Sunday, October 14, 2012

Narrowing the Pie Wedge

Over the years I’ve been in a lot of meetings. At times, I would force myself to come up with questions to ask, showing my engagement, because every good leader asks meaningful, thought provoking questions, right (ala Jim Collins’ Qualities of a Level 5 leader)? Yes…except when they don’t care. That’s right, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I tried hard, but I struggled connecting my passion with the subject matter much of the time. “Why don’t I care?” I would ask myself. It made me feel ashamed. “There must be something wrong with me. All these other people ask much better questions than I do. How do they come up with these?” This remorse and confusion lasted for YEARS.

I sat in a meeting earlier this year and was a non-stop chatter box. Ideas, insight, innovation and edgy creativity were oozing all over the place. I was on a roll and it was fun! When I was driving home, I started reviewing the meeting and asked myself, “What in the world happened? I didn’t even have to think! How did I come up with stuff? I was automatic!” I never had to strain or manufacture a question in order to feel that I did my part. Instead, it was instinctive and easy.

My oldest son started middle school in August. His day now begins earlier than it did in elementary, and I quickly realized that we’d be eating breakfast around the same time. Immediately I felt this was a divinely orchestrated opportunity for us to read, talk, and start our day together. He’s also still at the age where he wants to spend time with me. In September and October, we have focused on reading a selection of proverbs, discussing what sticks out to us, figuring out how to apply it, and then memorizing one selection a week. Our first week, we chose to memorize, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” The writer uses some blunt language “Above all else,” and “everything”. The last time I checked, there isn’t much that escapes from those terms…including disconnected meetings.

This is where the “no duh” moment comes in because the answer to my question is in the second half of the proverb. Everything I do flows from my heart – EVERYTHING. Therefore, if I am in a meeting and I have to work to engage, it means my heart is not connected to it. Our strength areas are directly connected to our heart. This is a significant litmus test for whether or not we are working directly in our zones of greatest gifting.

Recently I accepted a new opportunity within my organization. A couple weeks ago we had a strategy meeting to discuss our plan of attack for the rest of 2012 and began laying the groundwork for 2013. Not once did I need to think of a question to ask; instead, I was intuitive and intensely engaged. Why? Because this new role is more aligned with my strengths and ultimately has a direct line into my heart. My friend, Tim Elmore once told me, “As you get older, you must continue to narrow your pie wedge so that you find alignment with your strengths, your calling, and your vocation.”

Do you find yourself manufacturing questions and communication most of the time in order to keep up the appearance that you are interested, when you’re not? If you do, you’re not in an environment or a role that feeds on your strengths and connects with your heart. What sorts of interactions, tasks, or opportunities bring out your best, resulting in amazing creativity, meaningful debate, and ground-breaking innovation? Where are you “automatic”? Once you get the answer to the question, it may be time to consider narrowing your pie wedge because too much pie makes you fat and lazy.