Make Way for the Good Stuff

“Dethatching” lawns refer to the mechanical removal from a lawn of the layer of dead turfgrass tissue known as “thatch.” This residue is bad for your grass, as it keeps water and nutrients from seeping down to grassroots. 

Source: The Spruce


What’s good for the grass is good for you and me.

We all have stuff that builds up inside. That could be resentments, negative emotions or self-talk, or just some habits that no longer serve us very well.

That layer of “dead tissue” is not only no longer useful, it’s in the way of those things that will make a positive difference to your well-being, your emotional and mental, and maybe even physical health. Maybe that’s forgiveness of an old wrong or a dose of self-confidence, or the realization of a core strength or even an earlier alarm setting to get a jump on the day.

I wish we could just add the good stuff on top of the bad stuff and have it sort out the right way. But it doesn’t work like that. The bad stuff is a stubborn blockade that must be pulled down and tossed aside for the good stuff to do its work.

For my lawn that means getting out a heavy-duty rake or renting a piece of equipment that digs down and pulls out the dead layer beneath the surface. For you and me, that process might look like some combination of quality conversations with people we trust, honest feedback about our strengths and weaknesses, the creation of a development plan, seeing a therapist or coach, digging into helpful reading material, getting regular exercise, periods of quiet reflection, and so on.

The good stuff will find its way to your roots if you make the space it needs. That’s the best and most challenging part of spring.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

Why not today?

Today is a perfect day to put together your leadership development plan. Here’s how:

Define your values. Type “values clarification” into any search engine and you’ll find plenty of options. Once you’ve selected your top five, or even top three, take some time to define them in language that is meaningful to you and then come up with concrete examples of how you live them out.

Describe your strengths. Many people think highly of the StrengthsFinder tool but my preference is to reflect on moments in life when you were at your best and then consider what you were doing, how you felt, and the impact that you had. Those stories will be rich with evidence of your very best abilities.

Assess your weaknesses. Those strengths stories may also carry seeds of information about your weak spots, or the ways you regularly get yourself into trouble. If you’re energetic and full of ideas, chances are you do a lot of talking and perhaps not as much listening. If you’re a catalyst for change, chances are you leave people behind once in a while. If you’re a detailed planner, you might be prone to forget the big picture.

Clarify your aspirations. This is tough but essential. What do you really want? How clearly can you illustrate that in words and on paper? It can be hard to own our highest possible vision – because, of course, what if we don’t make it? Own it anyway, because no one else can or will do it or you.

Get feedback about the gap between where you are and what you want. Honest conversations about all of the above with people whom you respect are worth their weight in gold.

Decide on a first step. Not the whole thing, just the next thing.

Solicit support from your manager, a coach, a peer or a great friend. Gain the commitment of some great people to stay in the conversation with you and then get busy.

This sounds like a lot because it is a lot. It’s also an awesome way to take responsibility for where you are and where you’re going. And today, like every day,  is a great day to get started.

No fooling.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

How to stop feeling stressed

Let go of the past. It’s over. It happened. You’re still here. If there are apologies to be made, make them. If there are repairs to complete, complete them. And then, let it go.

A personal example: early in my present business venture I completely mishandled an opportunity for a paid speaking engagement. I bungled the proposal, fumbled through the negotiation and then, carrying all of that anxiety into the room with me on the day of the event, gave a talk that could only be described as, “Meh.” For a good while after that my personal disappointment and a heavy dose of shame made me tentative to reach out for new opportunities. It was essential but not easy to transition from feeling like a failure to using the experience to help me move ahead.

A practical, leadership example: a normally reliable team member shows up unprepared for a key presentation. Their sub-par performance reflects poorly on you, your team and the project you are leading. You give them the necessary feedback, you discuss the factors that contributed to the situation and you create accountability for a better outcome next time. And you don’t hold it against them for the next 6 months. And you don’t bring it up in a performance review 10 months from now. That would be ridiculous because it’s extra stress and mind share that does nothing to benefit you or them. You expect better next time and then you move on.

Let go of the future. What you think will happen will likely not happen. Prepare, practice and plan all you like, just do it with a mind toward a more sufficient present rather than toward an unknown future.

A personal example: I eat oatmeal for breakfast most days to keep my arteries healthy. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a heart attack some day (a future I can’t predict). It does mean that I’m not going to worry about it because between my regular oatmeal and a few other life style choices I’m giving myself peace of mind in the present.

A practical, leadership example: spend more time with your high performers than with your low performers. Doing so won’t prevent them from moving on to bigger and better things (a future you can’t predict). It will give you peace of mind in the present because you will know that if/when they do leave it won’t be because you ignored them, something that happens all too often

Let go of the past and let go of the future. The present demands and deserves your best attention.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

Soften the Edges

IMG_6309

No one goes through life without a few weeds.

When one of my more insistent ones – impatience, doubt, smallness – attempts to reach maturity, daring to put my imperfections on full display, I am quick to uproot it.

The resulting facade is appealingly neat and tidy. It is also cold and unnatural. In that state, my appearance of “having it all together” not only doesn’t work in my favor, it makes me unapproachable.

Who wants to associate with someone they can’t relate to? When we know about our own weeds, we are on the lookout for other’s because that’s how we know they’re human, too.

The alternative is not to let the weeds overrun the garden, of course, but rather to help them coexist in a manner appropriate to their importance. A natural or organic garden is one in which a wide variety of species are permitted to grow, the less desirable ones never fully eliminated but always held in check by the quality of the conditions and the thoughtful attention of the gardener.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

What is your “more”?

You’ve got more to learn, more room to grow. We all do.

What does that mean for you? Do you know how to define and describe it? Are you willing to?

Yes? That’s outstanding.

Now, a harder question:

Do you know the patterns you have artfully created and that you dutifully follow to keep you from getting after it?

Of course you do, it’s just that naming it as a pattern – admitting that you have been seduced by the status quo – creates the discomfort that precedes all pattern interruptions.

All living systems are learning systems. If you keep learning, growing, developing you get to keep living. Not surviving but living.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

What they want

“They” are your team. You are their leader. This is what they want:

Meaning. Also known as “purpose” and “vision.” When they say, “I want to be part of something larger than myself!” this is what they’re talking about.

Trust. I once heard a leader say, “They have to earn my trust.” The only acceptable response to that statement is, no.

You recruit them and then hire them because you believe they have what it takes to make you and the team better, to help you fulfill your purpose and vision. And then they show up and have to earn your trust?

Your job is to earn their trust, every day. The trust that comes when you care for them, when you provide them the resources they need to be successful, when you care for them, when you clear roadblocks for them, when you surround them with great people, when you care for them…you get the idea.

Freedom. They are smart (because you hire smart people) so let them work. Make job expectations clear, the parameters of the project explicit, and work hours flexible. Give them space within a defined context and then get out of the way. And stop having so many meetings. Meetings are killing your culture, reducing feelings of freedom and corroding trust.

Development. Everyone has a development plan, a roadmap to their future, their definition of “more.” You coach them with feedback, powerful questions and accountability for progress. You give them resources, study groups, speakers, coaches, whatever is needed to cultivate and catalyze the learning. This is about creatively answering the most important question in front of you: How do we equip ourselves for change? Yes, it’s expensive but not nearly as expensive as filling all of the open positions that will exist when they leave to find these things someplace else.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Disproportionate Influence

If you are a leader, you have influence that is disproportionate to that of the people you lead. By definition, you have the responsibility to see and do that which is necessary to help your team members be successful.

You are tasked with establishing a vision, providing resources, negotiating roadblocks, offering guidance, recognizing accomplishments and setting both a behavioral and emotional standard from which all others take their cue.

It’s absurd to think that this kind of influence – this level of responsibility – can be achieved and maintained without an equally disproportionate commitment to continuous learning.

A leader of any merit knows this and acts accordingly. There is no more valuable currency than that of continuous learning.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Poem for a Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning Moments
{Patricia Gale}

Gently my eyes open and I whispered
Thank you for I can see

My feet moving slowly one in front of the other
Though my body stiff from the labor of work
I replied… thank you for your mercy

My mind recoiling the tasks that require my attention
My heart seems to fill with the beauty of the day
And I praise you for what you have given me

The house is silent
No words are heard
Little feet that once sounded like an army
Now long gone and marching to independence and their own battles
I wipe a crystal tear and thank you for the love you placed within my life

In the coolness of an autumn’s morn
I sit a listen to the Sunday morning symphony
A gift from You created by your loving hands
I hear a soft gentle voice…” to everything there is a season and by My grace there is a reason”
Admiration and thankfulness fill my soul
My lips quiver with soft words, I am unworthy, but yet You love me
Thank you Father for this day


 

Somebody is Always Watching

It’s easy to believe, in a world of increased devotion to personal devices and a status quo of extreme busyness, that nobody is paying attention to what we do and how we do it.

Somebody is always watching. Creepy though that may sound at one level, it is an imperative reminder that the quality of our engagement – the dedication (or lack thereof) and attention (or lack thereof) we bring to our work – is noticed and evaluated.

This is especially true for leaders who, by title alone, are appropriately under constant scrutiny. In the same way we might say of a child that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” we can notice employees who understandably (if sometimes regrettably) use their leader’s behavior as a guide.

I notice it in the classroom; students who arrive on time, students who sit upright or even forward in anticipation of what’s to come, students who expect to engage and be engaged.

I notice it in service situations; employees who make an effort to connect, to be genuine, to bring something personal to the interaction, and those who go through the motions, perhaps with a smile but one that is practiced, not pleasing.

At my best, I notice it in myself; when I am present and connected and when my energy and attention is flagging. When I do catch myself at anything other than my “best” I either correct it quickly or let others in on how I am feeling. I assume that they’ve already noticed.

An appealing practice that I think would do a lot of good without a ton of effort is to call people out when we notice their thoughtful engagement.

This happened to me once and it was an exceptional moment. I assumed the worst was coming, that I was going to be highlighted as a negative example, but it was just the opposite and it made an impression on me that I will never forget.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.
{William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida}


Yes, I blatantly stole an epic quote from the Star Wars pantheon as a title for this post. Between Yoda and Shakespeare it’s tough to go wrong and I prefer to save my energy rather than fruitlessly attempt to improve upon their genius.

In both cases they are extolling us to make the shift from a passive to an active approach to life.

Passivity is a practice, a habit, that is employed to soften the blow.

“I will try to make it to your event” is what you say when you have no intention of attending but don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.

“I will try to learn how to play the piano” is what you say when you are scared that you actually won’t be able to…or won’t have the fortitude to stick with it when it get’s hard.

Why does it seem so bold, or callous even, to say “I will not attend the event. I have other priorities right now”? It’s true, it’s honest, and it allows the other person to clear the mental space that is otherwise spent on a bunch of “Will she or won’t she?” energy.

Why does it seem so bold, or brazen even, to say “I am going to learn how to play the piano”? It speaks of commitment to a clear choice that removes the mystery of “Will I be able to?”  and replaces it with “I’m going to find out.” And, if it’s really not your thing, now you know and you can move on and stop wondering about it. More mental space opened up…what a relief!

No discussion, even a brief one, of passivity is complete without mention of passive aggressive behavior which in classic ironic fashion ends up feeling even more aggressive to the recipient – a hundred tiny daggers – than if they just aggressively said their piece – one swing of the sword. It’s yet another example of passivity being employed to soften the blow and filling up our available mental and emotional space with needless anxiety.

Be clear, be open, be bold. Other people can handle it, including yourself. Your assumption that they cannot – that you cannot – is no longer worthy of you.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.