Management Advice: Stop saying “BUT”

So here’s your very simple but difficult management advice for today: stop using the word but! Whether you’re parenting or working or hanging out with friends, the word but needs to go.

management advice Why?

I was first clued into this concept when reading a parenting book called How to Talk so Kids will Listen which is excellent and you should read even if you’re not a parent. The authors explained that anytime you use the word “but” you end up negating everything you’ve just said. Let’s do a quick example:

I say “Hey Canon, you did a great job with clean up time but you forgot to pick up the toys in the family room.” What does that sound like to you? Did he really do a great job? It sounds like I’m trying to let him down easy, that actually no, he didn’t do a good job cleaning because he forgot a key part of the process. What does he hear? That I don’t mean what I said and I’m really just criticizing him.

How could I say it better? “Hey Canon, you did a great job cleaning up in the playroom. Can you also grab the toys in the playroom?”

It applies equally well in the workplace context. I was reminded of this principle reading Fierce Conversations this week. Susan Scott writes, “Multiple, competing realities exist simultaneously: This is true and this is true and this is true.” When we say “yes, but” we don’t acknowledge the competing realities, we just try to keep persuading other people that our own version is correct.

What to say instead

The word “but” negates other views and can come across as blaming. Scott recommends trying to replace every “but” with an “and” so that both realities are acknowledged as valid pieces of the whole picture.  Instead of “You see it that way, but I see it differently” try, “You see it that way, and I see is differently.” A really simple switch that has the potential to keep discussions civil and people feeling like they are heard while still also allowing for differences of opinion. Win Win. Other options include:

  • “The problem I see is”
  • “At the same time”

Watch out though, as these can also come across as condescending based on your tone. And is probably the safest bet. You can also just stop your sentence and replace that “but” with a period. Start the next sentence as a question instead. Because asking questions is always a good principle for parents and managers anyway. That was bonus management advice right there.

How to figure out what you really value

core value exercise
image credit:

The other day I was leafing through some of my old workshop materials in preparation for my October seminar and I found a “Values” exercise. You might have done one of these before, where you look through a list of words like “Peace, Success, Wisdom, Integrity, Wealth, Time, Fame, Justice” etc etc. and you’re supposed to whittle them down to your top five values (here’s an example or this one). These top five values should then help give you direction in your big decisions. You’re supposed to remember them well enough to live your life intentionally aligned with them.

I look at it now and I think this exercise is flawed. It’s all well and good to think about what we value . . . but I think most of the time, we’ll end up choosing the words we simply like best (hey, these all sound good!). Of course most of these things we want to value. Maybe there’s no harm in that. Maybe it works as a list of values you aspire to.

To get a more accurate assessment of our top five values I think we need to be a little more realistic. My guess would be that if you briefly outlined where you spent your time every day for a week, you would see your top five values quite clearly. If not, maybe your spouse, roommate, sibling or parent could help you out.

I’m guessing this second list based on how we spend our time won’t be quite as noble-sounding as the first list but it will probably be a better starting place for understanding who we are.

For example, if you spend every evening watching shows and are always excited about finding a new series to watch, you value entertainment and relaxation. Which is great. I definitely value those things. I just think they wouldn’t necessarily show up if you asked me to pick my top five values out of a list. I don’t see myself as someone who sits in front of the TV every evening but the reality is that I do spend an hour most nights watching something.

Now, if you spend 80 hours a week at a job you hate, you might be thinking your time doesn’t really show what you value. Maybe not, but maybe it does. Maybe you simply value security or approval from your superiors more than you realize. Change is hard. Risk is well . . . very risky! Maybe you value loyalty so highly, it makes it hard for you to leave no matter how toxic the situation. If it’s paying you more than you could make in a job you would enjoy, maybe you’re staying because you value money or status more than you think.

So here’s an idea for a twist on this exercise: Do the first one where you pick them out of a list. Then spend a few days observing your daily schedule. Make the second list based on what your use of time says you value. Then compare them. Even better, compare them with someone who knows you well and can give you perspective.

  • Do they align?
  • Where are the discrepancies?
  • Are there steps you can take to move your second list into agreement with your first?
  • Is that even necessary?

Let me know what you discover! I’ll test it out myself over the next few days and let you know in the comments what I come up with.

Did I meet my 2013 Goals?

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about this post all month so I guess it’s time to write it. In January I recorded some 2013 goals:

So here are some of the things I hope to see happen this year (in no particular order of importance):

  • I will learn to sew (got a beautiful machine for Christmas for the in-laws!!)
  • I will blog 2-3x per week about whatever I want
  • I will throw a birthday party for Canon for the first time
  • I will run some workshops on Finding Your Calling
  • I will write some articles for magazines (this is something I always think about and never actually do)
  • I will organize my house (I am actually super stoked about this because I read a fabulous book at my mom’s and have already started with some of the smaller spaces in our house and tomorrow, John and I are going to do a kitchen overhaul!)

This year, I get to figure out if I can bring in some income while staying at home with Canon and I get to continue to figure out what role I play in John’s photography business. I’m excited to see where these adventures lead us. And who knows, maybe at some point another book will start percolating.

In June, I checked in on my goals and now that we’ve come to mid-December, I return to this list to see how it all panned out.

2013 Goals Reached:

  • I did blog 2-3x a week (a few weeks it was only once) and I was able to broaden my subjects and feel free to write about whatever I wanted. I really enjoyed that!
  • I definitely threw a birthday party for Canon’s first birthday. It was manageable and it was fun. Two important requirements in my book. Canon got to meet my mom’s parents for the first time which was a wonderful surprise.
  • I did mostly organize the house and garage. Has it come unorganized? Yes, in places. But I am happy to note that some of the structures we set in place are still holding up. Our house and garage really just need to be cleaned and tidied rather than re-organized at this point. Although I never did conquer the office . . . ahem . . . John’s domain . . . ahem.
  • I did figure out a way to bring in some extra income by getting my Birkman certification and opening up a “business” side of My Calling IQ. While so far this income stream is minor to non-existent, I am glad it’s there and I hope to see it grow next year.

2013 Goals Reached That Were Not On the List:

  • Learning to Cook! We have maintained our cooking schedule of one week on, one week off all year long and we eat delicious food (probably 90% Paleo when at home). I also feel like we’ve learned a better kitchen rhythm cleaning-wise.
  • Finally starting to floss every day. Ha ha! I feel very proud of myself for actually starting a new habit. I have flossed every day except one since mid-September. This is a big accomplishment people. I never flossed before this.

2013 Goals Partially Reached:

  • John and I started experimenting with switching off “working” days at Crozier Photography but then things got busy with weddings. My most consistent role is simply doing the month-end bank reconciliation and printing out our Profit and Loss statements for review. We will likely revisit this question in the New Year and see how we feel about further division of labor.
  • Sewing. So the sewing machine did finally get pulled out but only for one project. I sewed an absolutely hideous but functional sleepsack for Canon since he outgrew his other one. I do feel like I learned a lot because I sewed a zipper and it actually worked. I would like to sew more things like new throw-pillow covers etc but that really hasn’t been a top-priority item.
  • I do feel like I have materials for another book percolating. I have a few major questions floating around in my head (re:church, parenting etc) that make me wonder if 2014 will bring another large writing project. I consider this prospect with excitement as well as dread.

2013 Goals Not Reached:

  • Well, I didn’t teach any workshops this year. The class I was scheduled to teach in the fall fell through because only one person enrolled. This was a disappointment but I am hoping that the class scheduled for February will get the five people required to keep it open. If you’re interested, it’s not to early to sign up!
  • I also did not write or publish any articles in magazines. I don’t think this is my thing. I printed out a bunch of submission instructions for various magazines but couldn’t really wrap my brain around what to offer. I’ve never been good at essays or short stories. I feel very constricted somehow and usually end up having to write some very long and then cut it to pieces to make it “fit.” So I won’t add this goal to my list for next year.

So there you have it. Overall, I’m so thankful for this year because it has been a much more restful year than 2012 (having a baby, publishing a book etc). I felt a lot less pressure about everything, spent most of my time on the floor with Canon, got used to having a very messy house, did a lot of cooking, read thousands of kid books (or rather read the same kid books a thousand times), read at least 45 grown-up books, and maintained this blog as a regular writing discipline.

I may blog one more time before Christmas but will mostly like be taking a break until January when you’ll hear about the 2014 goals I come up with.

What about you? What goals did you have in 2013? Did you reach them or redirect them?

How the Birkman helps us work at home without killing each other

Change score discussion

This month I wanted to do something fun and show you how the information in a Birkman Method report plays out in “real life.” I will be using our real life as we work and parent at home. Today’s example cropped up about a year ago and continues to be something I have to consciously consider in our daily life. It’s about the Change component.

The Birkman measures you on 11 behavioral components. They put your usual behavior on a continuum from 1 to 99 with each end representing a different set of usual behaviors. While John and I are fairly similar on eight of the eleven behavioral components, we have a 47 point difference on our Change score. John is down in the lower end (34) of the continuum while I’m on the high end (81).

What is the “Change” component?

Birkman defines this as mental and physical restlessness. It describes comfort in shifting priorities, patience with interruptions and flexibility in accepting externally imposed change.

Low Change behavior is concentrative, not easily distracted, patient with long-range projects, and able to focus on the task at hand.

High Change behavior is easily excited by new ideas, ready to start new ideas, initiating change frequently and adapting easily to variety.

In terms of responsiveness to change you could compare a 1 to a supertanker needing to change course (that takes awhile!) and a 99 to a speedboat needing to change course (done in the blink of an eye!).

What are the different Change needs?

Low Change needs: protection from interruptions, opportunities to complete important tasks once started, time to consider new ways before changing methods, minimum of abrupt changes, an opportunity to give input before changes are initiated.

High Change needs: alternating work responsibilities, frequent changes of activity, relief from daily routine, opportunities to shift priorities as new interests arise.

How this plays out:

You might already be picturing the scenario: John has just embarked on editing a wedding – a “long-term” project on which he is usually able to focus for vast stretches of time. He likes to edit through until he’s done. Tash cannot fathom how he can possibly concentrate the whole day on the same task (she admires it but also wonders how this can be healthy) and she tends to suggest changes: “Don’t you need a break?”, “Let’s go for a walk”, “Can you help me with x, y, z for a minute?”, “Here talk to Canon for a second while I do this.” Tash blissfully believes she is offering him some variety in a LONG BORING day while John’s stress level rises with each interruption.

This happened quite a bit in Canon’s first year because it was also John’s first year of working from home. Since I need lots of variety and relief of routine, I assumed John probably did too. Not true! Turns out he needed to be protected from interruptions so he could complete the tasks he had started. Initially, I thought he was just trying to get out of helping with Canon by working constantly. John felt like I was trying to sabotage his work.

Looking at our Change scores helped us both to realize there wasn’t something “wrong” with the other person and that neither of us was trying to purposely annoy the other person with our usual behaviors. We were able to discuss ideas for solutions more practically and with less emotional turmoil.

While he still gets interrupted (“Help! Poop disaster!) I try to stay aware of interruptions and keep them more minimal when I know he’s concentrating on a long project. At the same time, John sees that I need alternating responsibilities and we continue to try to work out how we can best divvy up parenting and photography work.

That’s just one tiny piece of all the material the Birkman Method reports contain. If you’re intrigued – there’s still time to enter my giveaway here: The Birkman Preview report covers all eleven behavioral components and more. Or head over to my Birkman services page to learn more.

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.

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!


In which my business goes “live”

After much delay, I finally have almost everything put together on my website and feel ready to announce that I’m open for business. My Calling IQ has become more than a blog. A week ago, I got my business license and today I finally decided to quit tweaking my website and officially hang out my shingle.

So what am I doing?

  • I am now offering consulting services to individuals, couples, and corporations using The Birkman Method. Read all about it here and see what I offer here.
  • I am available for speaking engagements and seminars/workshops on topics like calling, work & faith, knowing yourself etc. You can read more about this aspect of my work here.

Why am I doing this?

  • I want to be part of transforming the work experience and the workplace for people just like me. I have seen over and over again how applicable and relevant the Birkman Method material is to real life situations at work. The information in the Birkman reports is actionable in a way that most personality tests aren’t.
  • While writing a book on calling was great, I want to provide people with opportunities to interact with me directly (whether at a speaking engagement or workshops) in the hopes that sharing my experiences will help them on their own journey of pursuing their callings.
  • I’ve wanted to run my own business for a long time now and it feels like the right time for our family. Doing this work would allow me to contribute to our income while still being at home with Canon. I’m ready for the work-at-home-mom challenge.

I would love your help.

Do you know someone who is struggling with career frustration? Friends or family who aren’t sure what direction they should be taking? Acquaintances or colleagues that are stressed or burnt-out? Maybe you’re struggling with a manager, co-worker or your whole work team? Maybe you know event planners, chapel coordinators, retreat facilitators or other people who are often looking for speakers to bring in for events and meetings. I would love to work with anyone in these scenarios and:

I need you to spread the word. Emailing your friends and sharing my website on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or LinkedIn or Pinterest (have I missed any?) would mean a lot to me.

Want to test out my services before you start recommending them to your friends? I’m offering a two week 20% off promotion on any services purchased to celebrate my launch (ends Friday, June 7th). Simply enter the promo code “LAUNCHPARTY” at checkout!

Seriously friends, it would mean a lot to me if you took the time to share my information with anyone you think could benefit.

Have questions? Leave a comment!

Accidentally Making Homemade Mayo

It’s been my week to cook again. I’m delighted to tell you that not only did I make the mayo in the title (more on that in a second), I also made my first whole chicken and homemade chicken stock this week. So, it’s been a bit of an adventurous week for me. But this post isn’t really about cooking, it’s about a *cough* absolutely brilliant *cough cough* parallel or illustration that came to mind in the process of accidentally making homemade mayo.

Homemade MayoSo, today I was going to make avocado tuna boats for lunch. Didn’t sound hard. The ingredient list was basic. I just started following Step 1, putting an egg, apple cider vinegar, some mustard and salt in our food processor. Then I read the next bit of instructions and suddenly realized I was about to make mayo! This might not seem like a big deal for many of you. You might not have read a few blog posts about how difficult it is to make homemade mayo and how easily you can mess it up and how it often doesn’t turn out quite right. You might not have written off making homemade mayo as too likely to fail.

Needless to say, I suddenly felt very nervous. But the instructions just seemed so basic and relaxed and I had already put all those ingredients in the bowl – it seemed like a waste not to go ahead and try it. So I did. And it actually turned into mayo! It wasn’t quite as fluffy but that wasn’t a big deal considering it was going straight into a tuna mixture.

Ok, so that’s the story. And what are the brilliant parallels I want to draw from this experience? Maybe you can guess:

1. We often don’t try things because they sound too hard.

Sometimes, we overthink things. We read way too many reader comments, overload on variables and possibilities and ultimately discard ideas because we feel overwhelmed (this is often me researching recipes by the way). But it applies to all kinds of decisions in life – projects we want to do, ways to volunteer, whether or not to adopt or foster children, where to give our money. Even much more basic decisions about our consumer choices or activities often fall by the wayside because we think changing just sounds “too hard.”

2. Sometimes it’s better to not know the destination before starting on the journey because if we did, we would never go.

Which brings me back (as I feel like so many things do) to Lord of the Rings. Did you see that coming? Yup – I’m talking about Frodo again. Initially when he agrees to take the ring out of the Shire, he thinks he’s only traveling to Bree to meet Gandalf and then figure things out. If he had known he would take the ring all the way into Mordor, he might have never agreed to the journey at all.

This is a big reminder to me that our desire for certainty gets in the way. We want to know the whole plan before we start. We get frustrated with God when he doesn’t “show” us where we should be going. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe we’d never agree to start the journey if we knew each step before we took it. By digging in our heels and refusing to go, we would never find out if we could do it. I think the courage only comes in the moment, not before. The resilience to continue, the wisdom for decisions, the skills we need to learn and grow – these are supplied as needed, on a “give us this day our daily bread” kind of basis.

Which leads me to my conclusion:

3. Just do it!

You learn by trying. Faith becomes real in action.

(Obviously for those of you that tend to be the opposite of me and leap before you look, maybe your job is to stop and assess a little more before you jump into action – nuance, people, one message does not fit all!).

Have any epiphanies of your own in ordinary moments this week?

Mid-March Check in

Just a quick check in for a blog post today – can’t believe March is already half over. It’s been busy as you can maybe tell from the fact that I haven’t blogged in 10 days. Saturday through Tuesday last week, my parents came to visit (or maybe we should say the grandparents came to visit Canon!) and we had a great time all together. I also had fun showing my mom how to make some of the recipes I’ve done recently and help her with her website (she’s starting an organizing business!).

March visitThen, Thursday I got to speak in chapel at Shoreline Christian School (John graduated from there 10 years ago now). I’m planning on doing more of that in the future so it was great to have this opportunity and get my feet wet again in the world of speaking.

I spoke on how your calling and the call to share the gospel are connected. First, I defined calling as “God calling you to himself through Jesus Christ, and then calling you to serve others. Your call to serve others will be unique and play out in a variety of ways throughout your life.” Then I looked at two ways that calling and the call to share the gospel go together. First, I think it’s easier to share your faith when you’re pursuing your calling in all areas of your life and second, that sharing the gospel will happen through your other gifts (not just verbally). I shared the stories of Gutenberg and the printing press and Charlotte Elliott’s hymn-writing (she wrote “Just as I am”). I got some positive feedback from the teachers so I hope the students got something out of it as well.

Next week is going to be busy and probably exhausting so I would love extra prayer as I take my Birkman course. And pray for John and Canon that they’ll do fine together for eight hours a day for three days. Thankfully we’ll be staying with John’s parents so they’ll get some grandparent time as well!

With all these things going on, further organizing projects have been on hold at our house but my mom has promised to help us tackle the garage when she comes back for Canon’s first birthday next month. I have also tried a few more recipes but I’ll just share this one since we loved it:

Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

Besides all that I have been trying to get through some library books before they’re due again. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Green-McCreight

Families Where Grace is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health by Gary Taubes

I’m not going to get through the last one before it’s due but what I’ve read has been fascinating. I recommend all three books.

What are you up in March? What are you reading? 

What I’m doing in March: Starting a Business!

Life somehow got pretty busy this last week. I was planning on finishing up my “What’s Wrong with Work Today?” series yesterday but it looks like that might still be a couple days. Instead, I wanted to make a little announcement. It’s probably not technically accurate to say I’m actually starting a business this month, but I will be preparing to start one!

This time of year is always exciting for me. About three years post-college, I started noticing a creativity pattern in my year. January would roll around and I would start thinking. February would show up and I would feel antsy, throwing around ideas, wondering about new projects. By March or April, the ideas would solidify and bam! I would go into full project mode for a month or so. One year, I wrote a screenplay, initiated planning a women’s retreat, and developed a six-week small group curriculum. Another year, I wrote the whole first draft to my book. Last year was a bit different and the big project was having Canon at the end of April.

Business So this year, the January idea itch hit me again and I had a lot of options floating around. But the one that got me most excited was the possibility of becoming a Certified Birkman Consultant. Mid-February, after lots of discussion, we took the plunge and signed me up for the certification course that happens in just two weeks!

I first learned about The Birkman Method when my parents both took the assessment and suggested my sister and I also take it. I think we had just graduated from high school. Not only was it helpful for our relationship dynamics, but also for thinking about our college direction and career goals.

In college I interned at Campus Crusade (now Power to Change) in Canada where all staff members are required to take it. John and I were able to have an hour of pre-marital counseling with a Consultant who ran a Peer-to-Peer “Differences to Watch” report. The marketing team I worked with spent a whole day doing team development based on our Birkman reports.

I’ll wax eloquent on more of the details later on, but I’ve found it to be one of the best personality “tests” I’ve ever taken and I’m excited to be able to use it alongside much of the research I’ve been doing in the last few years about following our callings in life.

Consulting, speaking, workshops, seminars, team development, one-on-one mentoring – the possibilities are endless and I have to admit, I’m as terrified as I am excited. Investing in this certification means I have to actually do something with it once I’m done the course. It will mean redoing my website to include my services, booking clients and learning how to be a work-at-home mom. It appears that this year my project won’t just be a hobby or a personal project . . . it will finally be a business. This seems appropriate as I feel like I’m always trying to help other people start their own businesses.

businessAnd it’s not just my business. John and I both have realized in the last few weeks that we need to working together more effectively on Crozier Photography as well. Canon is almost one years old and it’s time for me to be more involved again. I miss going on shoots with him and, you’d never guess it, but I tend to be the better sales person in our wedding consultations. You can pray for us as we experiment with organizing our days and splitting up tasks and responsibilities between parenting and business and housework. It’s going to be fun!

What are you doing this month or this year? Got any big plans or exciting ideas?