What To Manage…?

thinking gears“We created our vision, mission, and values! We are so proud of how we have implemented the culture, aligned with it all year, and of those that have championed it! We cannot wait to deliver the results of our survey.”

This was reported by a non-profit that had chosen to implement a values-driven culture. Truly they had done an incredible job promoting their vision, mission, and values.

At the one year mark it was time to measure themselves as leaders and to evaluate the impact of the initiative.

An organizational survey had been crafted, promoted, and delivered to customers. Questions within the survey had been specifically designed to draw out feedback on behaviors, decision-making, and the overall customer experience. Questions were framed and/or directly related to the vision, mission, and values.

The results had been compiled, sorted by department, and finished off with aesthetically pleasing formatting and graphics! Leadership was ready to deliver the results to their department heads, who then would be passing along the results to their teams.

“Would you please review the survey results and provide some guidance and ideas on our delivery of the feedback found in the survey?”

Initially this was my sole task. Review the feedback in the survey and provide ideas on how to present the feedback in a way that would elicit positive responses and influence a change in behavior.

When I read the format I found the typical process: 1) Summary: You are so great! 2) Here are all the ways in which you are great! 3) oh, and by the way, here is one way in which you are not doing so great…, and 4) Thanks for being great!

Heaven help me, I just cannot help myself. I am an OD practitioner. Yes, there was a task before me, but try as I might, up from the 30K foot view right up to the 100K foot view I went.

I pulled an example out of the pile. The feedback section provided feedback that the intake nurses would get a little tense when the line was long; and that when this happened it would take a long time to for customers to get checked in.

I asked, “is this the kind of feedback you are wanting help on?”

“Yes!” he replied. “How do we help the person receiving that feedback see that in a positive way and make changes?”

“I have a couple of questions…”

“Other than when it is busy, are the intake nurses providing a high level of service?”

“Oh absolutely!”

“Excellent! Therefore, it is not an issue of ability or desire to provide excellent service. Are the intake nurses aware of the fact that when the lines are long it takes more time and tensions rise?”

“Yes, this is certainly a known problem.”

“Oh! So we would be providing information and feedback that is already a known fact. They know lines get long, they know people get tired of waiting, and they know their own patience can wear thin when this happens. What would we be telling them that they do not already know?”

{no answer}

“A core value of yours relates to ‘believing in the importance of collaboration, learning from one another, and in change’. What would happen if, instead of providing feedback that there is one area in which they are not performing well, you ASK them how you might support them in improving in this area? For example, instead of, ‘here is one area for your improvement,’ the report stated, ‘feedback suggests we have an opportunity for a process to be improved. We welcome your ideas and suggestions to improve the process to support your  success in this area, and to increase your ability to serve your customer’.”

GREAT discussion ensued from here regarding how we could influence and empower each department.

This is a reminder of the old adage: manage your processes; lead your people! They have the potential to do great things for you when you remove barriers such as ineffective processes and policies! This requires hearing what the challenges are; and what needs to be adjusted by the leader!thinking gears


Self Leadership On Gopher Valley



1979. Gopher Valley Rd., Sheridan, Oregon.

“Cora, run to town and get me a pack of cigarettes.”
“I can’t. I can’t drive. I can’t do it. No.”
“You can do it. You will do it. Go. Now.”

At 16, having had my license for 3 months, I totaled my father’s car and put myself in the hospital. By the time I got out of the hospital and was up and walking around the motto of “I am never going to drive again” went from being a casual comment to a life commitment.

My father’s leadership style focused more on how I was self-managing than on how he was leading me.

Recognizing I was setting myself up by creating a life barrier-literally and figuratively- he had made the parental and leadership decision it was time for me… to deal with me.

After my first attempt I came back in the house.

“I tried Dad. I started my bug but I am not strong enough to get it in reverse. I can’t do it.”
“You can do it. You ARE strong enough. Think it through. If one angle hurts, come from another. You can and will do this. Its noon. The store closes at 5. There will be a pack of smokes sitting on this table no later than 5:30.”

Clear expectations. Reiterating I had all the knowledge and resources needed to accomplish the task. No enabling, simple support.

I sat in that Volkswagen Bug for 2 hours. Crying, cursing, trying, kicking, and finally, exhausted, thinking.
Eventually tired of my crying and all the drama-I was boring myself with aaaaallllllll the excuses- and deciding I did not like the person I was being, I simply started the car, put it in reverse, and left.

Amazing what we can do once we decide we can. Arriving at this conclusion in my mind created a whole different outlook and attitude. I had made up my mind I was being ridiculous. Who in the world does not drive? You have to drive! People drive everyday and they do not get hurt. I am fine! In this state of mind I was able to drive my car to town, achieve my assigned task, stop by and visit a friend, and make it home before my deadline.

I did not need to go to a training class or have my hand held or have someone take me through it first. What I needed was to learn how to deal with me; and to lead myself to where I needed to be.

I still remember driving back up the valley, past the accident site that had been a source of angst in prior days. I felt so FREE driving by this day, in my own car, on my own accord. I literally felt my confidence surging back into my damaged nerves and muscles.

I was my own person in charge of my own life! Yes, I CAN do this!

For those of you wondering, “how could she buy cigs at 16?” In a small town all we needed was a note from our parents, which my father had written on his yellow legal pad. At the small local store they knew who was who, who belonged to whom, and who smoked what.

So yes, with my note in 1979 I could purchase his smokes…!

When I got home I placed his smokes-on top of the other 3 packs he just happened to find while I was gone-his change, and his note on the table. On the note I had written: Mission Accomplished.

THIS is what self management allows for us to experience! If others insist on taking away our learning opportunities, and taking responsibility for when we fail, does that mean they also get responsibility for when we succeed?

Oh….but I was not done yet!

Six months later a similar conversation arises. My parents are going out of town for the weekend, leaving me my father’s car to drive while they are gone. I no longer had the bug as I had to sell it to pay for the insurance deductable. Life is about accountability and responsibility! This means the only car I will have to drive is my father’s car. My anxiety skyrockets. I go to my mother and tell her they cannot leave town. Something is wrong with me. My neck hurts, my vision is off, and I am dizzy. I think my nerves are tingling. She MUST take me to the doctor. They cannot leave!

I find myself in another father -daughter conversation…

“Cora, you are fine. We are leaving for the week. You WILL drive my car while we are gone, and I WILL be checking the odometer. You WILL move forward with your life.”
“Dad, I am NOT ok. Something is wrong with me. Very wrong. I need to go to the doctor this week.”
“Were you ok last week?”
“Yes, but that was last week.”
“Cora, here are the facts. You were in a car accident. You were paralyzed. Now you are not. Now, you are fine. You were quite traumatized. Now it is time to move forward. You had life goals. The accident changed those goals. However, you have not made new goals. As your father, I will NOT be a part of you letting a car accident define you and be your life story. YOU must move forward and beyond this. You must decide it is only a chapter, not the whole story. “
“Similar circumstances are triggering your emotions, and you are manifesting those into physical ailments. You are fine. You will face these emotional triggers and traumas on your own, while we are away, and you will drive my car. I am asking you, DO NOT let this define the rest of your life.”

Often times the concept of life gifts comes up. I would say some of the greatest gifts bestowed upon me by my father were in the form of his willingness to let me learn. He overrode the desire to fix things for me, or to take my pain or fears away. Instead, he placed a high value on my learning and on my self-development. In fact, he placed a higher regard on my learning than on his own self satisfaction or personal needs.

Isn’t this really what leadership is about as well?

Although a very emotionally and physically painful week for me, I made it through. By the time my parents arrived home the following weekend I had managed to drive my father’s car to and from school all week. Not that it was that bad, since he had replaced the car I had wrecked with a Mazda RX7! By the end of the week I had finally relaxed and was enjoying getting to drive his car. My physical ailments went the wayside, and I started to think about what the future held for me.

I learned some very important lessons throughout this whole event. Most importantly, I was allowed to learn and practice the art of managing and leading self. I learned about listening and responding to my internal self; and the power of my thoughts. Thank you Dad for this important-and powerful-life skill.

As a Learning Professional, I am hard pressed to get through the day without reading or hearing about “Leadership Development.” Leadership often referenced on the context of “how do you lead, treat, communicate, or engage others?

What I know for sure is that leadership is seldom about others. Most often is about self.
How do I show up for others? How do I role model what I value, and what I am asking others to value through my choices? How do I communicate what I believe? If others are not following me or engaged in what I am asking them to do, have I looked in the mirror to ask why? Have I asked the right questions; “what about me is creating issues for others?”Or, “What about my actions are not creating buy in from others?”

When tasked with leading others, am I focused on teaching them what I want them to know and getting them to do what I want them to do? Or, am I focused on contributing to their growth as individuals on their path to become problem solving, decision-making high performers that self-lead? Am I committed to what they have to teach me about me?

As a Learning Professional having worked with so many inspiring leaders throughout the years, I am plagued with the question, “if leadership is the Achilles heel for so many organizations, and a multi-billion dollar money maker for the training industry, why are we not focused on Self Leadership? It is those that lead themselves the best that are naturally followed by others; and require the least amount of management by others.

Dont Lie; and How This Influences Values

The following is an excerpt from the book, 10 Things You Were Told as a Child That Are Influencing You as a Leader; and The Alternative Messaging That Will Demystify Your Role. This particular excerpt is from Chapter Two; “Don’t Lie.”

Enjoy! The book in its entirety will be released summer 2016.

“Don’t Lie”

                         ..And How This Influences Values

“Pretty much all the honest truth telling
boy professionalin the world is done by children.”
~Oliver Wendell

“An honest man is always a child. “

Honesty is an interesting concept, as is its counterpart; lying. Humans lie mostly to protect self and/or others. Since lying is about protection, it could be said lying- or not telling the truth-may involve a level of empathy, integrity, and/or compassion. Following this uncomfortable path may also suggest honesty can possess a lack of empathy, hurtful behavior, and/or lack of integrity. The area around truth telling is a grey one, protected by filters, beliefs, life experiences, and the ability to understand self and others.
Typically children are told to “not lie,” and “be honest.” Yet, when they speak through their young, unfiltered thoughts, they may be punished.

Aunt Edna comes for a visit and Mommy says, “Bobby, give your Aunt Edna a kiss.” Little Bobby says, “But I don’t like Aunt Edna, she smells funny.” Little Bobby is not rewarded for his honesty! This is how integrity, empathy, and a compassion for others are developed. This is the natural developmental process and how we learn from our environment what behaviors are and are not acceptable.

What is the Intention?

The general intention behind teaching children not to lie is to instill values. Honesty is often touted as a basic required value.
The business community asks for honest leaders and employees.

What Is The Common Outcome?

The challenge in instilling values is not in the telling; it is in the role modeling. Moreover, young people will watch what their parents and other influential role models do; and are more likely to mimic what they observe than what they are told.

When the message is as important as values, consistency is crucial. When the message is inconsistent and incongruent and and approval is a moving target, Billy-and direct reports- will experience confusion!

Billy has been repeatedly told “don’t lie; it’s wrong.” “Be honest.” Yet, Dad gets pulled over for speeding with Billy and makes up a story to get out of a ticket. He lies.

Mom and Sally plan a day to go shopping and run errands. She calls her boss and says she is sick, wishes she could come in, knows she is really putting her boss in a bind, but she does not want anyone else to get what she has. Sally is disappointed. When Mom hangs up and asks why she is crying, she tells her, “oh no honey, I am not really sick, that is just what I said so that I can take the day off!” She lies.

Mom asks Dad if the dress she is wearing makes her hips looks big. Billy thinks the dress makes his Mom look as wide as a Mack truck and starts to say so, except Dad quickly cuts in and say, “Oh honey, I think you look very nice.” He lies.

While Billy and Mom are at the grocery store, Mom is fuming over the cell phone to a girlfriend about how angry she is with her husband. They get home. She delivers the silent treatment. Dad asks her if something is wrong, she replies, “oh no, I have just had a really bad day and I am really tired.” She lies.

Dad asks Billy why his grades posted on the parent info site are showing missing assignments. Did he not tell them he had completed his homework? Billy starts to explain. Dad interrupts; “did you lie to us?”

So what is the outcome?

Values end up being something that are spoken of- but not acted on. The double standard gets implemented. I can tell YOU what to do, but I will NOT be held to the same standard. Individual transactions may provide results; however, long term results will be inconsistent.

Adult Bob tells his direct report Bill he is performing as expected, while at the same time complaining continuously to others about Bill’s performance.

Adult Bill is silently furious with one of his direct report for catching a project billing error.

Adult Sally has been given knowledge of an employee’s time theft from the company. Sally believes she should report or act on the behavior; however she has concerns over having to fill this particular position.

Adults are products of their socialization process and their messaging is playing out in their adult leadership roles every day in the business community! Behaviors that were rewarded and punished, inconsistencies that were experienced, incongruent messages, moving boundaries, and subtle messages are now often defining what is and is not Ok for direct reports.

How Does This Align With The Common Purpose?

If the goal is to facilitate the development of a solid value system, “telling” is clearly not the most effective approach, particularly when telling is supported by incongruent behavior. Being completely honest at all times is a willingness to sacrifice self and others; to be victims versus products of our values system.
The purpose of the message is to create a values system that guides behavior, decisions, and how to treat self and others.

There a difference between honesty and integrity.

Sometimes it is necessary to be truthful and it hurts. At times the truth is just plain hurtful and lying is the kind and decent thing to do.

A common purpose teaches not what to –or not to- do, it teaches why or why not.

What Is The Alternative?

Cont… in 10 Things You Were Told as a Child That Are Influencing You as a Leader; and The Alternative Messaging That Will Demystify Your Role.

The Value of the Father-Daughter Relationship

Celeste Friedman is an award-winning singer who has tried marriage twice and has had many live-in boyfriends. Now she remains happily single, and she has written Single 101. When Cora Lonning’s parents divorced when she was 17, she held the divorce against her father for leaving her, deciding not to trust any men. But when she was 31, she talked with her father and learned his reasoning, which rewrote her history. Good thing. He died soon after.

Interview With Dr. Beth Erickson, Relationships 101

Interview starts at 33:30



A Conversation: Just What Is Coaching Anyway!

Let’s say you are the kind of person that grows best when you have someone guiding you: someone asking powerful questions; someone very caring to help you through rough spots; someone you can feel in partnership and candid with; and someone who remains neutral and keeps everything you say confidential–no shame, no blame, just support, caring, listening, honoring…Sounds pretty good, huh! Welcome to the world of professional coaches, whose job it is to help you discover your own answers. It’s a beautiful thing…

On this show today, we will look at the growing field of professional coaching and all that it has to offer you and I. In fact, I will play guinea pig on the show while Cora actually demonstrates professional coaching on me! Join us and discover whether coaching is something that would benefit you!

Cathy Bennet

You Will Find Your Way


I know….A day is just a day…and come what may, at the end of the day, I will find my way.

Life is a journey and full of twists and turns! Things may get thrown at you and you may get derailed. Trust in yourself and know, it is all just a journey. Walk the path with intention; trust in the process, pursue with purpose, and know you will find your way!

The Benefits of Being a Loser

“How could you do this to your daughter? You let her fail. Now she has to feel shame as well as guilt for letting the rest of the club down. How could you allow this to happen?”

Interesting, isn’t it, how leaders often believe they are responsible for others success? I wonder where that message comes from.

As a young equestrian I was involved in 4-H. My father had the distinct good fortune to be chastised by a passel of leaders for “my” failure to do well in pre-fair. Yes, I earned the horrifyingly embarrassing indicator that I was a loser; the white ribbon. In 4-H participants are judged against outlined criteria and awarded points based on individual performance. Points earn either a white, red, or blue ribbon, consecutively.

I had been allowed to fail; and watching these “leaders” tear into my father, I knew it was all a part of the plan. I knew, when we got home, we were not going to be talking about the horse, the class, my performance, or the 4-H club. Knowing my father as I did, I now knew what I had set myself up for. I knew a “learning moment” enroute when I saw it. We would be having a conversation about my father’s broken record topics; cause and effect behavior, accountability, self-respect, and choices.

Yes, there were those perfectly poised to hold my father accountable for my failure. Just as there are many leaders MORE than willing to accept responsibility for the failure-and success- of those that report to them.

The reality of this particular situation was simple. My father and I had had more than one conversation regarding the upcoming pre-fair. I had attended the 4-H meetings in which it was discussed what I was to be practicing for the upcoming event. My father checked in to determine if I knew what I was to be practicing. This 12-year old consistently responded, “Yep! I know what I am supposed to be practicing.” He even asked a couple of times if I had been practicing. “Ummm, yeah. Kinda. I have time.”

Instead, I rode the trails. I herded farmer Jones’ cows. I played horse tag and Indian rider with the other kids in the valley. What I did not do was practice showmanship, western pleasure, or my bareback equitation seat.

Therefore, the day of the show, I failed to score enough points for even a red ribbon. I…was a white ribbon performer.

To this day I remember my father’s response to the accusations of his failure to live up to his parental duties and see to my success-his out and out abuse of his child. He, in that way that he had, calmly asked a question, more to himself I think than to anybody else, “Let me think, I am trying to remember, what is the overall purpose of the 4-H organization? I am struggling with it, does anyone else recall? It seems to me it has something to do with the development of young people to become contributing adults?”

This, by the way, was my key indicator of the “learning moment” in store for me.

“The cost to my daughter of developing her life skills may be to not win that blue ribbon, and that is her price to pay.” He went on, “What I accept is your judgment of me and my desire to teach my daughter how to accept the outcome of her choices and to be accountable for her own behavior.  My daughter’s adult future is far more important to me than today’s show results, regardless of how you may feel about me in this moment. My purpose as a parent is not to seek your approval, but to ensure she has the skills she needs to be successful in life-similar to the overall 4-H program.”

Even at twelve years old I knew this was not going to be an easy concept for the leaders of the 4-H clubs to accept, yet, I knew I was going to be held to this unwaveringly.

The idea that those in “charge” are responsible for the success of those they lead remains a trouble area for many leaders. What is more important; short term wins, or long term success? Enabling produces one, developing produces the later.

One of the key flaws in leadership is the missing element of self-leadership. Wouldn’t leaders be far more effective if they themselves and those they led were able to self-direct and self-manage? Then leadership is less about taking responsibility for others-their successes and failures-and more about developing skills and knowledge to be self-directed and self-managed.

When County Fair rolled around that summer, you can bet your bottom dollar I was far more prepared, and performed at a much higher level! Did my father have to tell me to practice? Of course not, I learned my lesson. As an adult do I fully understand the concept of cause and effect? You can bet the whole budget on that one!

The Power of Weakness

Many years ago I was in class learning about the fascinating topic of team dynamics. The class was divided into teams and assigned to create a project to present to the whole class.  Each team presented their projects with creativity and enthusiasm except one.  Apparently this team had significant struggles with their dynamics and were unable to complete the assignment; therefore they chose to simply present on why they were unable to produce an outcome. After all, they thought, the class was on team dynamics and it would be great learning for everyone!

The non-productive team proceeded to share how their struggles started with the first task of determining what their project topic would be.  Four of the five members quickly agreed what the topic might be; the fifth disagreed. The four team members wanted her to feel included, so they asked what her ideas were. She did not really have any, she just wasn’t comfortable with the one they generated and did not feel they had spent enough time exploring options. She hoped they could talk more about different ideas. They agreed.

After extensive conversation all five agreed on the original idea, although the group made concessions to adapt the idea to meet the needs of the fifth person. This conversation took a good part of the allotted time. The next step was to assign tasks to team members and get to work! Apparently this proved to be quite the challenge! The member whom had stepped into a leadership role, given the limited amount of time, began to delegate tasks. Three members readily agreed to the assignment allocation. Again, the same fifth person resisted. She felt there should be discussion about who got what tasks. She also explained that she overall was not feeling heard or understood on the team and that the team did not value her as a team member. She was feeling a little run over by the others.

Well, this is a class on team dynamics! So the team stepped back and decided to listen to her feelings and thoughts, ask her what she would like to do and what would help her feel valued.

Needless to say the team was not very productive, as by the end of the discussion, time was nearly up.

In the discussion with the whole class the team discussed the leadership and power dynamics. The team discussed how one of the men in the group had stepped up and taken a leadership role from the beginning and he had done a great job in his role. They felt there was great collaboration and equal power as each person was heard and valued. The greatest challenge on this team, obviously, was just low productivity. Had there been more time, however, this team believed they would have been successful. Their conclusion was that some teams take longer to build relationships (forming) than others. What they were proud of is that they did not rush through this very important stage.

The instructor asked the class who they thought held all the power in the group.  As outside observers of this interesting scenario, unanimously the class responded with the belief that team member number five held the majority of the power on the team!

This is when the discussion got really interesting! The person who had stepped into the leadership role quickly disagreed. He went on to explain that he held a leadership position in his job and therefore it was natural to take on the leadership role on this team. Everyone knows the leader has the power. He felt the team allowed her to feel a part of the process, even when she was not on board with the rest of them; but she certainly was not the powerful one in the group. In fact, she was at risk for being run over, as she stated, and it was his leadership, as discussed, that ensured she was not left behind. One of the fellow team members now offered, “she even broke down in tears at one point.”

The instructor asked some simple questions; “who did the team allow to impede progress? Who was able to change the dynamics in the moment? Who continued to change the team’s mind?” Unequivocally the answers came back –from the whole class, not the presenting team-team member number five. Confirming for the class that the power rested with the perceived weakest member!

How often does this happen on teams, in families, within social groups and in classrooms? So often the belief is the power rests with the aggressive/strong person in the group and/or with the person holding the formal power. In reality, subtle psychological power plays can be delivered through all kinds of interesting ways. Power plays can include the use of tears, silence, sulking, sarcastic humor, gossip, acts of vulnerability and other passive means.

Healthy personal power is most potent when it includes empowerment of others, respecting their choices and considering their needs; while still knowing, articulating and promoting one’s own personal purpose.

Recognizing power plays and not getting caught in the trap of low power behavior is a crucial skill for navigating the waters of social interactions; particularly for those seeking to develop political savvy in the waters they swim in!

How might the team have handled this differently to achieve both productivity and a healthy team dynamic?

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