A Chat With Two Inspiring Leaders: Kate and Sandy Dodge

Want to listen in on a conversation with people who built a remarkable company and changed a city?

Kate and Sandy Dodge (The NP Dodge Company) are two of the most amazing people with whom I have ever conversed.

The above will link you directly with the audio, but it is also available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, etc.

Sandy is a quiet and thoughtful man so he can be a little tough to hear at times, but the little bit of extra attention required is worth it to glean his wisdom. Kate is brilliant and has a voice that resonates so she is pretty easy to hear.

Together they offer an extraordinary amount of virtual mentoring to anyone interested in growing as a leader…and quite frankly, as a human.

Give this podcast a listen and check out the rest of the season.

As always, please subscribe to the blog and/or connect on Facebook.

We Were Made For More

It is time to feature the fact that I am a Jesus follower. I don’t believe I have ever hidden or downplayed my faith, but I haven’t featured it because I really want to be inclusive.

I believe what I have to say can help people regardless of their faith…maybe that is naive or arrogant…but I believe it. This belief has led me away from featuring Jesus followership in my writing.

Time to be bold!

I believe that a life of Christ followership is the ultimate “more”!

I still want to be inclusive and I hope people who don’t consider themselves Jesus followers will still benefit from my work, but I need to point toward Jesus more explicitly.

I believe I am called to write more about matters of faith and followership, as well as how those topics relate to our lives… particularly our “work” lives.

This does not mean that everything I post will be explicitly about faith, but I pray that Jesus will be clearly present in my work.

I have felt pulled in this direction for at least three months, but during a visit to Des Moines two weeks ago the Holy Spirit was pushing me hard toward the edge so I decided to jump.

 

The Holy Spirit was using two forces.

1st, Lutheran Church of Hope

With all do respect to my pastor at Papio Creek Church and my father who are both wonderful teachers, the message in the video above is probably my favorite “sermon” ever.

In my humble opinion, this discussion of the life in Christ is dead on. Please give it a watch (check out the hilarious fake political ads toward the end).

Key themes that really hit home for me:

Harmony > Disharmony

Inclusion > Exclusion

Hospitality > Rivalry

Jesus Followership > Superficiality

Jesus Followership > Politics

Jesus > Than How You Vote

Jesus > Fitting In

Jesus had time for all people, so should we.

Don’t waste time worshiping false gods.

Jesus wants you to live a meaningful life in Him!!!

Give over your “work” to God!

You were made for more!

Please give this video a watch.

2nd, A Good Friend

My family met up with my friend Alan and his family at church. They then came out in the bitter cold to watch my son play soccer…they brought me coffee…good friends indeed.

We were chatting on the sideline during the match and he mentioned to me that I was an important character in the story of his faith journey. He was wrestling with faith questions in college and we had some amazing talks about faith in Jesus in our dorm rooms.

Our conversation reminded me that my “work”, in the most broad sense, is to point toward Jesus.

Jesus will do far more to help people live more purposeful lives than I ever will.

There are points in every person’s journey where they get to decide who to point toward, I am going to do my best to point toward Jesus.

How about you?

If this message is compelling to you please share it.

If you want to learn more about my journey and philosophy please watch my Tedx talk.

If you want to connect please join the Facebook community and subscribe to this blog.

God bless!

 

 

 

7 Leadership Lessons From ICAN 7x7x7

Last night I was honored to be a part of the Omaha 7x7x7 Leadership Exchange in partnership with ICAN. This is one of my favorite events of the year.

I love it because it is rapid fire. Seven speakers, seven minutes each, seven unique leadership focused subjects.

I thought it would be helpful to share some of my take aways from this powerful evening. My take aways are not specifically attributable to any one speaker, they are themes that emerged across speakers.

Terry Lee 7x7x7.jpg
Terry Lee, Sr. Trainer and OD Consultant at Securities America

1. Context Matters

A theme that emerged across nearly every speaker was that context matters. First, you as a leader need to find or create a context for yourself where you can utilize your strengths…you need to find fit. If not, finding success will be especially difficult. It is already difficult enough to lead (a bonus theme/take away).

Second, you need to create a context for your people where they can find success. They need to understand what winning means for your organization (e.g. business, not-for-profit, family, team) and need to know how to help the organization win.

Police Chief 7x7x7.jpg
Chief Todd Schmaderer, Omaha Police Department

2. How You Communicate Matters

It appears to me that many people believe that simply sharing information equals communicating well…not so.

You need to communicate for effect. What is the outcome you desire from your communication? What do you want people to take away? What is the headline you would want to read in the morning regarding your situation?

You need to communicate with the proper tone. Sometimes you need to be dead serious, sometimes humor is appropriate. However, when you use humor you must be thoughtful about it. What is the goal of the humor? Will humor help or harm?

Bev 7x7x7
Dr. Beverly Kracher, Business Ethics Alliance & Creighton Heider College of Business

3. Authenticity Matters

Be authentic and allow your people to do the same.

“Covering” at work is very harmful to self and to employees! The act of covering up your true self is exhausting and will lead to under performance and burnout. You need to hire great people and let them bring their whole self to work. You as a leader need to do the same. If not, you will suffer and eventually your people will see through the act.

Judy Ricketts 7x7x7.jpg
Judy Ricketts, Managing Director at TD Ameritrade

4. A Learning Orientation Matters

Learning occurs in many ways, the key is that you strive to learn.

You learn through research. You dig until you understand the truth of the matter and the root cause. In doing so you can fix the true problem and avoid reoccurrence.

You learn through experience. Be ambitious, take risks, don’t be afraid to try new things so you can learn and grow.

You learn by seeking and listening to feedback. You need to utilize your strengths, but you also need to understand your areas for future growth. What news tools do you need to acquire?

paul maas 7x7x7
Paul Mass, CEO of The Scoular Company

5. Connections Matter

Leaders need to see and create connections.

You need to understand how the work gets done through your people. Who works with whom to create value. You need to help those folks set aside their self interests so that your organization can flourish.

You also need to understand who should be connected in order to create or seize new opportunity. Understand the people in your world so you can introduce those who will work well together.

Mindy 7x7x7.jpg
Mindy Millward, Founder and Managing Partner at Navalent

6. Nurturing Talent Matters

Great leaders nurture talent.

You need to understand how to best pour into your people. You need to help them develop skills that will benefit the organization, but you also need to enable people to develop and live out their passions (family, community, hobbies) beyond your organization.

That said, you must also fill your own cup. What do you need to grow? What interest do you need to pursue? Which loved one do you need to spend time with? Your cup must remain full in order to be able to pour into other’s cups.

Arun 7x7x7.jpg
Arun Agarwal, Founder of White Lotus Group

7. Community Matters Can Be Organizational Matters

You need not sacrifice organizational outcomes to help the community. Find the intersection of interests. How can you meet an organizational goal while also meeting a community need?

Understanding the needs of those around you is the key. When you understand people’s true needs you will know how to effectively help and can determine how to align organizational interests.

In the end, by connecting community and organization both those you lead and the community will benefit.

circles 7x7x7
ICAN Breakout Circles

It was a fantastic event and I hope this post conveys a bit of the wisdom that was shared. Make sure to check it out in person next year!

Join the Minimalist Manager Community by following the blog or by “Liking” the  Facebook Page.

 

Killing Motivation Vampires: Micro-Management

Motivation Vampire

Micro-management is a motivation vampire…please forgive the hyperbole.

A quick working definition of micro-management is to manage with excessive control.

Autonomy is life giving…being controlled will suck the life right out of you.

Signs You Are A Micro-Manager

We Need To Talk About Your Flair
Office Space must be referenced in this post.

Obviously, what is excessive varies from situation to situation and some situations require more oversight than others. For example, when a task is new to a person they may require significant oversight and instruction, but if they still need a high level of oversight and instruction after some training then either they do not have the attributes required, the tools required, the proper context in which to practice, or you are a poor teacher/coach/manager.

Minimalist Management

Minimalist Management is based in the belief that meaningful and clear work allows people to flourish. The people you care about…team at work, children, friends, etc…will thrive when they are working toward something they believe is meaningful and they understand how to be successful.

This pertains to teaching your children to mow the lawn, enlisting your friends in your service activity of choice, or influencing your team to support the new organizational strategy. Meaning and clarity matter!

IMG_0166.jpg
Meaning and clarity are abundant in farming and I don’t know many unmotivated farmers

This isn’t just an opinion. Research published in the top academic journals supports this claim. Meaning and clarity are a part of what is often called empowerment. For example, Seibert, Wang, and Courtright (2011) provide evidence from numerous studies that empowerment is positively related to satisfaction, commitment, performance, voluntary pro-social behaviors, and innovation. Further, it is negatively related to strain and a desire to leave an organization. If you want more nerdery, I will put a little more at the end of the article.

If you started to glaze over during the academic speak…that is all really good stuff for the people you care about.

Warding Off Micro-Management Using Minimalist Management

The Minimalist Manager version of garlic, mirrors and sunlight, or a crucifix and holy water is the The Minimalist Management Bill of Rights. It provides some good starting points for warding off this motivation vampire as well as many other motivation vampires.

If you fear you will need to struggle against a real vampire read Six Ways To Stop A Vampire.

IMG_0998
This entrepreneur is the picture of meaning meets clarity

Right 1. Everyone deserves the opportunity to strive toward something personally meaningful.

Do your people understand how their work will improve things for themselves, their family, their team, their organization? If not, it’s time for a conversation. Don’t assume they do. You know what they say about assuming…Don’t do it…this is a family blog.

Right 2. Everyone deserves to have clarity of task and purpose.

Do your people understand what is being asked of them and why they are being asked to perform that task? If not, it’s time for a conversation.

Right 3. Everyone deserves to believe that they can successfully complete their work.

Do your people have the abilities and tools to complete their work as well as an environment conducive to the completion of their work? If not, you need to train them up or move them to another task. You need to get them the tools they need. And/or you need to create a conducive environment. Failure to do these things will lead to demotivation as it will be unclear to your people how they can be successful.

people-men-grass-sport.jpg
Task: Put the ball in the net. How: Using the tactics and skills we have practiced.

Be Diligent

By using these rights as pillars of your culture you should ward off micro-management before drastic measures are required.

However, if you are not diligent then your people will likely fall short of your expectations and you might convince yourself that your people need excessive control. You will then exercise that control and you will create a negative habit that will drain your people until they avoid you, quit, end the friendship, or end up in years of therapy to overcome your parenting.

You have the choice to drain life or give life to your people. Don’t be a vampire.

As always, if you found this helpful please share.

Join the Facebook Community!

Bonus Nerdery

Just to be clear. I could go on and on talking data on this…

One more example study, Liden, Wayne, and Sparrowe (2000) showed that meaning and competence (two key dimensions of empowerment) held important relationships with outcome variables. Meaning held the key relationship with satisfaction and commitment while competence was key to performance. We need all three to create a healthy performance environment. This study also provides empirical evidence for the importance of high quality inter-personal relationships even when controlling for beliefs about the work itself.

A note about the study referenced in the main part of the post. That study was a meta-analysis. Meta-analysis combines across many studies to estimate the relationship between variables of interest. That study suggests that individual level empowerment is most strongly related to job satisfaction (r = .64), then organizational commitment (r = .63), then strain (r = -.37), then intention to leave (r = -.36), then organizational citizenship behavior (r = .34; pro-social helping behavior), then innovation (r = .28), then task performance (r = .27; r = .54 when people rated their own performance). Empowerment is also likely related to other variable you might find interesting, but those variables likely had not yet been studied enough to be included in this caliber of meta-analysis. Unfortunately, this meta-analysis didn’t break down empowerment into its underlying parts, but it is otherwise a great piece of work and I am not just saying that because two or the three authors are friends of mine. It was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology which is the top applied psychology journal in the world (as was Liden et al.).

 

 

A Bill of Rights For Work and Beyond

I believe it is high time that we managers have something we can point to when we are feeling violated and that those we manage can throw in our face when we are not living up to our duty to help our people flourish.

I believe that these “Rights” are applicable in most any context whether it be work, home, play, or service. While I suspect I will not be an originalist when it comes to this Bill of Rights…meaning it will likely change some over time, RIP Justice Scalia…, I certainly believe that these Rights are important because substantial evidence suggests that when respected these Rights lead to motivation and satisfaction. If these rights are respected I believe fantastic things will happen for Minimalist Managers and their people.

  1. Everyone deserves the opportunity to strive toward something personally meaningful.
  2. Everyone deserves to have clarity of task and purpose.
  3. Everyone deserves to believe that they can successfully complete their work.
  4. Everyone deserves to have their efforts recognized.
  5. Everyone deserves to receive both positive and constructive task focused feedback.
  6. Everyone deserves to have the resources they need to complete their work.
  7. Everyone deserves to work with people of integrity.
  8. Everyone deserves to work with people who stimulate them.
  9. Everyone deserves to work with people who support their personal and/or professional growth.
  10. Everyone deserves to have the actions and attitudes that affect them guided by evidence verses bias and tradition.

I will do my best to help those who strive to be Minimalist Managers live up to this Bill of Rights by providing support for these Rights. In particular, I aim to help people with Right 10 by providing research evidence that will help people live and manage in line with the The Minimalist Management Manifesto and this Bill of Rights.

What did I miss? I would love to engage in conversation around this Bill of Rights!

In order to better manage ourselves and others information is often helpful.

If you found this helpful please share.

 

5 Purposeful Questions To Help You Get Rid of “Stuff”

At the core of the current minimalist conversation is “own less stuff so that your stuff doesn’t own you”.

I totally buy into this…

Much more importantly, I believe Christ actually taught this…

If you are not a Christ follower, Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates all seem to agree as well.

My take is that “stuff” can get in the way of relationships with those I love…Jesus, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my partners (see Value #1 below). So we need to get rid of obstructionary “stuff”.

Personal Strategy Template (7)

Time to get rid of the quotation marks around “stuff”. Stuff goes beyond physical possessions. Our definition of stuff must include the activities that consume our time.

As we manage across all the areas of our life we need to curate our stuff so that we only buy/keep possessions and engage in activities that add value to our lives and the lives of those we love.

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondō suggests we ask of each item “Does it bring me joy?”. I think this can be helpful.

However, I believe it is a bit overly simplistic.

Minimalist Management is about the pursuit of purpose. So I think we need a more nuanced approach.

My laptop does not bring me joy in-and-of-itself, in fact I hate it sometimes. It, and other devices, can be a curse just as they can be a blessing. That said, I sure need my laptop in order to pursue my purpose. The pursuit of purpose brings me joy…so I guess I need to keep my laptop.

I hate clothes and I wish I could wear my black polos about 344 days a year (on the other days I would be in my kayak and would look very strange in a black polo) but I can’t cut back to just black polos because the career I love frequently requires that I wear a shirt with more than three buttons. That said, if the shirt isn’t required for something that will lead to joy…it should go.

I must keep some things that I despise because they are required by or for people/activities I love.

pexels-photo-271722.jpeg
Beautiful but absurd

If you work through the process of putting together a personal strategic plan it can serve as your guide to whether you need to own a possession or engage in an activity. Once you know your purpose and strategy you can ask “Will this thing help me achieve my purpose?”. Or, “Will this activity help me reach a goal that will move me closer to fulfilling my purpose?”.

If you cannot answer yes to at least one of the following it needs to go or you need to stop doing it…hint, the questions are not mutually exclusive.

pexels-photo

Does This Bring Me Joy?

If something truly brings joy…and you are sure you are being honest with yourself and not just justifying…don’t over think it. Upon reflection, you will probably realize that it brings you joy because the thing or activity is helping you live out your purpose(s).

IMG_0429
Making memories with people I love…yes, I mean you Chewbacca.

Does This Help Me Live Out My Values?

Values are our guideposts. I have decided to try to live by four (see above). If I own a possession or engage in an activity that does not represent meaningful relationships, growth, kindness, or impact then it needs to go.

Personal Strategy Template (3)

Does This Help Me Employ My Strengths or Mitigate My Weaknesses?

If I am not being intellectually stimulated or intellectually stimulating others I feel like I am wasting time…literally wasting my life. So if I am not taking in or dispensing data/knowledge/wisdom for more than brief recharge periods I get frustrated and listless.

I need to put my strengths to work! Activities and things that enable the utilization of my strengths should be kept…but not hoarded…I probably only need one of each necessary thing*. Activities and things that distract me and do not recharge me need to be jettisoned.

On the flip side, when I try to spend time thinking about time management, organization, or am trying to lock in on details…I quickly short circuit. These things are important and I can force myself to do them for short periods when I believe they are important for executing my strategy, but I need things and people to help me here. I also need to occasionally invest time in making sure these weaknesses aren’t derailing me.

IMG_1809 (1)
I love watching this kid grow.

Does This Help Me Fulfill My Purpose?

“I exist to help people grow into their full God-given potential so that they can impact the world.”

That is my purpose at this point in my life…maybe for the rest of my life.

I am blessed to work in a profession that easily maps onto this purpose. But Minimalist Management spans across all the areas of our life. I am sure people who don’t know me very well …and maybe some who do…wonder why I invest so much in my kids activities (time, money, mental energy).

The answer is quite simple…

I believe based on my life experiences that what kids gain from sports and music will help them grow into adults that will impact the world (teamwork, perseverance, creativity to name a few…but that is a different post).

These are certainly not the only activities that could yield positive outcomes, but I believe they work and they fit with my values. So I happily invest in the things that facilitate these activities and in the activities themselves.

FullSizeRender-2
Building relationships with, and in, God’s creation.

Does This Help Me Execute My Strategy?

Whether it is the high levels strategic goals or the shorter term goals that will lead to your strategic goals the lesson is the same…if it doesn’t help, it probably hurts.

We need to focus. Buying that gadget instead of investing in your growth or your child’s growth…probably not helpful. Sacrificing a vacation in nature where you can bond with your friends or family (if relationship is a core value) because you are constantly getting fast food…probably not helpful.

Personal Strategy Template (11)

If we are going to maximize our motivation, capability, and subsequent impact…we need to be intentional in what we own and what we do. Anything else will limit our ability to have an impact.

Prefontaine
We all have a gift. – Image from Runner Tribe

If you have already put together your Personal Strategy, but haven’t yet started to prune back the possessions that aren’t adding value to your life then start today by getting rid of ten things that don’t help you move forward intentionally based on the above questions.

Or, commit to quitting one activity that is not purposeful and shifting that time to an activity that is.

There are a lot of great minimalist challenges and other resources out there that can guide you in pruning. Here are a few examples for those new to the idea of minimalism.

The More of Less – Josh Becker

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondō

The 30-Day Minimalism Game

Tiny Buddha

If you haven’t yet put together your Personal Strategy then I encourage you to do so. Once you put it together…own it…use it to guide you in your pruning and curating.

Move forward today!

If you find this post interesting, helpful, motivating, or inspiring please post to social media so you can help others and we can grow this community. Posting to Facebook and/or LinkedIn would be ideal…I am really trying to grow community on those sites.

If you want to engage further please join the Minimalist Management Community by following this blog and/or joining us on Facebook.

 

*Footnote

Collections are interesting, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with collecting as long as it is on purpose. I like to collect sports cards with my kids. We build relationship through the process and I think it teaches lessons.

How To Craft A Simple Personal Strategy That Drives Impact

If you are like me you hate when you are not working toward something meaningful and/or not living up to your God-given potential. I live with the desire to avoid these situations. Personal strategic planning is a tool that I believe can be helpful for each of us.

As I wrote in Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan, creating and owning a strategy provides many benefits to successful organizations and I believe many of these same benefits are available to each of us if we employ a tailored version of these same planning tools.

I was due for a plan refresh and decided that working through my personal strategy would be the best way to model a simple but effective way for people to build their own plan. I hope you agree.

Here is a link to the Personal Strategy Template. It should be downloadable and editable. This tool is simple, but much reflection is required to arrive at something that will be meaningful and motivational to you.

Personal Strategy Template (12)

Values Clarification

If you haven’t reflected on what you truly value then you have some work to do. I don’t like the idea that we should all run to some predetermined set of values and just pick a few that feel right to us. Although this might be helpful for some, I think it is most useful to put what you value into your own words so you know exactly what you mean.

If you don’t understand what you value then you cannot successfully determine your purpose or strategy.

Simply understanding what you truly value will lead you to clarity that will improve prioritization and decision-making.

Here are some questions and resources to use as thought starters.

These are all worthless if you are not honest with yourself. After you develop your values I suggest running them by someone who knows you well so that they can call BS if you are off base…the same is true of the subsequent parts of the strategy document.

What do you hope people will say about you when you die?

Write your own obituary.

What do you want carved into your tombstone?

When do you feel most like your true self?

When do you feel most alive?

Describe the personal characteristics of the perfect person.

What things or ideas would you never sacrifice?

What are your greatest aspirations?

Who do you truly love?

What do you truly love?

Co-Active Coaching Resource

TheHappinessTrap.com

Personal Strategy Template (7)

Strengths & Weaknesses

To be crystal clear…we all have both!

Mountains of research suggests that when you are working in your areas of strength you will be more effective. Also, and contrary to some people’s/organization’s beliefs, your weaknesses matter as well.

You need to bolster and work from strength while mitigating weaknesses so they do not become fatal flaws.

Once you understand your personal strengths and weaknesses you can better determine which opportunities are a good fit and what might derail your pursuit of a given opportunity. Furthermore, you will better understand which tasks you should take on yourself vs. those that require you to ask for help (delegate, partner, hire).

Questions and tools to help you determine your strengths.

What do people regularly compliment you on?

What activities lead to positive feedback?

What do other people see as your strengths (hint, ask them)?

What attributes do you have that are fairly unique (skills, degrees, experiences, certifications, personal networks)?

Gallup Strengths

Questions and tools to help you determine your weaknesses.

What tasks or situations most frustrate you?

What tasks or situations lead you to most frustrate others?

What tasks do you hate?

When do you most lack confidence?

What do other people see as your weaknesses (hint, ask them and stress that you need to know the truth)?

What habits do you have that lead to frustration (missing deadlines, arriving late, being unorganized, miscalculating)?

Personal Strategy Template (3)

Purpose Statement

I believe lives are clarified through purpose driven work. This can be work that is done for a business, not-for-profit, your family, or for yourself. When people have a sense of purpose they are more motivated and effective.

I believe that you need to have a purpose statement that is informed by your values and strengths then drives your personal strategy. Some people might prefer to call this a mission statement and that works too if it is authentic and/or meaningful to you.

The statement does not have to be fancy. It should be short and clear. People who know you should see it as authentic.

I believe we can all determine a purpose that is inclusive of our entire lives. However, it will take several drafts and will likely change over time as circumstances change and you better discern your values, strengths, and weaknesses.

Some questions to help guide you to your purpose statement.

What value do you want to provide (your family, your work, your community, the world)?

Which of your activities provide the most value to the people you care about?

What do you desire to do in and for the world?

Personal Strategy Template (10)

Strategy Statement

I am a big fan of Collins and Rukstad’s, and Lafley and Martin’s work on strategy creation. That said, their full treatments are probably overkill for most beginning personal strategists. As long as you have discerned your values, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose/mission I think you can write your strategy statement with just a little further effort.

You need your object, scope, and advantage (Collins and Rukstad).

Objective = A specific and measurable goal that will drive you into the future.

Mine has two parts because it is mine and that is what I need, but don’t go much beyond two or three parts or it will lose its ability to provide focus. Make yours meaningful to you!

Scope = Where you will take action (context, “customer”, activity areas, market, industry, etc)?

Advantage = What unique contribution(s) will you make that will allow you to meet your goal? You have a contribution to make!

Then combine these into a concise statement.

Goals

What specific, measurable, and challenging but achievable goals do you need to meet in the short-term (one year) that will lead to you meet your strategic goal(s)?

These goals should guide your monthly, weekly, and daily (to do list) goals.

If these goals are properly aligned with your strategy you can monitor your progress via the completion of these goals. Three is probably not enough for me given my strategy, but I think that is a good starting point.

If working toward your goals is exhausting or demoralizing you…something is amiss. They probably aren’t the right goals or you may have some personal work to do.

I hope this is a helpful starting point and I would love to help you continue on your journey. Please post questions and eventually your strategy statement as a comment to this post on the Facebook page. I would also love to hear about your successes and setbacks. I believe a Minimalist Manager Community would be helpful to people. Let’s get one started on Facebook.

Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan

Crave fulfillment personally and/or professionally?

Desire clarity about how to best invest your time, energy, money?

Striving to create more value for yourself and/or those you love?

Then you (and I) need a personal strategic plan. Once you have developed a personal strategic plan you might use these same tools to develop a family or work team plan (the list could go on) that flows from your personal strategy. The point is, strategy isn’t just for the Fortune 500 or sexy start-ups aiming to disrupt an industry! Shouldn’t you use the same tools that drive world-class organizations to help you achieve your purpose more fully? Yes, you (and I) should…and here’s why!

Decision Making

FullSizeRender-5
First Worm Collection of the Year

Life is about decision making. If you are conscious, you are making decisions.  Strategy exists to ensure that decisions are made in-line with purpose (or maybe you prefer mission)! My purpose in life is to help people grow…toward Christ likeness if you are from my faith tradition! Ideally all of my decisions would drive toward fulfillment of that purpose…at a minimum they shouldn’t contradict. Once you know your purpose and develop a strategic plan that flows from your purpose you will be able to better make decisions like: Should I make this purchase? Should I change jobs? Should I join this group? Should my company launch this new product? How should I spend my Saturday?

In my family we were blessed with the choice between having our oldest son do another select sport that would take up the time between his soccer seasons – which is his passion – and investing in a family fortress of solitude. He would have loved to play baseball, but as a family we chose the campground. Baseball would have been great. He would have made friends, developed his work ethic and team mentality, and had fun. When we are at the campground we get a ton of immediate and extended family time, we spend time in nature, we relax, we reflect, and we refocus. We were choosing between two goods. We chose the fortress of solitude because it added unique value vs. another sport. In the grand scheme of helping each of us grow we saw the campground as the better choice. This may have been exactly the wrong decision for you and your family, but it was the right one for us based on my/our strategic goals.

FullSizeRender-4
The Fortress of Solitude

A well crafted strategic plan will help your decisions be grounded in intentionality, priority, advantage, and improvement.

Intentionality

FullSizeRender-7
Every turn is a choice

Mindless decisions tend to be impulsive, add little value, and may be regrettable. Utilizing a strategic plan eliminates mindlessness. Decisions that are on purpose/strategy are by definition intentional. Next time you are faced with a decision of most any size you can ask yourself, “Will this help me achieve one of my strategic goals?” or, “Which of these will best help me achieve one of my strategic goals?” If you develop a strategic mindset you (and I) will still occasionally make poor choices, but they will only be mindless/unintentional when you make the decision not to employ your strategy…and of course that will be your choice.

Priority

How do you choose between two goods? Should I refine this spreadsheet to tell a better story or should I have coffee with my employee who is struggling? Both actions are good…which is better? The answer depends on your personal strategy. Which action most moves you toward fulfilling your strategic goals? In some cases this may require you to ask which goal is currently most important. In the case of our choice between another sport and investing in the camper, adding another sport would have further developed important attributes, but those were already being developed by soccer and basketball. We were progressing well toward developing our son’s work ethic and teamwork. We were not progressing well in trying to carve out time for the growth activities the campground provides.

FullSizeRender-8
Yes, baseball is fun but…

Advantage

FullSizeRender-9
Strength, yes it’s a stretch but come on…

Are you investing your time and energy in-line with your strengths? We all have limited time and energy. A well crafted strategic plan ensures that you will invest your time in activities where you are well equipped vs. other people or teams (as long as you are self-aware and honest with yourself). For example, I create more value for my family by focusing on my primary work and time with the family than by managing my personal financial plan. I love the intellectual activity of investing, but in terms of my life plan and strategic goals I create more value doing other things. Accordingly, I have chosen to work with professionals to help me in that area.

Improvement

How do you know you are improving/progressing/growing? One approach is to measure your progress toward your goals. A plan that produces measurable goals allows us to see our improvement over time. The first summer we had the camper we didn’t use it as well as we could have and we knew it. Consequently, we made it a goal to spend more quality days at the campground. The goal has two parts. More days and more quality. The next summer we said we wanted to get to the campground at least five weekends…more time. We did the same this summer. We met that goal. We also knew we didn’t really engage in all the activities that we needed to meet our goals for campground time. We didn’t have the gear we needed to get on the water and to actually catch those elusive fish. The second summer we bought a kayak and brought up the fishing gear we already had. The third summer we bought a stand-up paddle board and fishing gear that actually met our needs. All intentional purchases based on our goals for that time. The quality of our time at the campground increased. Each summer has been more fun, more relaxing, and more energizing. Obviously, this same mindset can be applied at work, church, or other activity areas.

FullSizeRender-6
His first solo voyage in the kayak…growth!

I have found that the more purpose driven I am, the happier and more effective I am. If this is true for you then I think you will find a personal strategic plan to be extremely helpful. Accordingly, my short-term plan for this blog and related activities is to focus on crafting strategy. My goal – that I am publicly committing to – is to help folks who are interested create their own strategic plan by creating a new one for myself and posting every step. For those who want to jump ahead please buy or check out the book Playing to Win for an outstanding model from the corporate world (you can buy it from Amazon by clicking on the link). To engage in conversation please like my Facebook page.

Wondering what this site is all about? Read “Why Minimalist Manager”

Want a different take on how to view a relationship? Give this post on mentorship a read.

 

 

 

 

Three Minimalist Manager Tactics For Thriving In Times of Change

I spend a lot of time talking to organizational leaders about how to lead/manage organizational level change, but rarely have I been asked to talk about how individuals can flourish in times of change. One organization recently asked me to speak to this topic at a large gathering of employees.

So I wondered…How would a Minimalist Manager thrive during times of change? How can we best respond to change in order to flourish? How can a leader/manager help their people to behave in such a way that they might thrive vs. suffer?

I turned to A Bill of Rights For Work and Beyond for inspiration. I believe there are three key things that we must do to thrive in times of change. We should self-lead using these tactics and leaders/managers should make sure their people are utilizing these tactics as well.

The overarching theme for these three tactics is that change MUST be experienced through a lens of positivity if we are going to remain motivated. This can certainly be difficult sometimes, but it is crucial that we find the positive in the change.

First and foremost, in order for us to experience change POSITIVELY we need to find meaning behind change. Change must never feel like change for change sake. There is enough randomness in our lives; in order to be motivated we must understand WHY. We need to reflect until we can find a clear why that is motivating to us and to those around us. To do this we often need to think about how what we do influences the bigger picture. We often forget how faithful execution of our tasks improves our children’s return to school, our team’s performance, or our favorite not-for-profit’s big event. We need to remind ourselves, and those around us, frequently. We need to make sure we can articulate the why behind each task that we undertake for ourselves and others.

IMG_0131

Young Eagles Event

Second, we need to build a PERFORMANCE CONTEXT that facilitates success in the new activity or setting. To do this we need clarity of task and purpose. This requires that we create clearly defined tasks that lead to progress toward the new goal(s). We must step back and evaluate which behaviors truly lead to meaningful outcomes. To create a performance context it is also important that we make sure everyone has what they need to be successful. This does not mean we spend money on whatever we think might be nice to have; it means we determine what is necessary and then make sure we are equipped and trained/coached to execute. We often become quickly frustrated when we don’t clearly see how we can succeed. So whether it is helping our kids succeed in a new activity or helping ourselves master the new software package. We need to design our context for success.

ZD Guest Reader

Third, we need to PARTY LIKE IT’S 2039 (insert your own arbitrary futuristic and fun year here). As we transition to the new we need tangible reminders that what we are doing is valuable and that we are succeeding. In the context of self-leadership we need to remember to do this for ourselves. Complete a new task successfully for a week…splurge on a nice bottle of wine or scotch and say a toast to your success. Cheers! Child delivers a face melting guitar solo…Pop Rocks all around.

 

IMG_1692

If we can ensure that we are moving through times of change utilizing these tactics I believe we will experience change as positive and motivating vs. painful and fatiguing. Change is unavoidable! How do you plan to experience it?

My First Minimalist Management Mentor

I recently lost my grandfather. He was a hero to me, and as the title indicates, my first minimalist management mentor. I doubt he had even heard of minimalism, to him it was just how a person was supposed to live. He was a child of The Great Depression, but he didn’t live out of a fear of scarcity. He lived out of abundance. I aim to live a life marked by the same three things I saw in him. Purpose, fellowship, and faith.

Purpose

It appears to me that my grandfather had a clear overarching purpose…to make life better for others. This drove his business and philanthropic decisions. He was passionate about anything he pursued. He started several small businesses and put in the time and energy to make them successful. These businesses focused on his passion areas of agriculture, hunting and fishing, and community. He designed and manufactured products in response to needs he discovered in his daily life. He was always saying, “There has to be a better…”. He would then try to build that better. Most of his contraptions never made it to market, but they often made it to a neighboring farm or a friend’s home. Lives were made better.

His marketing tactics were community based. He largely marketed his products through county and state fairs. He loved traveling to fairs big or small. He built relationships with people across the midwest and would probably tell you that these relationships were as much the “profit” from these businesses as the cash that ended up in the bank.

Grandpa was passionate about helping people and developing community well beyond “business”. He was generous, maybe to a fault…if that is even possible, not sure it is. He and my grandmother enjoyed supporting children and communities in Central America. They were always “adopting” children from that part of the world. They would maintain correspondence and help to provide for their needs. They also loved to travel to get their hands dirty alongside the people of these communities. My grandfather was very “handy” and he especially enjoyed putting those skills to good use. As usual, he was way ahead of popular understanding. He was working to help people get clean water way before Matt Damon made it cool. This is one of the reasons a good chunk of any money I make off of this blog will go to water.org.

img_1399

He passionately served his lifelong home of Gladbrook Iowa. His passion for this place bordered on the absurd if viewed through the lens of a modern “big city” existence. This was most apparent when he and a buddy decided that if they built an absolutely gigantic, maybe record breaking, ear of corn for the annual Corn Carnival they might attract people to their small town…or at least earn it some attention. He was happy to put in the time and money to make this happen. He loved his community!

img_1390

It is just as important that he understood who he was not. If a potential activity didn’t align with his purpose and/or passions, he didn’t dedicate time to it. Time is precious, he understood that and now so do I.

Fellowship

If you ask people about my grandfather fishing will inevitably come up. He loved to fish. I believe one of the primary things he loved about fishing was the fellowship it enabled. Fellowship isn’t just exchanging pleasantries in some church basement or community hall. Fellowship is about building and fostering a community of shared interests. Grandpa loved to be around people who shared his interests. Yes, he loved to catch the “big one” but he really enjoyed trading stories with his friends and family while floating on a lake or ocean wetting a line. These are the times with him I most enjoyed. I learned much from him sitting on his boat and what I learned went way beyond how to tie a clinch knot.

img_1396

Faith

My grandfather lived out a quiet faith. I am not sure I ever heard him “evangelize” and he certainly wasn’t a bible thumper. But it was clear that he was a man of faith because of how he invested his time, talents, and other resources. He was truly stewarding what God had blessed him with. He understood that he was blessed and he wanted to share those blessings with others. I am sure he did more for people than I will ever know, but I know he did a lot and I only hope I can live out my faith half as well as he did his.

The final point I will note about what I realized while reflecting on my grandfather is that life is not easily categorized. Our beliefs drive our purpose (assuming we have discerned one), and in turn our relationships. We are whole people all of the time and we need to manage accordingly. As I have noted in other posts, Minimalist Management is not just about what we do at work. We are “managing” in all areas of our lives at all times. How about we strive to manage well?

I adored my grandfather and will miss him for the rest of my life. I owe him more than I could ever express in a blog post. I hope and pray that I can influence people the way he influenced me. Don’t overlook the amazing people who are already in your life. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone new you seek out. She or he might be right in front of you.

Who is your mentor?

Who are you mentoring?

img_1389

Yep, he built his mower on a car frame…I recall it being a Chevy Cavalier.

Want to join the Minimalist Manager Community? Just click!