Are You Listening with the Intent to Understand?

Ready to understand or reply...

Really – are you listening to understand or listening to reply? Most of us feel pressured that we have to respond quickly otherwise we seem like we don’t understand. Some people can respond quickly and actively contribute, but knowing the answers doesn’t necessarily mean you are having a meaningful conversation and relationship. In fact, in most cases it’s not building a relationship at all.

My nephew got married this past Saturday and it was an awesome wedding. Sometimes when you hear preachers talk, or anyone for that matter, you could potentially zone out and not hear what is being said. I have to admit, it was hot and I started to do that a little bit, but then he threw in a joke to get us all engaged. As he was about to bless the rings with holy water he said “Do you know how you make holy water? You put it on the stove and boil the HELL out of it”. We all laughed and we were all engaged again. It’s easy to be a passive listener but that usually ends up causing a passive relationship and just a bunch of unproductive time.

Of course we are supposed to ask open ended questions to have good conversations, but being self-aware is a KEY differentiator from my perspective. Self-Awareness is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself. In fact,

Are You Creating an Environment Where You Would Be Missed?

Provide Value - Not Security for Yourself

My wife and I went up to upper Wisconsin this past weekend to do some northern pike fishing. csbs-northernWhile on the 7 hour drive with a little more traffic than anticipated, I was listening to the Entreleadership podcast #163 where they interviewed Lou Holtz. There were a ton of learning nuggets in this podcast, but the one that stood out to me the most was “Are you creating an environment where you would be missed?”

I thought about that for a while because I never wanted to be a friend, part of a team, or a leader that left and things fell apart. That to me is a sign of a poor leader because you are not thinking of the team or building the next leadership level which could be a sign of ego or insecurity. While I was fishing with my brother and thought about the podcast, it made a lot of sense to me. When my brother caught a bigger northern, it was my turn to get the net, which I did and we got it in the boat. Could he of done it on his own – of course, but it would have been harder and he possibly could of lost the fish. We have impact on many environments we are in – some small like a fish getting away and some big like customers not getting taken care of and costing the company money.

So what type of environments are you impacting or creating:

  • At Home
  • At Work
  • In School
  • In Your Social Groups
  • In Sports
  • In Hobby Events

How Do You Decide Your Priorities?

Are you focusing on the important...

I am now a day 17 of being released from my torn bicep repair. I know many of you have had to recover from injuries, hurts, disappointments, etc., but prioritizing the important “stuff” really matters if you want to be the person you want to be proud of. This doesn’t necessarily mean what you accomplished financially or at work, but who you are as a person. My injury reminded me and confirmed how important it is to prioritize your tasks so they are aligned with your life priorities and life mission.

Can you look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of who you are?

How are you deciding your projects and priorities? Do you know how you decide what you are going to do for the hour, day, week, month, year?

Do you decide by what is:

  • Easiest
  • Cheapest
  • Most Proven
  • Most Certain
  • Biggest Pay Off
  • Most Fun
  • Most Convenient
  • Most Known
  • Most Unknown
  • Most Important
  • Most Urgent
  • Most Challenging
  • …..

Have You Audited Your Friends?

4 things to ask yourself

Did you know that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with? BlueGillI read this and starting thinking, who are my 5, and am I the average of them? Then I thought back to my younger years and remember my mom watching out for who I “hung” out with growing up. She would have our new friends over for dinner so she could evaluate them and help guide us toward or away from them. I am super thankful for that guidance. This philosophy or law starts at an early age and continues through our whole life. My wife is really good at this – which I appreciate on multiple levels.

The theory comes from the law of averages, which is the theory that any given situation will be the average of all outcomes. Like all salespeople, entrepreneurs and all successful people regardless of their profession know… in order to increase your wins, you have to also increase your losses. Whether we like it or not, we are greatly influenced by our relationships of the ones closest to us. It affects our thinking, self-esteem, and our decision making. We are all our own person, but the fact is we are absolutely influenced and affected by our environment.

  •  Who are you “hanging” with the most?
  • Are you adopting their habits?
  • Are you adopting their belief system?
  • Are your standards being influenced to be higher or lower?

Do You Own Your Day?

I often ask the question “are you controlling your day or is it controlling you?” Chicago It’s an interesting concept to ponder as many of us get behind to start off the day and spend the rest of it vainly trying to catch up. For many, days like this string together into weeks or even months until we feel it is impossible to get ahead, our lives are out of balance and we feel out of control. It’s not a happy place to be.

In today’s technology driven world of the Internet, email, smartphones, tablets and the demands of social media it is easy to get caught up in and lost by the 24/7 interconnectedness.  It is easy to blow valuable time on the web or Facebook, email and Twitter and have nothing to show for it but a serious gap in available hours to get the important stuff done.  Technology can be a help or a hindrance depending on how you master it.  Technology should be a tool that brings value and contributes to personal and professional goals and dreams.

As a continuous improvement guy, I am always looking for ways to improve my processes and tweak my routines so I can accomplish my goals.  This year I changed my morning routine.  But I didn’t wake up on New Year’s Day armed with an ill-conceived resolution.  No, I started working on it about 7 months ago by reading up on the best practices and effective leadership traits that aligns one with one’s goals.  Below are just a few of the things I read, listened to and did before altering my routine.

Audio Books:



Is Your Mind Like Water – Free to Respond?

Is your attention being grabbed? Do you have thoughts or tasks pop up that immediately put you into panic or a higher stress state because you forgot about something? When your attention is being grabbed you are not in a free place where you can do what you want to do or what is important. We all have moments like this where we are trying to remember things in our mind vs. have a trusted system in place where we can let go of tasks.

I am getting ready to teach a Getting Things Done (GTD) course for Executive Forums in October so I am listening to the latest version of David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I read his first book and used the Secret Weapon concepts to organize my priorities which has been working well for me for a few years. I am surprised however by the reminders that I potentially forgot or just didn’t absorb on round 1.

One of the big concepts was having a “Mind Like Water” which refers to a mental and emotional state in which your head is clear and you are able to create and respond freely without distraction and split focus. Here is an example.

  • Situation: Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond.
  • Question: How does the water respond?
  • Answer: Totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm.
  • Comment: It doesn’t overreact or underreact.

How Diligent Are You?

I am in the process of recovering from a torn bicep tendon and super ready to get back in the saddle of working out. IMG_5294I had to be patient during the process of surgery, wearing a splint, and now the final stages of physical therapy. As I reflect on this past 11 weeks, I am realizing the importance of being diligent in everything that you can control.

Diligence is steadfast application, assiduousness and industry; the virtue of hard work. It is one of the seven heavenly virtues.

  • Diligent behavior is indicative of a work ethic; a belief that work is good in itself.[1]
  • A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up.
  • Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness.

How Diligent are you being with yourself, your time, your energy?

“Excellence = Diligence Over Time”

Are You Getting Real Feedback About You?

The more you know about yourself the better you can become. Part of this process is to solicit regular feedback from you closest friends. This can be a tough thing because listening to someone give you both good and bad feedback can be a challenge. We all want to think we are doing well and doing the right things, but the real people get validation.

If you haven’t done this or haven’t done it in a while, I highly suggest you do. We all fall in the “slow fade” syndrome where you don’t realize something. This could be really bad if someone doesn’t call attention to it before you have a really big issue. The boiling frog scenario is a perfect analogy of us just not living the way we want to.

God vs. Ministry

I was talking with a friend and I noticed he was looking burned out. I started asking him about it and he said he was filling in a lot as a volunteer at church because lots of people were on vacation – and he really wasn’t getting the rest or the activities he needed to refuel himself. I talked to him further and discovered that he felt compelled to help more and step up to keep his relationship with God.

We ended up having a longer discussion about this but what I learned in getting my life plan certification is that you need to have balance in your life domains, know your priorities, and know what refuels you. There is more, but those 3 are pretty big. I started talking to him about his priorities and separated God from Ministry and he looked at me weird. I talked through my priorities which are:

  • God
  • Me (Health, Growth, Rest) – I can’t help anyone if I am dead
  • Wife
  • Daughters/Family
  • Friends
  • Extended Family
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Ministry

Are You Protecting Your Time?

Protecting your time is probably one of the more important things you do in life – so you have the option of getting things done that you really want to. I have tried many task and priority management systems over the years and for the past few years I been using a system that actually works (for the most part).

A while back I read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done (GTD). It was dated because it talked about paper processing, filing cabinets, etc. I applied most of the techniques using Outlook, but then I found and Evernote. It really was a game changer for actively and proactively choosing what to prioritize and get done.

Fast forward to today and now I am going to be teaching the new version of GTD for a Renaissance Executive Forums retreat and am pretty excited about it. I love helping others be better and I believe helping them process their priorities is just a cool thing to do.

Time is a finite thing