Posted in leadership, self-improvement

12 Questions

To summarize the month on Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, here is a reminder of the twelve questions you should keep close to your desk or workstation:

  1. What do I want?
  2. What assumption am I making?
  3. What am I responsible for?
  4. How can I think about this?
  5. What is the other person thinking? Feeling? Wanting?
  6. What am I missing or avoiding?
  7. What can I learn from this person? This situation? This mistake? This failure? This success?
  8. What questions should I ask myself? Others?
  9. How can I turn this situation into a win-win one?
  10. What possible?
  11. What are my choices?
  12. What action steps make the most sense?

Cite: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life by Marilee Adams. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015

Posted in leadership, self-improvement


Einstein wrote, if I had one hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes asking questions and 5 minutes solving the problem. This is called Q-storming. Instead of braining-storming answers, next time try brain-storming questions. Here’s how:

1. Describe the problem
2. Describe the goal for change
3. Ask first person questions – How do I…? How do we…?

It’s that simple. Great results start with great questions. Here are some starter points when beginning the group discussion:
1. How would I find out what I don’t know if I don’t ask?
2. How can you get the best answers without first asking the best questions?
3. Every question missed is a potential crisis waiting to happen.

While helping your group Q-storm, consider some of these:
1. How do we get past what is blocking us?
2. How can we meet our target?
3. What do we want to change?
4. What don’t we want to change?
5. What can I do to be more creative?
6. What will help us make the best contribution?
7. What do others have to offer?
8. What assumptions am I making about
a. Myself?
b. Others?
c. What is not true now?
d. Available resources?
e. What’s impossible?
f. What’s possible?

Remember leadership is as much about who you are as what you do. This is listed in a quote by Schein that states, “The only real importance that leaders do is create and manage culture.” To work toward this, remember a question not asked is a door not opened, so Question Everything!

Cite: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life by Marilee Adams. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015

Posted in leadership, self-improvement

Switching Lanes from Judger Leader to Learner Leader

“To choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances is to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankl

Thoughts set intention. Learner questions program us with a positive intention for the right attitude and moves toward an outstanding performance. Whenever feeling yourself going into judger leader, switch lanes by asking yourself:

  1. What will serve me best right now?
  2. Am I being honest with myself?
  3. What do I really need?
  4. What can I do to feel better that doesn’t include eating?
  5. Instead of saying who’s to blame, ask what am I responsible for?

Blame keeps us in the past. Responsibility paves the path for a better future. Switching is what makes it possible to change. Switching makes it easier when you follow your A, B, C, and Ds.

  • Aware – Am I a judger? Is this working?
  • Breathe! – Do I need to step back, pause, and gain perspective?
  • Curiosity – What’s really going on? – With me? With others? With the situation?
  • Decide – What is my decision? What action do I choose?

Remember Learner begets learner and judger begets judger. We don’t have much control over what happens, but we can choose how we relate to what happens. So, accept the judger and practice the learner. Ask, what do I appreciate about my team? What are the strengths of each one? How can I collaborate with them more productively? How can we stay on the learner path together?

When frustrated with a situation or a person, remember the three primary questions:

  1. What assumptions am I making?
  2. How else can I think about this?
  3. What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?


Cite: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life by Marilee Adams. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015

Posted in leadership, self-improvement

Are You a Judger or a Learner?

The secret of being really effective and satisfied with our lives begins when we decide to be a judger or a learner. This is part of question thinking as discussed in a previous blog: post= 7491&action=edit Once you understand your mindset, you can choose which questions you want to ask. “Change your thinking, change your results.” Remember, “No one can help anyone else from a judger place.” So, instead of asking

  • What’s wrong with me (judger), ask
    • What do I value about myself (learner)?
  • What’s wrong with him (judger), ask
    • What do I appreciate about him (learner)?
  • Whose fault is it (judger), ask
    • Am I being responsible (learner)?
  • How can I prove I’m right (judger), ask
    • What’s useful? What can I learn (learner)?
  • Why is she so clueless and frustrating (judger), ask
    • What is she thinking? Feeling? Wanting? (learner)
  • We’ve done that already (judger), ask
    • What are the best steps forward?
  • Why bother? (judger), ask
    • What’s possible (learner)?

More learner questions:

  • What happened?
  • What do I want?
  • What’s useful about this?
  • What can I learn?
  • What are my choices?
  • What’s best to do now?
  • What’s possible?


Judger mindset (being judgmental) is the enemy of good judgment.

Accept the judger mindset when it comes up so you can release it, but practice the learner mindset moment by moment by moment.

Change begins with the person who wants the change.


 Cite: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life by Marilee Adams. Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015

Posted in leadership, spiritual/religious

Thoughts, Actions and Memories

Over 2,000 years ago, one of my favorite Greek Philosophers, Epictetus, stated that people are disturbed “Not by things, but by the views we take on them.” A thousand years later, Shakespeare, in Hamlet, wrote, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And even Solomon in Proverbs wrote, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

As a child, I grew up with 4 flags, the American flag, the Kentucky state flag, the Christian flag, and the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag was an artifact of heritage pride. Even though Kentucky was a border state, it presented as southern. As a child, this was a simple association as was being a female child.

As I grew, I watched white power protesters claim the Confederate flag as their own. They associated it with hateful language, physical pain, and murders directed at innocent people. Just as the Nazis took over the swastika symbol, which was originally a Jewish symbol (something I didn’t know until I traveled to Israel), the Confederate flag was commandeered as a symbol of bigotry, racism, and death of innocents. So, as I grew and understood, I removed the Confederate flag from my things. Though I had one in innocence, I could no longer keep one and be innocent.

In the last few decades, Christendom has been hijacked by bigots and racists. I cringe as I watch hateful words, dangerous actions, and murders in the name of Love of Jesus Christ. These people are not performing Christ-like acts, but by using the name of Christian for their atrocities, they are marking all Christians with their hate and shameful acts, just as the white power people mark all southerners with their hate and shameful acts.

While there are many southerners who are excellent role models for being a real loving, generous southerner, and excellent Christians providing role models for being Christ-like Christians, I wonder, will the haters win? According to the ancient philosophers quoted at the top of this post, they only win if we view the actions of a few and judge everyone with it. For all who are working hard at trying to live a good life, a Christ-like life, I hope people can see beyond the actions of the haters toward the actions of people making positive changes every day.

 CITE: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D.

Posted in leadership

Adult Levels of Development

I recently read a paper by Nick Petrie at the Center for Creative Leadership that used the metaphor that leadership is perpetual white water. This is my second blog post on the paper. For the first one, check out the August 6, 2017 post. The paper discussed the new era of digital information leadership and talked about how to develop leaders in this new white water era.

Discussing Adult Level of Development, Kegan lists three categories:

Category 3 – Socialized mind. At this level people are shaped by the expectations of those around them. What people say and think is strongly influenced by what people think others want to hear. #Dependent Conformer. #Opportunist. #Diplomat.

Category 4 – Self-authoring mind. At this level people have developed their own ideology and internal compass to guide them. Their sense of self is aligned with their own belief system, personal code, and values. They can take stands, and set limits on behalf of their own internal beliefs. #Independent #Achiever. #Expert.

Category 5 – Self-transforming mind. At this level people have their own ideology but can step back from that ideology to see if it is limited or partial. They can hold more contradiction and oppositeness in their thinking and no longer feel the need to gravitate towards polarized thinking. #Interdependent Collaborator. #Strategist. #Alchemist. #Ironist. (page 13)

Reading this, what category are you? Are you a different category at work? At home? With friends? Did reading this cause you to think about things differently?

A quick list:


  • Characteristics: Wins anyway possible, self-oriented, manipulative, might makes right.
  • Leadership strengths: Good in emergencies and sales opportunities.
  • Weaknesses: Forcibly self-interested and manipulative; Rejects feedback and externalizes blame.


  • Characteristics: Avoids overt conflict; Wants to belong, Obeys group norms; Rarely rocks the boat.
  • Leadership strengths: Good as supportive glue within an office; Helps bring people together.
  • Weaknesses: Avoids conflict; Rigidly conforms and is status-driven; Sees negative feedback as punishment.


  • Characteristics: Rules by logic and expertise; Seeks rational efficiency.
  • Leadership strengths: Good as an individual contributor.
  • Weaknesses: Critical and dogmatic; choose efficiency over effectiveness; Resists subjective feedback.


  • Characteristics: Meets strategic goals; Effectively achieves goals through teams; Juggles managerial duties and market demands.
  • Leadership strengths: Well suited to managerial roles; Action and goal oriented.
  • Weaknesses: Can be over driven to achieve self-chosen objective standards; blind to complex sustainability


  • Characteristics: Interweaves competing personal and company action logics; Creates unique structures to resolve gaps between structure and performance.
  • Leadership strengths: Effective in venture and consulting roles.
  • Weaknesses: Can be a maverick, an outsider, or rebel; Their independence can work against collaboration.


  • Characteristics: Generates organizational and personal transformations; Exercises the power of mutual inquiry, vigilance, and vulnerability for both the short and long term.
  • Leadership strengths: Effective as a transformational leader within large contexts such as organizations.
  • Weaknesses: Tempted by the dark side of power; May not employ their skills in a given context.


  • Characteristics: Generates social transformations; Integrates material, spiritual, and societal transformations.
  • Leadership strengths: Good at leading society-wide transformations.
  • Weaknesses: Personal suffering may obstruct the use of their skills.

Cite: Future Trends in Leadership Development by Nick  Petrie

Posted in leadership

Leadership White Water

I recently read a paper by the Center for Creative Leadership that used the metaphor that leadership is perpetual white water. I was immediately drawn to it because I believe it to be true. There is always something to keep an eye on, always something that may make your day trip of calm water turn into a rapids ride, and always something that could turn your day completely topsy-turvy. There is also something about navigating exciting white water that draws leaders to the role.

On page 7, the author discussed VUCA, an army term, to describe this new environment:

  • V – change happens rapidly and on a large scale (volatile)
  • U – the future cannot be predicted with any precision (uncertainty)
  • C – challenges are complicated by many factors any there are few single causes or solutions (complex)
  • A – there is little clarity on what events mean or what effect they may have (ambiguous)

And on page 5, we are reminded that “In the agricultural era, schools mirrored the garden. In the industrial era, schools mirrored the factory, with an assembly line of learners. In the digital information era…VUCA. “

According to those interviewed for this paper, the most common skills, abilities, and attributes needed for VUCA white water leaders (page 9) will be

  • Adaptability
  • Self-awareness
  • Boundary spanning
  • Collaboration
  • Network thinking

Aids to improve the skills, abilities, and attributes listed above (page 9) will be

  • Training
  • Job assignments
  • Action learning
  • Executive coaching
  • Mentoring
  • 360-degree feedback

One leader interviewed stated, “Some people want to put Christ back in Christmas I want to put development back in leadership development,” (page 10). Suggestions to improve leadership development (page 22) include

  • Open flow of information
  • Flexible hierarchies
  • Distributed resources
  • Distributed decision making
  • Loosening of centralized controls

Does all of this sound familiar and simple? I think so. Do you know of a lot of corporations and agencies who follow it? You be the judge.

Cite: Future Trends in Leadership Development by Nick  Petrie