The Heart of the Matter – Adding Value


Have you experienced a time when someone went above and beyond the “call of duty”?  Perhaps it was a parent, a teacher, a mentor, or a friend.

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

When I first starting writing this blog last year, it took me a while to find my voice and my style.  At that time, a friend of mine agreed to help me by previewing my articles.  What I didn’t know was that this friend has a background in publishing.  He didn’t just preview, but he gave detailed feedback, pointing out gaps in the flow of information and providing valuable suggestions.  His input helped establish a firm foundation for everything that has followed.  He genuinely did so much more for me than I had anticipated.

My friend demonstrated the final step in the connected influence model, which is “when you’ve done enough … do more.”  If you want to have principled, integrity-based influence in people’s lives, you have to go above and beyond what’s expected; you have to go the “extra mile.”

John Maxwell says that “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”  That being the case, his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership provides 21 strategies for increasing your influence.  Law #5, the Law of Addition, states that “leaders add value by serving others.”  He says, “I believe the bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others.  That is achieved by serving others and adding value to their lives” (p. 51).  This is the essence of connected influence.

Connected listening is the starting point of connected influence (or connected leadership).  Once you truly understand another’s point of view, hopes, goals, and challenges, you may be able to move forward together.  Mark Goulston and John Ullmen, in their book Real Influence, draw a connection between “the 3 gets” of step 3 with “the 3 value channels” of step 4:

  • You get “it” –> you can add insight
  • You get “them” –> you can add emotional value
  • You get their path to progress –> you can add practical value

No matter how much you understand, until you help the other person by adding value to them, you are no more than a sympathetic ear.  Don’t get me wrong – one of our greatest needs as humans is to feel heard and understood, so being a sympathetic ear is adding value to someone.  However, in order to take your influence to the next level, you will have to invest in people by pointing them towards solutions.

My challenge to you for this week is to identify one person in your life who you would like to develop greater influence with.  Make a point of asking about that person’s situation and look for opportunities to provide support and creative suggestions.  If you have never done something like this before, you will be amazed by the results.


Links and Resources:

Previous posts on this topic

Previous Posts on the Connected Influence Model

Intentional Connection – A Path to Influence


By Tasha M. Troy

A few years ago, I had great difficulty in managing my class.  There were two students in particular who were very resistant to my instruction and feedback, and I found myself growing more and more frustrated working with them. IMG_7225

Finally, at one point, through indirect channels, I learned that both students had gotten the impression that didn’t like them on a personal level, and this perception undermined any influence I might have had with them.

In order to create successful outcomes for them and for me, I had to put forth great effort to connect with them individually.  This included apologizing for giving the impression – intentional or not – that I didn’t value them as individuals.  It also entailed listening to their perspectives and understanding where they were coming from.  Further, I had to be quite explicit in stating what I saw as their strengths and their bright future prospects.  Because of my efforts and their responsiveness, both were able to successfully complete the program and go on to further personal and professional accomplishments.

I have the great fortune to teach in a program with small class sizes, typically working with ten students at a time.  Of those ten, eight or nine will be naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style.  John Maxwell’s Law of Magnetism states that “who you are is who you attract.”  This creates a connection with most of my students without much effort on my part.

Of course, over the years I have also learned to do a few things to encourage this connection, especially talking about what I consider “parallel experiences”; while I may not relate to each student’s situation, from day one, I emphasize stories of my own language learning and overseas life experience, things I share in common with all of my students.

However, what about those who don’t naturally connect?

I am learning to be more intentional about meeting those students where they are – understanding their perspective and motivations, their goals and aspirations.  In past years, I would do this as a response to a crisis.  Sometimes I find students don’t relate to my personality, and other times they have different leadership experience and skills that make them resistant to my feedback.

Whatever the reason for the disconnect, as the instructor, and therefore leader, I have to be intentional about connecting with all students.  I do this by focusing on the student and his/ her goals as well as explicitly expressing what I see as his/her strengths.  I also paint a picture for each of my students of what I see them achieving.

If you feel like you don’t have the influence in your life that you need, it may be time to learn to connect at a higher level.  This has been the case for me.  I have found the connecting principles and practices described by John Maxwell in his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect to be powerful tools for connecting with not only my students but also with others in my life.

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increase your influence with them.”  Next week, I will start leading a “mastermind group”* through this book with the aim of helping people grow in their connecting skills.  I would love to include you in the group!

Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net


A Connective Approach to Influence


In my years of teaching, I have learned some hard lessons in effective leadership, especially when many of my students are strong leaders in their own right.  This week I want to share some of my insights, one of the key lessons I’ve learned that has really helped me to be more effective.

You can learn more of my thoughts on The Power of Connective Listening from a previous article.

You can read about some of my specific experiences with connecting with students in my articles on The Power of Gentleness, Persuasion through Selflessness, and A Well Connected Life.

Lollipop Moments


Drew Dudley, a leadership educator in Toronto, shares a story that changed his definition of leadership.

It is so easy to discount the small, everyday actions that can have a large impact, but that is the essence of building connections with people.

What “lollipop moments” have you experienced recently?

For His Purpose


IMG_6933Have you ever had the sense that you were doing what you were created to do? I don’t mean having a sense of accomplishment but something much deeper and foundational. The first time I felt like that was after I had graduated from college and had finally gotten a job in my field of TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). I was working at a small university in my hometown in an intensive English program, helping international students prepare to enroll in university courses. One day walking across the campus, I just got an overwhelming sense of rightness, of being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing with my life.

If we want to see God’s purposes for our communities and nation come to pass, we need to first discover and embrace His purposes for our lives as individuals.

I truly believe that God has a purpose for each individual. In Psalm 139:16, David says, “Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.” (CEV) There are many other verses that make reference to God being intentional about the lives of His people.  We are wired to pursue a purpose.  In his article “The Power of Purpose,” Dr. Steve Taylor says:

“The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of human beings. Human beings crave purpose, and suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.”

I was very fortunate to be raised in a family that encouraged me to pursue what I felt was my calling, what I now view as my purpose for life. In his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell describes three types of people (paraphrased):

  • those who don’t know their purposeIMG_6952
  • those who know their purpose but are not pursuing it
  • those who know their purpose and are living it

One of the things that make me the saddest when I encounter people is when they haven’t developed an understanding of their purpose or aren’t pursuing their purpose. Dr. Steve Taylor describes purpose-driven people:

“When you’re ‘in purpose’ – that is, engaged with and working towards your purpose – life becomes easier, less complicated and stressful. You become more mono-focused, like an arrow flying towards its target, and your mind feels somehow taut and strong, with less space for negativity to seep in.”

There have been short seasons when I lived without this sense of purpose and its benefits, and it grieves me when I meet people who have lived this way for years, perhaps for their entire lives.

If you don’t feel like you have found your purpose, there is good news! I believe that God has designed each person to be perfectly suited to succeed in fulfilling the purpose for which he or she was created. If you believe that God is purposeful, the next step is to see that God has given us clues to understand His purpose for us as individuals. In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren says, “Each of us was uniquely designed, or ‘shaped,’ to do certain things.” He goes on to describe a simple way of exploring that S.H.A.P.E., and I see these five areas as clues to our individual purpose:

  • Spiritual gifts – how does God use you to minister to others? (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
  • Heart – what issues stir your passion? (Psalm 37:4)
  • Abilities – what are you naturally talented in? (Exodus 31:3-5)
  • Personality – how do you interact with the world around you? (Jeremiah 1:5)
  • Experience – where has your journey through life taken you so far? (Romans 8:28)

Several years ago, I began documenting and tracking my own S.H.A.P.E., and I refer to it any time I am facing a major life decision. I find it helps me to have clarity in making good choices that will line up with where God has brought me and where He is likely taking me – including my decision to start writing this blog.

If you feel that you haven’t yet found your purpose, or if you are at a crossroads and uncertain of your path forward, I highly encourage you to explore your own S.H.A.P.E. If God designed you for a specific purpose, the world needs you to live out that purpose. You owe it to yourself and the people within your sphere of influence to discover and embrace God’s purpose for your life!


Links and Resources

Steve Taylor, Ph.D – The Power of Purpose

Resources for discovering your SHAPE

  • a list of online resources I compiled to help some of my young friends understand their SHAPE

66 Bible verses about our purpose


2015 – A Year of Purpose


Ed DeCosta is an executive coach who has greatly impacted my life this year with his free weekly video podcast.  Today, as we face a new year, I wanted to share his 5-minute message on Purpose, Priorities, and Intentionality.

Ed is offering a “task management” tool on his website, which I have found very useful myself.

If you are interested in defining your purpose, I would love to help you.  Contact me at for more information.


Do You Still Dream?


IMG_6220I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to walk through the new Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in Washington, DC. It was a powerful experience for me, especially reading the quotes engraved around the memorial. His dream and life message is even more relevant today in light of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country.

Who among us hasn’t been moved by Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic speech? And who among us has not felt intimidated by the scope of his dream?

I believe that God is a God of dreams; He has big dreams, and He invites us to participate in His dreams for our world. I believe God places dreams in our hearts to lead us towards His purpose for our life, but dreaming itself is only the first step to walking into our purpose. Recently, Stephen Mansfield spoke at my church on the topic of “Dreamers of the Day.” His main point was that there has been much teaching on destiny and purpose, but very little on process, and he describes a six-step process that God uses to bring people into the fulfillment of their dreams:

  1. Receive the dreamIMG_6391
  2. Embody the dream
  3. Redefine the dream
  4. Equip for the dream
  5. Declare the dream
  6. Live out the dream

We see all six stages demonstrated in the life of Nehemiah. In the days of the Babylonian and Persian captivity of Judah, Nehemiah had a dream to see Jerusalem rebuilt, and we can trace the development of his dream into reality in the Book of Nehemiah.

  1. Receive: He received a report from his brother about the condition of Jerusalem, which inspired him to pray (1:4, 11).
  2. Embody: When given the opportunity, he boldly requested a leave of absence from his position as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in order to pursue the fulfillment of this dream himself (2:4-8).
  3. Redefine: When he arrived at Jerusalem, he discovered that achieving his dream would be no simple task and that there would be severe opposition (4:1-3, 7-8, 11).
  4. Equip: Because of the threat, Nehemiah equipped the builders with not only building tools but also swords and spears and set a guard for the workmen so that they could complete the work safely (4:16-23).
  5. Declare: In spite of the opposition, Nehemiah was able to inspire his work force by reminding them of what was at stake, namely their families (4:14).
  6. Live Out: Finally, Nehemiah was able to live out his dream – “So the wall was finished . . . in fifty-two days” (6:15).

To be honest, I am impressed that the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt in fifty-two days. The dreams I have will take much longer than that!

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

This year, 2014, I have begun to dream again, and I have been inspired with a fresh vision and purpose for my life. This has really served to energize me and motivate me to set some pretty audacious goals for 2015 and beyond. Some of these are MLK-sized dreams that I have only recently received. I am committing this year to defining and embodying these dreams.

The world needs us to become everything God has designed us to be. What dream has God placed in your heart? What stage are you in towards pursuing that dream – or have you faced opposition and given up on your dream? What are the next steps you need to take to see that dream become a reality?

May 2015 be the year we pursue our God-given dreams wholeheartedly.


Links and Resources

Stephen Mansfield: Dreamers of the Day

6 Bible verses about dreams

34 Bible verses about dreams and visions

35 Bible verses about purpose

A Key to a Culturally Relevant Church


As someone who has spent most of her career teaching in short-term, intensive language programs, I have worked with many different classes, and I have found that each class has its own personality. Most groups are simply a collection of individuals largely focused on their own individual goals; however, occasionally the class comes together and forms a dynamic and supportive learning community. As the instructor, I do what I can to encourage the development of a community, but it also depends heavily on the personalities in the class.IMG_6645

I have seen the same patterns in Christian organizations and church groups. In some churches, people simply interact at Sunday service but have little or no contact during the week, while in other churches, the members create strong bonds of friendship, frequently meeting for dinner during the week and sometimes becoming roommates.

It is not always clear to me what makes one group of individuals come together and what prevents another group. However, David Logan’s TED Talk has given me some tools to start exploring this issue. He discusses group behavior from a “tribal” perspective, defining “tribes” as smaller groups of 20 to 150 people.

Based on organizational research that focused on observable language and behavior, his book Tribal Leadership, co-authored with John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, identifies five stages of “tribal” culture based on the language used and the actions taken by members of the “tribe” (the following labels are my own):

Stage 1: Survival Mode.  People in a stage 1 culture have a sense of hopelessness and despair and will do anything it takes to survive, even if it means resorting to violence. David Logan says that this is the culture of gangs and of prisons; about 2% of organizations are in this stage.

Stage 2: Victim Mentality.  While people in stage 2 cultures have moved beyond mere survival, they still have little or no hope for their circumstances to improve, leading to very negative attitudes. I believe most people in such cultures have simply given up and are going through the motions. About one quarter of organizations are at this stage.

While I have seen individual students in these stages, it is rare for an entire class or church group to be here. However, the next stage is very common.

Stage 3: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). At this point, people have moved beyond hopelessness and helplessness and see the value of putting in an effort. However, at this stage, it is all about personal advancement, even at the expense of peers and colleagues. Nearly half of all organizations are at this stage.

At this stage, I can see the importance of the role of attitude, that intangible quality of people that influences their thoughts and behaviors. John Maxwell, in his book Attitude 101, lists the signs of a bad attitude, which I believe make a very good description of someone in a stage 3 culture:IMG_6651

  • inability to admit wrongdoing
  • failing to forgive
  • petty jealousy
  • the “disease of me”
  • a critical spirit
  • a desire to hog all the credit

Stage 4: Group Cohesion. At this stage, people begin bonding over shared values. It could be as lofty as a shared mission (end human trafficking like the organization A21) or as quirky as a personality trait (be a little weird like the company Zappos). Because of the shared values and vision, people form bonds and are willing to collaborate and cooperate to meet their goals; 22% of organizations reach this stage.

Stage 5: The “Mountaintop.” At this stage of culture, the group no longer forms around a limited goal while comparing themselves to other groups; they are now ready to take on global transformation and compare themselves to what is possible. Only 2% of organizations reach this stage.

In these last two stages, we see healthy relationships being formed, whether within the group or beyond the group. In his book Relationships 101, John Maxwell lists five characteristics of solid relationships. While his focus was primarily on one-on-one relationships, I believe these characteristics can be applied to group cultures as well.

  • Respect
  • Shared experiences
  • Trust
  • Reciprocity
  • Mutual enjoyment

I would argue that Christians are called to develop Stage 5 cultures, and I believe the early church had a stage 5 culture based on solid relationships. The Book of Acts recounts how the first disciples of Christ formed a community that changed not only the individuals within that community but eventually the entire world.

  • They frequently “broke bread” and prayed together (Acts 2:42, 46-47).
  • They shared everything in common and trusted each other (Acts 4:32-36).
  • They bonded through the persecution of the Jewish leadership (Acts 5:41).
  • They worked together to solve community problems (Acts 6:1-7).

As I learned about the concepts in Tribal Leadership, I was not surprised that the majority of organizations have “me-centric” stage 3 cultures. This is the pervasive characteristic of modern American culture, one I believe needs to change. Christians are meant to be known by their unity, but Christianity in the United States today is too often characterized by bitter divisions and self-righteous criticism. If the American church is going to have an impact on the surrounding culture, we must develop a Stage 5 “tribe,” first within individual churches and then among the churches of America and beyond.


Links and Resources:

David Logan’s TED Talk Tribal Leadership 

Book review of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

Minute with Maxwell: Relationships

31 Bible Verses about Relationships

Minute with Maxwell: Attitude

35 Bible Verses about Attitude


Modern-day Tribes


In this 2009 TEDx Talk, David Logan, Professor of Management at USC, describes about five levels of “tribes,” groups of 20 to 150 people who work, live, or otherwise interact together. He then gives some suggestions for moving your own “tribe” from being groups of individuals to world-changing organizations, steps that we can take to become more unified in our purpose.


To Live A Well-Connected Life


My first year teaching in S. Korea was challenging in several ways. Not only did I have to adapt to a new culture and language environment, but I also had to adapt to a new student population. I had previously taught college-age international students in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, but that first year in Korea I found myself teaching classes to elementary school students.

St. Louis Botanical Garden

St. Louis Botanical Garden

On top of that, for most of my classes, the mothers of my students sat along the walls of the classroom observing the class. I did the best I could to deliver lessons that were full of content and language practice, but in the end students started leaving my classes because they were bored. In fact, my first teaching contract was not renewed for a second year, primarily because I failed to connect with my students.

As a young and fairly inexperienced teacher, my focus was on the content of my lessons. However, I needed to understand the specific needs and wants of the individual students in my class. For my elementary students, this was their need to have fun and play as well as learn English. By the time I moved to my third teaching position in Korea, working with mid-level managers in an international corporation, I finally began to understand the needs of my students well enough to connect with them in ways that led to their success and mine.

Until I learned to take the students’ perspectives into consideration, I was unable to connect with my students in ways that encouraged them to engage in the lessons I prepared. In their book Real Influence, John Ullmen and Mark Goulston identify a primary cause of disconnection as the “blind spot” in our brains. Because we naturally approach any issue from our own perspective, we fail to consider other perspectives, which creates a mental “blind spot.” They further describe four traps most people fall into when it comes to connecting and influencing others:

  1. the fight or flight response – “your nervous system … doesn’t know the difference between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and an tyrannical boss” leading you to either respond aggressively (fight) or avoid the situation (flight)
  2. the habit handicap – when stressed or challenged, we resort to our “comfort zone” of behaviors that have worked in the past, but which may not be best in the current circumstances
  3. error blindness – being wrong feels just like being right, and it isn’t until we realize our error that we can correct it
  4. the double curse of knowledge – even when you are right, you may find it difficult to explain what you find obvious to a less knowledgeable person.

I think I experienced all four when I moved to Korea!

Through trial and error I eventually learned how to connect with my students. However, I now recognize that John Maxwell has summed up these strategies of how to connect with others in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

  1. Connect with yourself – know who you are and be confident in your skills and abilities
  2. Know your audience – learn the goals, hopes, and dreams of the people you are working with
  3. Go to where they are – meet people in their circumstances, or as Ullmen and Goulston say, in “their there”
  4. Communicate with openness and sincerity – being transparent is essential to creating a connection
  5. Offer direction and hope – present the positive and optimistic view; there are enough negative voices in the world
  6. Live your message – practice what you preach and you can build credibility
  7. Focus on them, not yourself – show people you care about them and their circumstances
  8. Believe in them – encourage and support people, even at their lowest.

These guidelines have become the backbone of my teaching style.IMG_6764

Many of the Old Testament prophets failed to connect with the people of Israel and Judah, in part due to the nature of their messages of repentance, messages the people simply weren’t interested in hearing. However, a notable exception is Daniel who practiced connected influence as an advisor to the kings of Babylon and Persia.

  1.  Connect with yourself – Daniel had such a clear view of himself that he asked for an exception when given “the king’s delicacies” (Daniel 1:5, 8-16).
  2. Know your audience – when Daniel first approached the chief eunuch about his diet, he demonstrated a concern for the man’s predicament (Daniel 1:8-10).
  3. Go to where they are – Daniel suggested a 10-day trial of a vegetable diet to limit the risk to the chief eunuch (Daniel 1:12).
  4. Communicate with openness and sincerity – when Daniel came before Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his dream, he was clear that he didn’t have the interpretation because he was wiser than any other but because God had revealed it to him (Daniel 2:27-30).
  5. Offer direction and hope – when Daniel gave a negative interpretation for one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, he also gave counsel for how the king could avoid the coming personal disaster (Daniel 4:19-27).
  6. Live your message – when the lower government officials tried to discredit Daniel, they couldn’t find any opening to accuse him of wrongdoing (Daniel 6:4).
  7. Focus on them, not yourself – Daniel humbly served those set above him as well as those under his authority (Daniel 1:8-13; 2:14-18, 24-30, 49; 4:19, 27; 5:17; 6:1-3).
  8. Believe in them – Daniel consistently encouraged the best in the kings he served (Daniel 2:37-38; 4:19, 27; 6:21)

Connecting with others is an important step towards developing a sphere of influence. Daniel exerted a gentle influence upon the pagan kings of Babylon and Persia by connecting with the rulers of those countries. We, too, can exert a similar influence upon those in our sphere of influence if we follow his example and truly begin to connect with those around us.


Resources and Links

Interview with John C. Maxwell on the 700 Club talking about the Laws of Leadership

Communication Fundamentals course on, taught by John Ullmen

Website for Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

Series of blog posts by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen based on the concepts in Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In

Sunday message by Pastor Jeff Abyad on the life of Daniel: Thriving in Captivity