Insights on Awareness and Self-Awareness

The topic for the March 22, 2018 Servant-Leader roundtable was “Awareness and Self-Awareness.” The following notes reflect the rich conversation that took place around the table. These notes are a summary of the notes taken by Jim Kerlin and have been edited to reflect the themes of the conversation. They are a mere shadow of the wisdom shared by the people at the table.

In this summary:

Topic: Awareness and self awareness

  • Improving one’s awareness is a journey not a destination.
  • We all have different levels of awareness and it evolves throughout life.
  • We are the 7 people we hang around with most.
  • When we are our weakest we tend to grow the most.

Awareness of others:

  • Some people have self awareness as a strength and others not so much.
  • Most people are good judges of character.
  • Some people can sense things in others that they don’t even know…almost like a sixth sense.
  • Most people are much more transparent than they think, – and so are we.
  • Given enough time…people’s real intentions come out.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to find the balance of how much awareness or self awareness to share.

Developing awareness

  • Feedback coaches can provide a sounding board for developing better perceptions and awareness.
  • Our feedback coaches should be people that are different than us. We will learn the most from diverse voices.
  • Sometimes we don’t like the feedback we get.
  • Sometimes the input we receive from those closest to us is resisted whereas a neutral party giving input might be more accepted.

Insights for leadership

  • When we are trying to lead people there may be a gap between our perception and the perceptions of others.
  • It can be challenging to assume a leadership role among peers.
  • Be consistent in your feedback.
  • Trust is a huge factor. Without trust your feedback will be rejected…period.
  • If you are leading for your own gratification people will see through you and not want to follow you. You need to be authentic as a leader to be successful.

For more information:

Servant-Leader Milwaukee roundtables take place almost every week. All roundtables are free and open to the public. If you would like to get weekly reminders of roundtable events, you can join the S-L MKE mailing list, click here.

Copyright 2018, Affinity By Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Sustainable persuasion–really?

On Thursday, April 28 a group of Servant-Leaders gathered to explore the topic of “sustainable persuasion.”  Sustainability evokes images of equilibrium while persuasion often takes the form of coercion.  The notes below reflect highlights of the rich conversation that took place.  These notes reflect the synthesis of the notes Jim Kerlin took, my own notes, and the wisdom of the people around the table.  Dan Lococo (5/9/2016).

Environment and culture:

  • A top down / command and control environment is not sustainable.  Good people will leave that environment.
  • Having a clearly defined mission and articulated values creates the foundation for any effective organization.  Messaging for mission and values, has to be continual and from multiple sources.
  • Having great vision is really useless without having great people.  When we are insensitive to the values those people bring to the table, we cannot cultivate a sustainable environment.
  • It is much easier to persuade others once we understand their perspective.
  • Trust is a key to being able to persuade people in a positive way.  Persuasion doesn’t work without trust.
  • When trust does not exist, arguments to persuade can end up being the basis for counter arguments.
  • People are like coins we hope they show their heads more than their tails.


  • When we seek to persuade others, we start from the assumption we are right in our thinking/perceptions.  In a situation where we are trying to build consensus seeking to persuade without sharing the vision of the end result does not provide a foundation for collaborative effort.
  • We need to understand our role.  Having an understanding of the creative value others bring to the table can provide insight into how to leverage the power of collaborative efforts.
  • If you know you have communicated clearly we may need to back off and let things sink in.  When dealing with a group, sometimes you should voice your opinion, stop, (pray) and be satisfied with the results.
  • It is not how we ‘react’ to things; it is how we ‘respond’ to things.  Compromise is not weakness.


  • A persuasive argument is meaningless without a receptive listener.  People need time to process – pushing to convince others can be counter-productive.
  • The dynamics of growth and change are relevant to both persuasion and sustainability.
  • When there are groups with opposing viewpoints, it is often harder to persuade than if there is one group.  Allowing people to take ownership of why they are opposed to something can be more productive than trying to silence opposition.
  • Start with getting to a shared value or set of values….then persuasion is a mutual process.
  • Once the shared vision/value is established persuasion becomes an opportunity for mutual growth.
  • Manage emotion and focus on shared value. “How does this meet the shared value we established?
  • Three C’s:  collaboration, compromise, consensus.
  • Out of conflict you can have great conversation.
  • After conflict there is opportunity.
  • Conceptualization and foresight are tied to achieving sustainable persuasion.
  • We can facilitate discussion in a way that integrates persuasion with collaboration.  Conversation becomes more one of collaboration toward a shared value when the parties are persuading each other.
  • Criteria for decision making can take some of the emotion out of it.
  • Start with shared value and persuasion comes easier.
  • There are multiple ways to do most everything.


Servant-Leader roundtables take place in the Milwaukee area most Thursdays of every month.  If you would like to receive reminders of where, when, and roundtable topics you can join our email list.  Click here to add your name to the list.


Copyright 2016, Dan Lococo.  All rights reserved.

Leading up as a Servant-Leader


Our topic for the day:  “Leading up as a Servant-Leader.”  We all answer to others in one way or another; bosses, Board members, customers, etc.  As we seek to cultivate a Servant-Leader environment, we sometimes need to cultivate S-L qualities in those who have authority over us as well as those we lead.

The following notes are a summary of the roundtable conversation held at the Mad Rooster Café in Milwaukee, WI on Thursday, March 26.  The conversation included a variety of people from different backgrounds and organizational affiliations.

Much of our conversation focused on the importance of having our own house in order as a tool for having positive influence over others.  Whether we are looking at those we serve through our leadership or those Tags:

we serve who have authority over us, we provide the best example and have the most leverage when we are grounded in principles that reflect our values and the mission of the people/organizations we are committed to. 

Thoughts on awareness:

  • We can look through the lens of perpetual “too busy” or consciously adopt the perspective “I have a full and enriching life.”
    Keep a sense of balance between important and urgent.  Often the fire fighting is daily and we never get to the inspired strategic plan.
  • Often the things we think are urgent are repetitive.  Developing personal practices for dealing with the important (strategic) activities as well as the routine activities that (when neglected) become urgent is a method for maintaining a balance.
  • Keeping track of who we are in relation to our organizational environment is a challenge worth taking on.  Relationships and relationship building skills are a critical part of our organizational life.
  • If you lose track of whom you are and the role you play, you can fail.  There is a need to keep track of your skills at critical conversations and influencing up.  Don’t assume you are good at it.  It is important to recognize the combination of skill and relationship with your boss that allows you to be able to have those critical conversations

Thoughts on being intentional:

  • The urgent calls to us for many reasons in many ways (including from those in authority roles above us).  We need to prioritize and focus on being intentional.
  • Being in a shared service/support position in a company can make is particularly hard to prioritize.  Inherent in support roles is responding to the urgent.  Is pretty hard to filter the noise.
  • You need to internalize the process of focusing on the important things.  It is easy to do the “dam dailies”.  We need to plan to do the 3 hours of focus on the strategic matters that are important but not urgent.
  • It is necessary to be both courageous and vulnerable with your boss and the people you lead.  Focus on mission, vision and strategy.  As new priorities come out, keep going back to the mission and the goal.
  • Does this line up with the overarching mission and goal.

Building community:

  • Don’t overlook the power of kindness.  Bosses have the same need for a friendly welcome and warm smile as anyone else.
  • We can reframe a conversation with our boss or reports by saying, “I need your help”. “I need to understand.
  • Sometimes just having a dialog with a person who is stressed out can help them sort the important from the urgent.
  • As a servant leader it is even more challenging to maintain focus.  You, by definition, need to help people when they come to you for help.  But, you also need to set aside time to focus on strategic matters.
  • Coach a pause to regroup.  Did you ever see a fire hose with no one holding it?

Books mentioned during our conversation:

  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.  Stephen R. Covey, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron Mcmillan, Al Switzler.  2002.  ISBN-13:9780071401944
  • Influencing Up by Allan R Cohen.

Aligning our personal and professional lives

The following notes are a summary of a Servant-Leader roundtable held on Thursday, January 22 at the Mad Rooster Cafe in Milwaukee, WI. The roundtable gathers the fourth Thursday of each month and is open to all. The roundtable is free; breakfast is on your own. We will gather next month on Thursday, February 26 at 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM.

The topic for the day was: Aligning our personal and professional lives.


  • We are always pulled by the practice versus the ideal, the intentional versus the flow of day to day events.
  • People are not always open to the language of Servant Leadership. Sometimes talking from the heart does not translate well into our professional life. People do not always resonate with soft skills in a competitive work environment.
  • We are like the chaos in the atom. Everything touches everything. We are challenged to keep perspective on our responsibilities to others.


  • We are challenged by the balance between the short term and the long term.
  • There are times when a leader is aware of something happening that can’t be shared with the followers. It creates pressure to be secretive.
  • We can be a catalyst for putting things in a positive perspective.
  • The day-to-day activities of life create opportunities for us to either recognize the many gifts we enjoy or to imagine how much greener the grass is on the other side of the street.
  • Balance in life is hard there is always a wobble but perspective brings us back to balance.
  • The balance between our personal and professional lives can seem like a seesaw at times. We draw upon those around us for support and strength but we need to ensure we reciprocate.
  • Attitude and action go together.


  • Servant Leadership is a life style rather than a program.
  • We make choices each day on how we will view the day.
  • We lead through actions. Example is a key to growth.
  • We play a critical role in the cultural environment we generate through the demonstration of our beliefs and values.
  • We all want a great year but a year is 365 days long. We can only live one day at a time. It is easy to get lost in the minutia but we start each day anew.

Recognizing the gifts of others

The notes presented here are a summary of the conversation that took place on Thursday, December 18, 2014 at the Mad Rooster Café in Milwaukee, WI.  The topic for the day was “Recognizing the gifts of others.” 
The notes represent just a brief summary of the rich conversation that took place around the table.


  • Sometimes we are too preoccupied with ourselves to recognize others.
  • Andy Oren shared the quote:  “I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.”  Rufus Jones
  • There is a certain leadership maturity in recognizing other people’s gifts.  This is especially powerful when we recognize the gifts others have that offset our weaknesses (which are many).
  • Slow down, recognize the wisdom of others, and be more intentional.
  • Let way open before you.  From book, “Let your life speak”.


  • Encouragement is a big enabler.
  • Give people permission to fail.
  • Meet people completely and intentionally. How do you stop and find that and stay human?
  • Empower people through supporting the gifts they have and help them grow in that. Don’t focus as much on weaknesses.
  • At the recent S-L Cities Tour event, Assistant chief of police, Edith Hudson said she doesn’t believe in ignoring weaknesses.  She spoke of the need to help people get past them while you focus on their gifts.
  • It can be difficult to have conversations with people who are passionate about doing something, but, it’s not a gift for them.  You can build on the passion.  Or, you can have the difficult conversation and find a way for them to do something else.
  • We can be a force for healing others (and ourselves) through any number of small activities that will allow people to recognize the many gifts they bring to the table.

Building community:

  • Living and leading is an art more than a science.
  • Sometimes a “thank you” is a powerful encouragement that people never forget.
  • Building on strengths makes more sense than focusing on weaknesses.
  • Nothing gets done unless the diversity of gifts is available to the team.  We can enrich the team by encouraging those who are not recognized for their gifts.
  • Sometimes the gifts of others present themselves as a boulder being held in place by a few small pebbles.  How can we help remove the pebbles and unleash their gifts?


  • So much of what we have and who we are is a gift.  We are but Stewarts of the gift.
  • Gifts are to be given. Nurture them and give them.
  • We all have the responsibility of being a good Stewart of our own gifts.
  • Sometimes opportunities to recognize the gifts of others are situational.  We can take advantage of these opportunities to build and cultivate strengths.

Book reference:
Palmer, Parker J.  (1999)  Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.  Jossey-Bass.  ISBN-10: 0787947350