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Perspective Makes Perfect

Jessica Winkler - Thursday, October 16, 2014

It started simply enough. Cleaning windows. Not my favorite pastime but much needed in light of the perpetual construction in our neighborhood. My husband had unenthusiastically agreed to help and I jumped on the opportunity to enlist his help. We pulled out the first window frame, but instead of sliding out, it popped off the track that was holding it. My husband and I tried in vain to get the window back on the track but the window refused to cooperate. Every time we tried, the window would slip and almost drop. 

There we were, one inside, one outside holding the awkward, heavy window and not knowing how to make it right. It was at this moment that our talkative 7-year old, Michael, made his entrance. He stood, taking in the scene of parental frustration, “Mom and Dad I think…”

“Not now!” we almost screamed in unison. The window was heavy and we were not in the frame of mind to listen to the simple prattle of a 7 year old.

“But…” Michael insisted.

Shifting the weight of the window awkwardly to my other arm I let out a frustrated “What?!”

“Well,” he said bending way down and pointing, “I think you need to take the window all of the way out first then it will fit between those two bar things under there.” 

Steve and I stared at each other. Could it be that our son had seen something that we seasoned adults could not? Steve bent down, precariously balancing the window on his shoulder. Michael was right. The window had to come all the way out and be maneuvered down and under in order to fit back into the frame correctly. Since Michael was shorter than us, he saw the problem from a different vantage point. But more importantly, he was willing to look at the problem without pre-conceived ideas of how a window ought to work. He had a helpful, fresh perspective.

When was the last time you sought out a fresh perspective on a challenge? Who might you ask for a new idea on an old problem?

Touchpoints

Jessica Winkler - Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Zac Brown Band concert was a highly anticipated affair. Hundreds of people believing they had select tickets only to find out the entire concert was to be a mosh pit—standing only—no seats. Not for anyone. Desire to enjoy a concert became the test of fan loyalty. Will you stand with hundreds of people for hours in hopes of catching a glimpse of musical history? 

Disappointment with the promise of a selected seat permeated the mass cattle-like crowd, all of whom straining and hoping to find the promise of a brief touch with the famous. Forced close proximity combined with a lack of air conditioning caused frustration to mount …the frustration was palpable and heavy. Tempers flared as the indignity of the sheer number of bodies created a pinball set of human bumpers and hazards to avoid. Abundantly-consumed alcoholic beverages contributed to larger-than-life egos. Tempers mounted. Scuffles rose and fell. The undirected tension began to have a life of its own… 

And then the concert started... 

Call it the power of music, or people paying attention to what they paid hard earned money to see, or maybe it was something bigger than all of us…

But something incredible happened. 

Voices in unison sang and proclaimed the deepest of human connections. Hailing from all over the country, from all socio-economic standings, from all ages, proclaiming heart-felt truths and singing poignantly in unison where just a brief moment earlier there was division. Genuine heartfelt truths bonded this unlikely mob together.

“…I see the sunrise

See the love in my woman’s eyes

Feel the touch of a precious child

And a mother’s love

It’s funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most

Not where you live, what you drive, or the price tag on your clothes

There’s no dollar sign on the peace of mind, this I’ve come to know

So if you agree have a drink with me and raise your glasses for a toast..." 

We all have that point of connection, that place where we connect in ways that go deeper than what the surface reveals. It may take moments, precious time, but the bond and encouragement is real. Where can you take time to find a connection point with another person—particularly someone you initially disagree with or someone who at first glance irritates you? Where can you go beyond the normal and touch deeper human values? Find touchpoints that will connect you and allow you to see each other as similar beings who can respect each other.

Reflections on a Severe Loss

Jessica Winkler - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Last night, I heard a star had been eclipsed. A light had been extinguished. A comfort had been erased. My dear mother-in-law had passed on.

Let’s face it, there are so many mother-in-law jokes—none too complimentary, but my mother-in-law defied rules. She defied stagnant prescriptions of behavior. Instead, she defined beauty, goodness and class. Now, she is gone. 

Even in her last days, she hung on every word of her loved ones, living vibrantly through their efforts at life. Selfless and bold, she defied her infirmity by stepping strongly into every day; even when she could no longer take the physical steps she longed to take. 

Legacy. It is what she left in the lives of everyone she touched. She understood legacy in the simplest, most powerful form. Held close in the hearts of all who knew her, her influence will always be on our collective minds. Her life will never be forgotten. 

Legacy in its purest form leaves a mark on the hearts of many—so different from a cold, stone epitaph. Her legacy is unique, vibrant and alive.

Thank you Shirley.

Now or Later?

Jessica Winkler - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spinach soufflé with Parmesan cream, salami with white truffles, radicchio-chestnut pesto pasta, liters of sparkling wine—red and white. Italy has beautiful flavors. Lunch was two-and-a-half hours and as I sat there enjoying the great food and even better company I began to think, this lifestyle sure is fun but how on earth does anyone make a living?? Simone, our interpreter with her PhD in economics was bright and entertaining as she enlightened me on the Italian way of life. She had just returned from Argentina and was glad to be back in terra Italia.

Her enjoyment of the extended noon repast was evident. She said when she was in the States she was baffled by American meetings, saying they were a huge waste of time. She noticed that Americans wasted their meeting times by socializing and talking about anything but the subject at hand. She said that when Italians are at work, they want to work. Then when they lunch they enjoy themselves and share life with those around them. And they do this not in a simple small-talk-way but in a way that integrated life, great food, story and friendship. She observed that personal issues in the workplace made work inefficient and, when shared in this context, were not as relationship-building like times sharing life over longer lunches. Americans would never allow themselves to take a two hour lunch, and yet she felt much more was accomplished when people did business during their work hours and reserved meaningful deeper social interaction for meals.

What do you think? Sharing life with others sprinkled throughout the day or in a longer block of time over a meal? Having been a part to both, I have to say I vote Italian. I feel a deep connection to the four people I ate with that day that a normal day of business could not produce. It fed my soul in the midst of accomplishing all of our business for the day. Thoughts?

Information to Innovation

Jessica Winkler - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Recently while in China, I had the opportunity to train a number of gifted young leaders in mentoring and leadership. Their demanding education would put many of them at the front of any test-taking competition. They are able to memorize incredible amounts of information, and constantly crave to learn more. I was truly in awe of their skill in this venue. Regardless of the amount of information we worked through, they still wanted more. Their desire to learn is insatiable, and I found myself having to bow out of the trainings in the late hours of the day due to fatigue—embarrassed that I could not keep up with their desire to learn.

As the world becomes more technologically nimble, rote memory is helpful, but similar ends can also be achieved through our electronic access to information. As the horizon shifts, often unpredictably, creative thinking and innovation have surfaced as the necessary skills, not merely the memorization of information. Hard to pin down and apply predictable structure to, creativity and innovation are the current currency in a media dominated world. Information does not carry the power it used to…what we do with it does.

Financially motivated as to what our tuition dollars would produce, I wondered what my son was going to study in college. It is the question on many parents’ lips: “What is your major?” His response to this question made me think. He said he believed that the job he was to have in the future may not even exist today, so he is studying business and psychology to prepare him for the ever-changing future of our global job market. He wants to understand the basics so he can apply them to the unique situations he will face in oncoming tomorrows. As I talked about the dreams and hopes of the young leaders I interacted with, China is too beginning to grasp the importance of this, desiring always to be on top of the intellectual and prosperous business pile. It made me recognize how important it is for us Americans to gratefully stand on the shoulders of past innovators—their creativity producing pride in the “American way.” We truly have a glorious legacy to build on…

August 17: Conversations

Amanda Dreher - Tuesday, October 07, 2014

After dropping off the kids at school this morning, a dear friend of mine and I decided to do some work over a cup of coffee. We have been trying to do this more often and have fallen in love with this little neighborhood coffee house. The coffee drinks and the food there are good. The atmosphere is cozy and inviting. But, the thing that makes this coffee house so special is the incredible diversity of people.

I love to sit back and watch the interactions as I type away on my laptop and enjoy my steamer. As I look around, there is a very serious businessman in a perfectly pressed suit grabbing a black coffee to go.  To my right there is laughter from a group of women gathering to knit and share stories of their grandchildren. A couple comes in, clearly having just finished a strenuous bike ride and looking to take a break. A father and his young daughter are out for some quality time. A group of men, who appear to be pillars of the community, are having a lively debate during their daily coffee shop meeting. Some giggling teenagers sit at a corner table.

Just then a mother and her young daughter walk in. The daughter is carrying a cane and I notice that she is blind. They order and take a seat. Suddenly, I get to witness one of the most amazing exchanges I have seen in a long time. You see, in addition to the vibrancy and diversity of the people who frequent this coffee house, one of the things that draws me to the establishment is their heart for providing meaningful work to people with varying developmental challenges. As this mother and daughter take their seat, a young lady with disabilities of her own takes a break from rolling silverware and boldly speaks to the mother. I want to share a bit of that conversation with you:

“Is she blind.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Why is she blind?”

“She was born that way.”

“Can I say hi to her?”

“Of course,” to her daughter, “sweetie do you want to meet a new friend?”

The daughter nods.

The mother turns back to the young lady, “Now she will want to touch you because that is how she sees, is that ok?”

The young lady agrees and begins talking to the daughter.

“My name is Sara. What’s your name?”

“I’m Lizzy.”

“Hi Lizzy, how old are you?”

“I am 5.”

“Cool, I am 22. Are you in school?”

“Yes, kindergarten.”

“Do you have to go to a special school or do you go to a regular school?”

“I go to regular school.”

“Oh, I went to a special school, but I really liked it.”

“You did? What did you do there?”

“I got to play sports. Do you like sports?”

“I really like to swim. We go swimming all the time. I love to go with my mom and dad and brother. Do you swim?”

“Sometimes. I also like to read, how do you read?”

“I have special books with bumpy letters so I can read with my fingers.”

“Cool. I don’t know how to read with my fingers.”

Of course the conversation went on and they covered many topics before it was time for Sara to go back to work and Lizzy to go home with her mother. Honestly, I normally would not listen in to someone else’s conversation as intently as I did to this one, but I couldn’t help it. The true connection, the openness, the lack of fear and inhibition, the honesty and appreciation the girls had for each other just had me captivated. These two girls just wanted to learn about each other. They recognized the differences and saw them as unique and interesting.

This interaction got me thinking about the way we generally approach differences in our culture. So many times I find that we play it safe and don’t open ourselves up or ask questions of others. We recognize the differences, but fail to learn about them or appreciate them. Unfortunately, when we don’t embrace the differences in each other we miss incredible opportunities to learn and grow. Just think how we would be altered if we took a lesson from Sara and Lizzy and approached differences with appreciation, respect and a desire to learn.

April 17, 2012

Amanda Dreher - Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Last week Dr. Liz and I had the opportunity to spend the week at the Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) Conference. It was a great time! Dr. Liz spend the first day conducting an all day mentoring training, we then spent the rest of the week connecting with and learning from incredibly knowledgeable people. Additionally, for me one of the most enjoyable parts of our week was the opportunity to intentionally brain storm possibiities for our organization. Only then did I realize how valuable that time is. We generally are so caught up in the fast pace of our personal and business lives that we must focus on just getting the job done. Although that is certainly necessary, what would it look like if we built in time to just brainstorm and strategize? What if we regularly had time to clear our heads of our to-do lists and could focus on considering all we have learned, developing new initiatives, throwing out ideas and possibilities? Not only could our organizations benefit from this fresh perspective, but we as individuals would be refreshed and energized as well. I know that is the case for me. I am looking forward to intentionally building in this time for myself and for our team.

Mentor Leadership Team

 

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