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Get Creative? Why Not!

P1040304This month’s Scientific American Mind has a quick article on being a better artist (January/February 2014, p. 200) with four easy ways to make sure it’s easy for you to be more creative. How might you

Get outside more. In one measure of creativity, those who went backpacking did 50% better than those who didn’t. It turns out that nature makes us more aware of patterns, forms, and other elements that add to creativity. Oh, and it’s a stress-reducer. Stop telling yourself you don’t have time and get outside to spark better ideas!

Embrace your own weirdness. People who aren’t ashamed of their quirks–who talk to themselves or admit to knowing the name of every Star Trek episode or who have to win a game of Spider Solitaire before opening their research files–come up with more creative ideas.

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3 Moves for Moving from SMART Goals to Intentional Results

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

(Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 101)

How about substituting  “SMART goals” for management and “being intentional” for leadership in the above quote? Why?

Too often, a goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) but still not the right goal. If you’re setting goals for yourself, or if you’re coaching others, here are three key questions that aid in ensuring that goals intentionally target what is most important, not what your or your client might assume is most important.

  1. Is this the right goal right now? Leadership is situational. While there are core competencies all leaders need, different ones are more important in some situations than in others. Unfortunately, those new to leadership—or to a given role—may be unaware of priorities they’ve never needed to attend to in the past.
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Are You a Wild Reader? If Not, Read This!


Do you worry about reading emergencies–getting caught waiting somewhere without a good book in hand?

Do you have to-read lists, piles, shelves, and/or book cases?

Do you have a reading plan–what you’ll be reading next, what title you’re saving for vacation, how you’ll proceed when your favorite list of award winners is announced?

You do? Oh, can we share title recommendations? Please???

You don’t? You think you don’t have time to read? Or that reading simply shouldn’t be a priority right now?

Then Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelly is for you. Really. Yes it was written for educators, but its message is for all of us: Reading opens doors. Reading improves our brain power. Learning to love reading means cultivating key habits. It’s never too late.

Chances are your local library has a copy of this brand-new book that most members of my professional learning network devoured the instant it came out this month. If any of the following reasons are keeping you from going wild over reading, know that its pages contain solid advice,

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A Mirror for Leadership Blind Spots

INFJ KiseA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or so it seems), I took on a volunteer leadership role in a rather large organization. Given the issues we were facing, and my own strengths, one of my key priorities was to stay friends with the leaders of all of our different constituencies.

This was not a wishy-washy “let’s be kind” sort of goal, but rather an acknowledgment that certain market trends and changes in how we were allowed to conduct business meant that partnerships, mutual support, and flow of information were vital to our future. I’m good at collaboration and building trust, but with those strengths–especially if I overuse them–comes an inherent blind spot. I tend to assume everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals.

“You could say that being politically savvy is not one of my key strengths. Considering potential competing motivations of other players isn’t generally on my radar screen.”

SO…in that leadership role, I very intentionally sought out two politically savvy members of the board and told them, “Call me when I’m being too trusting. Tell me to my face when I forget to ask, ‘What’s in it for them?'” And they did. Very effectively. Thanks, Chuck and Ray–you know who you are!!

Fast forward to my being in a very informal leadership role. As always, I considered what the right priorities would be for the situation. Again, relationships were key, and I though I had the relationships in place that allowed for working toward mutual goals.

I forgot that I still had the same blind spots…”

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MBTI® Step III and Coaching

Ann Step III
View Ann Holm’s Video on Step III

MBTI® Step I is a tool for identifying your preferences for gaining energy, gathering information, making decisions, and approaching life. The result is a four-letter code such as my preferences for INFJ.

MBTI® Step II adds 20 facets–five “nuances” for each of the preference pairs that describe differences in people with each preference. For example, I am an Initiating Introvert, rather than a Receiving Introvert–I find it easier than many people with my preferences to introduce myself to new people and to interact at business and social gatherings. This is probably a learned behavior, the result of being the daughter of a community organizer who, probably before we could even talk, had my brothers and me involved in pancake breakfasts and volunteer assembly lines.

MBTI® Step III was introduced in 2009, although its development began over 50 years ago as Isabel Myers studied the importance of type development. While the other instruments help us identify preferences, Step III probes how effectively we perceive and judge, the heart of the framework of type. While we have a preferred way of perceiving, through Sensing or Intuition, and a preferred way of judging, through Thinking or Feeling, preference does not guarantee skill. Further, maturity requires using the appropriate balance of preferences for a given situation (See Psychological Type: The Essentials for more information).

I’m very new to using Step III, having completed CAPT’s certification program last summer, but I’m already finding it to be a key assessment for coaching for three reasons:

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Lessons Learned from a Planful Police Force

Berlin ped signals.001Recently, the Charleston, SC, announced a 25 percent drop in violent crimes. I learned from Margaret Siedler of Power Surge that they credit much of their success in reducing crime to an intensive strategic planning process that involved polarity thinking.

Their strategic plan states that “In using Polarity Management, we recognized that the work of keeping our community safe is complex and we must address a series of chronic, ongoing problems by viewing them from a broad perspective. What are polarities? Polarities are sets of interdependent pairs [that] while competing actually need each other over time to achieve and sustain success. ”

Their five strategic directions, based on these “pairs”, are

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How Do You Know You Know What You Know?

P6141528By chance….Have you noticed that right now, intelligent people are polarized on issues? They’re holding polar opposite viewpoints? We all do. We think we’ve carefully vetted our positions and are in the right. So how much should we trust our own wisely-thought-through views?

Not much, actually, if one considers the research on how we form our viewpoints. A recent slew of books asks us to ponder this and perhaps change how we interact with those who hold opposing views.

Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, guides us through the neuroscience and psychology research on how we form our opinions. And it’s humbling. Or should be. Not only do we consistently pay attention to information that reinforces what we believe, but the more intelligent we are, the better we are at spinning one-sided arguments.

In Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Katheryn Schulz uses both research and humor to help us understand just how wrong we can have the facts and thus how flimsy our arguments can be.

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The Test of a First-Rate Intelligence

Fitzgerald quote.001

The Center for Creative Leadership identified it as the second-most important strategy leaders can develop.

F. Scott Fitzgerald deemed it the test of a first-rate intelligence.

Congress is obviously clueless about it.

What is it?

Polarity Thinking

You see, all too often we need our opposites to understand the bigger picture, the viewpoints or elements we’re overlooking. In our increasingly polarized world, though, the beauty of working with our opposites seems to be entirely overlooked.

If you live in the Upper Midwest, autumn colors are beginning to peak. Why are they so beautiful? It’s the pairings of contrasting colors–those opposite each other on the color wheel. Reds and greens. Oranges against the pure blue sky. Purples and yellows. Richness comes not from sameness but from contrast!

And so it is with opposite points of view.

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Do You Really Know—and Use!—Your 4-Letter MBTI® Code?

Adam Grant’s recent post Goodbye to the MBTI® has gathered forces both for and against personality type theory. The comments are full of people who agree with him. Rich Thompson’s post nicely outlines the research behind this instrument. Hile Rutledge’s calm response The MBTI®–My Most Valid Tool highlights the benefits of the instrument and the framework. And Jennifer Selby Long adds info on the MBTI/Big 5 debate.

I’ll take a different direction here. As I read all the comments to these blogs, I wondered, “Did they really take the MBTI® and was it properly administered?”

For group adminstrations, I often first ask, “How many of you have taken the MBTI before?” As many as ¾ of the participants raise hands. “How many of you remember your four-letter code?” Perhaps 20 percent of the hands stay up. I remind them that ESPN is a network, not a type, and then ask, “How many of you had the chance to apply the framework of type to your team, or career, or marriage, or parenting, or personal development, or any of the other deep applications?” And only a few hands remain in the air. When asked, these people willingly share stories of the differences understanding these basic differences among people can make.

So how do you know if you really know your type? Most people who find the theory a waste of time haven’t been through an ethical interpretation. Here’s a quick guide to finding out:

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