me to deal with.  I  expect that as adults when we share an expressed purpose that we all move toward it.  The experience of the maverick is new for me and I have not yet come to any decisions about how to deal with a person like that. I am still grappling with the question of “What to do when a team player does not want to play on the team (when there is no designated leader)?  My book – Lead Your Team To Win – addresses the questions about mavericks but in this Budapest team I was not the leader so the options that I will usually make as a leader were not open to me.  While I mull about this situation and break it down to its parts I know that it confirms for me the beliefs that I share about leadership and teamwork in “Lead Your Team To Win”.

A team is not the place for mavericks, its not a space to be renegade and the spotlight has to be shared.

There is no I in team, but there is a me in a team. I is a subjective work which means that the focus is on the I. Me is an objective word, which is in relation to the subject matter and does not stand alone. There is no I in teams because I cannot be the focal point of a team.  There is a me is teams because me serves the purpose of the team.

If you cannot be of service, or if you cannot be an object for the greater good then its perfectly okay for you to work on your own.  A team may not be the environment for you.

How do you work in teams? What do you do about the mavericks on your team?