Category Archives for "leadership"

How To Connect With Your Team Members

HOW TO CONNECTWITH YOURTEAM MEMBERS

Do you feel connected to your team?

Several months ago, Matt McWilliams encouraged his readers to establish and maintain weekly one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. At the time, I was contemplating what I could do to connect with my team on a deeper level.

As an operations manager in the construction industry, I’m challenged to balance my time as I’m responsible to make sure my group is operating as planned. I meet with my team members monthly on an individual basis to review their projects to review their projects from a financial, resource, risk, and customer perspective. These monthly meetings, which typically last about an hour, provide a pretty good snapshot of things from a business perspective, but they don’t provide a lot of time for diving deeper personally.

I’m also responsible for participating in other department and company meetings. Again, these meetings are important for certain aspects of our business success, but they typically don’t provide opportunity for connecting on a more personal level.

I’ve heard it said that “It’s business, it’s NOT personal.” Well, I disagree. As a Christian leader in the workforce, I have a responsibility (and privilege) to represent Christ well. For me, this means our relationships in the business world are meant to be personal.

How can we take time to connect with our team members with all the different demands on our time?

This is the question that rolled around in my head as I read Matt’s post. I have so many things on my plate already. One-on-one meetings just don’t fit into my already busy schedule.

But Matt challenged me with this question:

How can you NOT take time to connect with your team members?

And so…I took Matt’s challenge and encouragement to heart. I’ll confess, I haven’t followed Matt’s recipe exactly. Instead of weekly one-on-one

We talk about business and the challenges that they are facing on a project or assignment. And we also talk about life outside of work. I’ve learned about their interests, their passions, and their families.meetings, I started with monthly one-on-one meetings. For the most part, these meetings have been 30-40 minutes each. I use a one-page outline to guide our discussion and to take notes which helps me capture details of our discussion. With 12 direct reports, these notes have been essential to helping me remember our conversations.  And it helps with my follow through on any action items that I have taken from our meeting. (NOTE: You can download Matt’s one-on-one meeting template here.)

What difference does it make if you know your team members?

It makes all the difference in the world.

The average working person spends 9-10 hours of their days at work – every day. (That’s two-thirds or more of their waking hours). Most people work over 2100 hours every year. If my math is correct, most people work about 80,000 hours in their life time. However you do the math, we spend a lot of time at work.

We are relational beings. We are made to connect with others and to be in community with others.

We are missing a huge opportunity to connect with others if we go to work, come home, get our paycheck, but fail to connect with our co-workers.

Intentional connections

My one-on-one meetings have helped me be intentional in connecting with my team. It’s helped my team to feel more connected to me. And it’s also helped my team succeed from a business perspective.

I’m so thankful I listened to Matt and started having one-on-one meetings with my team.

Do you have one-on-one meetings with your team?  If so, how have they made a difference?  If not, what are you waiting for? 

(Note:  My article originally appeared at mattmcwilliams.com.)

6 Ways To Reward Your Employees

6 WAYS TO REWARD YOUR EMPLOYEES

Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.

Lee Iacocca

Rewarding employees appropriately is a key aspect of improving employee performance.  It’s essential that employees are recognized for a job well done.  Sometimes this recognition is tied to a monetary reward, and sometimes it’s necessary to find non-monetary methods for rewarding your team.

Inappropriate rewards could easily work against the overall performance of the business and it’s employees.  Rewarding employees who don’t deserve could be argued as grace, but this kind of “reward” sends the wrong message to employees, and it sets teams up for mediocrity.

Appropriate rewards push individual performance to new levels, and they raise the bar on overall company performance.  Here are a few reward types for you to consider as you seek to improve your team and company.

6 Ways To Reward Your Employees

  1. Thank You Note.  Matt McWilliams wrote about the Thank You Revolution in his eBook available for free when you sign up at his blog.  And I wrote a guest post for him titled, The Power of Gratitude.  Rewarding employees should start with gratitude.  A simple handwritten thank you note is all it takes many times tell employees that they’ve done well or done something that deserves recognition.  Last week, I wrote to many of my direct reports to thank them for their hard work in bringing our fiscal year to a successful completion.  These notes gave me an opportunity to specifically recall good things that my team members have done this year.  One of my team members took time to write me back this week:  “Thanks for the card.  It means a lot.”  His simple response affirms the power of a simple thank you note.  Don’t underestimate the power of a simple thank you note.
  2. Department Meeting Shoutout.  Let’s face it.  It’s easy to get caught up in the regular business items in agenda of a standard office meeting.  Make it part of your meeting agenda to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty since the last meeting.  Maybe an employee did something to wow a customer.  Maybe they were key to a sale or project success.  Honor them in front of their peers.  It shows them their efforts are appreciated.  It demonstrates to others in the office the type of actions and behavior worth following.
  3. Small Financial Reward Program.  Our company set up a reward program which permits managers and fellow employees to recognize employees who have done something special.  The rewards start at $25 and go up from there.  A small reward of this nature is a great way to show family members how their loved one is appreciated.  These rewards are often used by employees to take their spouses out to dinner or to purchase something for the home they wouldn’t have purchased otherwise.  This may not be possible for your company, but it’s something worth considering if your company can swing it.  A small financial reward of this nature rewards employees, and it encourages employees to do things which will benefit the company.
  4. Merit Based Increases.  This is the time of year I decide on pay increases for my team members.  I have a fixed amount to work with as dictated by my company.  In order to reward high performers, it’s crucial I provide the higher merit increases to the employees who have earned it through their performance over the past year.  There is a market fairness factor that plays into this decision.  I am doing a disservice to my team though if I don’t reward team members based on their performance.  If I decided to give everyone the same increase regarding their performance, I would not be sending a positive message that would improve the overall performance of the company.
  5. Incentive.  Finding ways to provide incentives to employees can be a great way to promote desired behaviors and outcome.  At our office our sales members are paid based on commission.  They have a huge incentive to sell profitable projects.  Our project managers receive an incentive bonus at the end of the year.  The incentive is based on individual project slip along with a couple of other key performance indicators.  And our management encouraged to work together towards overall business success as part of the management incentive program.  Managing your payment program to make room for this kind of program can be a great way to enhance the overall performance of your team and your business.
  6. Special Assignment.  When an employee does something good, it is often a sign they are ready for the next challenge.  When a team members does well, give them the opportunity to try something different, something more challenging, and something that will draw attention to them in the future.  When one of my team members does a great job on one of their projects, I like to assign them a high profile project or a special assignment.  While this kind of reward will not immediately impact the paycheck, it will give your team member a chance to stretch, to grow, and to feel special.  Sometimes this is the best reward!

I’m sure there are some other ways to reward employees.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above list and your ideas for rewarding employees.  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

How do you reward your team members?  How does your company reward its employees?  Do you think rewards work?  Why or why not?

For more great articles on this topic:

The Discipline of Transitioning Well – 4 Tips for Transitioning from One Event to the Next

discipline transition

Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.

Kristin Armstrong

When my son was a toddler, he struggled when it was time to do something else like go to bed, take a bath, or get in the car.  He was busy doing something else, and he didn’t like an abrupt end to what he was doing.  After enduring several tantrums, my wife came up with a plan.  She suggested we give Isaac a ten minute warning before it was time to do the next thing.  This gave him the chance to finish up what he was doing, and it gave him a heads up that something else was coming.  This strategy worked wonders in how Isaac handled transitions.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was talking with fellow youth leaders at our church.  We were talking about being ready to interact with students at least ten minutes before our meeting starts.  This requires me to put aside my thoughts from my previous appointments.

Too often, I abruptly move from one appointment on my schedule to the next without the opportunity to shift my mindset.  If I’m going to practice the discipline of being present, I must learn to first practice the discipline of transitioning well.  A solid plan for transition will help me make the most of my experiences before and after my schedule shifts from one thing to another.

Here are four tips for being intentional about your times of transition from one activity to the next:

4 Tips for Transitioning from One Event to the Next

  1. Give yourself a buffer between appointments.  When I go from one thing directly to another thing, I don’t give myself an opportunity to transition well.  Learn to build ten minute buffers into your schedule so you have time to shift your attention.
  2. Take notes to sum up your ending appointment.  One of the reasons we struggle to transition is that we haven’t left our previous appointment in a place of closure.  Our brains continue to process what we were just doing.  During your time of transition, take a few notes to help you remember where things were left in case you need to return to this activity later.  Use a journal, a note taking application for your phone or tablet, or a voice recorder to document how you are leaving things regarding your earlier appointment.
  3. Take time to consider the objectives for your upcoming engagement.  If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.  Use the minutes before your next appointment to plan – to process the goals for what is ahead.  For example, I should plan to interact with at least three students as I’m driving from my house to church for youth group.  Considering your objectives gets your brain ready for the next appointment, and it helps you to be more effective when you get there.
  4. Make it a priority to make the most of every opportunity.  When we fail to transition well from one activity to the next, we are missing out on making the most of the present experience.  The discipline of transitioning well will minimize the possibility of wasting our time.

As I head into a busy day at the office, these are tips I need to remember TODAY.

How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of transitioning well?  How has intentional transition made a difference in your life?

 

The Number One Way To Do What God Says

What God Says

We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.
John R.W. Stott

I want to do the right thing.  Don’t you?

I spend my “free time” in the car or on the treadmill listening to podcasts, so I can learn more.  On my nightstand, I have a few leadership books.  I listen to 150 podcasts every week, and I read through (or skim through) over 330 blogs whenever there is a new post.

I stand by the saying “Leaders are readers.”

But I think I sometimes take it too far.

When I say I want to do the right thing, I mean this:

  • I want to be a great husband.
  • I want to be a great father.
  • I want to be a great employee.
  • I want to be a great boss.
  • I want to be a great leader.
  • I want to be a great friend.
  • I want to be a great teammate.
  • I want to be a great giver.
  • I want to be a great person.

I don’t want to mess up when it comes to these areas of my life (and other areas).  I’m a perfectionist.  Unfortunately, I get it wrong if these are my pursuits.

I want to be a great Christ-follower.  If I can get this right, the other things should take care of themselves.  If I’m serious about this proclamation – if I’m serious about wanting to be a great Christ-follower, I should do what God says.

What is the number one way to do what God says?

If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says.

Tweet: If you want to do what God says, you have to know what God says. #Stretched via @jonstolpe http://ctt.ec/n8j0B+

“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:25

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:9-11

If I want to follow Christ, I have to start by digesting God’s Word.  Spending time in God’s Word does not happen with a closed, dust-covered Bible on the coffee table.  It happens when I open it up, when I study it, and when I take time to chew on it.  Only then can I truly do what God says.

If you want to do the right thing, start with God’s Word.

When was the last time you spent time studying God’s Word?  How do you make the most of time reading The Bible?  What has God recently been teaching you through His Word?

 

10 Ways To Get the Most out of the Performance Management Process

perf mgmt proc

Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.

Ralph Marston

It’s that time of year again!

This week, I’m in the middle of the performance management process for my team members.  This is an annual opportunity to provide feedback to my team members on their performance over the past year.  I could be easy to rush through this process which is required by my company.  I could simply write a couple of sentences about each team member and move on to the next year.

Taking this approach doesn’t do my team members any favors, and it doesn’t help my team or the company get better.  A well thought out and carefully executed performance review can be the bedrock of success for your team and your company.

In today’s post, I offer ten ways to get the most out of the performance management process.  This is written from a managers perspective; however, this is a great reference for those who don’t manage direct reports.  After reading today’s post, you may want to suggest that your supervisor start this type of performance management process for you.  You may simply want to tweak what is already happening at your job.

Whether you are a manager of direct reports or not, I hope you’ll find this list helpful in understanding ways to get better.  Success doesn’t happen by accident.  Success happens by being intentional, and this list offers suggestions – no, essentials – for being intentional with the performance management process.

10 Ways To Get the Most out of the Performance Management Process

  1. Start with regular one-on-one meetings.  It’s important to meet with your employees on a regular basis.  These meetings provide an opportunity to touch base on performance issues and other business and non-business related items.  You can read about the power of one-on-one meetings in a guest post I wrote for Matt McWilliams.  This year I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team, and it’s been helpful for my team members and for me.
  2. Set performance targets.  It’s critical that employees have SMART targets.  Targets should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  At the beginning of each year, I sit down with my team members to set targets.  These targets align with our overall business objectives, and they also provide opportunities for individuals to grow personally.  (For more details on why employees should set performance targets, click here.)
  3. Quarterly review progress towards targets.  It shouldn’t be a surprise at the end of the year when doing a performance evaluation.  I sit down with my employees once a quarter to review their progress in achieving their targets.  Doing this once a quarter provides an opportunity for my team members to make performance corrections that will help them meet or exceed their targets.
  4. Get feedback from others.  I encourage my team members to ask for feedback from their peers.  And I get feedback from other managers and supervisors regarding the performance of my team members.  Before completing the annual performance management process, I meet in a roundtable meeting which helps to calibrate my overall assessment.  This meeting also provides extra insight into developmental action items I might want to suggest to my team members.  (To read a different angle on the discipline of getting feedback, click here.)
  5. Take time to write an honest and detailed assessment.  When I write evaluations for my team members, I want them to be fair, well-thought, and encouraging.  Writing this kind of assessment takes time.  I schedule time to carefully review the past year of activity.  I look at notes from my past one-on-one meetings.  I review previous results from the quarterly updates.  And I take into account comments shared by my fellow management team members.  A written record provides employees a tangible document to review as they seek to grow and improve.
  6. Meet with employee to review results.  At the end of the year, it’s important to let your employees know how they have done.  Feedback provides information necessary to help them improve.  Feedback also keeps them doing the right things.
  7. Remember the good things.  Make sure you praise your team members for the good things they have done throughout the year.  A pat on the back goes a long way towards encouraging the right behavior.
  8. Create a development plan correcting issues.  As managers, it is our responsibility to help our team members succeed.  We have to give our team members help in getting better.  The performance review process is the perfect time to help employees get better.
  9. Discuss career progression essentials.  Most employees want to know what it will take for them to get tho the next level in their career path.  It’s important to talk regularly to employees about their plans for the future.  What are their goals for the next 5 years or 10 years?  What do they need to do in order to be ready for the next steps?  These are questions that will help you help them.  Are their expectations realistic?  How can you help them?  The performance review process provides an opportunity to discuss essentials for career advancement.
  10. Do it again.  It may seem repetitive, but you have to do it over and over and over again.  Doing this for only one year does not demonstrate a long-term interest in the performance of an employee.  Repeated year after year is essential to a successful performance management process.

How has the performance management process helped you succeed?  What would you add to the list above?  What do you need to do differently in order to improve your own performance management process?

Here’s an interesting article to go along with this post:

The Discipline Of Getting Expert Advice – 6 Ways Getting Expert Advice Will Stretch You

expert advice

The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you’re definitely not an expert.

Brendon Burchard

A month ago, my wife and I visited a local nutritionist.  We eat well and exercise, but we were both wondering if we could do a better job.  After a two-hour visit, I realized how little I really knew about nutrition.  I left her office with a new perspective on what I eat and how I exercise.  We will be going back again to keep moving forward.  In the meantime, I have lost several pounds, and I’m feeling a lot better thanks to a few valuable tweaks in my eating and exercising routine.  I just needed a little expert advice.

After seeing our nutritionist, I changed by morning routine.  I used to do cardio and leave a little time for lifting at the end.  Now, I lift first before I do the cardio part of my workout.  Yesterday morning, I was at the gym when one of the trainers started watching me as I spent time on a few of the strength machines.  He interrupted me a few times to give me tips on how to more effectively use the machines.  Then he took me over to a few other pieces of apparatus to show me a few other strengthening exercises.  Again, I just needed a little expert advice to get me heading in the right direction.

Last night, I contacted a garage door expert to help me with a problem with one of my garage doors.  When he came over, he made a few adjustments and recommendations, and my garage door started working properly again.  I just needed a little expert advice.

My natural tendency is to do things on my own.  I don’t like asking for help, but I don’t have time to figure everything out by myself.  Sometimes it pays to call in the experts.  I must learn to practice the discipline of getting expert advice.  This discipline will save me a lot of time and aggravation when I hit a roadblock.

If you are like me, you probably struggle to practice the discipline of getting expert advice.  Here are a few ways expert advice will help you stretch:

6 Ways Getting Expert Advice Will Stretch You

  1. Getting expert advice will humble you.  Most men have trouble asking for help.  Asking for help requires humility, and learning to be humble can be a stretching experience.
  2. Getting expert advice will help you learn.  As the garage door repairman worked on our garage door, I watched and learned.  Next time I have a problem with the door, I will have a few things to try.
  3. Getting expert advice will give others the opportunity to speak into your life and your challenges.  People want to help, and they want to use the knowledge and skill they’ve picked up along the way.  When you ask for expert advice, you provide the chance for others to help you.
  4. Getting expert advice will ultimately save you time and energy.  Most of us don’t like to ask for expert advice, because we don’t want to pay for it.  In reality experts often bring value into our lives that far outweighs the financial impact.
  5. Getting expert advice will help you meet many new people.  I didn’t know the trainer at the gym or the garage door repairman before I asked for their expert advice.  I like meeting new people, and asking for expert advice gives me the opportunity to plug into people I don’t know yet.
  6. Getting expert advice prepares me to help other people.  Ultimately, I want to help other people.  By asking for expert advice, I either gain transferable knowledge or valuable connections that I can pass along to others.

How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of getting expert advice?  How has expert advice made a difference in your life?

5 Steps To Creating A Personal Success Plan That Works

success plan

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

Benjamin Franklin

Earlier this summer, I was elected to be president of my Toastmasters International club.  It was an honor to be selected for this position, but it also comes with a lot of work.  I have to kick-off and close our club’s bi-weekly meetings.  I have to plan and lead our club’s executive committee meetings.  And I have to interface with fellow officers, club members, and guests.

One of my responsibilities as the club president and member of the club executive committee is to create a Club Success Plan.  Essentially, this is a document to record the club’s current status, challenges, and goals for the coming term.  And the Club Success Plan provides a place to write down a plan for overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.

This week spent time completing the Club Success Plan, and I’m excited for the results when we look back at the plan throughout the term and at the end of the term in June.

As I was working on the plan, I reflected on the importance of writing a success plan for other areas of our lives.

What do you want to accomplish this year?  What goals do you want to achieve?

Do you have a plan to get there?

Typically, we talk about goals at the beginning of the year.  Everyone gets hyped up on New Year’s Resolutions.  The enthusiasm lasts for a few weeks or even a few months before we settle back into our normal existence trying to survive the pushes and pulls of our busy lives.

By the time we get to this time of year, our resolutions and goals are long forgotten, and we are trying to make it to the next weekend.

As Benjamin Franklin said, many of us fail to achieve our goals because we fail to create a plan for getting where we want to go.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail.  I like to succeed.  I like to achieve.  I like to make progress towards my goals.

Writing a personal success plan doesn’t have to take forever.  You can write a success plan for yourself using these simple steps:

5 Steps To Creating A Personal Success Plan That Works

  1. Evaluate your current condition.  Self-assessment is critical to creating a personal success plan that works.  What is working well?  What isn’t working so well?  What changes do you need to make in your life?  Take time to evaluate you.  This may require time away from the things that normally distract you, and it may require feedback from those who know you best.
  2. Determine your goals.  Where do you want to be in one year?  What do you want to achieve?  There is no point in completing a success plan if you don’t take time to determine your goals.  If you don’t know where you want to go, you can be certain you will get there – no where that is.
  3. Recognize the obstacles and challenges in the way.  What is keeping you from achieving your goals?  Is it time?  Is it skill?  Is it lack of knowledge?  We all face challenges.  When creating your personal success plan, you have to know your weaknesses and challenges.  Being aware of these will help you make changes to get around, get over, or get through the obstacles in the way of achieving your goals.
  4. Write down a map for overcoming these obstacles and challenges and for achieving your goals.  Create a SMART roadmap to reaching your goals.  Be specific.  Have measurable check points along the way.  Make sure your goals are attainable and realistic.  Finally, determine the timetable for reaching your goals.  When you write down your road map, be as detailed as possible.  Who is responsible for reaching your goals?  What help do you need to meet your goals?  What specific steps will you take to make sure you succeed?  Write it down!
  5. Work your plan.  Finally, a plan does nothing without action.  Once you’ve created your plan for success, follow through.  Take the necessary steps to succeed.  Stop along the way to evaluate your progress.  Then keep going.  Don’t stop until you reach the end – SUCCESS!

What do you want to succeed in the next year?  What is your plan to succeed?

What measures have you taken to achieve your success goals?

Stretch Quote – Delegation (@HarveyMackay)

delegation stretch quote

Delegating doesn’t mean passing off work you don’t enjoy, but letting your employees STRETCH their skills and judgment.

Harvey Mackay

If you’ve been hanging around for a while, you know I’ve written quite a bit about delegation over the past year.  I wish I had found this quote earlier to include with these posts.

When I did come across this quote, I was reminded how we have the opportunity to stretch our team members by delegating.  We do ourselves and our team members a disservice when we fail to delegate.  Take time today to delegate.

How have you been stretched by delegation?

The Discipline Of Self Assessment – 10 Areas For Self Assessment

self assessment

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.
August Wilson

As I mentioned yesterday, my basement flooded.

The first step in dealing with a flooded basement is understanding what caused the water problem.  Both of my sump pumps were working, but they obviously couldn’t keep up.  Why was water coming into the basement more quickly than it should?  The rain earlier in the day had been very heavy, but the pumps should have kept up.

When I walked around the outside of the house, I discovered that one of the downspouts at the back corner of the house was not attached correctly.  This was causing a large amount of water to flow straight into the foundation.  I fixed the downspout, but the damage was already done.

Had I walked around the house before the rainstorm, I would have noticed the problem, and I would not have been dealing with a wet basement.

As I have been reflecting on this experience, I was reminded of the importance of taking a regular inventory of our lives.  Regular self assessment gives us an opportunity to see where we are – to see what things are okay, what things could be better, what things need to change, and what things need to be removed.

By practicing the discipline of self assessment, we minimize the potential for disaster, and we maximize the potential for achieving future success.  Here are some areas where you should be conducting a regular self assessment:

10 Areas For Self Assessment

  1. Personal property.  What do you own?  Car, house, computer, jewelry.  Things wear out, break down, and need maintenance.  Regularly examine your personal property to make sure it is in working order.
  2. Career path.  When was the last time you updated your resume?  Are you making progress towards your career goals?  Career growth does not happen by accident.  You must be intentional if you want to move forward along your desired career path.
  3. Educational pursuit.  Are you feeding mind?  And are you feeding it with the right material?  Read.  Listen.  Grow.
  4. Physical fitness.  Are you being a good steward of your body?  Take time to assess your nutrition, your exercise, and your overall fitness.
  5. Financial fitness.  Take time to budget.  Take time to keep track of your financial condition.  Are you on track to meet your long-term goals.  Get rid of debt in your life, and find ways to save.
  6. Emotional condition.  How is your general attitude?  Are you a happy person?  Or are you a grumpy person?  Attitude often determines our altitude.  If you want to go somewhere in your life, learn how to be a positive person.
  7. Relational status.  How is your marriage?  How is your relationship with your kids?  How is your relationship with your family and friends?  Relationships require effort, and they change throughout time.  For this reason, you must regularly assess these relationships.  If your marriage is going well, determine what is helping this and keep doing it.  If your marriage needs some work based on your assessment, make changes today to improve it.
  8. Generosity.  Are you giving away your time, talents, and money?  Are you giving away too much or too little?  A regular assessment of your generosity will keep you on the right track to living a life that really matters.
  9. Time.  Sit down with your schedule on a regular basis.  Are you building margin into your schedule?  Are you spending time on things that matter?  How are you wasting your time?  A regular assessment of your time is essential avoiding burnout and boredom.
  10. Spiritual well-being.  How is your spirit?  How are you feeding your spiritual self?  How is your relationship with God?  In our busy lives, it’s too easy to let our spiritual well-being take a back seat.  When you are assessing your life, don’t forget to take an inventory on your spiritual life.

Self assessment won’t happen or be effective unless you take it seriously.  Create a routine for taking an inventory on these areas of your life.  Some things require daily assessment.  For other things you might check in weekly, monthly, seasonally, or annually.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to prevent a flood in your basement or to prevent another kind of disaster in your life.  Decide today to practice the discipline of self assessment.

How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of self assessment?  How has self assessment made a difference in your life?

The Discipline Of Getting Feedback – 6 Steps For Getting The Feedback You Really Need

feedback

It’s impossible to read the label when you are inside the bottle.  You need somebody to speak into your life – someone who will read the label and tell you what is really on the inside.

Do you like getting feedback from others?

What kind of feedback do you like?

What kind of feedback do you really need?

Are you surrounding yourself with people who will tell you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear?

Stretching can be painful, and getting feedback from others can be a stretching experience.  And yet feedback is what we often need in order to grow – in order to recognize our gifts and shortcomings – and in order to live our life to the fullest.

With this in mind, I think it’s time we start practicing the discipline of getting feedback.

Today, I need your feedback, but first I want to give you some advice on practicing the discipline of getting feedback.  By using these six steps, you will keep stretching in a worthwhile direction.

6 Steps For Getting The Feedback You Really Need

  1. Open up your mind and heart.  Do you really want to stretch and grow?  Are you really willing to listen to feedback even when it is hard to hear?  Before you even ask for feedback, you have to decide to be open to what you will hear from others.  Some feedback will be easy to hear.  And some feedback will be very difficult to process.
  2. Ask people you trust.  Asking foolish people for feedback is like inviting people to throw tomatoes at you for the fun of throwing tomatoes.  But there is wisdom to be gained from those you can trust.
  3. Examine the feedback.  Once you’ve received feedback from others, it’s important to evaluate the feedback.  Run it by others to see if the feedback is on target.  What feedback deserves attention, and what feedback should you ignore?
  4. Filter out any off base feedback.  Once you’ve examined the feedback, get rid of the off base feedback.  Feedback that misses the mark will lead you to the wrong target if you decide to listen to it.
  5. Take action on justified feedback.  Whatever is pure, trustworthy, and just deserves our attention.  Take corrective action on constructive feedback.  Continue to act on the things you are doing well, and stop doing the things you need to stop.  Make the necessary changes based on the feedback you receive (otherwise, you are wasting the time of those giving feedback).
  6. Repeat the process.  Asking for feedback is not a once and done event.  Getting feedback is an endless process that should be followed again and again.  So go back to step one and start it all over.

Now that I’ve laid out these six steps for getting the feedback you really need, it’s my turn to ask for your feedback.

I’m in the process of evaluating my writing focus and I really need your help.  I am going through this exercise to help me stretch and to help others stretch.  I started this process by asking myself to write down the names of 20 people who I think could truly, genuinely benefit from what I have to say.  I filled a page in my journal with these names.  Then I spent time considering the most common questions people ask me.  Here are a few of the questions that came to my mind:

  • How do you have time to do everything you do?  (And when do you sleep?)
  • When are you going back to Guatemala?  (And can I come?)
  • How did you and your wife raise such great kids?
  • When is your next book coming out?
  • How did you get into that (home-brewing, chicken-farming, blog-writing, etc.)?
  • Do you have any advice for long distance running?
  • How do you stay so positive all the time?
  • Can you be my mentor?
  • How do you stay so consistent?
  • What have you done to get to where you are now (and what do I need to do to get there myself)?
  • How do you live out your faith in a faithless, fallen world?

To confirm I’m on the right track (or to add to the list), I have been intentionally asking the 20 people on my life (and a few other people) to give me feedback.  I’ve been asking them this question:  “If you could ask me any question, what would the question be?  In what area of my experience do you think I could help you?”

It’s a little scary to ask these questions, but it’s an experience I need to have.  I need this feedback to make sure I am on the right track.  I need this feedback to help me see what is on the inside of my bottle.

And it’s feedback I need from you as well.  I value your feedback as a reader and participant in The Stretched Community.  And so, I leave you with this question, and I hope you will take time to leave me a comment.  I need you to help read the label on my bottle.

If you could ask me any question, what would the question be?  In what area of my experience do you think I could help you? 

Please take time to leave your response in the comments.