Tag Archive for humanness

5 Reasons our Leadership Planning Session Rocked

officemscottThe exec team I’m privileged to work with had its strategic planning session over the past few days. Aside from fighting a stupid migraine both days, I thought it was a cool experience. Sean McDonald facilitated for us, and he did great.

Why am I mentioning this session? I mean, unless you’re a Mazuman, why would you care? There were some things that I really appreciated at this session. They were the sort of things you’d want to see from a team of humans working together toward some pretty ambitious goals.

1. Culture was a huge part of the conversation.

And not just one conversation. It came up over and over and over again, and it wasn’t confined to conversations where culture was the main topic. It was awesome to see a group of people pressing a lot of other decisions — operations, etc — through the filter of the culture our organization is working slowly but surely to build.

2. Togetherness

There’s something about going away from the office for a session like this. As our CEO mentioned while we were there, it’s important for teams to know each other, not just as fellow execs, but as humans.

130207170822-the-office-nbc-story-top3. We were able to just “be.”

How often can you let your guard down a bit and just “be” as you’re together with others sharing your passion. Hearing my teammates’ different thoughts and ideas was inspiring. Even when my migraine had me holding onto my chair in an effort to make the room stop spinning, it was clear that people were opening up, being vulnerable, having honest (and potentially uncomfortable) conversations, and so on. It’s moments like those — even the smallest moments — that can be amazing.

4. People disagreed.

And it was OK. This wasn’t a “nod and smile” meeting where every sat around the table with Stepford-esque smiles plastered on their faces. Nope, there was open discussion and even debate of strategies and vision. That kind of thing is essential to a team’s success.

5. My teammates are wicked smart.

Like Good-Will-Hunting smart. I already knew this, but it’s always cool to see it in action. It wasn’t that they were smart because they agreed with my position on things; they were just ridiculously smart and creative and determined to make our organization all that it could be.

Why should you care? Seeing things like what I described above is such an encouragement because it another reminder of how teams can be if they decide to work hard, be vulnerable, care about culture, and be always looking and pushing forward.

Fit in. Or Don’t.

drseusswhyfitinYou can fit in, or you can stand out. You can’t have it both ways.

There are scores of people and groups out there who are more than willing to describe for you to a well-crossed T how you’re to act/look/think in any given situation or setting. Perhaps they’ve been there since you were a wee lad or lass, encouraging — and sometimes forcing — you to fit in to a given mold.

soldieryawnThink of all the books, scoldings, fringe religious zealots, co-workers, employees, school systems, etc, who took (and take) great pains to establish for you (or others) exactly — and often it really is a precise thing — who or what or how you’re supposed to be, whereas we’d say we want people to just…be.

It can be overwhelming. And paralyzing. And terrifying. When we feel the tug to step outside what’s expected of us, we can feel befuddled, bamboozled, baffled, and bewildered, especially if we’re berated for doing so. What becomes painfully obvious is that we’re really good at clinging to the way things are, and we’re often fiercely loyal to the way we’ve always done things around here.

But back to those folks — many of them well-intentioned — who will give you those subtle reminders that you need to be or look or talk like or believe a certain thing or things.

“This is what a corporate cog…er…individual looks like.”

“This is what an executive looks like.”

“This is what a [insert your follower-of-a-given-religion here] looks like.”

“This is what an affluent kid looks like.”

And so it goes.

But if you fit in too much, you won’t do anything. Think of people who do or have done things in any sphere. Amazing things that made or are making a real difference to different groups of folks. History is full of such people (Jesus of Nazareth, Ghandi, MLK, Michael Jordan, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Churchill, Richard Branson, etc).

weirdisradRarely do they “fit” anywhere. They do great things precisely because they’re willing to challenge conventional wisdom, think outside the box (though I still loathe that expression), innovate, and be, well, different. Isn’t that the very essence of the word extraordinary? Something outside the ordinary?

What groups, churches, organizations, and communities need is just those people, but sadly (though not unpredictably) they’re largely missing. As leaders, we’ve got to create environments where people can explore who they are and become the person they’re meant to be.

See Jack Assume


Perception can be a wonderful and awful thing, can’t it? It’s especially wonderful when accompanied by a good sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. It’s especially awful when it’s accompanied by neither.

You know what I’m talking about.

SI ExifIt’s that guy at the company Christmas party — we’ll call him Jack — who won’t shut up. Everyone in the room has his or her own individual perception of Jack, of course, and they vary a bit. The problem is that Jack assumes (see what I did there?) he’s the life of the party, the wittiest guy alive, and that he’s well-liked by all.

Unfortunately the reality is more along these lines…Everyone dreads at least one part of the Christmas party every year — Jack. Is he a terrible human being? No, he’s not. But he seems to be so full of himself. He never stops talking, acts like he’s smarter than he is, and is like that guy in high school who only thinks he’s the most popular kid in school.

So where’s the disconnect? Well, it goes back to what we mentioned in the first paragraph. Everybody perceives situations differently based on a number of factors, including their own self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Another example. Say a local TV personality is eating at a casual restaurant. He happens to be sitting alone in a booth, and appears to be doing something on his computer. A woman approaches the booth and without hesitation slides onto the bench seat across the table from the now confused man.

He doesn’t lift his head, but looks up from his screen to see who his unexpected guest is. Not recognizing her, he assumes she’s mistakenly landed in his booth thinking it was her own. But she doesn’t move.

“You’re Nathan, right?” she asks, already knowing the answer.

“I’m sorry. Do we know each other?” he replies, taken off guard.

“No, but I follow you on Facebook and catch you on TV all the time. Love your show.”

“Thanks,” he says. “I appreciate it.”

Thinking that would be a sufficient amount of conversation for his guest to move along, he goes back to his work; but she doesn’t move.

“Mind if I join you and buy you a drink?”

Awwwwkwaaaarrrrrd, he thought to himself.

“Um, thanks but no. I’m not trying to embarrass you or read too much into this, but I’m together with someone and really do have some work I have to get done.”

“I just think we have so many things in common,” she replies, missing the cues.

He looks back at her, giving her that that’s-great-but-please-just-leave smile.

She was saying something as she scooted out of the booth, but he was determined not to hear or acknowledge it, and so continued to stare as intently as he possibly could into his computer as she walked away.

What happened there? Two people were involved in the same situation, but were perceiving it in different ways. One was lacking self-awareness and emotional intelligence to some degree, right? Mr. Nathan the TV Man was giving all the signs of not wanting her to be there, but yet she tarried. And talked. And offered to buy him a drink. And said how much they had in common. You know how those pesky stalkers get — all clingy and whatnot.

So as leaders and teammates we’ve got to do a better job with these things (perception, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence — not the stalking thing). We need to understand that regardless of our intent, others will always have perceptions about us; and they won’t always be right or fair or what we’d like them to be.

To stay with our recent and now tired example, maybe you just like wearing suits or dressing up for work, but someone else interprets that as you trying to appear powerful or better than them. Or maybe they assume that you must be super smart and successful since you don such dapper attire. And really, all it actually boils down to is that you like that style and so you wear what you like.

Or it could be the other way around and the jeans and shirt guy is deemed “less professional” and “doesn’t take his job as seriously.” And Mr. Jeans is certainly not as smart and successful, right? Because if he were, he’d be wearing a suit.

It’s amazing what people think they can “know” about others based on such random and arbitrary factors. But that’s the world in which we live. Everyone has perceptions about everything. Everything means something.

So we’ve got manage perceptions about ourselves and at the same time be aware of potentially misguided perceptions we have of others. And we need to be humble enough to wrestle with self-awareness, even when it’s not pretty.