Freedom Through Forgiveness (Part 2)

Unlocking a Heart for Leadership

This is a multi-part series of excerpts from Unlocking a Heart for Leadership, a soon to be released book by Tim Schneider.  This book and series examines the powerful methods to add heart based (affective/feeling) approaches to your leadership and life.  An unlocked heart is the third facet of full leadership and personal realization.  

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”  Mahatma Gandhi

Who and What to Forgive

Showing my age, I remember Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings. A noun is a people, place or thing. Similarly, forgiveness eligibility has the same dynamic. It can be a person, event or yourself.

The easiest to identify population in which to grant forgiveness is other people. Someone does you wrong, they become eligible for forgiveness. This becomes the straightforward process of connecting a hurt to the person inflicting hurt. Angry because you had to correct mistakes of another team member is simple to connect to that team member. Upset because your spouse barked at you can be pinned directly on him or her. Anyone that you attribute wrong or hurt to should be considered for forgiveness.

Events should also be forgiven. These are those times and situations in our lives in which things went wrong. We learned the lessons, hopefully not repeating any of them and now is the time to forgive and move forward in full heart and emotional health. Examples of event forgiveness includes blocks of work and career time, stretches of personal relationships and even single choices made by you or others. Stop talking regret and grant freeing forgiveness.

The hardest forgiveness to grant will be to you. That’s right. Forgiving yourself for your mistakes, poor choices and events in which you were responsible. Many people can grant real forgiveness to others easily but yet hold deep frustrations, regrets, disappointments and worse about themselves. Yes, you caused something bad. You paid the price. Now is time to forgive yourself and get this ugly, caked mud off your heart.

First Time Clearing

The first clearing of past wrongs, including your own, will be the most difficult. Some of these people and event have been living on your heart and influencing your actions for years or even decades. This first event will not be easy and it will not be quick. Depending on the depth of hurt and wrong, you may have to go back and re-forgive a couple of times to truly have it cleared.

As a practice, use this process the first time around:

1. Note three to five people or situations that you need to forgive in your journal.

2. Leave the list alone for a couple of days.

3. Include thoughts of who has wronged you, what dragging baggage you are carrying around, and any situations which still bring you pain or angst, in your daily meditation. Let the thoughts flow freely to you in this setting.

4. Examine the list a second time and add another three to five people or situations that need clearing forgiveness. Ensure that at least two and hopefully more of these are forgiveness of self.

5. Leave the list alone for another couple of days.

6. Take a final look at the list and ensure you have most of who and what needs to be forgiven, including those things you need to grant yourself forgiveness.

7. Next to each item, list a date certain in which you will forgive that person or event or you and release the negativity associated with it. The first date should be within the next day and it should also be the simplest or easiest situation to forgive. The guy that cut you off in traffic and caused a minor irritation should be at the top of the list compared to complex life situations and people that have wronged you greatly. If you are not yet prepared to set a date for all items on your list, that is okay too. And some dates can be out there for a bit of time to allow yourself the reconciliation and readiness to let it go.

8. On the date listed, add the words of forgiveness to your daily meditation. In the simplest form, it would sound like “Today I forgive XXXXX and promise to never let this event influence me” or “Today I forgive XXXXX and promise this event will never influence me again”.

9. Congratulate yourself on this step. Be pleased with you. This is a big thing.

10. After your meditation, say the above aloud and cross it off your forgiveness list. Continue until the list is gone.

The Forgiveness Practice

Beyond the initial clearing described above, events and wrongs happen regularly and need to be forgiven. The quicker you can make the event/person-forgiveness cycle, the healthier your heart and emotional intelligence. With this junk cleared regularly and daily, the room for great emotions, attitude and energy is almost limitless.

During the quiet and clearing portion of your meditation, search for those people or situations that may be weighing on you. Repeat the action steps above and forgive quickly.

As this process becomes a habit, you will be able to grant forgiveness on the fly and make it a natural part of daily self-care.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

Freedom Through Forgiveness (Part 1)

Unlocking a Heart for Leadership

This is a multi-part series of excerpts from Unlocking a Heart for Leadership, a soon to be released book by Tim Schneider.  This book and series examines the powerful methods to add heart based (affective/feeling) approaches to your leadership and life.  An unlocked heart is the third facet of full leadership and personal realization.  

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”  Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness provides us with:

•  Peace from past conflicts, issues and challenges
•  Closing resolution with people and situations
•  Space in our emotions and heart for positive thoughts and feelings
•  Freedom from the burden of past hurt
•  Capacity to allow people to grow and overcome their transgressions against you
•  Ability to create relationships in the current state and not bogged down by the past
•  Enhanced personal resilience

With gratitude, forgiveness is one of the biggest cures to restoring the heart to a point of love and your attitude to a consistent positive state. The mud-freeing that occurs when forgiveness is practiced for the first time and then consistently thereafter is nothing short of amazing.

What is Forgiveness

Often forgiveness is misunderstood and associated with forgetting. You hear things like “just let it go” or “forget about it” and that is a common misconception. We humans do not have an erase button or delete key to remove a memory. The memory stays. Forgiveness gives us the power in how the memory is framed and the capacity to create positive overwrites of the prior memory.

Forgiveness is also not some grand spectacle where the person who wronged you is involved. Real forgiveness is quiet and there is really no need to share with the person being forgiven. Many times, the person who wronged you forgot about the event long ago or doesn’t even have an ounce of awareness about it. This is all about you and not about anyone else.

For our purposes, forgiveness will be the solemn promise and vow that the event or person we are forgiving will not influence any future interaction or event. So, by forgiving someone, I am not promising to forget it happened. I am promising that whatever the past event, I will not allow it to change how I deal with that person moving forward.

In the simplest analogy possible, someone cuts you off on the freeway during a long commute. Forgive them quickly and you return to safe and alert driving very quickly. Failure to forgive that other motorist and your attention is focused on harsh judgement of him or her, your anger and perhaps even revenge. Here, failure to forgive distracts from the ability to drive safely and could have dire consequences.

Accountability and Forgiveness

In a working environment, the most common objection to the practice of forgiveness comes from the apparent exclusivity of accountability and forgiveness. As a leader or person of success mindset, accountability is a core principle. Team members must be accountable for their performance and behavior. Vendors must be accountable for their promises of delivery. Partners must be accountable for the terms of the agreements they executed to work with you.

And all of that is true. Accountability is a foundation of success and leadership and must not be compromised.

Far too often in a business environment, accountability becomes a lifetime proposition. Someone commits a transgression, makes a mistake or other has some significant challenges and sadly, that becomes their career-long legacy. In my work as an executive coach and with other teams of leaders, the phenomenon of someone being on a radar screen for a past transgression is extremely common as is the failure to provide any pathway off that radar screen. Yes, that person made a terrible mistake three years ago and you held them accountable for it. Now is the time to stop defining them and judging them on that mistake and allowing them the chance to recover and giving yourself the freedom from this baggage as well.

Accountability should be swift and fair. Behind that, forgiveness should be equally swift.

The equation of workplace and leadership forgiveness will look like this:

•  Judge and asses an event, performance or behavior
•  Use defined accountability tools such as corrective feedback, documented discipline, or even termination of relationship
•  Grant forgiveness and not have the event affect future interactions with that team member or other person

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

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Why a Heart for Leadership Matters

Unlocking a Heart for Leadership

This is a multi-part series of excerpts from Unlocking a Heart for Leadership, a soon to be released book by Tim Schneider.  This book and series examines the powerful methods to add heart based (affective/feeling) approaches to your leadership and life.  An unlocked heart is the third facet of full leadership and personal realization.  

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”  Nelson Mandela

The Trinity of Leadership Success

One of the first questions that is often asked is why. Why does heart matter? What difference does my heart make if I am using the right skills and competencies and achieving a certain level of success?

And those are very fair questions.

The heart of a leader completes the trinity of leadership success, potential and full actualization of ability. Consider three circles, the first circle contains your competencies and skills. The most important of those competencies include communication, team member engagement, coaching, self-mastery and empowerment. Also among them are decision making, innovation and change, strategic planning, relationships and external management and courage and risk. Within each competency, there are critical skills to master as well. These competencies and supporting skills, when mastered and used consistently will lead you to a tremendous level of success just on their own.

Developing the use of competencies and skills is a cognitive or thinking processed piece of learning. It is developed through the engagement of intellectual capacity and stored in process, mind memory. The learning occurs from reading, seeing, doing and reinforced by the successes associated with the application of those skills. Your mind and memory drives the use of competencies and skills when not combined with other elements of success.

The second circle is the environment in which you operate. No successful person or leader can truly actualize their abilities and talents without a supporting and supportive environment. Within this circle are the organizational and environmental competencies of providing opportunity, valuing people, providing of needs, creating opportunity for growth and providing feedback to people. This type of environment will allow leaders to fully utilized, in a supporting climate, their abilities and talents. Together, with competencies, this creates a powerful combination for potential success.

But wait. That’s not all.

The third circle becomes the final driving piece of personal and leadership success. It is within that circle that the power of your emotions, heart and beliefs can be managed and unleashed. The heart, soul and emotional composition of a leader will drive beliefs which, in-turn, drive actions and behaviors. This can be viewed in a variety of ways including another circular view of your emotions and heart are at the core of who you are, your beliefs are driven by that emotional composition and your emotions then create the reality of behaviors and application of skills in all situations.

In the simplest of analogies, you are upset, your attitude reflects that. Your outward behaviors will then become a projection of that attitude and belief set. Conversely, if you are happy, your beliefs and attitude will be upbeat and positive. The outward behaviors driven by this will be much more positive in nature. You will smile, you will encourage, you will provide positive feedback, but only if your heart is in the right place.

Another superpower associated with leadership heart is the ability to drive sustained positive competencies and skills. Quite bluntly, anyone can memorize a skill or change a habit temporarily. We all do that. To sustain long-term desired behaviors, alignment with attitudes and belief and ultimately, emotional composition and heart must occur.

Consider for a moment that we could all quickly learn scales and a simple tune on a piano. All of that is cognitive learning and we will have this knocked down in 15 minutes. But to continue to play that music, expand the selection, execute with passion and achieve great musical results, your heart must be into it and belief in the outcome must be present. Without those, the song will sound mechanical and interest will wane quickly.

With alignment of heart, attitude and actions, any leader and any person becomes unstoppable.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

Sparking a Culture of Change and Innovation

Four Almost Easy Tips to Spark a Culture of Change and Innovation

Innovation.

What does it mean to you and what does it mean to your customers, your team members and your business? Contrary to popular belief, innovation isn’t coming up with a brand new idea never before seen on the planet. Simply put, innovation is the process of translating an idea or best practice into a solution that either fulfills a business need or solves a specific problem. It can even include identifying and utilizing a best practice from another organization and “molding” it into your business environment. Yes, you heard right. Basically, “borrowing” ideas from other organizations is a form of innovation.

So if it is so important to our companies and our customers, why are leaders so bad at cultivating innovation in their organizations? In 2008, McKinsey & Company conducted a survey of 600 global executives and found that 64 percent of senior executives are generally disappointed in their ability to stimulate innovation. 64 percent. Think about all the missed opportunities!

The good news is that leaders can (and should) help create an environment that sparks innovation and change in their organization. Here are 4 almost-easy tips to help drive innovation:

1. Foster Trust and Build Culture: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Encourage folks to speak up and give their suggestions. Ask questions and create innovative environments. No negative repercussions if the idea isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread.

2. Tap customers: Customers know what they want. Ask them. Focus groups and surveys are great ways to get actionable ideas and feedback.

3. Create an Idea Program: Implement a formal avenue that provides an avenue for team members to submit suggestions and circumvent “normal” channels. Give everyone an opportunity to participate, and respond to ALL suggestions (even the ones that aren’t moving forward). Recognize implemented ideas.

4. Implement Innovation Workgroups: Identify and mobilize innovative, engaged team members to attack specific problems and provide solutions through brainstorming and process improvement. Frame the opportunity or challenge as finite as possible to get them started. Give them a structured timeline and team lead, and watch them go!

Innovation is more than just a buzzword. It is thinking creatively and taking action to improve your business. As a leader, you can help drive innovation and spark a culture of change that will positively impact your customers, your team members and your organization. It is almost easy.

Polly Walker is a talented facilitator, coach and expert in process improvement.  As the chief innovation officer for Aegis Learning, Polly produces many of the new ideas and creative solutions for workplace learning programs and their delivery.

Ms. Walker has two master’s degrees and has worked with some of the biggest client projects for Aegis Learning.  She is also our Townie and constantly optimistic.

The Amazing Power of Gratitude

Unlocking a Heart for Leadership

This is a multi-part series of excerpts from Unlocking a Heart for Leadership, a soon to be released book by Tim Schneider.  This book and series examines the powerful methods to add heart based (affective/feeling) approaches to your leadership and life.  An unlocked heart is the third facet of full leadership and personal realization.  

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”   Cicero

For a leader or any person, the practice of gratitude provides:

• Ability to see the good in others and situations
• Clearing of darkness, bitterness, disappointment, hurt and anxiety from the heart
• Openness to increased positive outcomes
• Attraction of more positive events in which to be thankful

The consistent practice of gratitude is one of the most powerful tools available to leaders and anyone. It is also very predictive of success in both work and life. When gratitude becomes a way of life, it will open your heart, clear out a lot of bad junk and provide the room for many more blessings to come to you. Gratitude is a starting point to unlocking your heart for better leadership and a better life.

What is Gratitude

Gratitude is the expression of appreciation, both internally generated and externally communicated. It is a feeling of thankfulness and true joy in something you have or someone in your life.

The power of gratitude rests in the internal feeling generated by being thankful. This piece is all about you. It feels good to remember our blessings. This takes some of the mud off our hearts.

As if that were not enough, the power (some say superpower) of gratitude becomes when it is shared with others. This is where multiplying, compounding and diametric expansion of the power comes into play. Now, instead of just you feeling better, you have impacted, in a very positive way, someone else. They now have a choice of continuing the expansion by being appreciative of others or even reciprocating your gratitude. Over time and consistency, gratitude will change the emotional composition and create a wave of positive belief for individuals, companies and communities.

And wait, there is still more (no, there will not be a sales offer for Ginsu knives coming). Gratitude has the unique power of reframing a dark, difficult situation into bearable and, even positive. Think for a moment about one of the most challenging things you have faced in the past few months. Now look deeply for some positive qualities in that situation. Did you learn from it? Were there some great qualities in that difficult person that are now covered in the mud of anger? Were you able to overcome the obstacles and continue with life? Did you move forward, despite the lingering pain and hurt? If you can answer yes to any of those, you can be grateful for that difficulty. And when you do, it feels great.

Where Should I Look for Gratitude

Sadly, many people reserve their appreciation for something big. A raise, promotion, winning the lottery, delivery of a big project all rise to the level of easily common gratitude.

Genuine gratitude and the power than comes with it is found in the usual and the often-overlooked pieces of everyday life. Successful gratitude practice will focus on thankfulness for the necessities, the challenges and all the resources we have been provided. And without any “but” statements connected to them.

A leader should be thankful every day for:

• Family and Friends
• Her or His Team
• The Employer or Company
• The Challenges Solved or Lessons from Them
• Resources Available to Lead
• Critics and Naysayers
• The Life Necessities of Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing and Transportation

Saying Thanks is Not the Same as Gratitude Practice

When introducing gratitude as a restorer of leadership heart and emotional composition, the consistent rebuff is “I always say thank you” or “I am always grateful”. And they are probably right but that is not the practice of gratitude and it does not have the lasting impact and power of creating an intentional and mindful practice.

To truly unlock this great heart power, begin the practice of appreciation and gratitude by:

1. Taking 30 seconds to a minute to clear your mind of clutter and the bouncing thoughts that affect many of us.

2. Use two to three minutes to think of things in which you are thankful or grateful. Nothing else but those thoughts for that time.

3. Note five to ten items in which you are thankful or grateful in daily entry journal form. Be sure to date the entry.

4. Of the five to ten gratitude notations, make sure at least one and preferably two are directly about something you did. That’s right, thankful for you and your own actions. Give yourself a little appreciation and thankfulness here.

5. Also ensure that at least one of the grateful notations is about a challenge, struggle, loss, hurt or pain. Look deeply for the good in something that was difficult at the time but brought a positive outcome or great lessons for you.

6. Pick one of the items of gratitude and purposefully express it to the person involved. Tell them. Send them an unexpected note of appreciation. Do something for them. Doesn’t really matter how you do this but express it sincerely and from the heart.

And the last step is to use the shampoo method on this practice: wash, rinse and repeat. Consistency is key to the power of gratitude. Everyday. Even on vacation.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

Conflict Resolution and Lessons from History

Leading Edge from Aegis Learning

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Success

  1. Seek the best solution, not one that is related to winning or losing.
  2. Subordinate your pride and ego to find a resolution that works for everyone.
  3. The need to be right is pervasive and some reflection about motives will reduce that.
  4. Be gracious and respectful on both sides of conflict; right or wrong.

By Tim Schneider

The spring of 1865 was a difficult and particularly brutal time for the Confederate States of America, and the events surrounding April 9 of that year can teach us a lot about resolving conflict at work, in business and at home.

Seeking the Best Solution

The Army of the Potomac, under the command of George Meade and overall direction of Ulysses Grant, had the Army of Northern Virginia surrounded at Appomattox Courthouse Virginia. At any time, and with a single command, Grant could have crushed the rebels and wiped them from the face of the earth.

But he didn’t.

Against the objections of several of his officers, Grant sent Robert E. Lee no fewer than three offers for surrender. General Grant sought a better solution. A solution that would reconnect the southerners to the Union and create a peace that was lasting, sustainable and would allow the defeated to lift their heads and return to citizenship.

The lessons for the modern workplace become easy to see. Do not look for ways to crush or humiliate someone in conflict. Look for a solution in which needs are met by both parties. A conflict solution will never last if it is horribly one-sided but solutions can be created in which both or all people involved can walk away with something; a mutual win. This is not compromise but seeking an independent solution that serves individuals and the organization.

Pride and Ego

Lee’s army was outnumbered six to one, starving and with no viable supply line. Yet he chose to reject the first offers of surrender. His pride would not allow him to acknowledge losing.

That pride cost 500 lives.

The ability for any person to subordinate ego and pride to resolve a conflict is incredibly important. To step back, pause, reflect and realize that the need to be right or “win” a conflict has tremendous cost in time, effort, emotional energy and relationships. When a person can remove this ego/pride block, creating a best solution outcome will become much easier. Checking in on your motives is the first step in this direction. Quite simply, ask yourself why you are in this conflict and why you need to be right or win.

Absolutism

There was no shortage of people on both sides of the American Civil War that sought an absolute, black versus whit and right versus wrong, outcome. Those people looked for either a crushing victory or a “never surrender” approach that had potentially devastating outcomes.

Contractual, letter of the law, policy based solutions to conflict rarely work. You may have policy on your side but that does not mean that will resolve the conflict. Those people that cite law, policy or other terms to support their argument in conflict will do nothing more than fan the flames of disagreement.

Empathy, by contrast, is a far better tool that written righteousness to resolve conflict. Instead of quoting contract terms and company policy, listen to the other point of view and put yourself in that situation. Leading with the heavy-handed perspective of “absolutely right because the policy says so” will only ensure a continuation of the conflict.

Generous in Victory

The terms offered by General Grant were especially noteworthy and his generosity stayed with Lee until his death. The winning commander offered all confederate combatants be able to keep their horse to rebuild their farms, and that none face trial for treason and none be incarcerated. Grant also allowed all officers to keep their sidearm and, upon inspection, returned General Lee’s sword to him. Lee was also allowed to pick the date, location and time of the surrender meeting.

Also remarkable is that no cheering was allowed and celebrations were kept to a respectful minimum. Grant was quoted as saying “they are our countrymen now and the best sign of rejoicing will be to abstain from demonstrations in the field”.

When a conflicting position is in the right, the need to be generous is important. Far too often a person needs to demonstrate their “win” in conversation and follow-up emails echoing their victory in conflict. This type of resolution will not last and the other party must be allowed to exit a conflict with grace and dignity restored. Without this, connecting them back productively and in an engaged manner to the working environment will not occur. When someone says that you win or are right, leave it alone and stop hammering home the point.

Supportive in Defeat

Equally telling is Lee’s support for the surrender, reconciliation and Grant himself after the events of April 9, 1865.

By his own choice, General Lee never again donned the uniform of general officer of the confederacy and when marching in parade formation, he purposefully remained out-of-step with the cadets at his university. Now a private citizen and having lost everything to the war, Robert E. Lee also never uttered an unkind word about Grant and never allowed poor talk of Grant in his presence. Lee was committed to being the best citizen he could and used his voice to encourage others to do the same. The war was over.

In workplace and interpersonal conflict, often the person in the wrong feels an ego driven need to justify either their loss or the injustice of the conflict result. This pot-stirring added value serves no purpose and will guarantee the conflict returns. When the conflict is over, it must be over. Admit wrong. Move along.

Postscripts from History

Although victorious in 1865, Ulysses Grant died penniless and in constant pain from a variety of illnesses. His account of the war restored much of the family fortune after his death.

Robert E. Lee accepted a position of college president and served honorably until his death.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.