Getting the Most Out of Life: 10 Questions for Thanksgiving

This time I wasn't talking to a group of newsroom  managers. I was invited to speak to a community group in my hometown of Milwaukee. A religious charity had set up a day this fall that focused on getting the most of life — from happiness and health to wealth (or at least prudent money management.) I was to deliver the keynote speech — consistent with the day's theme.

So I developed a list of ideas for "Getting the Most our of Life — Whatever Path You Take." As I wrote it, I realized that it was influenced by the work I do each day with journalists and those who lead them. True to our coaching-style of teaching at Poynter, my list is filled with questions. For this offering, I've added a few thoughts to each of those questions.

As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, I hope you find happiness in your answers.

Getting the Most out of Life: 10 Questions

1.)  Who have you helped lately, with nothing in it for you but the joy of seeing others succeed? Working with newsrooms has taught me that managers become true leaders as they realize their greatest joys come through the success of others. You need not be a manager to enjoy this blessing of leadership.

2.) What have you cared about so much that you would put it in writing? A sincere thanks? A love note? Praise for a job well done? When we teach about feedback, I ask if anyone in the group has a note of praise from someone that they keep to this day. Most hands go up. A card, a note, a letter of positive words is priceless. When in doubt, write it.

3.) What tradition have you carried on — or started? Families have them. So do newsrooms and colleagues.They begin because someone takes the time to start them and others join in to keep them alive. What's yours?

4.) Which of your assumptions have you challenged lately? If you aren't challenging your assumptions, can you really say you are learning? If you aren't challenging your assumptions, can you really say you are doing your best to resolve conflicts in your life?

5.) How did you help someone have a great day at work? Do you know what their "great day" would be? I love to talk (and write) about this. From the clerk at the grocery to the colleague across the organization, how much do you know about the professional standards they aspire to, and what, at the end of a day, makes them proud of their work? When you do, you can help them — and yourself.

6.) Who would say you've really listened to them lately? Really listened? I love the quote by author/humorist Fran Lebowitz: "The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting." I fear that describes too many of us. Lousy listening isn't helpful in leadership or life — and it's curable.

7). What risk have you taken recently? What have you tried that's new? What have you failed at and learned from? And how have you supported someone for trying?

8.) What connections have you made or renewed? There are good people — friends, mentors, former colleagues — from whom we've lost contact. Don't wait until a downsizing-driven need to network or a funeral brings you together. Reach out for the sheer joy of touching base with a bright light in your life.

9.) What have you done for fun lately? Isn't it a shame that I have to ask this? Poynter's past president, the late Jim Naughton, said it best in an essay: "The wonderful thing about having fun in journalism is that anyone can start it. Talk about empowerment." Exercise your right to have fun at work — and balance in your life. If you are the boss, do your part to keep fun — and balance — alive.

10.) What question did I forget to ask? What kind of question is that? The best way to close, says Bob Schieffer. When he spoke recently at Poynter's Leadership Academy, he told us he always ends an interview that way, and has found a gold mine of important information in the process. Asking people what they'd like you to know may demonstrate that you don't know everything — and that's precisely why they will take the time to teach you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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    Jill Geisler

    Jill helps news managers learn how to lead her favorite people in the world - journalists. Good journalists, she points out, question authority and resist "spin." It takes exceptional leaders to build trust, along with the systems and culture that grow great journalism.


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