Monday, November 28, 2011

Effective Teen Habit #6: Synergize!

Helen Keller is known for a quote, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." This is a truthful and powerful statement as she carefully stated, "together we CAN do so much." Like the cartoon, people can be co-inhabiting an area but not be working together. Furthermore, people can be working together and still not be accomplishing synergy. The potential is there but the full effect is lacking. So, then, what is synergy?

Geese flying in a "V" formation so accurately demonstrates synergy. By flying in a "V" formation, the flock of geese can travel 71% farther than one individual geese! For each flap of the wings, an updraft is created for the geese immediately behind the one flapping. In other words, synergy is when two or more team members work together to accomplish more than what could be accomplished alone. Effective leaders know how to create synergy within their teams!

The challenge is that teens would recognize this principle and overcome some personal barriers to make synergy happen. Here's how:

  1. Reject pride. Have a teachable spirit. Don't act like you have all of the answers. Be open-minded and look to first understand before trying to be understood (Sound familiar? Habit #5).
  2. Accept Diversity. Know each person on the team thinks, learns, and sees differently. This is the beauty of synergy! When so much diversity can work together to accomplish so much more than what could be accomplished alone.
  3. Persevere. Working together to make synergy happen is like a choir singing a song. Each individual MUST sing his or her part to make the whole sound right. However, each individual has to listen to each other to make sure everyone is in step and on key. This takes work and is not usually accomplished on the first attempt.
  4. Research. The team must find new and effective solutions. This takes the resourcefulness and creativity of each person to generate an effective solution that promotes, "win-win" solutions (Sound familiar? Habit #4).
Start improving your achievements by becoming the synergistic team player we all talk about but rarely achieve!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taking a break from the study of the habits of highly effective teens, I'd like to take a moment and remind us all of the need to make gratefulness a habit of our lives. Gratefulness can be defined as giving honor or credit to someone for his or her influence on your life. It's recognizing I'm "who I am" as a result of another. Gratefulness recognizes I couldn't be where I'm at today without the input of energy, time, love, money, resources of others.

I've learned that gratefulness is much more than just being polite and having good manners. I was raised to make sure I tell people "Thank you" as most people are. However, gratefulness and its importance goes much deeper than simply giving a verbal statement to someone.

Gratefulness starts with humility. Rarely do you see arrogant, self-centered people express gratefulness. In fact, gratefulness is one of the keys to overcoming arrogance and self-centeredness! More clearly, one can't be grateful without being humble first. Humility recognizes I'm not a product of myself only. I'm a product of others' influence on my life and others' contributions also. Below are some of the benefits of regularly practicing thankfulness:

  1. Contentment - Practicing gratefulness ensures that contentment will reside in one's life. Without contentment, you will be subject to be in "wanting" mode. The "wanting" mode is the endless appetite of wanting to receive something to keep a "high" (such as attention, money, gifts, etc). Gratefulness brings contentment back to the forefront of one's life.
  2. Bonding - Gratefulness strengthens the bonds you have with those around you. A simple recognition of thanks to a parent for the simple things in life remind them of how important they are to us. Gratefulness reminds people that what they do is not a mundane, unneeded service but something important we recognize as being helpful to us.
  3. Honor - Expressing gratefulness gives honor to those whom it is due. It's easy to honor those who achieve gratefulness but what about those individuals helping along the way? What about those individuals that while it may be a small part, it's a really important ingredient in your success? They need recognition.
Start with those closest to you and start thinking how these individuals have impacted your life. Be thankful. There are many less fortunate than you. I guarantee there are things these individuals have done that you have taken for granted. Tell them thanks.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Effective Teen Habit #5 Seek to Understand...

One of the most stress related activities for any leader in any capacity is resolving conflict. One powerful principle leaders need to follow is to seek first to understand than to be understood. Our natural tendency is to seek first to make sure others understand our position rather than vice versa. The truth is when we really focus on understanding others first, they are more likely to receive our input without resistance. This principle is another example of a much bigger principle of being "others centered" rather than "self-centered." If you are concerned about the other person, you are more likely to practice this principle of seeking to understand them first.

To practice this truth, three things must be present:
  1. An attitude of humility - humility will set its own agenda aside to make sure all ears are given to hear and understand the other person. Without this, a selfish or prideful attitude may create a wedge between the parties involved and minimizing the effectiveness of communication.
  2. An attitude of kindness - leaders need to know that kindness reaches the hearts of people. Kindness expressed through sincere listening builds trust with people.
  3. A will that seeks - the emphasis here is to SEEK to understand. In other words, a leader must do more than just listen, he or she must ask questions and repeat what has been communicated to ensure both parties are "on the same page."
Leaders communicate. Period. In order to effectively communicate, leaders must listen and ask questions with the purpose of seeking to understand. Lastly, seeking to understand minimizes conflict. Conflict prevention is more effective than conflict resolution!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Habit #4 - Think WIN-WIN

In our competitive society, many people are doing their best to out compete others, even teammates. Rather than having such a divisive competitive spirit, effective teen leaders practice a "win-win" mentality. It's not a thinking that says, "How can I make sure I win and he loses" rather its, "We both can win." C.S. Lewis' comment on the egotistical pride states, "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man."

Before you criticize me with, "This is bull-jive! The real world is ultra-competitive." My response is yes and no. The business and sports world may be highly competitive and I realize this but, practicing a "win-win" mentality will prove to be advantageous for everyone, not just a select few.

For example, let's say your best friend whom you also share a locker with needs to use the top shelf as much as you do. This situation may present itself as only having one winner. HOWEVER, creative thinking can provide a "win-win" situation. How? This next statement reveals the power of "win-win" thinking...

In order to create "win-win" solutions, a leader effectively learns the focus has to become on accomplishing the other person's goals. Pride is the enemy here. A leader must set his goal aside momentarily and ask what the goal or intention of the other person. Once both goals are understood, then creative thinking can act on establishing a "win-win" solution.

Returning to the previous example, let's say you ask your locker partner what his goal is. He states that he believes if he hides his cell phone in the top shelf, it will less likely be stolen. This is his real goal, not necessarily needing the top shelf. For you, you would like to have the top shelf because you are a much taller than average person and it's a better fit. Creative thinking could create several possible solutions to meet both goals: sharing top shelf, using a lock, etc.

Practicing "win-win" thinking requires the following disciplines by the effective teen leader:
  • Reject the pride that wants to be on top all of the time
  • Learn the goals of others
  • Be creative
  • Give options for solutions, let others have a "say"
  • Think, "How can I help others feel like they win?"
  • Practice being happy for others' success even when you lose
One final thought in developing "win-win" thinking is the old phrase, "Better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles with others." How might this relate to "win-win" thinking?