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Have you ever?

Leadership Artform: Asking the “right” questions to discover passion & increase motivation & engagement

A. Have you ever seen a team of individuals who brought an uncanny zest and zeal to their work? Have you witnessed a team of people who work together toward a clear and specific goal where every person is skilled, trained, AND loves their role? Have you ever been able to sit back and watch the focused intensity of people engaged in work where their passions are stirred and relied upon? OR
B. Have you ever watched a team of individuals come together (or work independently) with a lethargic, “Eeyore complex” as they approached a work project? Have you ever witnessed people moving through the motions of work with little interest or care for the process or results of their contributions?

Generally, people are drawn toward organizations, teams, and work groups where an innate synergy reveals itself in many intangible yet very real ways. I know I would want to engage in work with a group described above in the A. scenario.

We gravitate to work where we are valued. We are drawn toward leaders (employers, managers, team leaders) who demonstrate a desire to know us and our strengths and our passions – and then value these things in us and put them to work.

Most good-willed people desire to contribute to their work in meaningful and important ways. And most often, when we are working in our “passion zone” we bring our best selves to work and contribute in ways that add exceedingly great value to the end result and bottom line.

So as leaders, how do we motivate the people we lead?

Authenticity – it rings true. As leaders we need to know that inauthentic behavior, when we do not do what we say is important, can be spotted in us a mile away by those we lead. So before we can say, “Yeah, I want to get the most and best work out of those I lead…if helping them find their passion will allow me to leverage their passion which equates to better output and performance…show me how to do that!” we need to look at what drives US. As leaders, we need to self-reflect and understand our own passions. We need to work to incorporate our passions in our work.

When we possess authenticity in living our passions in our work, and when we find new levels of motivation in our work because our passions are involved, then we are at a place where we can authentically work with our team members to bring out the best of who they are. Only then are we able to enter into some informal coaching conversations where our role centers on asking the right questions of our team members.

4 Keys to Motivating Your Team Members
1. Know your passion. What drives you? What aspects of work do you love? What comes naturally and somewhat easily to you? What makes you respond internally with thoughts of, “I love doing this kind of work!”? More than money, what intrinsic passion is part of who you are that motivates you in your work? Think less about specific tasks and more about the common theme of overarching concepts. For example, it is less about, “Boy, do I sure love to write quarterly reports!” and more about, “I sure love hunting and searching for all of the detail needed to put together a complete and accurate quarterly report!”
2. Fuel your fire. How can you incorporate your unique passion in your work? What parts of your current responsibilities require you to use your passion? Can you begin to do more of those things? What might a conversation with your boss sound like where you communicate what that magical blend of work for you is where your passion is tapped into and you execute with excellence? (What manager doesn’t want to see his or her team members execute with excellence?!) How can you mentally focus on the fun involved in your work where your passion area is utilized?
3. Help others discover their passions. Often, when we approach conversations with someone about their passions, our skill has nothing to do with us having the right answers; our skill resides in asking the right questions. For example, some of the following may help someone begin to connect the dots of their experiences and begin to discover their passions. What 3-4 events or projects do you remember working in that you loved? What about your work on each of those projects sticks out to you? Can you describe one type of responsibility you would like to be tasked with in your current work? How can you describe aspects of that responsibility that resonate with you? Can you articulate now (or think on in the coming days) what 3-4 things you know you need in your work to bring out your best contributions? As you think about your past top three work-related projects, which would you say stirred your passion? We must remember that the individual we are communicating with holds the keys to discovering and articulating their passion. When they “own” this discovery, they generally begin to create ideas on how to involve their areas of passion in their work.
4. Motivate your people to work with excellence as their passions are leveraged. The great thing about this step is that as a leader, you do not have to “do” much in driving the motivation of your team members when you help them tap into their areas of passion. Once you and your team members have gained clarity on their passions, then together you begin to craft ways to incorporate their passion into their work. What ideas can you come up with as to how your passion may be more tapped into in your work? A simple question like this invites freedom and responsibility on the team member to think outside the box regarding how personal passions can be intertwined in work. Sometimes this may involve a shift of responsibilities. However, more often it involves you as a leader acknowledging the passions of each valuable and skilled team member, and then providing a bit of flexibility and encouragement for each person to utilize their passion in ways that may have not been recognized before.

I LOVE people development. I know that when I am able to help others discover their passions and then design plans to better incorporate those areas of passion into their lives and work – that is when I am at my best. This personal passion of mine to develop people and help them contribute to work and life in ways that resonate with the core of who they are connects to my other passion of helping teams improve their performance.

If you are a leader who wants to discover how to first, find and leverage your own passions to improve work performance, and then learn how to help your team members to do this, I would love to help! Shifting a work culture to a coaching culture may be a large-scale change. Because managing this type of culture change is what I do, I would love the opportunity to assist you with this.

Dr. Heidi Scott, the Leader’s Coach http://www.LearningPursuits.com

I spent last week with coaches and athletic directors from the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) at their annual convention that I spoke at. What a dynamic, focused, and joyful group of people!

Kicking off the NCCAA Convention in St. Louis: Vision to WIN

Three things stood out to me about these leaders:
1. Authenticity is attractive. In listening, observing, and talking with these leaders, I could tell there was a connection in “walking their talk.” Their personal convictions and value of their school and athletic program mission and purpose statements rang true.
2. They possess an ethic of care and love for people over profit. In today’s world, this is refreshing and magnetic. This is not to say these coaches and athletic directors aren’t interested in the bottom line – whether it’s measured with their department/program budgets or their win-loss records. Their concerns for developing people around them to know and love Christ and live with meaning and purpose simply trumps their desire to “profit.”
3. A sense of urgency to improve the performance of themselves as leaders, of their teams, and programs focuses them. Like most college coaches, desiring a general sense of improvement “down the road” isn’t good enough. Their openness and desire to learn launches their quest for leveraging tools and consulting strategies to equip their team to improve . . . now, this season, beginning today.

These key questions may help us reflect and grow as leaders:
• Am I authentic in my life and work? Do I “do” what I say is important?
• Do I value people or profit (measured in financial gain or wins) more than the other? How do my behaviors and attitudes reveal this?
• What is my sense of urgency to improve the performance of my leadership effectiveness and of my team in and out of the heat of battle?
• How attractive is my leadership?

By Dr. Heidi Scott, the Leader’s Coach

How to Become a More Effective Small Group Leader or Member

All of us have been part of a small group at some point in our lives, haven’t we?

Think of some people gathered on a street sidewalk in a bustling city moving closer together in a “group” as they try to hail a taxi. Or can you picture some people gathered in a work/office room, discussing and collaborating to solve a challenge? Now consider a group of people gathered and waiting to be individually called in for a doctor’s appointment.

Does each of these mental pictures of groups of people fit the meaning of what a small group is? What are key elements that help us discern the difference between random collections of people, and functioning small groups?

And why do we care?!

Well, if you are a leader of a small group (either a leader established formally – perhaps by a title, or have informally become the “leader” of a group), understanding these 4 Key Elements of Small Groups can help you intentionally lead with fresh strategies.

Or, are you a member of a small group, and do you desire to make it a meaningful, positive, and effective experience? If so, then understanding these 4 Key Elements of Small Groups can help you engage in the group in ways that may shape the experience and effectiveness of the group.

Understanding 4 Key Elements of Small Groups – What are they?

1) When 3+ people gather together, they have the makings of a small group – when a few more key elements are added! Is the size of a small group limited or ideal with no more than 7, 12, 15, or 20 members? Actually, there is no magical number when it comes to how large an effective small group can be. The ideal number of members in a small group is typically the smallest number possible to successfully complete the purpose of the small group. This size number of group members depends largely on the next key element of a small group…its purpose.

2) The next element of small groups is that they possess a known and shared goal or purpose.  Group members are united in their common focus of reaching the clear goal or purpose of the group.

3) A third key element of small groups is that members interact with one another. Whether face-to-face or in virtual groups, members dialogue, discuss, sometimes debate, and collaborate as they create shared meaning together. In graduate school online leadership development courses I teach, I have seen some extremely dynamic small, virtual groups develop. They have a clear purpose (a small group project/assignment!), and work closely together to pull it off, all while never meeting face-to-face.  Whether or not you have had a virtual small group experience or not, let’s hope we can all relate to the interaction involved (and required!) in a functioning small group where participation is primarily face-to-face.

4) The last key element of small groups is that members influence one another. Members are open to learning with one another as a result of dialogue and discussion and discovering insights from the perspectives of others.

How does this info help me as a leader?

Sometimes asking ourselves questions like below related to the 4 Key Elements of Small Groups help us reflect as leaders – and then plan how to lead more strategically.

  • Have I clearly designated the members of this small group? Have I made known the members of this small group? While this seems elementary, sometimes conflict and obstacles in a small group’s effectiveness result from unclear membership.
  • Have I clearly articulated the purpose for this group? Are ALL members aware of the goal and purpose of this group? If I asked each member, would I get the same response? Do I need to cast some vision regarding what this group is trying to accomplish? Can I paint a picture of what it will be like when this group has achieved its purpose?
  • To what degree do all members in this group interact with one another? How can I best encourage every single member to contribute ideas and discussion? Are there any ground rules I need to establish as the leader to create a safe environment for all members to engage in dialogue?  Am I listening fully to each group member when they contribute in any fashion?
  • Do I see this small group as a connected system, where each member influences other members and the group at large? How open are the members of this group to invite questions from one another and to truly listen to the perspectives of others? How open am I to this?

How does this info help me as a member of a small group?

It is not unusual to find ourselves as a part of a small group – either by choice or what seems like force (more about this in a subsequent post!). If we are not in the formal role as the leader in the small group, we can still play a significant part in influencing the small group and creating an enjoyable experience. Most likely we can all recount being part of a small group that seemed like drudgery or just miserable; all we could hope was that time would fleet by so we could be “done” with the small group!

Understanding the 4 Key Elements of Small Groups provides us a set of questions to consider as we attempt to make our participation in a small group an enjoyable and effective one.

  • Have I gone out of my way to acknowledge and to even welcome (in some small way) each member of this small group? What could that behavior look like?  Am I willing to commit to expressing value for each group member as a human being? (Hopefully you also foresee value that each unique individual brings to the group. But in case not, perhaps you can welcome each person in a civil way because of the virtue that he or she is a human!)
  • To what degree do I “know” that my perception of the purpose of this small group is accurate? How can I check this? When I possess clarity on the purpose and goal of this group, how can I restate this to the group and refocus our group on our purpose? What will that sound and look like?
  • How well do I interact with this small group? How willing am I to risk by offering my ideas and suggestions? How can I help create, establish, or maintain a safe and trusting culture where all members feel genuinely welcome to contribute and interact with one another?
  • How open am I to learning from other group members? How attached am I to my views and ideas? How important is it that my ideas are embraced by this group? To what degree am I able to suspend my judgments and try to learn what the perspectives are of other group members? How can I help this group be willing and open (and even desire!) to discover and learn insights from one another? What would that look and sound like?

Now that we’ve spent time thinking about key elements of small groups, we know that just because people may be gathered together – that proximity of one another does not make them a small group! So a group of people waiting for the next taxi or a subway, or folks gathered in a doctor’s office waiting room does not mean they are what we call a small group!

Whether you are a small group leader or member, hopefully now you are equipped to apply this knowledge in intentional ways to better impact the group how you desire.

Taking Action

Which questions above resonated with you most? Which ones can you copy/paste into your calendar to remind yourself to think about them and take strategic action as you continue to lead or participate with this small group?