Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Obsession with Assessments

What’s really behind our obsession with assessments? Now, don’t tell me you haven’t taken an assessment (or two or ten) in your lifetime! Fess up… you know your Myers-Briggs Type, your DiSC profile, your Kiersey Temperament, and your StrengthsFinder Insight (and you know you wanted Woo!). You may have taken the Conflict Dynamics Profile or the Thomas-Killman Instrument. There is the C.A.R.E. Profile for teams. There’s a name for your Leadership Style, your Communication Style, and your Hair Style. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t an assessment (yet). Forrester even created one called the Customer Obsession Assessment.

There is a lot of literature about the assessment obsession in K-12 education. That’s not the obsession I’m referring to here. What I’m thinking about is how many different ways we seek to describe ourselves in the quest to understand ourselves and others. In that vein, I offer a few justifications for this obsession with assessments along with a word of caution.

Justification #1 — Our people-skills suck.

Forbes recently published an article titled The Leadership Skill Everybody Needs — And 90% Of Managers Lack. The author’s claim is that while “people management… is the crux of their job,” managers rarely receive any training in that area. Fear not, the article does go on to offer some hope.

The first step in building your leadership muscles, whether you currently manage other people or not, is to cultivate a skill most managers — and indeed, most people — lack.

The skill is called perspective-taking.

Great! But how exactly do I get better at perspective-taking? The author suggests a couple ways, and I am greatly simplifying here: analyze communication and reflect on conflict. Actions which are made infinitely easier when you understand your behavioral style, communication style, and method of dealing (or not) with conflict and can understand how others’ styles may be different from yours.

Justification #2 — We can be blind to our weaknesses.

If you know about the Johari Window, you can see where I’m going with this one. The Johari Window is divided into four quadrants:

Johari Window

  1. The open part — stuff you know about yourself that everybody else knows, too.
  2. The hidden part — stuff you know about yourself that others don’t know about you.
  3. The blind part — stuff you don’t know about yourself that others do know!
  4. The unknown part — super secret stuff nobody knows… not even you.

The goal is to increase the open part by minimizing the other three parts. By doing so, you can enhance your communications, decrease conflict, and have better relationships with people (again, greatly simplifying).

Justification #3 — We want to be happy! (Don’t we?)

Would life be more fun if there was less stress and conflict? Would there be less stress and conflict if we could get along better with our coworkers, our boss, our family? Could we get along better if we understood where we were coming from… and how where the other person is coming from may be different?

A word of caution…

Assessments are not tests. There are no right or wrong answers. There are just different answers. One MBTI type isn’t better than another. No one Strengths Theme is rated higher than another. Types, strengths, profiles, etc. should not be used as a defense or an excuse. They are a way of looking into a mirror and seeing who we are at a level we may not have seen


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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Uncategorized


Do I need to explain?

Four days into my 30-day challenge, and I missed a day. I’m not going to beat myself up, though, and while I know I don’t have to explain why I missed a day, I want to explain.

It was Sunday, and I had no where to be until lunchtime, so I did not set my alarm. When I did get up, I drank coffee, savored a delicious breakfast, and played with my dogs. After I finally showered and got dressed, I picked up a couple salads at Panera and brought them over to a friend’s house. She and her husband moved back to Richmond three years ago, and while we’ve gotten together countless times, I’d never seen their house. We spent most of the afternoon talking and playing with her furbabies. When I got home, I threw together a casserole, loaded the dogs into the Outback, and we headed over to Mom’s for dinner. After dinner, we took a walk outside around her place and enjoyed the beautiful flowers and ponds and chatted with some of her neighbors. It was after sunset when we got back to her place. We chatted some more before I loaded the dogs back into the Outback and came home.

Several times during the day, including when I first woke up, I thought I need to find time to blog today so I don’t mess up my challenge. But as the day wore on, I realized that what I was finding time to do was much more important that making myself sit down with my laptop and think of something interesting to write. Yes, I accepted a challenge. And yes, I fell short. But my greater challenge is to live this life well and leave a positive mark on the world, and yesterday I think I met that challenge.

I love this post by Carrie Newcomer — Impossible Things Just Take A Little Longer. I used to read it every day to remind myself to slow down and savor life. Ironically, I got busy and stopped reading it every day, but I think about it often. To borrow Carrie’s words, yesterday I asked the question “What do I love deeply and truly,” and followed that thread.   

Carrie Newcomer

This was the image that appeared with Carrie’s blog when I first read it. 

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Posted by on July 10, 2017 in Uncategorized


My In-Group

Last night I finished reading Tiffany Jana’s and Matthew Freeman’s book Overcoming Bias. Understanding bias — especially unconscious bias — has been a favorite topic of discussion with me for several years, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of this book at this year’s Richmond SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Symposium where Tiffany Jana was the opening keynote speaker.

Oh so many topics I could blog about (and still might) from this book. Chapter 3 is In-groups and out-groups. Your in-group can be defined in a number of ways. It’s your family and friends. It may be your closest co-workers, your neighbors, or your friends from college. More broadly defined, it can be people with whom you share political affiliation, religious beliefs, or even more broadly, race, gender… it’s people like you. Everyone else is your out-group. One of the statements the authors make is that “there is tremendous pressure in our society not to expand your in-group.” A clear, albeit sad, example of this was in the headlines recently when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned “that Republicans might have to reach across the aisle if they can’t craft a workable health care bill…” A bipartisan solution? Would that really be so bad?

I have had a number of opportunities to expand my in-group over the years. In high school I created a project for my psychology class that fits perfectly with the exercise Jana and Freeman suggest in their book. It’s called Get Out of the Zone. “Find a place where you will be in the minority, the more extreme the better. Try being the only _____________ (fill in the blank) person in a large group of other folks.” That’s exactly what I did when I attended bilingual classes for a day at an inner-city high school. I had taken several years of Spanish by this time and wanted to find out how comfortable I would be immersing myself into a Spanish-speaking environment. (The term bilingual applied loosely to the classes I attended as they were taught primarily in Spanish.) In terms of Jana’s and Freeman’s exercise, I was the only white, blonde, non-native Spanish-speaking person in the group. And it was everything the authors said it would be: intimidating, uncomfortable, and eye-opening.

The authors suggest to “rinse, repeat, and see how the experience of being out of your comfort zone evolves.” Since that experiment in high school, I have found — or more accurately — put myself into other places where I was a minority. I married into a Filipino family and was often the only non-Filipino in the room. When I taught financial literacy classes for Junior Achievement, I purposely picked an inner-city elementary school where as a middle-class white person I was a minority. I know each of those experiences have had a lasting impact on my thinking and, I hope, helped me acknowledge and check my biases. (For a little more about each of these experiences, see my earlier post What makes the world go ’round.)

However, I am still a work-in-progress. Later in the book, Jana and Freeman offer another exercise called Diversity Inventory. The premise is to take your top five friends and list all the ways they are similar to you and all the ways they are different from you. While I do have diversity in this close in-group, the list of similarities is longer than our differences. Does this mean I am still biased? Yup. And I always will be because bias is part of being human. At its core, bias is simply a preference for one thing over another. And as humans, we prefer to be with people who are like us because it’s comfortable and safe. I cannot stop being biased, but when I notice that I am being biased, I can stop, think about the situation, and decide if my bias is fair.


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Posted by on July 8, 2017 in Uncategorized


Change Revisited

The only thing that’s constant is change.

I would attribute that quote to someone, but there seem to be enough variations that it might be hard to pin down who said it first. With all those variations, we may have become numb to the underlying truth of the sentiment. Nothing stays the same, so even those of you who profess to hate change still deal with it on a daily basis.

I loved my last job. I had a supportive team who sincerely wanted me to succeed. I had wonderful clients who were investing in the development of their teams. I had good friends at work who cared about me as a person. And then CHANGE came along. It was all the things CHANGE is known for being — scary, unpredictable, exhilarating, challenging, exhausting. First one change, then another… and another. To make a long story short(er), CHANGE ultimately led me to make a change of my own and leave this job I loved for another.

Fast forward not even six months, and guess who’s been rearing its head at my new job? CHANGE with all its scary, unpredictable challenges. And yet this time, I’m digging in. Why? What’s different about this CHANGE that makes me want to embrace it versus letting it wear me down? In a word… COMMUNICATION.

For fun, I went to the Harvard Business Review site and searched on “the importance of communication during change” and got over 6,300 results. Okay, so this is not a novel concept. Change is an important component in any change management model:

And yet, it seems organizations often skip over this step. Maybe management doesn’t know the answers to the questions people are asking, or worse, they know the answers and know their teams won’t like them. Maybe they think people already understand why the change in happening. Or maybe they are too busy doing the change to talk about it. Unfortunately, as I can attest to first-hand, when there is no communication, two things are likely to happen:

  1. The effects of the change are magnified, and
  2. People will begin to craft their own narrative about why the change is happening.

What’s different about the change in my new job is that I am kept in the loop about what is changing and why. And if my leaders don’t have answers yet, that’s also being communicated. I feel more prepared to weather this change, and I understand where we’re going with it. That makes all the difference.

So my title of Change Revisited has two meanings. Not only is change revisiting me in my new role, but I am also revisiting my thoughts about change in my blog. Oddly enough, it was five years ago almost to the day that I posted a blog entitled Often unpredictable, absolutely unrelenting, and more often than not, terribly unforgiving. This description of change is still one of my favorites, as is another quote I used in that post… one that I often remind myself of when I’m faced with change.


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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized


30 Day Challenge

Imagine the sound of dust being blown off a favorite old book. That’s what I’m imagining as I write my first blog post in over three years. I meant to keep up my blogging ritual after I graduated from my Masters program. I thought about it a lot. I even went back and re-read various posts. But I never wrote a new one. Until today. And I have a weak connection in my PLN to thank for it… someone I met a few years back whom I haven’t seen or talked to since, but with whom I am connected on LinkedIn. She posted a short Ted Talk called Try something new for 30 days.

A few days ago, I turned over my calendars at home and at work. Goodbye June and the beautiful lotus flower on the calendar my sister made of her stunning photographs. Hello to the adorable Green Heron who adorns July. Goodbye Goldens romping on the beach on my rescued Goldens calendar, and hello to a friend’s sweet senior Golden sporting a patriotic hat for July.

July… really?

2017 is half over already? How did that happen?

It was that sentiment of time flying by that resonated with me in the TED Talk. Matt Cutts says that one of the things he’s learned doing these 30-day challenges is that “instead of the months flying by, forgotten, the time was much more memorable.” So when he posed the question, “What are you waiting for?”, I decided to answer the challenge and commit to blogging every day for 30 days. I am certain that not every day’s post will be insightful or even interesting, but there will be a post. And I will get back into a regular habit of blogging. Maybe after 30 days I’ll modify my goal to blogging once a week or at least several times a month, but as Lao Tzu said…

Quote Journey Of A Thousand Miles Lao Tzu Quotes On Journey Quotesgram

Day 1… check!

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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in Uncategorized