A Sure Path to Influence

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By Tasha M. Troy

One of the key dimensions of culture is the “relationship-oriented / task-oriented” continuum.  As a product of American culture, and as an element of my personality, I began my career highly task-oriented.  I was focused on first, gaining the credentials and education necessary to reach my goals and second, getting as much information into my students as I could.

When I moved to South Korea, I had to learn a new method of operation.  In order to teach well, I had to build relationships with my students first.  It was in that season that I developed a greater appreciation for the people around me – their strengths, opinions, and values.

Today, I’d like to share a mini-lesson from my weekly Professional Development Essentials class on Developing a Greater Appreciation for Others.

 

If you would like to join our weekly interactive online lessons and discussions on personal and professional development topics, you can find details and a link to register at http://troycommunications.net/professional-development-essentials/

In this mini-lesson, I made a reference to an earlier blog article I wrote last year.  Here is a link to that article:  Does Leadership Have to Be Lonely?

 

 

The Most Difficult Person to Lead (part 2)

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by Tasha M. Troy

I tend to be an independent learner and worker.  I love to shut the door and “get into the zone” with a project.

However, sometimes it’s hard for me to include others in my work.  They don’t move at my pace, and sometimes they interrupt my train of thought.

As I continue to develop my own leadership skills, this is an area of growth for me.

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell gives us four keys to leading yourself well.  These keys are

  • learn followership,
  • develop self-discipline,
  • practice patience, and
  • seek accountability.

 

What stands out to me today is how many of these points involve other people in leading myself.  In my last article, The Most Difficult Person to Lead, I shared the first two keys with you, and now here are the last two.

 

 The third key is to practice patience.

Practicing patience is sometimes a big challenge for me. I am very task-oriented and results-oriented, and I get impatient with the process of developing those good habits that will lead to success.  I’m not often satisfied with the incremental improvements that I’m working towards. However, if we can practice patience and keep at our goals day by day, even if it’s a small step, small steps over time will get you to where you’re going.

 

The fourth key is to seek accountability.

This has been a key for me in the last couple years as I’ve been pursuing very challenging goals.  I’ve always been a pretty independent thinker, and sometimes it’s pretty humbling to sit back, take advice, listen to criticism. I always think I’m teachable, but when I am directly criticized, I find how unteachable I might actually be.

I still don’t always react well to criticism, but I’ve learned the value of listening to other perspectives and trying to see myself through other people’s eyes.  I’ve been able to connect with a number of people who help keep me accountable for my goals.  Now that I’m working on some of these daily goals like getting up at a certain time and developing certain habits that will help me be more successful, I’ve developed some accountability partnerships with friends and colleagues so that it keeps me on track to do things that I wouldn’t normally wantto do but I know that will lead to long term goals.

 

So those are the four keys that John gives: learn followership, develop self-discipline, practice patience, and seek accountability. They sound so simple, but don’t be fooled – simple actions can have powerful results.

Where do you need to grow? In what areas do you feel like you need to become more than you are today?  Could it be in the area of self-discipline? Could it be in the area of followership or developing patience? Who is there in your life who could help you become by becoming an accountability partner?  These are some things to consider.

 

Take It Deeper

Which of these areas is a challenge for you?  Do you have a hard time “trusting the process”?  Or do you need to find an accountability partner to help you move forward?  Good news – you can always start right where you are.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.   We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.  Let me know if you’d like to experience one lesson for free (tmtroy@troycommunications.net)!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

The Most Difficult Person to Lead

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by Tasha M. Troy

I might be a goal setting junkie. I love to look at the future, think about what it might mean, chart out a path to achieve different goals, and plan a course of action. I am a very future-oriented type of person.

Because of this, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a number of goals, but the truth is there are countless other things that never made it past the idea stage. They remained simply an aspiration. And even today, I can remember some of those ideas and I think, “I wonder what life would have been like if I’d pursued X, Y, or Z.”  Why did I let these great ideas die?

When you’re trying to achieve anything or to improve yourself in any way, self-leadership is definitely the starting point. Where I find I tend to fall is with the little things, for example, getting up without hitting the snooze button too many times or choosing to read a book instead of watching TV in the evening. Little decisions affect the big picture.

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell gives us four keys to leading yourself well.  I will share the first two keys with you now and the last two next month.

 

The first key is to learn followership.

Everyone’s out there trying to learn how to be a good leader, learning leadership, but John argues that you need to start with becoming a good follower first. An area where that has been an important element for me has been in my own continuing efforts to engage in education, to learn more, and to grow.

For example, for many, many, many years, my focus has been to teach English to adult professionals.  As an adult, I chose to learn a new foreign language – Korean – after I finished college. I will be honest: it was a much more challenging endeavor than I expected it to be at the time. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that it was a challenge, and because I engaged in that difficult challenge, I was able to relate to my adult students a lot better as they were grappling with learning a foreign language as adults.

Today, some of the skills that I am struggling with that I’m learning and getting better at implementing, I have mentors who are teaching me.  The more I try to do things my own way, the harder it is. The more I relax and listen and follow the instructions of my mentors, the easier my endeavors become, the easier it is for me to reach my goals.  Bottom line? If we can become good followers, it helps us relate to the people we’re trying to lead in a more effective way.

 

The second key is to develop self-discipline.

In his book, Developing The Leader Within You, John Maxwell calls self-discipline the price tag of leadership.  This is an area where I think everyone struggles from time to time. The truth is, if you can learn how to make commitments and follow through – even when no one is watching, even when no one notices – you’ll be able to lead yourself and all others much more effectively.

This is the area I still need to grow in a bit.  My goal is to wake up at a certain time so that I can get things done before I go into the office, and I have not yet had the self-discipline to actually get out of bed at that time.  Fortunately, every day is a new opportunity to accomplish that goal!

 

Take It Deeper

Which of these areas is a challenge for you?  Do you have a hard time following someone else’s lead?  Or do you sometimes let your self-discipline slide?  Have you let that discipline slide for so long, it’s out of sight?! Good news – you can always start right where you are.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.   We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.  Let me know if you’d like to experience one lesson for free (tmtroy@troycommunications.net)!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

A Sure Path to Progress

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As a young teacher in 2003, I started receiving less-than-stellar reviews from my students.  Fortunately for me, the school I was teaching with at the timehad a good system in place to coach struggling instructors to improve their teaching approach.

For two months, I was required to create formal and detailed lesson plans – very detailed plans – for my daily classes.  I also met with my lead instructor, who helped me reflect on my lessons.  The experience completely shifted my approach to teaching, and I see the effects even to this day.

As a young leader, John Maxwell observed that just because someone had more years of experience, it didn’t automatically translate into more wisdom and more understanding. As he pondered this discrepancy, he realized experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is.

We all have bad experiences, things that come up that are unexpected or unplanned – and unwanted!  It is how we respond to those situations that can really make a big difference as to whether those experiences help or hinder us. If you focus on everything that’s wrong and how it’s preventing you from moving forward, you will miss some incredible life lessons that will serve you and others well into the future.

 

Truths about Experience

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shares some observations about experience:

First – we all experience more than we understand. Life is just too complex for us to absorb everything.  We have so many people who are calling for our attention, and there are so many things that are going on in our lives and in our world that it’s hard to really absorb everything.  Add social media into the mix, and there’s no keeping up!

One simple way to make sense of all the information and demands upon us is simply taking the time to sit back and reflect on what happened that day or what’s happened in the past week. Reviewing and reflecting enrich our understanding of what’s happened.  John Maxwell talks about how he takes time each evening to reflect on what he learned that day.

Second – Our attitude toward unplanned and unpleasant experiences determines our growth. this is a reflection of the Law of Pain in John’s book The 15 Laws of Growth, which states that the good management of bad experiences leads to great growth. It could also be said that the bad management of experiences leads to no growth or maybe negative growth. Your attitude in the situation can determine whether it’s a setback or a lesson that will propel you forward.

Third – not evaluating and learning from experience is more costly than inexperience or gaining experience. If you are growth-oriented, you will look at every opportunity to grow and gain and become better and more understanding, to be a stronger leader. If we ignore the lessons that we are learning or the lessons that life is trying to teach us, we’re losing valuable time or losing valuable insight that could really be costly in the long run.

Fourth – evaluated experience sets a person above the crowd. Most people don’t take the time to reflect. Not everyone takes the time to be self-aware. And among those, even fewer take the time to reflect on a regular basis. But those who do find that their growth is accelerated, that their insights are deepened at a faster pace.

 

Becoming More Reflective

Personally, I am not the most consistent on reflecting on a daily basis. I aim for a weekly reflections. I find that taking time to think through what went well, what didn’t go well, and what I want to do differently in the future can really solidify the lessons that difficult situations can teach us.

As an introvert, I went to reflect. I want to be quiet; I want to read; I want to journal. This lends itself to a reflective lifestyle.  However, my extrovert friends want to process verbally. You might frequently be on the phone with your parents and friends because you process things differently.

If you find that it’s difficult to take that time to sit and reflect, find a friend or a partner who you can talk things through with, a “mastermind” of sorts, so that you can bounce ideas off of each other and learn from those experiences together.

I’ve also found that reflection doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process. For myself, I take about 10 minutes every morning to do some journaling. I might not write the whole time during those ten minutes, but I set the timer on my phone – so I’m not sitting there all day – and whatever thoughts come to me, those are the things I write down. Some days, my mind wanders and I start thinking about other things without writing them down, and that’s okay because I’ve made it a regular practice.

 

Take It Deeper

If regular reflection is not something that you’re practicing but you want to try it, maybe start with five minutes. Just write whatever’s coming to mind. If there was a struggle or a victory during the day, just write down your thoughts. At the end of the week, go back and re-read what you’ve written and look for common threads. That is what will lead to defining the lessons of the week.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.   We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.

 

 

 

The Secret Ingredient for Success

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By Tasha M. Troy

When I was young, my mother was an elementary school teacher.  I watched how hard that woman worked, and I decided that kind of work was not for me.

Life has a funny way of turning the tables on you. By the time I finished college, I was headed towards a career in teaching English as a second language and interpersonal communication skills.

I taught children for one year, and the truth is, part of my perception was correct – teaching elementary-aged children was NOT for me! One year was enough to see that. But I can’t imagine spending my life doing anything other than what I have been doing for the last 15 to 20 years.

I have discovered a passion for working with adults to improve their communication skills.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, once told John Maxwell that there are three elements necessary for transformation, and one of those key elements is passion (Intentional Living, p. 12).

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell says, “In all my years of observing people, I have yet to meet an individual who reached his potential but didn’t possess passion.” He spends a whole chapter on finding your passion because, if you find something you’re passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

Why We Need Passion in Order to Succeed

In the chapter from Leadership Gold, John Maxwell talks about a few elements that are often related to success, but without passion, these things are not enough.

Talent: John Maxwell says talent is never enough to enable us to reach our potential. Every year, I have super bright and talented students come into my classroom. Sometimes they have a hunger to learn, but just as often they are comfortable where they are and don’t put in the effort to improve.  As a result, by the end of the course, they are at the back of the class, not the front, and they fail to live up to their potential.  If you depend only on your talent alone, you won’t go very far.  Passion is what motivates us to develop our talents to a higher level.

Opportunity: John Maxwell says, “Opportunity will never get us to the top by itself.”  How many opportunities have you watched passed by in your life? I’ve let a lot slip by. So an opportunity by itself is not enough to take us where we need to go. Passion is the driver that pushes us to grasp that opportunity and pursue it.

Knowledge:  John Maxwell says knowledge can be a great asset but it won’t make us all we can be. In the book, he gives the example. Some of our most highly educated presidents in the United States have been less effective and yet one of the presidents we all respect and admire, Abraham Lincoln, had very little formal education. What are you doing with that knowledge? It is passion that drives you to put that knowledge to good use.

Teamwork: And finally, a great team is not enough. We need a great team to be successful, but John says, a great team can fall short. If the leadership is not able to provide a clear vision, a working ethic, and motivation, that team is going to fall short.

These things are important for success but they’re not enough. You have to have passion.

 

Pursuing Your Passion

So, how much passion do you have for what you are doing today? How much passion do you have for your current work?

John Maxwell separated that into 4 different levels. Think about this.

If you’re at 90% passion for what you are doing or above, you’re in your sweet spot. You get to celebrate. I have been fortunate to find work I love.  Most of the time, I am in my passion zone!

If you’re at the next level, the 75 to 89 percent passion level, you need to make some minor adjustments to align with your passion, but it is not out of reach. Sometimes, this might just be a matter of attitude, of perspective.

If you are at the 50 to 74 percent passion level, you need to make some major adjustments. You might need to change departments, or you might need to take couple extra classes so that you can pursue more meaningful work.

If it appears that you have 49% or less passion for the work you are currently doing, you need a job or career change. There is some significant change that needs to happen so that you can move into that sweet spot, because if you are working in the field of your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.  We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

 

10 Qualities Needed for Personal Growth

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In 2012, I decided to pursue a second master’s degree.  I was teaching at a top university at the time that offered tuition benefits, and I love to learn, so it just made sense to me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make sense to the director of the program I was teaching with.  She did not encourage us to grow. In fact, when I was intentionally trying to grow and learn and become more, I was actually discouraged – directly discouraged – from taking those courses.  This in part led to my decision to leave that department and to find a job teaching elsewhere.

I wanted to grow, but my environment had put a cap on how much I could grow.

 

Create a Growth Environment

Human beings are designed for growth – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We are at our best when we are becoming more than we have been.

Whether you’re in a position of leadership or not, it’s important to encourage the people around you to grow.  If you’re one of the many people who do not have a formal a leadership position, you might consider what can you do to help the people around you grow, what can you do to create an environment where it is safe to learn new things. For example, with every class that I teach, I aim to create a learning community, to create an atmosphere where there’s a combination of respect and safety so that my students can try new things and can ask the questions they might not feel comfortable asking otherwise.

One of John Maxwell’s “Fifteen Laws of Growth” says that you have to be in an environment that encourages you to grow. In his book Leadership Gold, in the chapter titled Keep Learning to Keep Leading, he describes the key characteristics a growth environment.

  1. Others are ahead of you.With my students, in the very beginning of the semester, I like to emphasize that we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some students are strong in some skills and weak in others, while others are strong in different skills and weak in others. And together, we can help each other. But if others are ahead of you in one area, then you’re challenged to catch up.
  2. You are continually challenged. It has been my observation that people are capable of much more than they think they are.  I sometimes tell my students that I see my job as pushing them to do the things they don’t push themselves to do.
  3. Your focus is forward. I am naturally future oriented, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m growth oriented as well.  When you’re thinking about the future, you’re inspired to reach for what’s next.
  4. The atmosphere is affirming.I try to find a balance between applauding effort and praising good performance. Even when the performance is not to its fullest potential, I try to point out, first, the areas where the performance was good, and second, some real practical steps where that performance can be improved. It’s the real practical steps that make criticism an encouragement.
  5. You’re often outside of your comfort zone. I wrote about this a little in my last blog article The Three Zones of Learning.  John Maxwell talks about the Challenge Zone, the Comfort Zone, and the Coasting Zone. If you spend too long in your comfort zone, you could slide back into the coasting zone, and no growth happens there!
  6. You wake up excited. When you are working towards a specific goal, you are naturally motivated to work towards it. I have found that growth is exciting!
  7. Failure is not your enemy.Looking back at the teaching department where I left because growth was not encouraged, failure was definitely considered the enemy. Mistakes I had made two, three, four years earlier had never been forgotten even though I had chosen to learn from those mistakes and move forward. For me, this is really an important characteristic. Failure is not the enemy.
  8. Others are growing. One of the best things about my job now is that I am working with students and colleagues who are working to improve their lives and learn new skills.  It is very inspiring to be around people who are just as interested in personal and professional growth as I am.
  9. People desire change.  It seems to me that the desire to change can come from two different sources – a sense of lack and a pursuit of excellence.  I have experienced both.  When I’m trying to do something new and come upon an area I don’t know well, I am motivated to learn and grow in that area.  However, even in areas I do well, I am often not content and look for ways to become even better in that area.
  10. Growth is modeled and expected. I think this reflects back to failure not being the enemy.  Are the leaders of the group engaged in learning and becoming more than they are?  Are group members coached through challenges and encouraged to achieve more?  Or is the status quo rewarded?

If you have these characteristics, you know you’re in an environment that encourages growth where you can learn and continue to become the person who can reach your potential, that you’re not going to leave untapped potential on the table.

 

Take It Deeper

Which of these characteristics are present in your life today? Which ones are missing?

If you would like to enter into a growth environment, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.  In this course, you will join with others who are also looking for a growth environment.  We meet every Monday night for a short lesson and discussion.  You can check out the website or contact me for more information: http://troycommunications.net/professional-development-essentials/.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

The Three Zones of Learning

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By Tasha M. Troy

This past semester, I taught a “language support” class for international students taking a world history course. As part of my duties, I was required to attend all the world history lectures with my students.

I loved it!  While I took Western history as part of my own college education, I really enjoyed learning with my expanded view of the world after 20 years teaching students from all around the globe.

I have never really thought of it this way before, but I realize now that my hunger to learn has been a major contributing factor to my success. Most of the time, this hunger is shown in the books I read, sometimes in classes I take, occasionally in the classes I teach. I try to learn something every day!

 

Learn to Love Learning

I love learning, and I love helping people learn. No matter what the topic, if I know even a little more than others, I’m going to try to those around me.  I like to say it’s in my blood, being a third generation educator as I am.

John Maxwell, in his book Leadership Gold, spends a whole chapter on the topic of learning and gives three suggestions that will help you adopt this attitude of learning – Keep Learning to Keep Leading.

  1. Invest in yourself.
  2. Be a continual learner.
  3. Create a growth environment.

Today, I’m going to focus on the second suggestion, being a continual learner.

 

Becoming a Continual Learner

For me, this is natural. I was one of those really strange kids who was always happy at the end of summer when school started again. But I do recognize that a lot of people struggle with traditional education. Even if you hated school, you can still love learning. Learning is different than education.

Now, I’ve spent most of my career on university campuses. Some academics might think this is sacrilegious, but I truly see that education and learning are not the same thing.  I’ve learned so much just from reading books or watching videos, attending classes where I was learning a skill or spending time with people in discussion.

For example, last week I had my first international ballroom dance class that was taught in English.  The lesson last night was familiar, but the last time I learned it, I was in South Korea and the lesson was taught in Korean.  I had to depend on observation and practice with skilled partners more than listening to explanations when I first learned – and I appreciated the finer points that were explained to me in English last week!

There are so many different ways to learn things. I encourage you to explore some of those different methods of learning even if you enjoy traditional-style-education learning like I did. But always be looking for ways to grow and to learn and to understand the world and the people in it just a little better.

 

The Three Learning Zones

John Maxwell describes three zones that people live in:

  • The Coasting Zone– You’ve done that before, and you don’t feel you need to do it again. You might not even be doing what you did before. You don’t have to work so hard, and you’re not going try real hard.
  • The Comfort Zone– You have done it, and now you know how to do it. You know you’re good at it, so you’re not going to push the limits.
  • The Challenge Zone– You’re trying new things, and you’re going new places. You’re learning and stretching to new levels.

As we’re talking about this, I have students in all three categories. I have one or two students – not so many this semester – but one or two students have the attitude of “been there, done that; I’m comfortable talking in English and using these skills, so I don’t need to work real hard.” They’re coasting. However, I have one student in particular who is always hungry to understand everything, and he makes me work hard.

I thought it is really interesting how John Maxwell talks about these three zones. Usually you think about your comfort zone and getting in or out of your comfort zone, but it’s not just advancing beyond the comfort zone. It’s a possible slide back into a coasting zone. Nothing is accomplished when you’re coasting.

InThe 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell points out that, while we’re growing up and attending school, it is natural for us to feel stretched out of our comfort zone because we are naturally growing and learning.  But as adults, growth doesn’t happen as a matter of course.  We have to be intentional about continuing to grow and expand our capacity.

 

Take It Deeper

What are you reading or learning right now? You might be reading up on leadership or another professional skill, or you might be working towards an additional graduate degree.  You might take up dancing or skiing or windsurfing.  You might join a choir or start volunteering for a charity.

No matter where you are in life, you can always become more than you are today.  And in that lies your secret path to success!

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.

 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.