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.


Leadership, Our Blog

The Three Zones of Learning

By Tasha M. Troy

This past semester, I taught a “language support” class for international students taking a world history course. As part of my duties, I was required to attend all the world history lectures with my students.

I loved it!  While I took Western history as part of my own college education, I really enjoyed learning with my expanded view of the world after 20 years teaching students from all around the globe.
I have never really thought of it this way before, but I realize now that my hunger to learn has been a major contributing factor to my success. Most of the time, this hunger is shown in the books I read, sometimes in classes I take, occasionally in the classes I teach. I try to learn something every day!


Learn to Love Learning

I love learning, and I love helping people learn. No matter what the topic, if I know even a little more than others, I’m going to try to those around me.  I like to say it’s in my blood, being a third generation educator as I am.

John Maxwell, in his book Leadership Gold, spends a whole chapter on the topic of learning and gives three suggestions that will help you adopt this attitude of learning – Keep Learning to Keep Leading.

  1. Invest in yourself.
  2. Be a continual learner.
  3. Create a growth environment.

Today, I’m going to focus on the second suggestion, being a continual learner.


Becoming a Continual Learner

For me, this is natural. I was one of those really strange kids who was always happy at the end of summer when school started again. But I do recognize that a lot of people struggle with traditional education. Even if you hated school, you can still love learning. Learning is different than education.

Now, I’ve spent most of my career on university campuses. Some academics might think this is sacrilegious, but I truly see that education and learning are not the same thing.  I’ve learned so much just from reading books or watching videos, attending classes where I was learning a skill or spending time with people in discussion.

For example, last week I had my first international ballroom dance class that was taught in English.  The lesson last night was familiar, but the last time I learned it, I was in South Korea and the lesson was taught in Korean.  I had to depend on observation and practice with skilled partners more than listening to explanations when I first learned – and I appreciated the finer points that were explained to me in English last week!

There are so many different ways to learn things. I encourage you to explore some of those different methods of learning even if you enjoy traditional-style-education learning like I did. But always be looking for ways to grow and to learn and to understand the world and the people in it just a little better.


The Three Learning Zones

John Maxwell describes three zones that people live in:

  • The Coasting Zone– You’ve done that before, and you don’t feel you need to do it again. You might not even be doing what you did before. You don’t have to work so hard, and you’re not going try real hard.
  • The Comfort Zone– You have done it, and now you know how to do it. You know you’re good at it, so you’re not going to push the limits.
  • The Challenge Zone– You’re trying new things, and you’re going new places. You’re learning and stretching to new levels.

As we’re talking about this, I have students in all three categories. I have one or two students – not so many this semester – but one or two students have the attitude of “been there, done that; I’m comfortable talking in English and using these skills, so I don’t need to work real hard.” They’re coasting. However, I have one student in particular who is always hungry to understand everything, and he makes me work hard.

I thought it is really interesting how John Maxwell talks about these three zones. Usually you think about your comfort zone and getting in or out of your comfort zone, but it’s not just advancing beyond the comfort zone. It’s a possible slide back into a coasting zone. Nothing is accomplished when you’re coasting.

InThe 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell points out that, while we’re growing up and attending school, it is natural for us to feel stretched out of our comfort zone because we are naturally growing and learning.  But as adults, growth doesn’t happen as a matter of course.  We have to be intentional about continuing to grow and expand our capacity.


Take It Deeper

What are you reading or learning right now? You might be reading up on leadership or another professional skill, or you might be working towards an additional graduate degree.  You might take up dancing or skiing or windsurfing.  You might join a choir or start volunteering for a charity.

No matter where you are in life, you can always become more than you are today.  And in that lies your secret path to success!

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.


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

Developing a Love of Learning

by Tasha M. Troy

When I was very young – I mean preschool-aged young – I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to go to school.  I only know this because of a deep disappointment I experienced on my fifth birthday.

My mother had told me that I could go to school when I was five.  I expected that meant I would start going to school as soon as I turned five.  However, my birthday is in March!  On my birthday, I announced, “I’m ready to go to school now!”  And my mother had the unfortunate duty of explaining that I’d have to keep waiting until the new school year started in September.

My poor 5-year-old heart was devastated!


Learn to Love Learning

I love learning, and I love helping people learn. It’s become pretty much a life goal. But the truth is, if you want to change an area in your life, there’s learning you need to do so that that change can happen.  You can grow into the person for whom that change becomes more natural.

John Maxwell, in his book Leadership Gold, spends a whole chapter on this topic gives three suggestions that will help you adapt this attitude of learning – Keep Learning to Keep Leading.

  1. Invest in yourself.
  2. Be a continual learner.
  3. Create a growth environment.

Today, I’m going to focus on the first suggestion.  I will discuss the other two suggestions in upcoming posts.


Invest in Yourself

The first suggestion John gives us is to invest in yourself.  Sometimes that’s really hard to do.  So often I feel like I have to invest my time and my energy on this or that project or that responsibility, trying to reach goals, trying to accomplish things.  I forget to take time for myself, to reflect on the things that I’m learning, to be intentional about learning the things I need in order to grow in the areas I need to grow in.

So for example, there’s an area of my life where I definitely need to make some changes, which is my health. I have been resisting making changes for a while, for a long time, and it’s an area I have chosen not to prioritize – even though it probably needs to be one of my top priorities.

Recently, I’ve been thinking, “Okay, I need to do a little more research; I need to learn more about this area so that I can move forward and change a little bit more – well-informed, more intentional, more prepared.”  The little bit of learning has paid off, and I’ve started making the changes I need to make to improve in this area.

So the first tip is invest in yourself first.

In this chapter, John points out that sometimes people think this is a selfish position.  Those of us who are naturally generous or service-oriented can fall into this trap easily.

However, you really can’t help anyone else if you are drained, empty, and struggling. As John Maxwell likes to say, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”  When you take care of yourself first and you invest in your own growth first, you’re then able to invest in others.

I’d like to close with John’s own words:  “Working hard and putting in long hours does not ensure growth. Neither does promotion.  What will you do this week, this month, and this year to actively grow?” (p. 132)


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.

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

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  What topics would you like to learn more about?  You can email me at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net.


Works Cited

Maxwell, John C. (2008) Keep Learning to Keep Leading.  Leadership Gold.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


Leadership, Our Blog

What to Do If You’re a Lonely Leader – Four Steps

By Tasha M. Troy

As a college student, I always hated the group activities.  I didn’t understand the value of hearing different perspectives, and I thought my point of view and my way of understanding were the “right” way. I usually volunteered to be the notetaker in those groups so that I could filter the summary of our discussion back to the class.

Boy, I’ve come a long way from those days!

I first understood the power of collaboration while I was teaching in South Korea.  While teaching college-aged students, I began collaborating with another teacher who taught the same level.  Together we created engaging materials for our students.

Later, while working for the Samsung Human Resource Development Center, I started collaborating with a colleague who had complimentary strengths.  I was highly visual, and she was highly auditory. She was very creative, and I had a good sense of organization.  We made a great team!  And I was sold on the concept of collaboration.

I had to learn the same lesson working with my students.  In the first years of my career, when I was doing the “Lone Ranger” thing with lesson planning and preparation, I was also very directive in my classes, assuming I knew what the students wanted and needed.  However, as I began working with professionals instead of college students, that approach wasn’t so effective.  I had to learn to teach collaboratively.


How Can Lonely Leaders Change?

John Maxwell says, “If it’s lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.” I have found this to be true in both working with students and working with other trainers and instructors.  Maybe you’re in a position where you have gotten ahead of your people and you realize you are at the lonely point of leadership.  John has some advice for “lonely leaders.”


The first piece of advice is to avoid positional thinking.

This was the first thing that I had to change in order to connect with my students, the people that I interact with on a regular basis. I had to stop seeing myself as the teacher and the person with the content. I had to see myself more as “we are in this together, we are all experts in one area or another.” We all have strengths and weaknesses, and together we can move forward farther than if we try to do it alone.


The second is to realize the downsides of success and failure.

This might sound strange – the downside of success?  However, one of the downsides of success is you may find yourself isolated or getting separated. When you are very successful, it’s easy to become egotistical, to start thinking that maybe you don’t need other people or that you can do it on your own, that you are self-sufficient. If we look back to truths about the top, no one got to the top alone.

One of the challenges of failure is to start seeing yourself as less, and that’s not necessarily the case either. If you’re trying to hide your failures, you and your team are going to lose the lessons that could be learned from that experience.


The third piece of advice is to understand that you are in the people business.

It doesn’t matter what company you work for, what industry you’re in, if you are a leader of people, you are in the people business. As an instructor, it’s little easier for me to see that because I’m in the people development business. But even if you’re on the accounting team, the accountants on your team need to know that you trust them, that you believe in them, that you recognize that they’re doing a good job, that you value the work that they do.


And finally, buy into the law of significance.

The law of significance comes from John’s book, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. This law states that one is too small a number to achieve greatness. If you have small dreams, small goals, maybe you can accomplish them by yourself. But the bigger the goal, the more people you need to come alongside and help you achieve that goal. Again, this is something I am finding true in my own life. Remember my seemingly small goal of living overseas, which I talked about in my last article?  There were several people who contributed to my achieving that goal.


Take It Deeper

As I wrap up, I want to challenge you to think about a couple of things.

Number 1: Are you better at the science or the art of leadership?

The science of leadership is casting vision and the technical skills of leadership. It’s getting things organized, keeping people on task, getting the assignments right, and accomplishing goals. That’s the science side.

But the art – how are you connecting with the people on your team or the people around you?  How much influence do you have?  How well do you listen?  These are more art than they are science.

Number 2:  How big is your dream?

If you have a small dream, you just need a few people around you to support you. If you have a big dream, you’re going to need to start connecting with people who are like-minded and taking them along on a journey with you.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communicationsor email me to schedule an appointment at 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

Does Leadership Have to Be Lonely?

by Tasha M. Troy

When I was much younger, I had the goal of living and working overseas, a goal that I was able to accomplish before I turned 30.  It was not a terribly complicated goal, but for me, it was everything.

In retrospect, that was not a terribly challenging goal. Getting the education, being in the right position, and getting the right training – those were all important, but without the right support and connections, I would never have accomplished my goal.

  • My parents did a lot to support my efforts in towards getting the education I needed.
  • I had to get some teaching experience, and the director of the program I taught with in St. Louis – my first position in my field – took a chance on me.
  • One of the senior teachers mentored me a little bit and opened an opportunity for me to attend a conference, which led to the opportunity to get a job teaching in South Korea.

I couldn’t have accomplished even this seemingly simple goal by myself.

So even my small goal required a network of people around me to support that process.

We often hear the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” When I first started teaching and training, that was how I managed the groups that I was working with. I always focused on delivering great content, but I didn’t always get real close or make the effort understand the students.

John Maxwell argues that the phrase “it’s lonely at the top” was never made by a great leader. Great leaders understand that they need to know and understand their people.  This is not just how well they can function on a job, but some of their hopes and their dreams, their values, what is important to them, what truly motivates them. I’ve found the more I get to know people as individuals, the more effectively I can lead them, whether it’s leading them through a class activity or a project or whether it’s leading my friends through a challenging situation or my family through a difficult time. The more I connect with the people, the easier it is to have influence and to lead them.

In his book Leadership Gold, John shares four truths about “the top.” Now everyone’s trying to get to the top of the ladder, the top of the mountain; they want to be at the top of their game, but there are 4 truths that John shares that I think are really relevant.

First: no one ever got to the top alone.

Here in the United States, we often have this focus on a self-made man and how we encourage people to be independent, strong, and off on their own.  We idolize the Lone Ranger, but the truth is, no one ever got to the top alone; even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. This was actually highlighted to me a few years ago when I read a book by Dr. Howard Gardner.

Dr. Gardner is famous for his “multiple intelligence theory.” Simply put, to measure IQ, you measure mathematical and linguistic knowledge, but Dr. Gardner says there are seven or eight different types of intelligence including spatial and bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

In his book titled Creating Minds: An anatomy of creativity seen through the lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi,he took different “geniuses” in these different types of intelligence and showed how their career developed. The truth is, none of them were able to accomplish their incredible success by themselves, regardless of their area of genius. Each of these people had a group around them that challenged them and encouraged them. So no one ever gets to the top alone.

Second: making it to the top is essential to taking others to the top.

This is something that I practice in my own life. I focus on teaching and training communication and relationship building skills, and I know that if I am not continually developing those skills and becoming better and better at handling difficult people, at managing conflicts, etc., there’s nothing I can teach or encourage others to accomplish.

Third: taking people to the top is more fulfilling than arriving alone.

I get such a thrill out of helping other people develop the skills that I am still developing; I’m just a few steps ahead. As I encourage other people, it’s such a fulfilling experience to see people begin to have better relationships and stronger relationships because of just small things that I’ve been able to teach them.

In particular, part of the course that I taught this spring was intense listening, and I encourage people to focus on listening to understand, not listening to respond. I’ve had two people come back and say, “I now have a better relationship with my adult daughter because I’ve taken the time to listen and understand her perspective.” And that is such a wonderful thing for me to hear, that the things I teach actually impact relationships and improve people’s lives.

Fourth: much of the time, leaders are not at the top.

John Maxwell talks about how leaders need to actually go back to where the people are so they can lead them back up. If you are not investing your time and your energy with people, you’ve kind of missed the point of what it means to be a leader. In fact, he said that if you’re leading and nobody is following, all you’re doing is taking a walk. And if you’re too far ahead of the people you’re trying to lead, you’ve lost your ability to influence them.

Take It Deeper

Where I’m at now, my personal mission is to make the world a better place by helping others develop the interpersonal skills needed in a culturally diverse environment. I have to meet the right people who will help me help others. In the end “one is too small a number to achieve greatness.”  I am now focused on finding the people who want to go to the top with me.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at 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.

Cultural Intelligence, Leadership

A Key to Becoming a Leader of Leaders

By Tasha M. Troy
Originally published by The Leading Edge 

In 2006, while I was working as a corporate trainer at a multinational corporation, I started teaching in a professional development program designed for top performers in the company.  For the first time in my career, I had trainees who were, for the most part, older and more accomplished than I was.

The participants in this program came from several different branches of the company and were fairly senior mid-level managers.  One of them had published a book in his field, and another was a lawyer who had graduated from Chicago University.

I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated.

Fortunately, I had one participant, one of the more senior managers in the program, who took the time encourage me and thank me for the training.  His actions helped me see that we were all in this program together. From that point on, I viewed my work more as a collaboration with the participants than as one-way instruction.

Since then, I have learned how to establish myself as the expert in my field while recognizing and honoring the expertise and experience of the participants taking my course.

In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell addresses the question of “How does one lead people who are more knowledgeable when put in charge of them?”  He says, “You need to admit where they’re better than you, and look for common ground.” I have found this to be a highly effective approach.

Today, I am very intentional to be transparent with those I am training about what my personal and professional strengths are, and what they are not.  I am also intentional about finding the strengths of each individual and drawing on those strengths when called for.

Let me give a current example of how this looks in real life.

I am currently teaching a professional communication course that covers public speaking and leading meetings, but it also includes a bit of cross-cultural communication instruction.  In my class right now is a woman who is an expert in cross-cultural psychology.

While I have quite a bit of experience and knowledge about cross cultural communication, it has not been my primary focus professionally.  I have to recognize her as a greater authority in this area.

When cross cultural topics come up, I still present my material, but I finish up by asking her if she has anything to add to my explanations.  Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t, but I honor her expertise while still accomplishing my purpose for the class.

This strategy is effective regardless of the field of expertise in question.  I have found that often a simple question to check in with the “expert” is enough to show that person I recognize their knowledge and experience and to communicate to the group my respect for that expertise.  The best thing is often that respect is further expressed by the other training participants.

Leading a group of people who are accomplished experts can be daunting.  Whenever you find yourself in a position of leadership or authority over someone that may intimidate you, I encourage you to remember to “give honor where honor is due.”

Leadership, Our Blog

The Missing Ingredient

By Tasha M. Troy

This week I say goodbye to a group of clients that I have been working with for six months.

The EHLS (English for Heritage Language Speakers) Program is an incredible, intensive program – for participants and for trainers.  It is a professional development program focused on professional workplace communication skills and brings together an amazing assortment of international professionals who have committed these six months to their own personal and professional growth.

Even though it is a very intense six months even for me as a trainer, I return to teach this program year after year because it is such an honor to be a part of the growth of these bold and accomplished individuals.  Honestly, I feel I learn as much as I teach!

Last week, each participant gave a presentation in a research symposium, and they all did a fantastic job.  This is where I felt the proudest of them, largely because I, in partnership with another trainer, am responsible for the oral communications training culminating in their symposium presentations.

Of all the teaching and training positions I have held, this one has provided the greatest personal and professional fulfillment for me.  Playing a part in helping others improve their lives in such a tangible way always gives me such a sense of significance.


The Need for Significance

We all need a sense of significance to keep us moving forward.  In his book Intentional Living, John Maxwell quotes Rabbi Harold Kushner, who says, “Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it” (p. 100).  This is what I’ve found in teaching with the EHLS Program.

I suspect that lacking that sense of significance is what makes so many people hate their jobs.

  • A good leader will help their team see the value in the work they do.  According to John Maxwell, “Good leaders listen, learn, and then lead” (Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, p. 49)
  • A bad leader makes their people dread coming in to work day after day.  After all, I’ve heard it said that people don’t quit companies; they quit people.

The simplest solution would be to change jobs, but that is not always possible.  Does that mean most people are stuck with unfulfilling jobs over the long term?  I don’t believe so.


Finding Significance

No matter what type of leader you have, you can always step in and lead yourself.  This is not always easy, but it is always possible.  When you take the time to identify what it is that motivates you, you can find ways to make your situation more fulfilling.

In his book Intentional Living, p. 92-100, John Maxwell provides three questions to help you identify what that might be:

  • What do you cry about?
  • What do you sing about?
  • What do you dream about?

The answer to these three questions will lead you to activities that give you a sense of significance.

This doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly love everything about your job, and you might not even be able to find significance in many of the activities of your job.  However, the more you can identify or build fulfilling roles and responsibilities in to your regular work routine, the more fulfilled you will be.


Take It Deeper

If you are feeling stuck in your job, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start to make a change.  If you need someone to help you ask the right questions to make the best decision, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at 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.

For more information about the EHLS Program, visit their website at http://www.ehlsprogram.org.


Works Cited

Maxwell, John. (2015). Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters.

Maxwell, John. (2014). Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership.

Leadership, Our Blog

Finding Your “Sweet Spot”

By Tasha M. Troy

Growing up, I had been led to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to.  It wasn’t until I read John Maxwell’s book Put Your Dreams to the Test that I was presented with a contrasting view.  I was confronted by “The Reality Question.”

“Am I depending on factors within my control to achieve my dream?”

This question really focuses on if my dream is based on the reality of my strengths and talents or if it depends on blind luck.  Some of my early ambitions were clearly in the latter category.  John says, “The trick is to balance the boldness of dreaming with the reality of your situation.”  Fortunately, I eventually figured this out.

The Process of Finding My “Sweet Spot”

As a young college student, I had a dream of living and working overseas.  In retrospect, it was a fairly reasonable goal – I had a talent for learning languages and reluctantly recognized my ability to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a teacher.

When I discovered the field of Teaching English as a Second Language, I knew I had found my ticket to see the world!  I pursued an education that would give me the greatest opportunities in that field.  When I moved to South Korea to teach English to children (still in my 20s), I “finally” achieved my goal.

However, I discovered something unexpected – I don’t have the personality or disposition to effectively teach children!  After only one year, I found work teaching college-aged students in South Korea.  While I was better suited to working with young adults, I still struggled in certain areas and was dissatisfied with my effectiveness.

Eventually, an opportunity opened up to teach professional English skills at a large multi-national corporation in South Korea.  This time I was working with mid-career adults, and I discovered my “sweet spot” – the place where my strengths, talents, and personality converged to make me highly effective.

As John Maxwell says, “When people are going with their strengths and working in their sweet spot, the work they do is simple and easy.”

Facing a New Reality

Today, I have a new dream. I am working towards helping people reach their full potential, whether it is helping professionals in transition to recognize their “sweet spot” or working with teams to develop the communication skills needed in a culturally diverse workplace.

The Reality Question helps me recognize to what extent I am prepared to meet this challenge and to what extent I need to learn more and to collaborate with others to achieve my ultimate goal.  I know the process will take a bit of trial and error, but I am prepared to take this journey of discovery!

Take It Deeper

I challenge you to take inventory today of your strengths and talents.  In the end, it is in knowing ourselves that we are best able to move forward and live a life of purpose and success.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at 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 Process for Greater Influence

By Tasha M. Troy

In the past 3 years, my level of influence has increased dramatically.

As a trainer in a professional development program at a university, I am often in a unique position of bringing a group together to create a learning community.  Where most workplace teams remain largely intact for long periods of time, every 4-6 months, I’m bringing a “team” together.

For many years, I had noticed – and accepted – that some students naturally connected with me and a small minority simply didn’t.  Whether it was a matter of personality difference, unmet expectations, or my teaching style that turned them off, I never knew.  It was a small enough minority (1 – 2 people in each class) that I decided not to worry about it.  I accepted that not everyone would “click” with me.

However, when I started studying leadership three years ago, I realized that, as the leader of the class, it was my responsibility to connect with the students, not the other way around.  Since that time, I have been intentional about building relationships and rapport with those students and clients who are not naturally drawn to my personality or teaching style – with dramatic effect.


The Five Levels of Leadership

One way to explain the changes I have experienced is to look at the Five Levels of Leadership as described by John Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader within You 2.0.  These are Position, Permission, Productivity, People Development, and Pinnacle.

Position (Rights) – As the instructor of the course, I have a certain position and authority.  It is reasonable to expect that my students and clients will participate in class activities and will complete assignments on time.  This was the level that I operated at for most of my teaching career.  I had a measure of effectiveness, but it was limited when students weren’t naturally drawn to my personality and teaching style, and this caused me trouble at times.

Permission (Relationships) – Especially now, because I work with adult professionals, I have found that depending upon my position as instructor is often not enough to ensure participants get everything they can out of the training.  I have to make a personal connection with each individual, and they have to trust that I have their best interest in mind.

One of the key things I had to change to truly be at this level of leadership was intentionally connecting with each individual student.  Today, when my co-trainers sometimes find they have little influence with any particular student, I find I have considerable rapport because of those intentional connections.

Production (Results) – This is the level where my competence in my content area must be demonstrated and passed on.  I have long been open about sharing my learning experiences with my students; I feel it helps them see that I understand the struggles they are facing, that I relate to their circumstances.  I also often talk about developing communication skills as an introvert, which many of my students are.

However, about 5 years ago, one of my students accused me of not practicing what I was teaching, which are the communication skills needed in a diverse workplace.  This caused me to reflect and examine whether I was living fully into my content or not.  It set me on a path of personal learning and development that gave me greater credibility in teaching these skills.

Today, I am very intentional about not only living what I teach but also increasing my knowledge, understanding, and skill in my content area.  As I model good communication behaviors, my students are better able to learn.

This is also the level at which my collection of students can become a learning community, a team who supports each other, even when their individual goals are different.   As I build rapport with the individuals (on level 2), I learn about their strengths and weaknesses, which enables me to plan class activities that help individuals shine in their strengths and learn to develop their weaknesses in a safe environment.  I often remind my students that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and that we can function better together than individually.

People Development (Reproduction) – Because I teach in personal and professional development programs, my number one goal is to get to the point where my influence can help my students become the best versions of themselves, in particular in their communication skills, but also in their people skills.

Without the rapport I build with my students at levels two and three, I would not be able to move to the fourth level of leadership.  When my students and clients start experiencing success in small ways, I am able to move to the fourth level of leadership.  I try to structure my courses to give participants a quick “win” in order to establish myself at this level.  Then, as the course continues, I have greater influence and can coach them into greater successes.

Pinnacle (Respect) – I am not yet fully at this level of leadership, but it is my goal to positively impact an ever-widening circle of influence.  With each client I coach to reach their goal, with each student who becomes a more effective communicator, I move a step closer to this level.



Take It Deeper

I don’t know where you are in your leadership development journey, but I know that there is always more for you to reach for.  Yes, moving to higher levels of leadership will cost you in some ways, but it will pay you back richly for everything you invest.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at 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.