Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

How to Influence Groups toward Positive, Productive Outcomes

“To connect with people in a group, relate to them as individuals.”

            – John Maxwell

This quote is from John Maxwell’s from book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  John is globally recognized for his expertise in values-based, people-centric servant leadership.  He understands what it takes to lead groups through influence.

The big idea here is that we often complicate relationships when it comes to relating to a group, but remember – all groups are comprised of individuals!

Here’s how this applies to us and building better work relationships:

No one wants to be considered a “group”; we all want to be recognized for who we are, as individuals.  I know I’ve made the mistake of treating a group as one entity, but my rapport with the group improved when I made a point of connecting with the individuals first. 

This reminds me of The 5 Core Concerns described by Roger Fisher and Dan Shapiro in their book Beyond Reason.  Everyone you meet is concerned with appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and their role.  (There’s so much I could say about this!  You can find a little more about this in my blog post The Magic Key to Persuasion)

When you meet the individual needs of your group, the entire group functions better.  I’ve found that once I’ve established a connection with the individual, I am better able to nurture the connections between members of the group.  When they trust me, they are better able to trust their peers.  This leads to better collaboration and better outcomes. 

These tips can help you whether you have a formal leadership position or not, so let’s put this into action:

  1. Take an inventory of the relationships you have with your group.  This could be your work team, or it could be a group of clients.  (This also works with groups in your personal life.)
  2. Identify which of your group members need their core concerns addressed.
  3. Start doing the little things to show you see and appreciate them as an individual.
  4. Watch how the relationship starts to grow and bloom!  As your relationship strengthens, you can help them connect better to other members of the group, strengthening the entire unit.
Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

The Truth about Your Biggest Goals

“One is too small a number to achieve greatness.”

            – John Maxwell

This quote is from John Maxwell’s book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.

John Maxwell is a master at connecting with people one-on-one, in small groups, and as an audience. He truly understands what it takes to achieve big goals.

The big idea here is the “self made man” is a myth.  There are no “lone rangers.” All successful people have a community or network that have contributed to their success.

In his book Creating Minds, Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University demonstrates how geniuses like Picasso, Ghandi, and Einstein didn’t become the men who could change the world by working alone.  He shows how each of these geniuses had a community around them that encouraged and challenged them to become the great men they became.  

I have been fortunate to have had two incredible work relationships with women who thought very differently from me.  The first, when I was still in S. Korea, was a very creative thinker who was an auditory learner.  When we collaborated, my organizational skills and visual learning style combined with her skills to create powerful learning activities and materials.  The second, when I was working in Washington, DC, was another extrovert to my introvert.  As we collaborated, we created a rich learning environment for our trainees that neither alone could have achieved.

The truth is we all need people around us to help us achieve our greatest goals.  When we intentionally seek out people WHO THINK DIFFERENTLY FROM US, it enhances your ability to create a plan and execute that plan.

So, let’s put this into action:

  1. Take an inventory of the relationships you have – both personal and professional
  2. Identify those who have been your greatest supporters and encouragers – take time to thank them!
  3. Identify those who bring complimentary skills, talents, and perspectives – become more intentional about collaborating with them
Leadership, Lessons from the Field, Our Blog

A Tale of Two Leaders

In my work at George Mason University Korea, I’m in the unusual (or maybe not so unusual) position of having two sets of administrative leadership – the deans at Mason Korea and the directors at INTO Mason, my home department on the main Fairfax campus in Virginia.  

As the situation here in Korea has been developing, with the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and the decision to move all instruction to an online format for the first half of the semester, these two sets of leaders have had very different ways of expressing their concern and care for us, their faculty. 

  • One group has been focused on the practical – getting tools and resources to us to facilitate our move to online teaching.  For many of the faculty, this has been their first experience with online instruction, and it can be overwhelming.  
  • One group has been focused more on the personal care side – asking us how we’re holding up and offering emotional as well as practical support.

It would be easy to look at these two groups and think this is a gender-related response; the practical group is all male, the personal group all female.  However, that would be overly simplistic, especially in light of my own reaction – I am a highly task-oriented female!  

When a few of the faculty got on a Skype call with our directors in Fairfax, they asked us how we were doing, and my first response was related to how I was adapting to online instruction. The other two faculty on the call responded with their emotional concerns.  Even with my students, I have to be very, very intentional about asking how they are doing before diving into the course work for the day.  

If it’s not gender-related, then I would suggest it is personality-related.  The DiSC model of human behavior identifies two personality types that are primarily task-oriented and two that are primarily people-oriented. I have learned the hard way to be more people-oriented than I am naturally inclined to be.  

Which expression of care and concern is better?  I would argue that we need both – the practical and the personal.   We need both – from all our leaders. 

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership, Our Blog

A Sure Path to Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

One of the key dimensions of culture is the “relationship-oriented / task-oriented” continuum.  As a product of American culture, and as an element of my personality, I began my career highly task-oriented.  I was focused on first, gaining the credentials and education necessary to reach my goals and second, getting as much information into my students as I could.

When I moved to South Korea, I had to learn a new method of operation.  In order to teach well, I had to build relationships with my students first.  It was in that season that I developed a greater appreciation for the people around me – their strengths, opinions, and values.

Today, I’d like to share a mini-lesson from my weekly Professional Development Essentials class on Developing a Greater Appreciation for Others.

In this mini-lesson, I made a reference to an earlier blog article I wrote last year.  Here is a link to that article.

Does Leadership Have to Be Lonely?

Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, Our Blog

Six Common Barriers to Listening

Listening is such a neglected communication skill!

One thing I’ve discovered is people in today’s world often don’t feel like anyone is listening to them everyone is broadcasting: blogs videos YouTube crazy people on the news.  Everyone’s talking, and so few people are listening.  Most of us feel like our perspective is never heard or accepted or even understood.

As an introvert, I consider it to be one of my secret weapons; asking good questions and listening are the two keys for me to be able to connect with others as an introvert without draining myself too much.

Here I share a mini-lesson from my weekly Professional Development Essentials class on Six Common Barriers to Listening.

 

 

If you want to learn more about joining Professional Development Essentials, you can find the details and a link to register at https://troycommunications.net/professional-development-essentials/

 

 

Leadership, Our Blog

The Most Difficult Person to Lead (part 2)

by Tasha M. Troy

I tend to be an independent learner and worker.  I love to shut the door and “get into the zone” with a project.

However, sometimes it’s hard for me to include others in my work.  They don’t move at my pace, and sometimes they interrupt my train of thought.

As I continue to develop my own leadership skills, this is an area of growth for me.

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell gives us four keys to leading yourself well.  These keys are

  • learn followership,
  • develop self-discipline,
  • practice patience, and
  • seek accountability.

 

What stands out to me today is how many of these points involve other people in leading myself.  In my last article, The Most Difficult Person to Lead, I shared the first two keys with you, and now here are the last two.

 

 The third key is to practice patience.

Practicing patience is sometimes a big challenge for me. I am very task-oriented and results-oriented, and I get impatient with the process of developing those good habits that will lead to success.  I’m not often satisfied with the incremental improvements that I’m working towards. However, if we can practice patience and keep at our goals day by day, even if it’s a small step, small steps over time will get you to where you’re going.

 

The fourth key is to seek accountability.

This has been a key for me in the last couple years as I’ve been pursuing very challenging goals.  I’ve always been a pretty independent thinker, and sometimes it’s pretty humbling to sit back, take advice, listen to criticism. I always think I’m teachable, but when I am directly criticized, I find how unteachable I might actually be.

I still don’t always react well to criticism, but I’ve learned the value of listening to other perspectives and trying to see myself through other people’s eyes.  I’ve been able to connect with a number of people who help keep me accountable for my goals.  Now that I’m working on some of these daily goals like getting up at a certain time and developing certain habits that will help me be more successful, I’ve developed some accountability partnerships with friends and colleagues so that it keeps me on track to do things that I wouldn’t normally wantto do but I know that will lead to long term goals.

 

So those are the four keys that John gives: learn followership, develop self-discipline, practice patience, and seek accountability. They sound so simple, but don’t be fooled – simple actions can have powerful results.

Where do you need to grow? In what areas do you feel like you need to become more than you are today?  Could it be in the area of self-discipline? Could it be in the area of followership or developing patience? Who is there in your life who could help you become by becoming an accountability partner?  These are some things to consider.

 

Take It Deeper

Which of these areas is a challenge for you?  Do you have a hard time “trusting the process”?  Or do you need to find an accountability partner to help you move forward?  Good news – you can always start right where you are.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.   We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.  Let me know if you’d like to experience one lesson for free (tmtroy@troycommunications.net)!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

 

Leadership, Our Blog

The Most Difficult Person to Lead

by Tasha M. Troy

I might be a goal setting junkie. I love to look at the future, think about what it might mean, chart out a path to achieve different goals, and plan a course of action. I am a very future-oriented type of person.

Because of this, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a number of goals, but the truth is there are countless other things that never made it past the idea stage. They remained simply an aspiration. And even today, I can remember some of those ideas and I think, “I wonder what life would have been like if I’d pursued X, Y, or Z.”  Why did I let these great ideas die?

When you’re trying to achieve anything or to improve yourself in any way, self-leadership is definitely the starting point. Where I find I tend to fall is with the little things, for example, getting up without hitting the snooze button too many times or choosing to read a book instead of watching TV in the evening. Little decisions affect the big picture.

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell gives us four keys to leading yourself well.  I will share the first two keys with you now and the last two next month.

 

The first key is to learn followership.

Everyone’s out there trying to learn how to be a good leader, learning leadership, but John argues that you need to start with becoming a good follower first. An area where that has been an important element for me has been in my own continuing efforts to engage in education, to learn more, and to grow.

For example, for many, many, many years, my focus has been to teach English to adult professionals.  As an adult, I chose to learn a new foreign language – Korean – after I finished college. I will be honest: it was a much more challenging endeavor than I expected it to be at the time. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that it was a challenge, and because I engaged in that difficult challenge, I was able to relate to my adult students a lot better as they were grappling with learning a foreign language as adults.

Today, some of the skills that I am struggling with that I’m learning and getting better at implementing, I have mentors who are teaching me.  The more I try to do things my own way, the harder it is. The more I relax and listen and follow the instructions of my mentors, the easier my endeavors become, the easier it is for me to reach my goals.  Bottom line? If we can become good followers, it helps us relate to the people we’re trying to lead in a more effective way.

 

The second key is to develop self-discipline.

In his book, Developing The Leader Within You, John Maxwell calls self-discipline the price tag of leadership.  This is an area where I think everyone struggles from time to time. The truth is, if you can learn how to make commitments and follow through – even when no one is watching, even when no one notices – you’ll be able to lead yourself and all others much more effectively.

This is the area I still need to grow in a bit.  My goal is to wake up at a certain time so that I can get things done before I go into the office, and I have not yet had the self-discipline to actually get out of bed at that time.  Fortunately, every day is a new opportunity to accomplish that goal!

 

Take It Deeper

Which of these areas is a challenge for you?  Do you have a hard time following someone else’s lead?  Or do you sometimes let your self-discipline slide?  Have you let that discipline slide for so long, it’s out of sight?! Good news – you can always start right where you are.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.   We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.  Let me know if you’d like to experience one lesson for free (tmtroy@troycommunications.net)!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

 

 

Leadership, Our Blog

A Sure Path to Progress

As a young teacher in 2003, I started receiving less-than-stellar reviews from my students.  Fortunately for me, the school I was teaching with at the timehad a good system in place to coach struggling instructors to improve their teaching approach.

For two months, I was required to create formal and detailed lesson plans – very detailed plans – for my daily classes.  I also met with my lead instructor, who helped me reflect on my lessons.  The experience completely shifted my approach to teaching, and I see the effects even to this day.

As a young leader, John Maxwell observed that just because someone had more years of experience, it didn’t automatically translate into more wisdom and more understanding. As he pondered this discrepancy, he realized experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is.

We all have bad experiences, things that come up that are unexpected or unplanned – and unwanted!  It is how we respond to those situations that can really make a big difference as to whether those experiences help or hinder us. If you focus on everything that’s wrong and how it’s preventing you from moving forward, you will miss some incredible life lessons that will serve you and others well into the future.

 

Truths about Experience

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shares some observations about experience:

First – we all experience more than we understand. Life is just too complex for us to absorb everything.  We have so many people who are calling for our attention, and there are so many things that are going on in our lives and in our world that it’s hard to really absorb everything.  Add social media into the mix, and there’s no keeping up!

One simple way to make sense of all the information and demands upon us is simply taking the time to sit back and reflect on what happened that day or what’s happened in the past week. Reviewing and reflecting enrich our understanding of what’s happened.  John Maxwell talks about how he takes time each evening to reflect on what he learned that day.

Second – Our attitude toward unplanned and unpleasant experiences determines our growth. this is a reflection of the Law of Pain in John’s book The 15 Laws of Growth, which states that the good management of bad experiences leads to great growth. It could also be said that the bad management of experiences leads to no growth or maybe negative growth. Your attitude in the situation can determine whether it’s a setback or a lesson that will propel you forward.

Third – not evaluating and learning from experience is more costly than inexperience or gaining experience. If you are growth-oriented, you will look at every opportunity to grow and gain and become better and more understanding, to be a stronger leader. If we ignore the lessons that we are learning or the lessons that life is trying to teach us, we’re losing valuable time or losing valuable insight that could really be costly in the long run.

Fourth – evaluated experience sets a person above the crowd. Most people don’t take the time to reflect. Not everyone takes the time to be self-aware. And among those, even fewer take the time to reflect on a regular basis. But those who do find that their growth is accelerated, that their insights are deepened at a faster pace.

 

Becoming More Reflective

Personally, I am not the most consistent on reflecting on a daily basis. I aim for a weekly reflections. I find that taking time to think through what went well, what didn’t go well, and what I want to do differently in the future can really solidify the lessons that difficult situations can teach us.

As an introvert, I went to reflect. I want to be quiet; I want to read; I want to journal. This lends itself to a reflective lifestyle.  However, my extrovert friends want to process verbally. You might frequently be on the phone with your parents and friends because you process things differently.

If you find that it’s difficult to take that time to sit and reflect, find a friend or a partner who you can talk things through with, a “mastermind” of sorts, so that you can bounce ideas off of each other and learn from those experiences together.

I’ve also found that reflection doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process. For myself, I take about 10 minutes every morning to do some journaling. I might not write the whole time during those ten minutes, but I set the timer on my phone – so I’m not sitting there all day – and whatever thoughts come to me, those are the things I write down. Some days, my mind wanders and I start thinking about other things without writing them down, and that’s okay because I’ve made it a regular practice.

 

Take It Deeper

If regular reflection is not something that you’re practicing but you want to try it, maybe start with five minutes. Just write whatever’s coming to mind. If there was a struggle or a victory during the day, just write down your thoughts. At the end of the week, go back and re-read what you’ve written and look for common threads. That is what will lead to defining the lessons of the week.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.   We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.

 

 

 

Leadership, Our Blog

The Secret Ingredient for Success

by Tasha M. Troy

When I was young, my mother was an elementary school teacher.  I watched how hard that woman worked, and I decided that kind of work was not for me.

Life has a funny way of turning the tables on you. By the time I finished college, I was headed towards a career in teaching English as a second language and interpersonal communication skills.

I taught children for one year, and the truth is, part of my suspicion was correct – teaching elementary-aged children was NOT for me! One year was enough to see that. But I can’t imagine spending my life doing anything other than what I have been doing for the last 15 to 20 years.

I have discovered a passion for working with adults to improve their communication skills.

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, once told John Maxwell that there are three elements necessary for transformation, and one of those key elements is passion (Intentional Living, p. 12).

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell says, “In all my years of observing people, I have yet to meet an individual who reached his potential but didn’t possess passion.” He spends a whole chapter on finding your passion because, if you find something you’re passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

Why We Need Passion in Order to Succeed

In the chapter from Leadership Gold, John Maxwell talks about a few elements that are often related to success, but without passion, these things are not enough.

Talent: John Maxwell says talent is never enough to enable us to reach our potential. Every year, I have super bright and talented students come into my classroom. Sometimes they have a hunger to learn, but just as often they are comfortable where they are and don’t put in the effort to improve.  As a result, by the end of the course, they are at the back of the class, not the front, and they fail to live up to their potential.  If you depend only on your talent alone, you won’t go very far.  Passion is what motivates us to develop our talents to a higher level.

Opportunity: John Maxwell says, “Opportunity will never get us to the top by itself.”  How many opportunities have you watched passed by in your life? I’ve let a lot slip by. So an opportunity by itself is not enough to take us where we need to go. Passion is the driver that pushes us to grasp that opportunity and pursue it.

Knowledge:  John Maxwell says knowledge can be a great asset but it won’t make us all we can be. In the book, he gives the example. Some of our most highly educated presidents in the United States have been less effective and yet one of the presidents we all respect and admire, Abraham Lincoln, had very little formal education. What are you doing with that knowledge? It is passion that drives you to put that knowledge to good use.

Teamwork: And finally, a great team is not enough. We need a great team to be successful, but John says, a great team can fall short. If the leadership is not able to provide a clear vision, a working ethic, and motivation, that team is going to fall short.

These things are important for success but they’re not enough. You have to have passion.

 

Pursuing Your Passion

So, how much passion do you have for what you are doing today? How much passion do you have for your current work?

John Maxwell separated that into 4 different levels. Think about this.

If you’re at 90% passion for what you are doing or above, you’re in your sweet spot. You get to celebrate. I have been fortunate to find work I love.  Most of the time, I am in my passion zone!

If you’re at the next level, the 75 to 89 percent passion level, you need to make some minor adjustments to align with your passion, but it is not out of reach. Sometimes, this might just be a matter of attitude, of perspective.

If you are at the 50 to 74 percent passion level, you need to make some major adjustments. You might need to change departments, or you might need to take couple extra classes so that you can pursue more meaningful work.

If it appears that you have 49% or less passion for the work you are currently doing, you need a job or career change. There is some significant change that needs to happen so that you can move into that sweet spot, because if you are working in the field of your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.

 

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.  We meet online every Monday night to discuss different elements of personal and professional growth and challenge each other to apply what we’ve learned.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.

Leadership, Our Blog

10 Qualities Needed for Personal Growth

By Tasha M. Troy

In 2012, I decided to pursue a second master’s degree.  I was teaching at a top university at the time that offered tuition benefits, and I love to learn, so it just made sense to me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make sense to the director of the program I was teaching with.  She did not encourage us to grow. In fact, when I was intentionally trying to grow and learn and become more, I was actually discouraged – directly discouraged – from taking those courses.  This in part led to my decision to leave that department and to find a job teaching elsewhere.

I wanted to grow, but my environment had put a cap on how much I could grow.

 

Create a Growth Environment

Human beings are designed for growth – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We are at our best when we are becoming more than we have been.

Whether you’re in a position of leadership or not, it’s important to encourage the people around you to grow.  If you’re one of the many people who do not have a formal a leadership position, you might consider what can you do to help the people around you grow, what can you do to create an environment where it is safe to learn new things. For example, with every class that I teach, I aim to create a learning community, to create an atmosphere where there’s a combination of respect and safety so that my students can try new things and can ask the questions they might not feel comfortable asking otherwise.

One of John Maxwell’s “Fifteen Laws of Growth” says that you have to be in an environment that encourages you to grow. In his book Leadership Gold, in the chapter titled Keep Learning to Keep Leading, he describes the key characteristics a growth environment.

  1. Others are ahead of you.With my students, in the very beginning of the semester, I like to emphasize that we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some students are strong in some skills and weak in others, while others are strong in different skills and weak in others. And together, we can help each other. But if others are ahead of you in one area, then you’re challenged to catch up.
  2. You are continually challenged. It has been my observation that people are capable of much more than they think they are.  I sometimes tell my students that I see my job as pushing them to do the things they don’t push themselves to do.
  3. Your focus is forward. I am naturally future oriented, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m growth oriented as well.  When you’re thinking about the future, you’re inspired to reach for what’s next.
  4. The atmosphere is affirming.I try to find a balance between applauding effort and praising good performance. Even when the performance is not to its fullest potential, I try to point out, first, the areas where the performance was good, and second, some real practical steps where that performance can be improved. It’s the real practical steps that make criticism an encouragement.
  5. You’re often outside of your comfort zone. I wrote about this a little in my last blog article The Three Zones of Learning.  John Maxwell talks about the Challenge Zone, the Comfort Zone, and the Coasting Zone. If you spend too long in your comfort zone, you could slide back into the coasting zone, and no growth happens there!
  6. You wake up excited. When you are working towards a specific goal, you are naturally motivated to work towards it. I have found that growth is exciting!
  7. Failure is not your enemy.Looking back at the teaching department where I left because growth was not encouraged, failure was definitely considered the enemy. Mistakes I had made two, three, four years earlier had never been forgotten even though I had chosen to learn from those mistakes and move forward. For me, this is really an important characteristic. Failure is not the enemy.
  8. Others are growing. One of the best things about my job now is that I am working with students and colleagues who are working to improve their lives and learn new skills.  It is very inspiring to be around people who are just as interested in personal and professional growth as I am.
  9. People desire change.  It seems to me that the desire to change can come from two different sources – a sense of lack and a pursuit of excellence.  I have experienced both.  When I’m trying to do something new and come upon an area I don’t know well, I am motivated to learn and grow in that area.  However, even in areas I do well, I am often not content and look for ways to become even better in that area.
  10. Growth is modeled and expected. I think this reflects back to failure not being the enemy.  Are the leaders of the group engaged in learning and becoming more than they are?  Are group members coached through challenges and encouraged to achieve more?  Or is the status quo rewarded?

If you have these characteristics, you know you’re in an environment that encourages growth where you can learn and continue to become the person who can reach your potential, that you’re not going to leave untapped potential on the table.

 

Take It Deeper

Which of these characteristics are present in your life today? Which ones are missing?

If you would like to enter into a growth environment, I offer an ongoing live online course on personal and professional development:  Professional Development Essentials.  In this course, you will join with others who are also looking for a growth environment.  We meet every Monday night for a short lesson and discussion.  You can check out the website or contact me for more information: https://troycommunications.net/professional-development-essentials/.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive these monthly posts in your inbox, you can subscribe at Troy Communications Blog.