Recover Your Calling Class Registration Open

I think I mentioned in passing that my course is now open for registration but I wanted to make sure you knew you could be part of it. This is a non-credit class held at Edmonds Community College and it’s open to the community as part of the their ArtsNow/uLearn program. You don’t even have to worry about tests or grades although I will be assigning some (hopefully fun) homework!

I’m getting so excited envisioning the class as I prepare. I’m working on discussion questions, picking out great self-awareness exercises and combing through the material I want to “teach.” I put “teach” in quotations because I hope that much of the learning that takes place will be generated through the combined wisdom of the class itself. I’m not planning to lecture for an hour and a half during every class. Instead, I’m planning to share material in short segments to further the discussion.

If you’re introverted or an internal processor and this is starting to scare you – don’t worry, I’m building in space to think/journal quietly without feeling the pressure to talk.

Registration is open!I know fall tends to get busy for people, so I suggest putting it on the calendar now! This will only be a five week commitment from October 16th to November 13th on Wednesday nights from 7:00-9:00. The cost is $95. Retreats that focus on similar material can easily be 5x as much and can feel overwhelming, as you pack a huge amount of learning into one weekend. Sometimes it’s hard to come back from retreats and integrate what you’ve learned into the reality of your daily life. Taking this class will let you test out what you’re learning during the week and lets you absorb the information at a slower pace.

The goal at the end of the class is that you walk away with greater awareness of how your calling is already operating in your life as well as an action plan for how to pursue your calling more intentionally.

I need at least five people to register in order for the class to happen and we’re limiting the total class size to 20 people. Go here to find the course description, check location details and register! If you have questions about how to register, go here.

Sticking Points: 4 Generations Working Together

GenerationsBack in July, my good friend Marie lent me her advance copy of Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Hadyn Shaw. Now that it’s out and available for everyone, I wanted to let you all know that you need to buy this book now!

It’s a quick read and you can easily jump around as needed. Shaw provides a simple five step model for working through the sticking points: acknowledge, appreciate, flex, leverage, and resolve. In each chapter he provides an example of putting the five steps into action.

Especially important is the “flex” step. Shaw differentiates between business necessity and generational preference again and again, highlighting how often managers think doing things one way is a necessity when actually it doesn’t really affect business. He defines necessity as anything that will make you lose your foot, customer, money, or funding. Everything else is simply preference.

Each generation also gets a chapter that describes their “ghost stories”  or the formative events and experiences of each generation that consequently influence them in the work place. The second part details the 12 sticking points he discusses:

  • communication
  • decision making
  • dress code
  • feedback
  • fun at work
  • knowledge transfer
  • loyalty
  • meetings
  • policies
  • respect
  • training
  • work ethic

Some other interesting takeaways for me were:

  • Shaw explains that these days people believe you’re not an adult until 28 (both older generations and Millennials think this)! Instead of bemoaning how lazy and unambitious Millennials are, he points out that in the pre-war childhood of the Traditionalist generation, life on the farm offered you ways to contribute meaningfully and see the fruit of your labor from very early on. That’s simply not the case in today’s environment where meaningful contribution and seeing the fruit of your labour is sometimes assumed to only come after at least five years of paying your dues post-college.
  • He notes that parents treat their Millennial kids well (Millennials and their parents are often good friends) but then gripe about their Millennial employees’ behavior. He terms this the “half-step back” problem: when you start managing, you take a half-step back in to the older generation because that’s who trained you. So you manage from an older generational mindset than how you parent.
  • His main suggestion for leaders who are running into these generational sticking points is to forget trying to manage the issue with top-down policy decisions. Instead, gather a task force with a rep from each generation to hash out the “sticking points” your organization faces. They’ll come up with a plan that will have more buy-in from everyone.

I’ve read quite a few books on generations now and while Shaw can’t and doesn’t take the time to go into all the nuances of each generation, he definitely captures them fairly. As a Millennial, I especially appreciated this since so many articles and books about Millennials in the workplace tend to only paint us negatively. I highly recommend getting this and discussing it at your workplace!

The Curse of Knowledge

Curse of KnowledgeSummer is in full swing here. This July has been one of the best I’ve seen here in Seattle which should explain my lack of blog posts. We’ve been enjoying the great outdoors, seeing friends, doing projects and reading too many books. Yes, you read that right. I am admitting that I’ve been on a bit of a book binge. It’s really all the library’s fault. Sometimes the books I request at the library become available all at once and I have to speed through them because there are more holds and I can’t renew them. A terrible problem, I know.

But the funny thing is, I have felt a bit convicted by two of the books I read that all this knowledge-cramming may be bad for me.

Dan and Chip Heath’s book Made to Stick calls it the “Curse of Knowledge” and explains how the more we learn and become an expert in a topic, the more we see and understand the nuances and complexities. This isn’t a problem until we try to explain our knowledge to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about our topic. At that point, the Curse of Knowledge makes it difficult for us to refocus on the core information a novice is likely to need. We see all the complexities and nuances as essential and have trouble simplifying our knowledge to its essentials. It’s like trying to write a proverb when you want to write a book.

Alan Fine’s book You Already Know How to be Great calls it “+K” and talks about how we assume that enhancing performance comes from taking innate capability and adding knowledge (+K). He writes about his experiences as a tennis coach and how he realized one day that all the knowledge he was trying to impart to his students was actually interfering with their performance rather than aiding it. He saw that when they were focused on trying to remember and execute all of his tips, they actually performed worse than when they didn’t have the knowledge. His epiphany was that performance was best enhanced by removing interference rather than adding knowledge. He realized that his coaching methods had to change because he was part of the interference!

I love to know more but I realize that I can get caught up in all the details and nuance rather than taking the time to focus on the core. I can get lost in reading up on how to improve my work instead of actually doing my work.

It was a good reminder for me that sometimes “more knowledge” is not the answer even though I always want it to be. Instead, both books recommend asking questions rather than giving advice (or wanting someone to just tell you what to do). Questions drill down to the priorities and help us refocus so that we can take action rather than remaining paralyzed.

Asking ourselves questions can be difficult and painful so it’s often best to process questions with someone else. That’s why Spiritual Directors exist. That’s what coaches are really for: facilitating the questions process in the individual, rather than handing out knowledge that is unlikely to stick.

What are you learning this week? What questions are you asking yourself?


Have you heard of the Gallup Q12?

Gallup Q12I ran across the Gallup Q12 the other day. The Gallup Q12 is an employee engagement survey (the Q12 stands for the twelve questions). Why is it considered important to measure employee engagement? Because companies with engaged employees, “exhibit lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, better customer loyalty and other manifestations of superior performance.”

Gallup uses these questions to measure the American workplace on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately most companies either don’t know about the Gallup Q12, don’t know how to use the information the Gallup Q12 provides to improve their employee engagement, or don’t care enough about employee engagement to really make an effort.

How do we know this? Because the most recent figures show that only 30% of employees feel engaged at work. You can download the most recent report here.

I want that to change. It’s a big amount but imagine if we could reverse that percentage? What if 70% of people loved their work? I think the only way to start is with individuals. Why? Because we’ve had corporate consulting, coaching and counselling on the scene for years now and it still doesn’t seem to be making much of a dent. We can’t wait for a top-down approach anymore. I get excited about helping individuals reclaim work as a good word. One-by-one, maybe we’ll make a dent in that percentage, no matter how daunting it seems.

Get yourself started by figuring out your own answers to the twelve questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my organization make me feel like my work is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a close friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
  12. At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

Are you one of the 30% or do you fall into the other 70%? Which factors would you say contribute most to where you would rate yourself? Are there items on this list that you can address with your manager?

The Problem with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Happy July, everyone! I got a chance to read Made to Stick by the Heath brothers over our mini-vacation last week (we went to visit my parents in Nanaimo). It’s another great book about how we make our messages “stick.” At one point in the book, the authors discuss motivation & Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

They argue that thinking of these needs or motivations as a hierarchy is wrong. Everyone pursues all of these needs at the same time (why else would you have starving artists?). The reason we need to consider this is because we often forget to address more than the bottom few layers of needs when we’re trying to motivate people. Here’s an excerpt of their research findings in this area (from p. 184-185):

Imagine that a company offers its employees a $1000 bonus if they meet certain performance targets. There are three different ways of presenting the bonus to the employees:

1. Think of what that $1000 means: a down payment on a new car or that new home improvement you’ve been wanting to make.

2. Think of the increased security of having that $1000 in your bank account for a rainy day.

3. Think of what that $1000 means: the company recognizes how important you are to its overall performance. It doesn’t spend money for nothing.

When people are asked which positioning would appeal to them personally, most of them say No. 3. It’s good for the self-esteem – and, as for No. 1 and No. 2, isn’t it kind of obvious that $1000 can be spent or saved? Most of us have no trouble at all visualizing ourselves spending $1000.  (It’s a bit less common to find people who like to visualize themselves saving.)

Here’s the twist, though: When people are asked which is the best positioning for other people (not them), they rank No. 1 most fulfilling, followed by No. 2. That is, we are motivated by self-esteem, but others are motivated by down payments. THis single insight explains almost everything about the way incentives are structured in most large organizations.

Or consider another version of the same task. Let’s say you’re trying to persuade someone to take a new job in a department that’s crucial to the company’s success. Here are three possible pitches for the new job:

1. Think about how much security this job provides. It’s so important that the company will always need someone in this job.

2. Think about the visibility provided by this job. Because the job is so important, a lot of people will be watching your performance.

3. Think about how rewarding it will be to work in such a central job. It offers a unique opportunity to learn how the company really works.

The chasm between ourselves and others opens again. Most people say No. 3 – an appeal to Learning – would be most motivating for them. Those same people predict that others would be most motivated by No. 1 (Security) and No.2 (Esteem).

In other words, a lot of us think everyone else is living in Maslow’s basement – we may have a penthouse apartment, but everyone else is living below. The result of spending too much time in Maslow’s basement is that we may overlook lots of opportunities to motivate people. It’s not that the  “bottom floors” – or the more tangible, physical needs, to avoid the hierarchy metaphor – aren’t motivational. Of course they are. We all like to get bonuses and to have job security and to feel like we fit in. But to focus on these needs exclusively robs us of the chance to tap more profound motivations.

Seems crazy right? If we were in a position to offer bonuses or new positions, wouldn’t we think it normal to present the reasons that appeal most to us? And yet, that so rarely happens. It’s amazing how quickly our opinion of people drops when we move from thinking of a particular person we know to the concept of employees or society in general. It’s a great reminder to consider all the facets of motivation together, rather than in Maslow’s hierarchy, and then do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Two Tips for Getting Clarity on Tough Decisions

Decisions I just breezed through Decisive by Dan Heath and Chip Heath (I’m on a Heath kick – John and I just listened to Switch and I have Made to Stick waiting on the bookshelf). It was another fun read! These guys tell great stories and also pack a ridiculous amount of practical advice into their books. Decisive is all about helping you develop a good process for making decisions.

I just want to give you two of the great tips they suggest when you’re agonizing over a decision. Heath and Heath talk about how our short-term emotions often tempt us to make decisions that aren’t good long-term. Maybe we’re scared of being embarrassed by failure, insecure about our talents, anxious about money, angry at our boss, infatuated with the person we just met or obsessed with an exciting business idea. Whatever the emotion, it can blind us. Distance helps us gain clarity which hopefully leads to a wiser decision.

Tip one for getting distance: 10/10/10

The authors suggest asking yourself how you’ll feel about your decision 10 minutes after making it, 10 months after making it and 10 years after making it. They use a simple example that also illustrates how short-term emotions can blow the importance of the decision out of proportion: A guy can’t decide whether to call a girl he met. Maybe you can imagine the agony of trying to get up the courage, wondering if he’ll be rejected, worrying about what to say etc. If he decides to call her how will he feel about that decision in 10 minutes? Maybe he’ll still be nervous but he might have gained some confidence about the fact that he’s taking action. How will he feel in 10 months? If the call goes well, maybe he’ll be so grateful he did because they’re now dating. If the call goes poorly, will he even remember it in 10 months? Probably not. The same can be extrapolated out to 10 years. Potentially the happy couple looks back at that phone call as the thing that started it all. More likely the momentary panic about whether or not to call the girl will be long forgotten.

This kind of distance helps us put our decisions back into proportion and can show us the “worth it” factor in our decisions.

Tip two for getting distance: “What would I tell my best friend to do?”

Simply switching shoes mentally with a friend helps us create distance from the emotions of our decision, allowing us to be more objective, just like our friends usually are when we spring crazy ideas on them. Maybe you’re tearing yourself up trying to decide whether or not you should take a job offer. Ask yourself, “What would I tell my best friend to do?” If you automatically think “I would tell her to go for it!” then consider whether you have your answer. Ask yourself why you would give that advice to your friend and what’s keeping you from giving that same advice to yourself.

If you have some decisions to make that feel daunting, this book is chock full of great ideas to make sure you’ve thought everything through as best you can. If you don’t have time to read the book, you can go over to their website, and register to access the first chapter, a one page summary and workbook (all for free!).

Do you have a favourite method for making decisions that helps you? What do you normally do to seek clarity?


Almost Walking

Almost WalkingCanon is almost walking independently. He has great balance. Give him something to push and he almost runs. He cruises all around our house holding onto walls and couches, doors, cupboards etc.

But stand him up by himself and suggest to him that he start stepping out on his own and he’ll protest, sitting down promptly. Or he’ll wait and put his hands above his head waiting to grab our hands before he starts moving forward. He doesn’t trust himself yet. Crawling seems quicker. Holding onto things feels safer even though it means going the long way around when he’s trying to get to the piano or the kitchen or me.

I keep seeing the parallels in our adult lives. Unsure of ourselves, not ready to let go, preferring to do what we’re already comfortable doing instead of continuing to grow. Protesting the push to try something new.

No matter how much we cheer Canon on, he won’t walk until he believes he can do it. It doesn’t seem to matter that we believe he can do it – he has to figure it out for himself. It just makes me wonder, how many times in life have I waited and waited to try something because I didn’t trust myself yet? How many times have I pulled back from a challenge even when those around me had full confidence I could do it, the encouragement sounding like gibberish or crazy talk in my ears?

And then I think about patience and letting him go at his own pace. I’m always there to offer him a hand if he wants to walk around, we don’t prod him too much. And if God is like a parent, think of his infinite patience with us. His desire for us to grow but his ability to wait for us as we learn at a snail’s pace, always there to offer us a hand as we test out our steps of faith.

Seriously, it cracks me up when I tell Canon, “You can do it – walk to me!” and he frowns and looks at me like I’ve made a ridiculous suggestion. He doesn’t know what I know – that walking will soon be his norm. He doesn’t see what I can see – that this phase of limited mobility is fleeting and he’ll soon be free to run.

God knows and sees so much more about each of us than I know and see for Canon.

He knows where we are headed: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6) and He sees our future without limitations: “ To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24-15).

We’re all almost walking in this life. And it makes me so excited to learn how to run someday.

Recover Your Calling: Fall Class at Edmonds Community College

Recover Your Calling fall classRight after I posted about my goals on Monday, I received an email letting me know that my course proposal “Recover Your Calling” for Fall quarter at Edmonds Community College was accepted! I am stoked. This class will be open to the public as part of their “ArtsNow/uLearn” community education program. Tentatively it is scheduled for October 16-Nov 13, that’s five Wednesday nights from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Recover Your Calling fall classThis five week course is designed to debunk the myths surrounding work, vocation and calling so that you can overcome the obstacles that keep you from living out a more meaningful life both at work and in your relationships. Class time will focus on brief instruction components, helpful self-awareness exercises and group debrief & discussion. The goal is to have you walk away with actionable information for recovering a sense of calling in your day-to-day life.

I’m so excited to take the massive amounts of material I’ve accumulated over the past few years, distill it down and be able to share what I’ve learned with my community. So, if you don’t see much of me the rest of the summer, you’ll know why. I’ll be trying to sort out curriculum and preparing to teach (pray for me – you might know I’m not a linear thinker so it takes me forever to get things all lined up!).

If you’re in the Seattle area, save the date! The class size will be limited to 20 people so watch this space and I’ll let you know as we get closer how you can register for the class. I would love to see some familiar faces!


How many people view work this way?

A great quote from Dorothy Sayers to chew on this weekend:

“Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

What would it take for you to view work this way? It might mean redefining “work” by separating it out from having a “job” and it could also require taking a closer look at what you call your “hobbies.” If you do feel like this about your work, why do you think that is? I would love to hear your opinions in the comments!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Why a little doubt is better than supreme confidence

doubtI recently read Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human. He makes the case that we’re all in sales now even if we don’t have a “sales” job. He defines non-sales selling as: “the ability to influence, to persuade and to change behavior while striking a balance between what others want and what you can provide them.” He explains why the old sales model got such a bad reputation (used car salesmen) and what you have to do in order to be successful in today’s work environment.

He explains that, contrary to a lot of advice we’re given, it’s actually better to ask ourselves “Can we succeed?” than to simply pump ourselves up with an “I can do this!!” mantra. This is called interrogative self-talk and we should be using it before any daunting task.

In sales particularly, most of the focus has been on declarative self-talk that is positive “I am amazing” “I am the best salesperson ever!” etc. Pink writes, “Yes, positive self-talk is generally more effective than negative self-talk. But the most effective self-talk of all doesn’t merely shift emotions. It shifts linguistic categories. It moves from making statements to asking questions.”

A little doubt: “Can I do this?” allows us to marshal the reasons we can. A question like this forces us to answer it by thinking through our preparation and analyzing our resources. If we’re doubting whether or not we should take on the task, asking the question will also help us clarify our internal motivators, “Questioning self-talk elicits the reasons for doing something and reminds people that many of those reasons come from within.” When we’re intrinsically motivated we are more proactive and often do better at whatever challenge we’re tackling.

Pink highlights a social science experiment where participants had to solve anagrams, “The researchers instructed the first group to ask themselves whether they would solve the puzzles and the second group to tell themselves that they would solve the puzzles. On average, the self-questioning group solved nearly 50 percent more puzzles than the self-affirming group.”

So if you find yourself facing a challenge in the next few days, remember to ask yourself “Can I do this?” and then take the time to answer your own question.