A Letter from My Future Self

Letter

One of the exercises from the Week 7 WOL Circle Guide is to write a letter from your future self as as way of “picturing your life the way you would like it to be”.  I spent some time over the weekend thinking about my letter and I published the first draft on our internal ESN for my circle group to review.  I also decided to share it here as well.

I know I will want to go back and refine it but found that just taking the time to sit down and think about what I want my future to look like was a wonderful exercise.  Thinking about what I would like my life to look like  and envisioning what that would feel like was incredibly energizing!  It was indeed a very emotional experience.

I invited my circle to share their letters prior to our meeting but made that optional.  I’m really looking forward to our discussion when our circle meets to hear what they thought about the exercise.

My Dreams/Goals:

I want to inspire people to achieve more than they thought possible.  I want to lead a high performing team by creating an environment where we leverage everyone’s strengths and passions to their fullest.

I want to find a way to fully harness the collective wisdom and experiences or a community to bring about positive change.

I will have developed expertise in continuous improvement and be able to coach others to continually optimize their processes to maximize quality, value, and efficiency.

I will have the autonomy to choose projects I find most meaningful.

I will contribute in a meaningful way to community service projects focused on education or helping people achieve career goals.

I will have work-life balance so that I can spend time with family and friends as well as focusing on my own health and well-being.

Articulating My Vision:

I will be able to inspire people and build communities.

How Will I Know?:

I will be sought out as a coach/mentor and have established a reputation as someone who can build and lead exceptional teams that deliver high quality projects.

How will it feel if I don’t try and how will it feel if I DO try?:

If I don’t try, I will continue to feel as though my best talents are going to waste.  I will be frustrated by feeling I have hit the ceiling and have nowhere left to go and grow.  My motivation to continue to go above and beyond will diminish over time.  My creativity will begin to fade and I will devolve into doing what is asked of me but little incentive to do more.  My enjoyment and passion for what I do will decrease and it will be increasingly difficult to want to come to work every day.

If I do pursue my vision now, I will feel that I am continually growing, developing new skills, and deepening my expertise.  I will have strong passion and drive for what I am doing.  I will continue to deepen my mastery and apply my skills in new and creative ways to exceed expectations for the projects I deliver.  I will have fun both at work and in my personal life.  I will look forward to each new day.  I will feel that I am an asset to those who know me both personally and professionally.

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Week 6 WOL Circle Summary – So Much to Offer

Gifts

Today was our week 6 WOL circle meeting.  It’s hard to believe that we’re half way through!  Time certainly does fly.  Our themes for this week were “So much to offer”, updating our online profiles, and whether our WOL circle has met expectations so far.

So Much to Offer:

One of the exercises for this week from the week 6 Circle guide was to write 50 facts about ourselves.  Our circle agreed to post our lists on our internal social enterprise network and then discuss in our meeting.  It was a truly eye-opening experience both creating a list but also reading the lists others had created.

Most of us had similar experiences in creating our lists.  The first 15 or so facts came pretty easily.  The other 35 took a bit more thought.  In talking about going through the exercise we discussed how putting together our lists brought back memories of various experiences we’d had, and gave us an opportunity to reflect on things we had accomplished.  I think we all came away realizing that we have a lot to offer.

Having the opportunity to read one another’s lists really helped us to learn more about one another.  People in my circle have done some pretty amazing things from running marathons, to riding a bicycle across the state of Indiana in a single day, to winning a 3 week trip to watch the World Cup!  I think I know more about some of the people in my circle after this single exercise than people I’ve known for several years.  Completing the exercise and sharing in advance of the meeting also provided a wonderful opportunity for interaction outside of our meeting.

I think I may use this exercise as a team-building exercise for my work team.  It’s really a wonderful way to get to know people better!

Updating Our Profiles:

The exercise to update our profiles was also very enlightening.  I highly recommend the article suggesting in the Circle Guide, 17 New ways to make your LinkedIn profile irresistible to employers.  I have to admit that I’ve not been the best at either keeping my profiles up to date or really using them to highlight what I have to offer.  Other circle participants expressed similar sentiments and we discussed we want to showcase ourselves online.  I was even inspired to create an “About” page for my blog.

Week 6 Check In:

Now that we are half way through our WOL circle program, I wanted to check in with my circle participants to see if their experience so far has met their expectations.  Most people said that they really weren’t sure what to expect when they signed up to participate.  They had read the overview and thought it sounded like an interesting and useful program but they really weren’t sure what they were getting into.

That said, the response was overwhelmingly positive.  People said that they were learning to work in new ways, to tap into other people in their networks, create new relationships, and think differently about how they work.  They talked about trying to change how they work, to share more, and make it easier for others they work with to both create and take advantage of a collective body of knowledge and work more as a community than individual contributors.

We have 2 different circles that were launched at the same time.  One suggestion that I’m excited about was to bring both groups together at the end of our 12 weeks to share experiences.  Our circle really wants to learn from the other circle and hear about their experience.  I’m sure each circle is quite unique given the unique personalities and perspectives of the participants and facilitators.

I mentioned to everyone that it is my hope that at the end of our 12 weeks, that at least one of them will be willing to launch and facilitate her/his own circle.  I have been building and sharing through our ESN a set of resources over the weeks that can be reused for future circles, so some of the work has already been done.

As for me, I’ve learned and achieved a tremendous amount over the past 6 weeks and will continue to build upon that foundation.  Reading the book and completing a few exercises independently, was really helpful but participating in a circle has really helped me to better understand and appreciate the potential benefits from working out loud.  I do know that my work won’t be finished in the next 6 weeks, so I definitely see another circle in my future!

Week 5 – WOL Circle Summary – Empathy, Contributions & Keeping Our Relationships “Warm”

Empathy

We had an excellent discussion this morning in our WOL circle that covered several topics: empathy, contributions, and moving from ad hoc to systematic in maintaining our relationships.  While we did discuss different on line platforms and ways to use them more effectively, much of the conversation focused on being more thoughtful in maintaining our relationships.

Empathy

After we shared our updates from the past week, we began discussing the concept of empathy.  As we begin thinking about approaching people who may be able to assist us with our goals, we need to be mindful about how our contribution or request could potentially land on them.  We discussed our own experience with the e-mails we receive every day asking us for something.  We all could all relate to people sending us requests that demonstrated little regard for us as people.  Many people are focused solely on what they want or need.

After discussing how we felt when receiving a request that showed little or no empathy for us, we then talked about how we could change our approach when we reach out to people on our relationship lists.  The key is to keep in mind that our goal is to establish and strengthen relationships through contributions.  As Joh Stepper says in Working Out Loud, we should always keep these 3 questions in mind when approaching someone:

  1. What would my reaction be if I were that person?
  2. Why should he/she care?
  3. Why am I doing this? (Examining your motives can help you avoid being manipulative, insincere, or otherwise doing something you’re uncomfortable with.)

Contributions

Discussing empathy helped to put our contributions into perspective.  When thinking about what you can offer to someone, it’s also important to keep in mind how the contribution might be perceived.  We talked about starting with contributions you feel most comfortable offering.  These contributions can be as simple as retweeting something you found interesting or leaving a comment that you liked someone’s blog post.

While social platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn can offer an easy way to contribute to a larger community, it’s also important to understand what platform works best for the people you are trying to reach.  Working out loud in this context can include sending someone a link to an interesting article via e-mail, if you know that they aren’t in the habit of using social platforms.  It’s not a contribution if the intended recipient never sees it.

Moving from Ad Hoc to Systematic

I think someone in our circle said it best when she said “you need to keep your relationships warm”.  If someone is important to you, then you need to make an effort to reach out and stay in touch.  The only time you contact someone shouldn’t be only when you want something from them.

We talked about how we tend to use LinkedIn as an example.  I confess that prior to this experience, I had primarily used LinkedIn as a mechanism for collecting names.  I would occasionally look through my list, but only when I needed something.  Over the past few days, I invested time into tagging all of my LinkedIn connections.  I created tags that meant something to me, former classmates, people I had worked with at other companies, colleagues I’d worked with at my current company who had moved on, people I met through volunteer work, etc.  This helped me to group people in a way that was meaningful and personal.

My next step is going to be to begin reaching out to those people most important to me.  Not to ask them for anything but to reconnect and find out about how they are doing.  I’ll then use the reminder feature offered in the LinkedIn relationship manager to set a reminder to follow up.  That way I can make sure that the relationships that are important to me always stay warm.

I think we all came away from today’s meeting with some great insights and a renewed focus on being better at managing our relationships.  Not just to achieve our WOL goals but with all the relationships that are important to us.

Week 4 WOL Metrics

Relationship-metrics

My focus on metrics going forward is to look at my activities over the past week to determine which activities yield the best return on investment with regard to helping me develop and strengthen relationships related to my goal.  I split my time between 2 different platforms – Twitter and LinkedIn.

I like Twitter because it’s relatively easy to interact with people there.  However, I don’t find that it’s very useful for establishing or strengthening relationships.  Most of the people I’m interested in don’t have much of a presence there.  The value I do derive from Twitter is the ability to find content that I think people I’m trying to grow relationships with would find valuable.

I’ve been spending more time focused on LinkedIn.  I found some very active compliance communities and valuable content there.  I’ve been commenting regularly and becoming a more active participant.  As a result, I’ve added 5 new names to my relationship list and recorded 6 changes in intimacy levels.

I also spent some time going through and tagging all of my LinkedIn connections.  I will confess to not really taking full advantage of the tool.  Over the years I’ve collected quite a few connections but have done little with that list.  By tagging them, I can easily filter my network by area of interest and have identified the people I most want to stay connected with and relationships I want to work on and invest in.  By using the available relationship management tool, I can set reminders so I won’t have any excuse for going months (years) without touching base with people I value.

I think the next phase of WOL, trying to grow and strengthen relationships with the people on my list is going to be the most challenging.  It’s not been all that hard to move from an intimacy level of 0 – the person doesn’t know who I am to an intimacy level of 2 – we’re had 1 or more interactions.  The next level, 3 is  we’ve collaborated.  This is going to take much more time, effort and consideration.  I’m hopeful I can achieve this with at least 1 person on my list in the coming weeks.

Thoughts Upon Completing My 30 Day Writing Challenge

Writing

Today marks the last day of my 30 Day Writing Challenge.  I’ve decided that “challenge” was definitely the appropriate word because it hasn’t been easy.  Like anything else,  you get out of it what you put into it.  I’m glad I did it and I’ve learned quite a bit along the way.

The difference between writing and posting:

If I had to do it all over again, I think I would revise the challenge from posting something every day to writing something every day.  Writing every day really did help me to develop discipline.  However, I’m not sure that everything I wrote was really worthy of posting.  There were days when I struggled to come up with a topic that I truly cared about.  I noticed a distinct difference in how I felt when the writing felt like a chore – a check the box exercise vs. when I had something I genuinely wanted to share.

When I set the challenge for myself, saying I would blog every day, was a good way to make that commitment visible.  Either I posted something or I didn’t.  I think that added sense of responsibility after publicly stating my intention gave me added incentive to honor my commitment.  In the end I posted something on my blog 27 out of the 30 days.  Not perfect, but I believe that the results were much better than if I hadn’t challenged myself.

My need for “down time”

I didn’t achieve my goal of posting every day for 30 days.  In the end, I’m okay with that.  What I learned is that in order for me to do my best, I need to allow myself some down time.  I also need balance.  I didn’t write at all this past weekend.  I didn’t work on my WOL circle assignments either.  I focused on my family, my other interests, and gave myself permission to take a break..  And it felt good!

I realized that with  the pressures that are already part of both my professional and personal responsibilities that I don’t need to create more.  In order to function at my best, I need to allow myself some down time.  I need to disconnect.  I need to spend time with the people I love who all too often get short-changed by the things competing for my attention.  After taking the weekend off, I feel refreshed, much more engaged, and ready to start up again.

Where do I go from here?

I have seen some wonderful benefits from blogging.  It has given me the opportunity to connect with people.  I’ve benefited from people generously sharing comments, suggestions, and feedback.  Having other perspectives has helped me to grow and change my thinking which never would have happened without using this forum to work out loud.  I also think that this daily exercise of writing has provided me with a very structured way of reflecting on and then documenting my experiences.

I do want to continue to write regularly with the following caveats.  I don’t plan on posting something new daily.  I do want to sit down and record my thoughts and ideas but this exercise has taught me that I won’t necessarily have something worthy of publishing every day.  My goal going forward is quality over quantity.  I also know that I need to allow myself some breaks.  I need to allow myself at least 1 day of down time each week.  I will still be paying attention to how often I’m posting something new but I will be removing the pressure of having to do so daily.  Over the next few weeks, I will try to figure out what that right frequency is for me.

I highly recommend the approach of trying something new for 30 days.  It’s been a great experience for me and I think it provided me the motivation I needed to work on developing a new habit.  I have some ideas for my next challenge but I think I’ll wait a bit before trying to add something new.

Trying Out a LinkedIn Relationship Management Tool

Someone in my network on LinkedIn shared a really nice resource with me on Achieving LinkedIn Profile Perfection.  Along with lots of other great tips, I learned about a relationship management tool that I never knew existed.  As you can see from the  graphic below, for any connection in LinkedIn you can add notes, reminders, a description of how you met, and even create a tag.

LinkedIn-Relationship-Tool

I think this could work very nicely for managing my WOL relationship list.  I can keep track of my last contribution, and then set a reminder for my next contribution.  I even created a custom tag “WOL-compliance” so it’s really easy to filter those connections.  I’m going to give it a try and see how it works for me.

So far I like it.  It’s easy to do.  Since I hope to add everyone from my WOL relationship list to my LinkedIn network, it eliminates the need to keep a separate list.  I also really like the reminder feature.  The ability to create a tag makes it really easy and quick to find just the people on my WOL list.

After I  have more experience, I’ll report back.  Has anyone else used this?  If so I’d be very interested in hearing about your experiences.

Week 4 WOL Circle – Balancing Act

Spinning-plates

Week 4 – hard to believe we are a third of the way through our WOL program.  I think everyone felt as though they had made some progress during the past week.  However, we also discussed the challenges we feel with keeping up the progress.  We all face competing priorities.  In the illustration above, it’s not a coincidence that the plate that is falling is labelled WOL.

bowling-vs-ping-pong

One of my other favorite analogies for managing multiple responsibilities is “keeping all the balls in the air”.  I like to tell people that when one of those balls does fall and conk me on the head, I try to make sure it’s the ping pong ball and not the bowling ball.  It’s about trade off decisions.  If it comes down to a choice between meeting a deadline for a work project (bowling ball) and completing my WOL exercises (ping pong ball), I know what my choice will be.

As we move forward, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the point of the WOL exercises – to build and strengthen relationships.  If time is limited, then we should focus on those relationships we most want to cultivate.  The contributions we make to the people on our relationship lists needn’t take a lot of time or effort but we do have to invest some time if we expect them to grow.

We all have competing priorities, and some weeks we will have more time to focus on WOL than others.  I think the key is to continue the practice of making contributions to grow our relationships.  Even a small investment of time can yield results.  Focusing on our goal, and not simply the activities, can help us with our balancing act over the coming weeks.

With each week, I come to understand an appreciate the wisdom of working together as part of a circle.  It helps to talk through the challenges with other people who can empathize with me.  While we may not be able to move a project deadline or lighten someone’s workload, we can offer encouragement and support.  We are all invested in not only learning to WOL but also in each other’s success.