Friday, August 28, 2009

indulging in small pleasures

I was having a conversation with a colleague and two of our new freshman this week at a scholarship breakfast, and the talk turned to what we were presntly reading. Each of the participants shared their reading material and when they asked me what book currently kept me busy, I sheepishly admitted that I was reading a biography of Barbra Streisand. Let me tell you, just typing that right now was hard to do. For those who keep current with this blog, you know that I read a lot - and tend to focus either on classic fiction or books on leadership, management and history. So to admit to a group publilcly that I am reading (gulp!) Barbra: The Way She Is is very difficult for me.

However, let me take a different tack on this seeming indulgence - and put it in the context of what leaders do. Those who lead organizations and groups know how difficult it can be. They know that the thought of leadership never really leaves them - even when they read pablum they are looking for leadership kernels within the pages...when watching silly romantic comedies, they are looking for leadership examples to show in class or an inservice training...when they simply lay on the beach with nothing better to do, they are planning their next strategy. So I have been looking for leadership examples in my current readin of Barbra, and guess what...

there are none (well, I suppose I could find something, but I am not going to try). The essence of this blog is to say to myself (and to others who might read it) that sometimes we need to escape - we need to have fun - we need to be mindless - we need to relax - we need pablum in our lives...and we should not be embarassed about it (speaking of pablum...I just looked it up to make sure I was spelling it right, and did you know that the word originated from a mushy cereal produced for children, similar to oatmeal?).

So where are you indulging yourself these days in pablum? Is it in a good trashy a entertainment magazine (I and a fan of Entertainment Weekly) movies that make you laugh for no apparent gardening and sorting baseball cards (that used to be a part of my escape) hanging out with the watching baseball or football just because it is on the taking an afternoon nap just because you looking through old comic books...or maybe you are also reading Barbra: The Way She Is?

Enjoy your pablum - indulge in small pleasures - and do not feel guilty, because tomorrow you need to get back at it and lead your organization and people...and you will need all of your energy to do that well!

Friday, August 21, 2009

question - or statement?

One of the things that truly annoys me is when someone asks a question - but it is really a statement of what they believe. You know the type of question I am thinking about:
  • Don't you think it's better if __________________?
  • Could you explain to me why _________________?
  • I'm wondering why they ____________________?

I really wish people would turn these questions into statements that would more accurately reflect their thoughts:

  • I believe it would be better if _________________.
  • I'm angry about __________________________.
  • It looks as if they _________________________.

What would be even better is if these same people could make their statement of belief, and then ask a follow up question that would lead to understanding and dialogue:

  • I believe it would be better if _________________; how do you see the situation?
  • I'm angry about __________________________; are you in a position to explain to me how this happened?
  • It looks as if they _________________________; I'm wondering if you could explain the reasons behind their decision.

Questions - posed correectly - can be powerful tools in coming to an understanding of people and events. I sat in an interview the other day and wanted to understand what the individual was passionate about and what was their so-called line in the sand. I struggled to word the question (I DID NOT want to ask, "tell me what you are passionate about?" or "tell me what your line in the sand is?"). So I carefully worded my question as "tell me about a time that you lost it and became very angry over an incident." The response told me exactly what I wanted to know - and gave great insight into the HEART of this person.

Next time you get ready to ask a question, consider these few items:

  1. do you already know the answer you want to hear? if so, there's no need to ask the question
  2. is the question more of a statment of what you believe? if so, state it in a declarative form
  3. what do you really want to know? think hard about that before asking your question
  4. will the question move the conversation forward - or put up someone's defensive nature?
  5. how does this question fit within the context of what is being discussed at the given moment?

A final thought: if, at the end of the day, you were to do a tally of questions asked and statements made, which one would have the greater number? Consider that question as you go through this day - and the difference it makes depending on which side the scale falls.