Archive for the ‘Social Intelligence’ Category

Don’t miss the view

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I woke early and hopped on my bicycle, barefoot, and pedaled over to the beach in the first rays of the morning light. Pinks, oranges, and purples danced across the water’s surface. Sea gulls flocked together on the shore and sat silently looking seaward, dreaming of discarded sandwiches and half-empty bags of chips. A lone heron stood on one foot, stately and elegant, and a silvery fish jumped with a splash.The waves rolled in gently and the breezes whispered promises of peace and hope. Early mornings on the beach are the stuff dreams are made of.

That is, if you look past the trash strewn across the sand, remnants of yesterday’s revels. Broken glass, empty soda cans, bags of garbage, diapers, broken chairs, plastic sand toys, dismantled canopies, busted umbrellas, fast food wrappers, grocery bags, cigarette butts, and oh, those plastic water bottle lids by the dozens.

Here’s a thing I was thinking about. If I only focused on the garbage, and believe me, there was a LOT, and reflected on what kind of people would leave such a mess, the whole beach experience would be pretty crappy. I could get on social media and yell about it, criticize, and make snide remarks, making it clear I am not “these type of people”, and how the world is going to h-e double hockey sticks because of it. I could pretend “it’s my duty to inform you” of how degenerate people are and describe in detail their dastardly ways so you, too, can jump on my bandwagon. I could word my posts in such a way which breeds fear and panic about how polluted our world is, where no one would ever want to venture out to that dangerous, scary place called the beach again.

But look at this picture. Despite the messiness, the vista was breathtaking.

With a focus bent on the negative, I could have missed it.

Or, I could consider a different perspective. I could shake my head, then get busy picking up some trash. It’s not fun. It’s actually kind of gross. It hurts my back a little, too. But doable. Instead of scorning “them”, I could choose to offer forgiveness to those who don’t know better (or maybe do and make a choice to care about things different from me). And all the while, soak in the stunning beauty which surrounds me.

Every day we read and watch nothing but negative behaviors on our news feeds. There’s some pretty awful stuff going on, hurtful and shocking and scary. Is it tainting your view of all humans? Of our country? Of this world?

And what are you doing about it? Are you helping pick up the broken pieces during these crazy times, or just kicking them around, making an even bigger mess?

I know, the trash is real, and it’s ugly. And there are dangers associated with it, and things are not as we’d like them to be, and we’re scared. But try to keep living, humanely, despite it all. It’s easy to kick around the anger, fear, and worry, spreading it to everyone you know. It’s harder to bend down and pick it up, and put it in its place.

If you feel at a loss as to what you can do to help in these unsettling times, consider picking up some of the residue left by others who are hurting, angry, and struggling. Grab a bag and carry it for them, and find a place to discard it, even if you don’t think they deserve it. Maybe it comes in the form of sending encouraging words in a text. Maybe send some money anonymously to help someone who is struggling financially. Maybe share a positive post. Maybe make someone laugh. Maybe let them know you value them. Maybe share a meal, send a gift card, or ask someone how they are doing, and take time to really listen. Discover their needs, their fears, their dreams, and figure out how to help clean up the mess. Because we all end up in messes sometimes. And we all need others to help when we find ourselves in that messy place.

And while you’re doing that, look up.The sunrise is amazing. Sure, these days you have to look a little harder to see it, but it’s there, every morning, the dawning of a new day. So lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, to the north, and to the south, and to the east and to the west. You won’t want to miss the view.

Tuning out that critical, inner voice

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I get the amazing opportunity to teach courses in emotional intelligence each week, to brilliant students from around the world. It is a humbling experience, yet oddly, I feel confident in doing so. I mean, sure, I still get nervous, because I so want to impart the class content in a way that inspires them to action, but I think it’s a healthy nervousness which keeps me prepared. But there was a time when the thought of teaching these classes gave me the sick pit of dread. After listening to a workshop this morning about rewiring our inner dialogue, by my talented colleague Grant Herbert, I reflected on how I was able to move from a crippling fear of public speaking to thriving from it.

And this is where where I want to say thank you to all of you who attended Pathways Church. It was you who gave me this confidence to defy what the voice tried to tell me. Ron Johnson asked me to share my story as part of his sermon one week and I heard myself saying yes, though everything in me wanted to say no. I’d never spoken in front of a large group of people, let alone a church. “You’re not a speaker, you have nothing of value to share, you’re not good enough”, the inner voice whispered. Soon after, Christopher J. Bloom asked me to take a shot at presenting the announcements/communion each week at services. Again, I said “Sure”, but inside I felt like shriveling up in my comfort zone and running away to a deserted island to hide. Before that first service, I sat out in the car, having a full-blown panic attack in front of my kids, and cried. Who am I to speak to this great people of Yours? “You are going to sound dumb, they will be bored, you’re not cool enough, you’re not worthy–you’re not even a good church girl!”, the relentless inner voice chanted. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, but those inner voices sure know how to play into that human weakness of ours.

Legs all weak and noodly, stomach sick, I remember walking up on stage in front of about 1,400 of you, self-conscious and shaky, feeling like an idiot, fully aware that the presenter who preceded me in weeks past was a professional (and funny!) comedian. Was I going to trip in my new thrift store heels? Is that a coughing fit I feel coming on? Was my zipper zipped? As I opened my mouth with a shaky, unsteady voice, glancing discreetly at the notes scribbled on my hand, the words fast-blurring as my nervous sweat stealthily trickled down my palms, I croaked out a feeble attempt at a slightly-humorous, self-deprecating story, to get a laugh and warm up the crowd to the sermon’s message.

Pathways Church, you laughed. You laughed, you nodded, you responded, and afterwards, came up, hugged me, and told me how much you could relate to what I said. And then the next week you did it again…and the next, and the next, and the next. I went from dreading the experience to almost enjoying it. Chris smugly grinned, knowing he was right about me all along — I could do it, even though that inner voice persistently told me otherwise.

My friends at Pathways Church, it was you who encouraged me to defy my inner voice and squeeze through the iron bars it so desperately wanted me to cower behind, to the point where I actually looked forward to getting up in front of you and sharing my mishaps and mess-ups, my mistakes and maladies. sometimes inviting a smile, sometimes evoking a tear, in way which I think helped us all feel connected, something we all longed for and needed. I know I did.

So thank you to all of you who encouraged me with your consistent, warm responses as I stumbled over my words, said things I later regretted, and learned, slowly, to stop listening to my negative inner dialogue and create a new story. It’s because of you I feel confident doing what I do today. Thank you for that.

What limits is your inner voice placing upon you? What is one thing it says you can’t do, which maybe you can? How much longer do you plan to listen to it? Maybe it’s time to rewire what it’s saying, from an “I can’t” to an “I can”.

Offering kindness: An innovative way to lead

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Not sure about you, but I’ve never once been inspired by someone’s angry, political rant. Oddly, I’m not moved to action by someone shouting at me to do/not do something. Accordingly, when someone hurls insults, calls names, or attempts to shame…again, strangely, I don’t find that motivational. Over the years, I have changed my viewpoint and actions exactly zero times as a result of that sort of behavior. You? Maybe I’m just stubborn that way.

Here’s a thought: If you really want to influence the way someone thinks, convince them that your way is best, or lead people into action, maybe consider a different approach.

Do something kind for them.Tell them what you appreciate about them, in detail. Thank them for who they are. Forgive them of past wrongs. Anonymously send them money with an encouraging note. Pray for them (all the while asking to see how you might be ‘off’). Send them a gift in secret. Treat them to coffee, or dinner, and when you’re together, do nothing but ask open-ended questions and listen. Offer respect. Validate their differing point of views, even if you don’t agree. Encourage them.

And if that’s just asking too much, consider getting out and doing something wonderful for someone else today…not by yelling, ranting, or condemning, but by showing active love. It’s kind of hard…especially when times are tough…but we can do hard things.

Yes, be smart. Be wise. Be alert. Be discerning. Be shrewd. And be kind.

Then, when you stop for a moment and glance behind you, you might be surprised by how many followers you have, looking to you to lead them, wanting to know more of how you think and learn from you.

Or, keep shouting into that social media megaphone, attacking and demeaning. It’s a choice we each get to make.

No matter how many shut downs, lock downs, viruses, conspiracies, quarantines, curfews, scandals, wars, and rumors of wars, that’s one freedom no one can take away.

13 Ways to Be More Collaborative

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Boy, are people cranky these days! And for good reason, right? Our norms have been turned upside down, and, combined with fear, uncertainty, financial strain, and worry — it’s a sure recipe for contentiousness.

Just take a look at just about any social media page. People can post the most innocent of comments — or not — but no matter, there’s always someone, or some-many, who will jump on their soapbox and argue, call names, sling insults, and make snide remarks, sometimes just to be disagreeable. Why is it when things get tough, we tend to throw teamwork and collaboration out the window?

Some would say it’s human nature and can’t be helped.

“Bad temper is its own scourge. Few things are more bitter than to feel bitter. A man’s venom poisons himself more than his victim.” — Charles Buxton

Oxford Language Dictionary defines human nature as “the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.” Why, then, if it’s something we all share, are some people kindhearted, uplifting, and encouraging, while others seem prone to be the thorn in everyone’s side?

It comes down to choice.

Contrary to popular belief, we get to choose how we react to the emotions we are feeling. Every single one of us can either choose the path of collaboration, or, decide to go down the path of contentiousness. We have the choice to either fall victim to our emotions and allow them to take us down the spiral of negativism, cynicism, and criticism, or use them as a vital source of data which can lead to greater connectivity and cooperation with others, leading to healthier, happier relationships.

No matter your circumstances, no matter how tough things are, no matter how utterly frustrated you may feel, you get to choose how you respond.

Experiencing negative emotions is normal. But we don’t have to act out on them. So why does it feel like poor behavior sometimes is an automatic reaction, one that can’t be helped? The answer has to do with how our brains are wired. When presented with stimuli which trigger a strong emotion, the signal first arrives to the emotional part of your brain, and communicates that you either need to fight or take flight, without delay. It takes another six seconds for the signal to hit the rational part of your brain and allow you to use reason in choosing your next steps.[How to best manage the six seconds that can change your life (for the worse)].

If you choose to react within those first six seconds, chances are your choices may be clouded by the hot emotions you’re feeling. Those are the moments when we shoot back that feisty text, fire off a heated email, or exchange hurtful words in a disagreement. This out-of-control response is a result of an amygdala hijack, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in 1995. The amygdala, the part of the brain designed to respond quickly to  threats, in order to protect us from danger, can interfere with our functioning in our day-to-day lives where perceived threats are now rarely a matter of life and death. 

If we delay reacting by just a few more moments, allowing the brain to take the emotional stimuli and process it with the rational part of our brain, we have a much greater likelihood of making a thought-out, cooperative and productive decision. [Amygdala Hijack and the Fight or Flight Response]

Easier said than done.

Becoming a team player, and leading others toward collaboration, takes emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management, to pull it of. These traits often don’t come easy. But with some focused effort and the help of a social + emotional intelligence coach, you can take steps in a new direction.

If working collaboratively with others is not one of your strong points, here are some things to try to work toward  a more cooperative approach:

  • Hit pause. When you feel your temper rising, take a break. Inhale deeply, step away, take a walk — anything to give your brain a chance to bring reason to the table.
  • Look for opportunities to team up with others. Instead of going it alone on your next project, find a few others to collaborate with and let them know you’d really appreciate their input.
  • Enhance your listening skills. When others offer their insights, even if you don’t like what they’re saying, tune into what they’re trying to communicate and take a genuine interest in learning more. Understanding their motivations may help you be more open to a differing viewpoint.
  • Keep others informed as to your goals, projects, timelines, and successes along the way. Communicating with others helps them feel like part of the team.
  • Be sure to say thank you to those who are working with you. Gratitude goes a long way in building rapport with others. Some people thrive on public recognition while others appreciate a private “thanks”. Learn your team members and be generous with your appreciation.
  • Lead without dominating. Seek out ways you can ask for input and allow for time and space for others to come up with suggestions, ideas, etc…especially those who may be quieter or less assertive.
  • Give validation freely. Letting others know their input is valued, even if the ideas presented are not ones you’d necessarily incorporate, goes a long way in building a cooperative spirit. An old proverb says, “In a multitude of counselors there is safety.” A variety of ideas, even the ones which sound crazy or far-fetched, can contribute to finding successful ones.
  • When conflict arises, attempt to resolve it sooner than later. Unresolved conflict can eat away at cohesion. Though avoiding hard conversations may seem easier in the moment, they’ll need to take place eventually. The sooner you can resolve disagreements, the sooner you can move forward toward your goals.
  • Treat everyone with respect and courtesy. There’s never a time when it’s OK to be rude, distasteful, or demeaning. No matter the job title, position, or lot in life, practice treating all people with high regard.
  • Share your resources with others. Don’t be an idea-hoarder. Who knows if your insights may spark imaginative ideas in others?“

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • Allow others to take credit. Your innovative ideas may spur others to come up with creative ways of doing things…so much so that they may forget the original idea came from you. That’s OK. Exercise enough personal power to not need to have all the credit all the time.
  • Empower others to be successful. Good leaders look for ways for others to be successful. Which of your behaviors turn others off? What hurdles may be keeping others from feeling like part of your team? What needs do they have? How can you go out of your way to meet those needs?
  • Get to know your colleagues. Learn their spouse’s names, ask about what their kids are up to, and seek to understand their motivations and personal interests. When team members feel understood, and appreciated, they’re much more likely to be strong contributors.

Learning to get along and work well with others will enhance your own sense of well-being, as well as contribute to happier, healthier relationships and a greater sense of community…something we all could use more of these days.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Letting go

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Over the years, I have struggled with giving up things I loved…my spacious home filled with cherished stuff, financial security, my church, a job that paid well with benefits, someone to provide happiness for me, and all the privileges which came along with that lifestyle…because I had to. Instead, I’ve had to figure out how to live in a very small space, secure remote work, accrue some debt, get rid of most of my stuff, live on a very limited income, learn to enjoy my own company, develop a personal relationship with God, and find joys in the simple things. Now that I’ve let it all go, and choose this lifestyle, it no longer feels like a struggle, though to many I may seem poor.

But it sure makes the transitions called for during a times such as this a lot easier. Other than the need for a mask, and a deep compassion for those who are without food, are scared, and have lost jobs and loved ones, life without many of the typical conveniences feels normal to me, and oddly, I feel thankful for the rough times which led me here.

Crazy-thinking, I know.

I get it, right now it feels really hard. Because it is. But sometimes letting go of parts of life-as-you-know-it can be a breath of much-needed fresh air if you allow yourself to breathe it in and fill your lungs. With a mask, of course, for now. And down the road, without it all, you may just find a place of peace and joy you didn’t know was possible.

I’m not negating the struggle getting there. We’ve never faced something like this and losing beloved things like career, savings, freedoms, security, health, and loved ones is painful–terrifying, even.

But things may just turn out all right. On the other side of this, your life may look a lot different than what you dreamed or planned…and you may even ask yourself, “How did I end up here?!”, like I have, countless times. Yes, it will be a different life…but maybe, just maybe, all right.

Change is so hard for us humans, but it’s not going anywhere. Let today’s struggles give you the strength for the next wave of change which will hit, once this one ends. Keep your chin up. This is hard…but we can do hard things. You got this.

Because you never know, you might just like that place you find yourself on the other side.

How do you sabotage your success?

Article contributed by guest author Brian Baker.

Everyone has had the experience of self-destructing. It’s a strange feeling to know that you ruined the very thing you were trying so hard to accomplish. Most self-sabotage is the result of discomfort. It can be the discomfort of failing, succeeding, or having to perform tasks that are uncomfortable.

You may have heard the saying, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Unfortunately, most of us are well-practiced in the art of avoiding discomfort. This is the most common way we sabotage our success.

Are you sabotaging your success? Consider these points:


1.  Distractions. The tasks that need to be done in order to be successful are typically less appealing than watching TV, surfing the internet, or spending time with friends. We’re experts at distracting ourselves, and the urge to seek out distractions increases with the unpleasantness of the task.

  • Solution: Allow yourself to have distractions, but control when, and how long, you engage in them. You might give yourself 30 minutes of distraction time after three hours of work. Or, you might limit distractions to the evening after your work is done for the day.

2.  Procrastination. Distractions are one way of procrastinating, but there are countless ways to procrastinate. The general theme is that you’re doing something other than what you should be doing.

  • Solution: Be clear on what needs to be done and why.
  • Focus on just getting started, which is often the most challenging part of working.
  • Use a timer and see how much you can accomplish in 30 minutes.

3.  Indecisiveness. Indecisiveness is a success killer. When you can’t make up your mind, progress comes to a stop. If you wait until you have all the wisdom and information necessary to make the perfect choice, you’ll be waiting a long time. You have to pull the trigger and move forward.

  • Solution: Be clear on what needs to be done to accomplish your objective.
  • Give yourself a time limit. You might give yourself 10 minutes or a day to make a decision. Then just decide and do your best.

4.  Negative thoughts. For many people, the closer they get to success, the more negative thoughts they experience.

  • Solution: Take control of your mind and think thoughts that are useful to you. Cheer yourself on rather than criticize your actions.
  • Ignore the random noise of your mind. You don’t have to engage with your random thoughts. You can choose to ignore them.

5.  Focus on low-priority tasks. We like to work on our projects but avoid the most important tasks. The most important tasks are often the least enjoyable, so we avoid them. We tackle the less important tasks because it allows us to feel like we’re still making progress.

  • Solution: Have a list of tasks to do each day ordered from most important to least. Start at the top of your list and work your way down.

6.  Quitting. This is the ultimate way to sabotage your success. You can’t achieve anything if you quit before you’re successful. Many people have a habit of quitting right before achieving success.

  • Solution: Develop the habit of finishing what you start. Avoid caving into the fear that crops up when you’re about to find out if you were successful or not. Remember that you can always try again, regardless of the outcome.

Self-sabotage is a great problem to have because you don’t need to try to change anyone else. In fact, the entire issue is your responsibility! This might sound disheartening, but it’s easier to change yourself than it is to change someone else.

Remember this, the person responsible for your successes and failures is staring at you in the mirror each day.

Reflections

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” — Margaret J. Wheatley

Making time this holiday season to reflect on the past year may feel like one more item to add to your ever-growing to do list, and the last thing you have time for.  However, stopping to reflect may be one of the most important things you do amidst the holiday hubbub.

Reflection simply means to give deep thought to something.  It’s not a fleeting, in-passing glance back, and isn’t to be confused with the goofy, quirky “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handy on NBC’s television comedy, Saturday Night Live.  Reflection consists of stopping what we’re doing, pausing our current thought stream, and purposefully remembering past events, considering why they happened, how they happened, and pondering the outcomes.

“There is no greater journey than the one that you must take to discover all of the mysteries that lie within you.” – Michelle Sandlin

In a research study of employees in call centers, compiling the efforts of Francesca Gino, Giada Di Stefano, Bradley Staats, and Gary Pisano, it was discovered that employees who spent 15 minutes at the reflecting about lessons learned at the end of the day performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not. [https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it]. In the world of academia, researchers found the significance of reflecting on the student’s learning is undeniable . “It can naturally activate further engagement with learning material, deepen learners’ understanding of the topic and reinforce independent thinking and in that way create an effective learning environment.”[https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329203590_Theories_on_Self-Reflection_in_Education].

Reflecting is a positive choice any time of the year, but is especially beneficial as we wrap up the past 12 months and look ahead to 2020. Making time to reflect can add value in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • Forces us to slow down during a hectic time of year
  • Makes it possible to celebrate our achievements
  • Promotes gratitude
  • Helps us determine the things we don’t want to repeat in the coming year
  • Births creative ideas, helping us plan ahead for what’s next
  • Inspires others to reflect on their own lives
  • Connects us with those around us by remembering those who helped us along the way

As educational reformer John Dewey noted: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Need some ideas on which aspects of this past year to reflect on?  Consider some of these, for starters:

  • What went well?
  • Where did you miss?
  • What ‘made your heart sing’?
  • What made you laugh?
  • What scared you and why?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • What (and who) inspired you with hope?
  • Who helped along the way?
  • Who do you wish you would’ve spent more time with?
  • Which accomplishment made you the most proud?
  • How did you overcome a particularly difficult challenge?
  • Who did you help?
  • What do you wish you would’ve done more of?
  • Who are you most grateful for?
  • Which activities were the best use of your time?

Most likely, reflecting on the above questions will prompt you to think of more questions of your own to reflect upon.  If you like to write, consider using a journal to document your thoughts, or record your responses on a voice recorder, or have an in-depth conversation with a trusted friend or colleague.

Doing so will help direct you toward a successful year ahead.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” — Peter Drucker

5 Ways to Build Confidence as Parents

Article submitted by guest author Brian Baker.

Self-esteem can be very tenuous. As parents, when our children fail it is easy to take it personally. The same principles apply to parents building confidence as to children who are developing confidence in themselves.

Building greater confidence and self-esteem takes practice. But, the results are well worth the time and effort. Stronger confidence benefits you in every area of your life.

Using these strategies will help you and your children develop greater confidence and self-esteem:

1.  Learn from mistakes and failure. It’s okay to fail. Failing is part of the learning process. This improves decision-making skills, enables one to think through long-term results of their choices, and accept feedback about their mistakes without feeling like a personal failure.

  • Parents are also learning something new with each child. The process is the same – you learn from mistakes and failures.

2.  See mistakes and failures as tools for success. Confidence comes from learning to trust our instincts, skills, and abilities. It is gained over time through both success and failure. It requires taking risks and dealing with consequences.

  • The more skilled our children become in making the right choices, the more confident they become.
  • If you regularly use mistakes as a tool for success, when your kids do fail or miscalculate, they learn that it was the thinking or process that was faulty, not the person. The same applies to you as a parent.

3.  Never stop learning. Parents are teachers. Your job is to prepare your child to be a successful young adult. It starts day one and never ends. You are not always going to get it right – nobody does.

  • Like your child, you learn as you do things and improve as you learn. Chances are that you’ll feel inadequate at times and make mistakes.
  • Own it. Be open about your mistakes and talk to your child about the lessons learned. They will benefit as much from your candid discussions as anything else you do.

4.  Think positive thoughts about yourself. If you struggle with low self-esteem, it’s important that you get help with that. Seek out a therapist if you need to. Your behavior and how you treat yourself is what your child absorbs.

  • If you stand in front of the mirror making negative comments about your body, berate yourself when you make a mistake, or judge others when they don’t meet your standards, your child will do the same.

5.  Learn to let it go. Move forward after you discuss lessons learned – yours and your child’s. It is information that you will use to calculate choices in the future.

  • If you dwell on it or label yourself, your child will do the same. “I made a mistake” can become “I am a mistake” if internalized. Get help if you need it. Perfectionism leads to additional challenges that neither of you need.

Practice these techniques daily with your children. The more you practice, the easier these behaviors become. Once they become a habit, you and your children are well on the path to having an automatic process that supports greater confidence and self-esteem each day.

 

What Services Do Servant Leaders Provide?

Article contributed by guest author Dennis Hooper.

Sometimes leaders ask if I help organizations understand and implement “servant leadership.” Maybe the individual has heard of the concept but can’t imagine how it functions, considering his or her current beliefs about leadership. I love exploring existing perspectives with inquisitive people, helping them see a more effective model and allowing them to adjust their leadership behaviors.

The most common image of leadership involves the traditional pyramidal hierarchy. Developed centuries ago, the corporate organization chart clearly identifies what portion of the empire each leader controls. “These people work for me” is the operative mental outlook. Within this framework, many leaders find it hard to consider “what can I do to serve them?”

So, let’s start thinking about servant leadership by representing the organization through a different model. Imagine how we might use a tree as a more appropriate organizational metaphor.

Visualize that the individuals who do the work on a day-to-day basis are the leaves. They are supported by the branches, which are the organization’s managers and supervisors. Top management is the trunk supporting the branches and leaves and delivering water and nutrients up from the roots. The trunk and branches provide substantial support for that portion of the organization where the “real work” is accomplished. When the winds of change blow, the trunk and roots provide stability, keeping the tree anchored firmly. The tree’s extensive root system collects revenue from customers, and the trunk delivers the needed capital equipment, raw materials, tools, and supplies to the leaves.

Through this simple paradigm shift, many individuals are immediately able to better understand the concept of servant leadership. The trunk and branches function collaboratively to ensure the health and growth of the twigs and leaves. A tree is a living organism; if any part becomes diseased, the life of the entire tree is in jeopardy.
If the organization remains healthy, the parts that do the “real work” are pushed higher, competing favorably with surrounding trees for sunlight. Growth, through increased production and reliability, is a natural desire among those doing the work. The trunk and branches grow only as much as is required to deliver the resources needed by the growing numbers of leaves.

Pyramids were never intended to grow; they were designed as tombs! Trees, however, are alive and beautiful. With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, “I think that I shall never see a pyramid lovely as a tree.”

Now, let’s consider the real-time services that you provide when you function as a servant leader. Let’s start with you as entrepreneur, gathering resources and sending up the first shoot. Leaves are added as survival seems viable. Growth occurs quickly in those first few years as the tender seedling seeks sunshine and manages to avoid consumption by insects and herbivores.

Once the organization matures, you as leader provide opportunity, resources, a healthy work environment, and clear expectations. Depending on the surroundings, you communicate direction so that everyone is empowered to achieve the inspiring vision of robust growth. When problems arise, you listen and collaborate to eliminate obstructions and obtain needed resources.

You offer coaching, feedback, respect, and expanded responsibilities. You inform everyone of the organization’s results and you invite new ideas. You offer encouragement, hope, balance, and clarity. You tell the truth. You plan so last-minute requests rarely occur. You keep promises that you’ve made. You ask people what they need, and you work to provide it.

Lest we take this model too far, let’s acknowledge that those doing the “real work” are accountable to your authority. However, the leaves rarely need to be reminded why they exist. They realize that their role–processing sunshine, water, and nutrients–is a critical function for the success of “the tree team.”

As a servant leader, you support and empower those who do the “real work” of the organization!

A Heart to Serve

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Had I really heard her correctly?

The cold months had been rough on Bessie, our red Subaru, and piece by piece, with daily driving in the harsh winter weather, my little car seemed to be falling apart. We’d had her for about five years, after buying her already well-used. Day in and day out, she carried the kids and I to and fro on our daily errands, and many a road trip, but though she was still running, was showing a good deal of wear and tear. The sunroof was splintered, the windshield was littered with cracks, and the engine was running a little rough. The brakes had started to squeak, and thanks to the lack of mature driving skills from one of my newly licensed children, she now had a nice big dent in her fender. Our family has always driven old cars, and we tended to drive them into the ground, so this was nothing new. But it was a few days after I posted on my social media page about how I was using duct tape to hold a section of her bumper together, trying to be funny,  when the phone call came.

“We want to buy you a new car.”

It was a dear old friend from college days, a kind, giving soul who always has something encouraging to say. She and her husband had decided they wanted to lay down a large portion of money to buy the kids and I a new vehicle. Being just a few weeks before Christmas, they were determined to share their blessings with our family during the holiday season. After much protesting, I humbly accepted their generous offer and went car shopping.

Who buys a friend a car?!

I’ve known some extremely giving people in my life.  My parents sacrificed much to make sure my brothers and I had a happy, loving home to grow up in. An aunt assisted me in procuring a scholarship to help with college expenses. A university professor paid my way for the college ski outing. A kind lady in our church offered to make our wedding cake. Friends and family babysat our children when we needed some time out, and once the kids were old enough, the acts of kindness they’d offer often brought tears to my eyes. I’d find a hard-earned $20 of allowance money tucked into a homemade Mother’s Day Card, enjoy occasional breakfasts in bed, and welcome their offers to help with chores around the house.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”― Anne Frank

Having a heart to serve others is a competency of emotional intelligence called service orientation. I like the use of the word, “orientation”. Miriam-Webster defines orientation as “a usually general or lasting direction of thought, inclination, or interest.” [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orientation] Note the words “usually general” and “lasting direction”. We’re not talking about a one-time do-a-good-deed for someone. Rather than a one-time service project, think of service orientation as a way of life. It’s having a mindset of anticipating, recognizing, and meeting others’ needs.

People who have a service orientation spend time getting to know others so they understand what their needs are. They are on the lookout to find new ways to increase satisfaction levels of those around them, and gladly make themselves available to offer assistance. They enjoy helping others and especially like providing assistance to the underdog. They have a knack for seeing things through the eyes of others and are quick to grasp perspectives different from their own.  People who are behave this way usually have a good deal of empathy.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”— Albert Schweitzer

Those who struggle with service orientation tend to think of themselves first and focus on their own needs before others. They’re not always the best team players and when asked for help, may do what’s required of them, but don’t often go above and beyond. They don’t stand up on the behalf of those around them and often speak poorly of others behind their back. These folks will often ‘pass the buck’ and even go so far as being discourteous and disrespectful.

Robert Greenleaf, author of the book Servant Leadership, observed that there are leaders who are in it for themselves and leaders who are in it for others. He concluded that those who put their focus on others were the most effective. According to Greenleaf, a servant leader must exhibit good listening skills, empathy, a desire to help heal those who are hurting, other-awareness, persuasion, conceptualization (the ability to dream), foresight, stewardship, commitment to helping others grow, and a heart for building community.

As with competencies of emotional intelligence, our ability to be of service to others can be developed and enhanced, no matter how far from having a service orientation we may be. From the ISEI Coaching Toolkit developed by Dr. Laura Belsten, here are some developmental tips to increase your service orientation:

  • Look for opportunities to be helpful, to be of service, to others
  • Anticipate and be aware of the needs of others; plan ahead to meet people’s needs if possible
  • Create a culture of service by modeling the behavior
  • Ask questions to understand another’s needs; act on or agree to a course of action
  • Under-promise and over-deliver; do more than expected
  • Follow through; check to ensure satisfaction

You may not ever have the opportunity to give someone a car, but there are many practical ways you can serve those around you, especially in the workplace. Here are some ideas: Offer a kind word of encouragement to your project manager, pick up a specialty coffee for a colleague, invite a coworker to lunch, thank your boss for her leadership, offer to help a team member on a project, ask your cubicle-mate about their weekend (and really listen). What else? Jot down a few ideas of your own then pick one to start with today. Taking an action to hep another is a great first step toward developing a service orientation.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
― Charles Dickens

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