Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Values Response

After talking through simplification of my life with my executive coach- the next step was really looking at what I truly value in my life. See my post from 8.30.2010. I am so thankful for my coach as she always brings some great perspective to my thoughts. After looking through my values, we began processing through what this really means.

Knowledge- Maybe it is not really the knowledge although this fits right in with my theme of Input. Maybe I need the mental stimulation- new challenges! To me knowledge brings value! Stimulation may come through spiritual growth or intellectual growth.

How can I do this in my everyday life? Add new elements to those tasks or events which I do on a regular basis! Continue reading! Try new things! Talk with others! Blog!

Anytime you begin to look at your values, the inner critic inside will begin to come out! As my coach says- the inner saboteur! In the case of knowledge my inner critic instantly says "I don't have time!" Or "it's never going to happen".

The danger in not honoring our values is that we can never live in true satisfaction and instead live in drudgery. What knowledge will bring to my life is stimulation not stagnation! Confidence! Conversation starters! Soul food! Joy and excitement! Satisfaction. Sharpening and stretching! Out of all these great things the overflow will be passion, connection to others and perhaps I can even help others!



My coach sent me a great article from The New York Times titled "But Will it Make You Happy?" Great read! In light of the current economic times, this really hit home. With my husband going through several lay-off's simplifying my life sounds great! According to the article, consumers are moving from a mind-set where we "buy without regard" to a more "calculated consumption". The interesting result is that the "practices that consumers have adopted in response to the economic crisis ultimately could- as a raft of new research suggests- make them happier". Maybe we need to simplify! Apparently while "the current round of stinginess may simply be a response to the economic downturn, some analysts say consumers may also be permanently adjusting their spending based on what they've discovered about what truly makes them happy or fulfilled".

According to recent studies, the only spending that really affects happiness is spending on leisure and services- not spending on consumable material goods. When we spend on leisure we generally so with others- which in turn strengthens social bonds. Belic a filmmaker making a documentary called "Happy" has found from traveling around the globe that "the one single trait that's common among every single person who is happy is strong relationships".

So I guess the bottom line is- spend less OR if you are going to spend money spend on leisure that can be shared with others! The questions that came up in coaching after spending time processing through this article are: what do I truly value? Stability? Security? How does this article fit with my Christian worldview?

Awww. Always more questions than answers!


Strengths Response

After listening and digesting what several people close to me had to say about my themes- it was good to relook and see how I possibly could better utilize my strengths in some areas.

Woo: Use Woo by connecting! Every weekend turn the volume way up! When by myself with my family or with a few coworkers I need to turn the Woo volume way down! Turn the volume down as so as not to frustrate everyone around me. Also, Woo can make me feel like I am not being productive- need to turn down the volume of Woo at times so that I don't frustrate myself! I need to fell like I got something accomplished! DO not be afraid to use Woo however! I need to recognize that my ability to have people love me is valuable. I need to use this to make things happen but I need to partner with someone who has the theme of Relator or Empathy theme as these colleges can continue the relationships that I have cultivated.

Input: I need to be in the know- recognize this and don't let it frustrate myself! I feel like sometimes I am just a nosey person. Recognize this as Input and I need to keep posted on the news within the organization. Utilize this information when in meetings with others. Play scrabble because it helps me use new words! Subscribe to Word of the Day- it's o.k. to enjoy learning. It's not strange! :)

Positivity: Have I used my Positivity to cover my vulnerability? Do I try to by happy all the time and not share my hurts and beliefs because I want others to see me always happy? I can use Positivity as a mask. However, recognize that this can be a great theme! I need to remember to increase the recognition I give to others and try to tailor it to each person's need instead of just being cheerful- look at individuals. This can be a draining theme- I can become quickly sapped of energy by cynics or simply by always trying to be happy and positive.

Context: I must understand the past in order to move forward. Not sure of this always and in some situations I simply want to move forward and not necessarily tear apart old hurts. However with work, I do make better decisions when I understand the past. Keep reading history- it will help me gain insights to understand the present! So glad I love to read!

Arranger: I need to develop successful strategies for getting things done. This is where I get frustrated with my productivity. I do well in the ministry environment where there is routines but also a lot of different activities every day. I need this complex work environment but also need to have strategy is place to be productive in the constant changing environment.

(All theme statements taken from Clifton StengthsFinder published by The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ)


Strengths? or Weaknesses?

The next step in coaching was really talking through some of my strengths. If you have not read "Now, Discover Your Strengths" by Buckingham and Clifton I would highly recommend this book. Not only does it help you learn about your own unique strengths but it will help you learn about those around you as well. This has been so beneficial to our team. It is wonderful to know o.k. this person is really strong in this area- this would be a great task for this person. Yes, sometimes it may be a weakness as well! We first looked at our strengths back in 2008 as an entire ministry staff. Since then, in several different staff days, we have looked at what these strengths bring to the team and how to utilize our strengths as a team.

Individually, I know that my themes are Woo, Input, Positivity, Context and Arranger (as discovered on the StrengthsFinder Profile). However, how can my talents become strengths and be utilized for success not only in my personal life but in my ministry as well.

With this in mind, my coach had me give a copy of all my themes to several people close to me in my work place as well as my husband. The idea was to have those close to me highlight any key words or phrases that stuck out to them in the descriptions of my themes. This is a difficult assignment as it opens up conversations about how those around you really see you. Not always easy to hear! But I did talk through my themes w/ four people close to me. It was definitely a win. A couple of people including my husband did let me know how they could see some of my strengths become weaknesses. This was good to hear!

The following is a synopsis of those statements that stood out to the four people close to me in each theme along with the feedback.

Highlights: meeting new people, strangers rarely intimidate, drawn to strangers and want to learn about them and finds some area of common interest, once a connection is made want to wrap it up and move on, there are no strangers, only friends that have not been met yet.

Comments: You love talking with anybody. You can talk to anyone. You capture them get to know them briefly and then are good to go. They fall in love with you. Woo is so your mentality. "Work" is anywhere! This works well with meeting new volunteers or 1x families and working with other staff and departments.

Highlights: You collect information- words, facts, books. You collect it because it interests you. Your mind finds so many thing interesting. Like to add more information to your archives.Keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff aways. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable. Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people.

Comments: Love studying and reading. Love to read articles, books, attend conferences and go on Facebook. See this here at the office with ministry- collecting books, articles, just getting any and all info you can so that you can read it and have it. You know and read so much. You always want to be in the know of whats going on. Your shelves in your office are testament- tons of books.

Highlights: Generous with praise, quick to smile, always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. lighthearted. People want to be around you. Rarely dragged down. Enthusiasm is contagious. Inject drama into every project. Conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one's sense of humor.

Comments: See this in meetings. You are always smiling and live life like nothing is every wrong. Your positive attitude is contagious especially your smile. you are bubbly and uplifting of other's . People do love to be around you because of your outlook on life. Positivity always at work but not necessarily at home. Even if you do open up and share a difficult situation- you are smiling and fighting back tears- you seriously look happy crying.

Highlights: Look back to understand the present. The present is unstable. The earlier time was simpler time. You make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven't seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.

Comments: While in banking, earlier time was structured- could easily use Franklin Planner but now in ministry calendar is subject to change at any moment. Your first time through something, you lack confidence- this is gained with repetition. I can see this flowing into your input- they work well together. I have seen you want to know where, or the philosophy behind or wanting to know the history of program's/event's that we do. Need to know the "why" and not just the idea. You want to know back story.

Highlights: Are a conductor. Enjoy managing all the variables, aligning and realigning until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible. Figure out the best way to get things done. Effective flexibility. Always looking for the perfect configuration. Mull over the right combination of people and resources to accomplish a new project. Jump into the confusion. Devise new options, hunt for new paths of least resistance. Figure out new partnerships.

Comments: Constantly rearranging and managing- see micromanaging at home. Effective flexibility when you have control or it makes sense. See this when building the structure of a program. I do see you always trying to figure out if the way something is done is the best way to do it.

(All statements from themes taken from the Clifton StrengthsFinder published by the Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ)


Monday, November 22, 2010

Vulnerability Response

My coach and I talked through my response to being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is unveiling, showing emotions and processing with others. Not only should it be a value to myself but it is definitely a value to those around me. If I am not vulnerable several things happen in that relationship: those around me don't think I am being authentic with them, you know me but I don't or can't know you.

Do I need to be vulnerable? Maybe I don't feel it is necessary but those around me may NEED it. Maybe they need to know my hurts, weaknesses so that I can be a helpful resource for others. Can my vulnerability provide a resource for others? If so, then I should be willing to share more! It would then not be about myself at all but about others.

Why is it problematic for me to be vulnerable? Is it dangerous? Because my emotions may get out of control? Is that o.k.? Why not show a full range of expressions/emotions? Am I not willing to look at what this may bring to me as well as others? I may hurt people. Maybe those around will will see flesh in me or see me as not perfect and as a sinner. Maybe I won't win people over with my woo if they see who I really am? Does vulnerability mean a dark place? Scary? Unknown? Do I really need to share everything? Why rock the boat? Is this a learned behaviour?

The cost of not being vulnerable may outweigh the "maybe's" If I have no place to be vulnerable then all of the "stuff" bottled up inside will ooze out or possible explode. Isn't total honesty freeing? Isn't it o.k. to show my true self? We are sinners! Do people see me as stoic if I can never be vulnerable? I will pay a cost if I can not or will not be who I really I am. It is a strength to be a tangible human.

Look at Jonathan and David's friendship. They were totally vulnerable to each other! David's life depended upon his vulnerability with Jonathan. What did they say about each other and to each other? What did they gain from being completely vulnerable? This would be a great study to do!


Coaching- Reflection Exercise

Loved the first coaching session. Now I'm gung ho. Let's go! What can we change? What new opportunity awaits me?

Aww. But first a my coach asks me to do a reflection exercise- listen to my inner voice- what is it really telling me? Find a quiet place. Don't fall asleep. Thankfully, I have an office with a door that I can close. Listen to the voice in my gut- the Holy Spirit. Meditate on specific questions and then journal. O.k. I can do this. I like to journal. Quiet spot- got that. No excuses.

What is really important to me?
The cliche answer would be God and family in that order. But is that necessarily how I really think and feel? Not sure. Being home last week was very difficult w/ the kids all week. At times I wanted to strangle them and they can be real brats. However, the older they get and I get, I see bits of my husband and myself in them. Usually these bits are behaviours that I don't like. But I really need to focus on the parts that are great. Both kids are very smart! Both are very musical. Love that! So thankful they don't have difficulty learning. This is just two right off the top. Soooo love that they love God and express this easily and w/o being prompted.
My kids are very important to me in the fact that I want them to be happy in life, be successful in whatever they want to do, and live a life that follows the value's that are right according to God's plan.
I think I've gotten to a place in my life where I am over the same and guilt I put upon myself if I live my walk w/ God how I think I should be- or the way I think others think I should. My walk w/ God is very personal. It is going to be very different than anyone else's walk with God.
I am so very thankful for my work. I really love what I do. There is really not many days I don't want to come into work. Sooo thankful for that! I can remember the stress of my life when I worked in banking. Yuck!

Is this the life I want to live?
Yes, for the most part I am living the life I want to live. Of course there are some things I would love to change. For example, I need to be healthier physically. With both parents and an older sister already having heart surgeries, I need to think ahead to this! I don't want to afraid to be old. Right now, I really don't want to be 60-70-80 years old. I want to be healthy and happy with my life so when I get there, it's o.k.
I would love to be financially stable. I hate my husband getting laid off. This is hard. I want to work because I want to work not because I have to. That is frustrating. I don't want to be 60 and have no retirement savings or still be in the place we currently are financially.

How do I really want to live my life?
Happily. I want to be content w/ where I am and what I have. No, I will never have a big house. But that's o.k. because that would just be more cleaning I would have to do! :) I want to be kind. I want to be a good mom- one who is there for my kids and can connect with them but also discipline when necessary. I want to be a wife who is supportive of my husband and doesn't always question him.
I would love to be in a place professionally where I feel really stable. With the cuts recently it was a bit scary. I want to be a right hand to my supervisor. I want to be able to help parents and volunteers along on their journey's. I love my job. I want to do it well so that all those around me know me as a person who can be relied upon to do a great job with whatever the task at hand is.

What gives passions, meaning, and purpose to my life?
Learning! Laughter! Doing a job well. Orderliness. Friendships that I know are real.

How can I make even more of a difference?
That is a great question! Over the past couple of years I have really retreated. Once home I don't really want to entertain or talk on the phone, or do anything outside of family activities. I just feel worn out a lot of the time. DO I have to sit and listen to a needy neighbor for hours in order to make a difference? I don't like spinning my wheels for nothing and when people refuse to change it frustrates me even more.

How can I live connected to these inner values?
Not sure. I don't want take on "new projects". I'm worn out dong what I do already. Maybe if I look at coaching from the viewpoint of getting help then that is of the most value to me- I can then maybe live connected to my inner values? What are these values? What is really important to me?

Specific skill I would like to improve-
Communication skills. Interpersonal relationships to peers and subordinates. Productivity. Organization of time and priorities. Use my skills and strengths better. I can easily have relationships but how can I make those around me not feel used by my wooing? How can I use my love of learning and input to improve my skill set in my ministry?


Coaching? First session.

In March of this year, I had the opportunity to begin seeing an executive coach. To begin coaching I needed to fill-out a pre-coaching questionnaire.
-What's motivating me to get an executive coach? Encouragement from my immediate supervisor was my answer. (Obviously I was not to sure at this point if I really wanted or needed coaching?)
-What challenges do I see may interfere with the coaching? The only challenge I see is myself as learning about what I need to change/adjust is never easy. (At least I was willing to admit that I don't think change is always easy!)
-What do I want from coaching? A fresh perspective of my leadership and how I can be a better leader! (Really? Is that what I really want? That seems pretty broad. A better leader? A better person? Do I really want to change or am I happy with the status qua?)
-What would others notice to be different about me if I got what I wanted from coaching? More production? Hard to say but there is things such as events that I would love to do but haven't done yet. (All outward performance! Beyond outward results would those around me notice anything different from an inward perspective? Or do I just want outward performance?)
-How does becoming a better leader impact or change my workplace? A new zeal is always encouraging for those around me. (Wow! That is a cop-out. A new zeal what does that mean exactly?)
-What specific areas do I want to work on in coaching? (O.k. this was after my coach helped me really get specific- she has a great way of helping me to communicate succinctly!)
*Developing other people like Jesus did.
*Recruit, care, train volunteers. Strategic ministry plan for volunteer development. Have I forgotten why it's so important to have trained, inspired volunteers? Is there a good system in place for caring for volunteers? Encouraging them verbally? Training? Encouraged in their faith?
*Supervise employees better.
*Safety. Essential training! Get the message across to parents and volunteers that safety is important not only because the outward essentials of kids not getting hurt- but an unsafe environment can actually hamper a child or an entire family's spiritual health. Safety is rooted in the knowledge that I want kids to keep growing in Christ! It is important to have a safe environment in order for this to happen!
-What are important qualities to have in my coach? Directness and wisdom. (Yes, sometimes directness isn't pleasant but don't I want a coach that actually will tell me like it really is and not a deluded picture of myself? Absolutely!)

After completing the pre-coaching questionnaire, my coach gave me what I can expect from her and what she expects from me. What I really liked in this discussion was the explanation of what a coach really is- not a counselor! A counselor will look back- back into previous life experiences and events from the past. Coaching is not therapy. A coach is not your "best friend". A coach is someone who helps you look ahead to the future- plan future goals and opportunities. A coach will work with me somewhat like an apprentice- what works well, what doesn't work- now let's look ahead and work to fix whatever needs to change. The agenda must come from me. That is a new experience for me! I get to choose what to "work" on. It's up to me if coaching is effective or a waste of both my coach's and my time.

Reading "Getting More from Executive Coaching" by Lauren Keller Johnson given to me by my coach was a great help in putting this entire coaching experience into perspective. Johnson states that "a skilled executive coach can be invaluable in helping you surmount the obstacles that corporate life throws before you and make the most of the opportunities that cross your path". I was feeling a bit uncertain about coaching but this article let me know that my organization offered coaching to me because it sees me "worthy of substantial investment".

Johnson stated three things that must happen in order for coaching to be effective. I really resonated with two of these: identify my coaching goals and adopt a learning mindset. Thankfully my coach had me do the pre-coaching questionnaire which really began addressing my coaching goals. I love to learn so adopting a learning mindset isn't difficult. But am I looking to improve specific skills? Or is there a particular situation I need help navigating through? Or am I looking to position myself for a different job opportunity? In my case, I really just want to improve my specific skill set. If I am to be a substantial value to my ministry/workplace then I must be willing to learn and change! As Johnson puts it: "Expect to be challenged to find solutions, not be to given them. Look to your coach to give you fresh perspectives and help you assess the best options for important decisions. One of the most valuable services a coach can provide is a wholesale reframing of a situation you thought you'd examined from every possible angle".

O.K. I'm ready! Let's begin this journey of executive coaching! Thank you for this great opportunity to better myself in order to better my ministry to those around me!