Want to have stronger relationships? Empower!

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Did you realize that teachers can be possessive?  I know I have been!

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Photo by Tasha M. Troy

As someone who teaches in a “student-centered” classroom, I am expected to empower the students to take the lead and to direct the class.  I’ll admit that this has been a struggle for me at times.  Ok, a lot of the time!

Part of the reason for this is the need to meet conflicting interests.  The desires of my students don’t always line up with the mandates from my employer.  Further, I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I have been concerned that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my own tasks if I take the time needed to allow students more directive control.

However, my attitude is changing.  In the last 18 months, as I’ve been learning more about leadership and developing leaders, I have started to look at my classroom less as a learning environment and more as a leadership incubator.  While I have always sought to empower my students to continue learning and growing after they’ve completed the course, now I am taking a bigger picture view of life after the classroom.

Of course, I am still focused on delivering content and providing opportunities for my students to grow in their communication skills.  However, this shift in perspective has made it possible for me to empower my students in ways I never did before.

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell says:

“Leading well is not about enriching yourself – it’s about empowering others.”

He then lists three reasons people don’t empower others: a desire for job security, resistance to change, and lack of self-worth.  For me, I think it was a combination of all three that prevented me from empowering my students more.

What I have found, however, is that people will rise to your expectations, and even when they don’t, good management of the situation can create a powerful learning experience for everyone involved.  In the end, it is well worth taking a little extra time to empower the people around me, for their own good and for mine!

In what areas are you still holding on to control?  Who do you need to empower today?

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Feed Your Soul

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Once in a while, I feel I need to take a break from my life, run away, and get alone.  Do you ever feel like that?

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Fort Harrison, near Richmond, Virginia; photo by Tasha M. Troy

At times like that, I usually will take a short road trip, either a trip out to some of my favorite nearby natural sites or a day trip to a place a couple of hours away.  Most often, I take these excursions alone – just me and God.  If I do invite a friend along, it is because she is a highly trusted friend.

I always come back from these outings feeling refreshed, grounded, and centered, ready to face my life and the demands put upon me by clients, students, employers, friends, and family.

In order to practice connected influence or principled leadership, we must first connect with ourselves and with God.

John Maxwell teaches that the highest form of leadership is self-leadership.  This includes feeling connected to yourself and your purpose, understanding your strengths.  It also includes self-care.

As I write this, it is December 8 – smack-dab in the middle of the busy Christmas season.  It might be the hardest time of the year to engage in self-care.  However, I would venture that you won’t survive the next few weeks if you are not intentional about finding the time.

We cannot give what we do not have

Green Spring Garden, Virginia Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Green Spring Garden, Virginia
Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Whenever I talk to someone who is feeling stressed out – whether it’s a friend, client, student, whoever! – I tell them that everyday they need to do something that “feeds their soul.”  By this, I mean you need to do something everyday that you enjoy, that is just for you.

In the Law of Priorities, John Maxwell describes his “3 Rs” for setting priorities; the third one is “reward,” which means prioritizing the things that give you your greatest emotional payoff.  This is exactly what I mean when I say “feed your soul.”

Feed Your Soul

This doesn’t need to take a long time; 5 or 10 minutes will suffice for many activities.  Here are some suggestions, mostly things that I do; this list is by no means exhaustive!

  • Take a short walk outside.
  • Take a 10-minute nap.
  • Read a chapter in a book you enjoy (not required reading).
  • Eat your favorite food (you still gotta eat dinner right?  Make it something you enjoy!)
  • Call a loved one and have a short (or long) conversation.
  • Take a hot bath and light candles (one of my favorites!)
  • Play with your pet(s); if you don’t have one, borrow one!
  • Spend 5 mindful minutes breathing deeply and listening to the sounds around you.

What suggestions do you have for a quick recharge when you’re feeling tired, stressed, or “out of sorts”?

 

Resources

One of the things I love the most about John Maxwell’s 7-Day Experiment in Intentional Living is how focused it is on creating stronger relationships with the people around you.  Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to start your 7-day experiment with John Maxwell!

 

Find Your Strengths, Find Your Purpose

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My pastor has a little bit of an unusual background; his undergraduate degree is in music.  I heard him once say that he was only a mediocre flutist but that he was able to outperform many of his classmates.  The secret?  He had to work hard just to keep up, but those with more natural talent chose to coast along.  In the end, he graduated a better performer, and we are very blessed each time we hear him play.

IMG_8404Experts in human potential say that you should develop your strengths, not your weaknesses.  This seems counterintuitive to most; we think we should try to do better what we don’t do well.  However, the truth is you will only really shine in areas of strength, but you will never reach your full potential until you invest the time and energy to grow in your areas of raw talent.  Just like my pastor’s classmates, if you choose not to grow in those areas, you will never truly excel.

John Maxwell says that we “should get out of [our] comfort zone but stay in [our] strength zone,” but this assumes we know what our strengths are.

Years ago, when I first read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, I started tracking my SHAPE.  This proved to be an excellent tool for me to refer to when making life choices.  However, it has not always been easy to explain my process to other people, especially those less prone  to introspection or self-reflection.  It is difficult to teach something that seems as natural as breathing to you.

I have just recently taken the Gallup StrengthsFinders assessment, and I think it will provide a useful tool for the less reflective.

What StrengthsFinder Is

If you aren’t familiar with StrengthsFinders, let me give just a brief overview.

  1. It measures your talents, not your strengths.  The premise is that you start with raw talent and develop it into a strength.  The assessment purports to reveal where you have the potential to develop a strength.
  2. It identifies your 5 most prominent talents from a list of 34.  These talents describe “what’s right with people” as opposed to what they might not do well.
  3. This assessment actively discourages introspection!  You are given only 20 seconds to answer each question because the designers believe a snap reaction is more accurate.

While the results of my assessment haven’t been tremendously surprising to me, it has provided some interesting insights.  What it has done is given me a framework to help me in ways perhaps not intended by the designers.

How I Am Using the Insights

The assessment is intended to provide teams with insights so that they can be built around complimentary strengths, but at the moment I am a “solo-preneur” (a business of just one), without a work team.  I have to fill every role, whether I am talented at it or not.

As an example, I know I need to get out and network in order to build my business.  One of the 34 talents is called “woo” – winning others over – which is what makes for great networkers.  I am certain my father has this talent since he really has never met a stranger.

IMG_0672However, I did not get that talent!  That descriptor is truly the opposite of my natural inclination; I am an introvert who would much rather sit in a corner with a book than mingle with the crowds.

In order to enable me to become a more outgoing and proactive networker, I have dug into the descriptions of my existing talents looking for elements that could draw me out of my shell and compel me to approach people.  I have only found one potential strength that had anything remotely outgoing; the “developer” talent is “drawn toward people” for the purpose of helping them develop their talents.

I am now applying this talent insight to my networking approach; instead of looking at a room full of strangers, I choose to look at it as a room full of potential.  Since this is a new approach, it is hard to tell you how well it’s working, but my first couple events using the approach have been more positive experiences than before.

The day will soon come when I recruit a partner for my business, and I now know what talents and strengths that partner must have in order to balance my weaknesses.  Until that day comes, I will continue to leverage new facets of my talents to keep growing!

 

Where are your greatest strengths?  Which talents are you using, and which ones are you growing?

 

Resources

If you would like to learn more about personal growth, join me for a 3-session mastermind group in December (2015) on the first three Laws of Growth.  You can find details at A Taste of Growth.

Join the intentional living movement!  Click here to start your 7-day experiment with John Maxwell!

 

Works Referenced

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: The Law of Priorities, by John Maxwell

The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren

StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath

Protect Your Buttons!

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A few years ago, I brought a roommate into my home.  This was the first time I’d had a roommate since I’d graduate from college, so many years ago, so it was a bit of an adjustment for me.

To make things more challenging, my roommate and I had dramatically different personalities.  She was an extrovert who enjoyed arguments for fun, and I am an introvert who avoids conflict whenever possible.

I will never forget the first break from teaching I had after she had moved in.  I was all set to have a relaxing week in preparation for the intense couple of months I knew would follow.  I walked into the kitchen one day early in the week, and my roommate decided she needed to convince me I needed to become an extrovert, a point she pursued tirelessly for 10 or 15 minutes.  She ended up telling me I needed to defend myself, but I saw no need to argue over my introversion!

It turns out that she wanted me to relax and have fun by arguing!

IMG_0551This was not the last time she picked an argument with me.  That year was an election year, and we held opposing political views.  That in itself didn’t bother me; I quite enjoy the open exchange of ideas.  The fact that she always had to be right did bother me.

One night she had me so frustrated and angry that I went to my room and cried.  Yes, I sobbed!  I was convinced I’d have to ask her to move.  She heard me and came and apologized.  Thankfully, she never provoked me to that degree again, but we never really were able to develop a friendship.

How often do we let people or circumstances “push our buttons”?

Any time we are drawn into a conflict it is important to remember one thing:  I can only control and change myself; there is nothing I can do to control the other person or their reactions.

If that is the case, what can we do to rise above the drama of everyday, or extraordinary, conflict?

Imperfect Progress

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Photo by Tasha M. Troy

Changing how you react to the people and circumstances that provoke you is not a quick and easy thing.  In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell talks about “The Law of Process” – leadership doesn’t develop in a day, but daily.  I think here we could substitute the term “personal growth” for leadership.  It’s a process.

Just like losing weight or building muscles or learning how to perform any skill takes time, effort, attention, and practice, so building our emotional muscles takes time.

Lysa TerKeurst talks about such a process in her book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.  She calls it “imperfect progress.”  If each day we are making slightly better choices than we did yesterday, we are making progress.  We won’t react perfectly every time; we are still human and we will blow it.  However, if that happens less and less frequently, we have cause to celebrate.

The Ongoing Struggle

When my roommate finally moved out, she did so in such a way as to provoke conflict.  However, by that time I had begun to value my inner peace more than exerting my rights and managed to avoid a final open conflict.  It truly was a struggle – the woman had become an expert at pushing my buttons – but I chose to not respond to her provocations in the way she expected.  Imperfect progress.

In what area of life do you need to allow “imperfect progress”?

 

References

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.  by Lysa TerKeurst

The Heart of the Matter – Adding Value

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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

Handling Conflict – The Avoiding Style

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By Tasha M. Troy

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Conflict can make or break a relationship, depending on how all parties involved react and/or respond to the situation.

 

 

The Avoiding Style

I have a friend who doesn’t usually communicate when there is a problem.

One time my first clue that there was a problem was when he started avoiding me.  When I made a point of asking him point blank about the situation, he didn’t seem real comfortable talking through it, especially when I got a little emotional.  (No one likes to be avoided!)

That conversation resulted in some necessary changes to our friendship, but I don’t think he realized how putting off the conversation had been more hurtful than simply letting me know his position in the first place.

I can’t criticize my friend too severely; the avoiding style is my primary approach to facing conflict.  I tend to analyze my own reaction before bringing it to the attention of my friend or colleague.  I highly dislike conflict and will engage in a direct confrontation only when I believe the cost of inaction to be higher than the pain of action.

The Drawbacks:

Frequently, the avoiding style can cause more harm than good, especially if problems are left to fester unattended.  I have often left situations unaddressed and found myself putting out fires that could have been prevented with early intervention.

Useful points:

However, sometimes the avoiding style is appropriate.  You hear people say, “Choose your battles”; not every disagreement is worth a confrontation.  Some things are better ignored, for example when someone is trying to pick a fight or if the payoff is not worth the damage a confrontation might cause. Other times the avoiding style might be appropriate is when the two sides need to cool down or when more information is needed to find the best solution.

 

I sincerely believe that timing is everything when it comes to facing a conflict, and it is worth the wait to make sure the timing and the approach are optimal.  In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell describes the law of timing.  He points out four possible outcomes:

  • The wrong action at the wrong time leaders to disaster.
  • The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.
  • The wrong action at the right time is a mistake.
  • The right action at the right time results in success.

I am still learning how to gauge the timing of conversations dealing with conflict, but hopefully I am getting better with each encounter.

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

Links and Resources

Conflict Resolution:  Resolving Conflict Rationally and Effectively

An article that explains the five conflict handling styles as well as the “Interest Based Relational Approach” to dealing with conflict, an approach based on the concepts of the book Getting to Yes by authors Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton

Rick Warren’ message on Resolving Conflict, part of the “You Make Me Crazy” message series

Check out the rest of this series!

The Competitive Style

The Accommodating Style

The Collaborative Style

The Compromising Style

Intentional Connection – A Path to Influence

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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