Tag Archives: TL-Book

Learning Agendas for Yourself and Others

Refining your Personal Learning Agenda

We are each having a certain level of impact on the world around us. The Transformational Leadership approach assumes we are ready and eager to make a more significant impact in order to bring about the vision for our life and the world we want.

Upon further exploration, my inner voice told me more about my personal learning agenda:

I need to regularly clean out the mental clutter and hone my ability to laser-focus on my priorities. The move to my smaller home cleared clutter from my environment. Moving to four days a week with Circles USA freed up time and energy to focus on activity that is in alignment with my emerging new vision. Writing this book is reinforcing the ideas that are most important to me at this time in life. My new project with Transformational Leadership is a bridge to a more authentic experience and expression of self. I am learning how to be happier and more effective.

The following “curriculum” might work for your next stage of development as well:

  1. Affirm and act on your personal freedom in each day and in each activity.
    • Ask yourself regularly, “What do I want to do? Are there any “shoulds” I can identify and clear away?
    • Measure success by the amount of time and joy spent on meaningful activity versus how much money is made.
    • Change routines by inserting new and adventurous activity that generates more joy and enthusiasm for life.
  2. Develop structure to increase accountability to pursue high-impact strategies.
    • Commit to developing and following through on a strategic plan for both Circles USA and Transformational Leadership. Ask colleagues to help you stay focused on the plan, changing course only by intention, not through any delay pattern.
    • Build regular check-ins with those who also like to stay on track.
    • Do the essential but sometimes uncomfortable work of a clear and courageous evaluation of our weaknesses, unhelpful default patterns, and shadow selves. This might involve interviewing loved ones or trusted colleagues or working with a counselor. Including a plan to address “opportunities for growth” only strengthens our personal power. Keeping an open heart and the courage to be humble makes us better leaders.
  3. Clear out the clutter in relationships and activity.
    • As soon as it becomes clear that a client is no longer in alignment with achieving the transformational vision that you are pursuing, let go, and align with those who are. Each week assess which activities produced the most joy and which did not. Commit to creating a more joyful set of activities for next week.

Self-Reflection Questions

  • Ask yourself again—and this time tuning into your heart a bit more deeply—what do I need to learn next in order to increase my capacity to change my life and change the world?
  • How can my Allies help hold me accountable to continuing my journey and achieving the milestones I have identified?
  • Who knows me well enough to provide loving but honest feedback?
  • What do I find most personally challenging, and do I know anyone who is accomplished in areas where I know I have room for improvement? Am I willing to ask for support?

Other People’s Learning Agendas

Additionally, those who align with our visions and participate in our programs will form their own learning agendas, so we must be prepared to help them find the right people who can facilitate their learning. They will first need to understand best practices elsewhere that might be implemented locally. What training programs and support systems can be tapped into to help them learn their new roles? Secondly, they need to learn what they personally must know, be, and/or do differently in order to play their roles effectively.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Learning to Achieve your Vision

It’s stunning to me what kind of impact even one person can have if they have the right passion, perspective and are able to align the interest of a great team.
-Steve Case

When Moses caught his vision of a promised land and then aligned the masses to join him, he had to lead them across the desert. Metaphorically, this story illustrates the four stages of the Transformational Map. The promised land is the vision, the followers of Moses aligned with his vision, the desert refers to the learning agenda required to achieve their vision, and the arrival at the promised land is the final stage when we embed the vision into the culture.

Our worldview, skill sets, and life experiences will provide invaluable guidance and support, but the vision will demand personal learning from us. You have to ensure that those who are helping to achieve the vision are able to learn whatever is necessary to do so.

Self-Reflection Questions

● What do you personally need to learn in order to realize your new vision?

● Specifically, what skills, information, and new habits must you learn in order to achieve your vision?

● In order for others to share your vision, what must they know? Interview others, and then craft a learning agenda for achieving your vision in the world.


Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Connecting with your Vision for Change

What is Your Story?

If you want to predict your future, listen to your conversations. What story are you telling yourself and others? Are you taking yourself and others into the future you want—or the future you don’t want?

Your vision must be connected to your deepest core values. If it is not, then you will not have the motivation and sustained energy to see a transformation through from beginning to end. Ask yourself, “What must happen in the next three years?” Ask it about your own life as well as about your community.

Once you articulate a vision that is highly important to you, you are ready to translate it into stories that move others toward achieving the vision.

We connect with one another emotionally, first, and then with information, second. Feed what you want to see happen with your story. Remember that a storyline that complains about how systems, people, events, community, and so on don’t work will only perpetuate a negative future. The power of self-fulfilling prophecy is real. Are you telling a story that leads to what you want or what you don’t want?

In the spirit of being the change, it is helpful to ask the following questions:

1. What in your life do you want to change so as to align to your new vision? Think about what we have discussed—people, activities, and your environment.

2. What support do you need from others in order to make the change?

3. Are you ready? On a 10-point scale where 10 represents the highest level of readiness, how ready and willing are you to change your life in ways that are most important to you?

4. If you are not a 10, what is between you and being a 10?

5. Now that you have identified the resistance, are you ready to let it go and take immediate action to begin your plan? What steps will you take this week?

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Building Intentional Community and Appreciative Culture

Building all three types of social capital requires diligence to support people through the four stages of any successful relationship.

In the honeymoon phase, people have inspiring but unrealistic expectations based on some form of the Drama Triangle, e.g., I will be rescued, I will rescue, etc.

The disillusionment stages occur as reality pushes back on these fantasies, and people start to feel disappointed when their expectations go unmet.

The insight stage is the building of a more realistic and productive relationship. The working stage is the continued deepening and strengthening of the relationship over time, which leads to achieving mutual goals.

Building a Productive and Appreciative Culture

What allows people to move through the four stages of relationship building across socioeconomic class lines and achieve goals? Building a community culture that includes effective ground rules and rituals, which follow:

Open meetings with New and Goods—personal good-news item that gets people thinking positively and sharing some parts of their life, which makes it easier for others to connect to them over time.

Finish meetings with appreciations that acknowledge something positive about others and increases the sense of belonging and esteem of all members.

Give everyone at least six mistakes a day so that they are willing to take risks to build new relationships without worrying about making mistakes. Normalize the inevitable stepping on each other’s hidden rules and help one another to forgive and forget.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Relational Strategy for Poverty Reduction

A Poverty Reduction System will need to include a powerful relational strategy in order for people to take full advantage of transactional programs. Relational strategies strengthen the social capital of people who want to move out of poverty and into economic stability.

  • Bridging capital builds relationships across socioeconomic class lines, which is important for helping people understand the middle-class rules for success in education, networking, employment, financial management, and career advancement.
  • Bonding capital builds peer-to-peer relationships that provide motivation, support, and important information in achieving economic stability.
  • Linking capital builds relationships between community service programs and individuals who want to use them effectively.

All three types of social capital are necessary in moving out of poverty. At Circles USA, we have found over the past 20 years that social capital is essential not only to establish personal and economic stability but also to maintain that stability over time. Fostering intentional relationships that create social capital is a high impact strategy to end poverty.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Poverty Reduction System Linked to Job Creation System

E > P*

Your vision for a sustainable community must include the formula E > P, meaning your community’s economy must grow faster than your community’s dependent population (those too young, too old, or too unqualified to work).

What does sustainable mean?

1. Jobs and careers that pay enough income to meet household needs and then some

2. Careers that are relevant in America’s emerging economy

3. Employment that contributes to a sustainable environment

4. A commitment to live within one’s means

5. A community culture of doing what is best both for the community and for the individual

Once you have a clear assessment of a sustainable economic future, you need a strong plan for how you are going to prepare your community for it. Follow the TAPUMA* steps:

Think: Get a coherent understanding of your poverty reduction and job creation systems.

Assess: How many sustainable jobs do you need in order to have full employment? What are the system barriers and service and programs gaps that you need to address to get to full employment?

Plan: How do you proceed?

Underwrite: Who pays for your plan?

Manage: How do you manage your progress in achieving your vision?

Account: How do you meet the expectations of your underwriters and other stakeholders?

*Courtesy of our colleagues at Community Economics Lab; visit: thecelab.org.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

The Call to End Poverty is Complicated in the United States

Colin Woodard wrote a beautiful book titled American Nations, a History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. He answers the question, “Why do Americans have such a difficult time agreeing on basic issues like the meaning of freedom, the role of religion in public life, or what it means to be an American?” His primary answer is that we were settled by 11 separate nations, giving each of these diverse regions of the country their own distinguishing ideals. Colin’s book is a brilliant page turner, and I am not going to spend much time reiterating what he says. What I want to point out is this: To reduce poverty rates in America, we must understand the distinct beliefs of each region.

I was raised in what Colin calls the Midland region, which, he says, is arguably the most “American” of the 11 nations. The region was founded by the English Quakers around the values of pluralism and organized around the middle class. “. . . government has been seen as an unwelcomed intrusion and political opinion has been moderate, even apathetic . . .,” he writes.

The Midlands region stretches from its roots in the Delaware Bay throughout Middle America and the Heartland, comprising Pennsylvania, Maryland, southern New Jersey, northern Delaware, central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, northern Missouri, most of Iowa, and the eastern halves of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. It includes the cities of Chicago and St. Louis. People in this region largely believe society should be organized to benefit ordinary people; are skeptical of top-down government intervention; and are considered to hold the standard American political viewpoint, containing the key “swing vote” in every national debate. The Midlands functions as a powerful mediating force, agreeing with only some of its neighbors’ more extreme views.

I am very much a Midlander, having lived in Pennsylvania from the ages of 4 to 9. We then moved to Rochester, N.Y., the region that Colin calls Yankeedom. This region was founded in Massachusetts Bay as a religious utopia in the New England wilderness. The emphasis was on education, local political control, and the pursuit of the greater good of the community. Yankees believe, more than any other region, that government can improve lives and galvanize their resistance to aristocrats, corporations, and any other outside power. Also, very much me.  Yankeedom stretches across upper New York State, northern strips of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, parts of the eastern Dakotas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Hopefully, this brief summary has whetted your appetite to look at Colin’s book and identify your own region’s roots. He argues that it is very difficult to change the belief system of a region. In fact, people tend to migrate to regions where they feel an affinity. He has mapped out the regional identity of all of the 3007 U.S. counties, which on the one hand is helpful although overall his ideas pose a challenge to reducing poverty rates.

The Call to Adventure to address poverty has to be messaged with different talking points, depending on regional belief systems. While it would be so much simpler to characterize the conflict between red and blue states, it is obviously nuanced by regions and then within individual states in those regions. In fact, from community to community along the borders of Colin’s map of the nation, ideologies can be vastly opposed to one another.

We are unlikely to change our world views easily, but working with people who hold diverse political and religious beliefs for a common goal of supporting people out of poverty is a good starting place for maturing our narrative regarding the ultimate roles and responsibilities from each of the major sectors of community life.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

The Call to End Poverty – The Business and Education Sectors

Flexicurity is a term first used in 1995 to describe a partnership between business and government to support the citizenry as the economy continues to morph and destabilize current jobs.

Just as there was no stopping the Industrial Revolution, there is no stopping what is happening next with automation, globalization, and artificial intelligence. The composition of jobs in our economy is never going back to the way it used to be, and this fact has major ramifications for poverty rates. The top of the “food chain” in our communities is, for better or worse, the business sector. It wields the most influence on all other sectors. This was not always the case in U.S. history, but it is now.

In October 2011, I did a TedX talk. In that speech I said that poverty should be understood as an economic development problem, not just as a humanitarian problem to be fixed by nonprofits. The emerging economy is not just one of many factors affecting poverty rates; it is perhaps going to have the biggest impact of all potential factors. By 2030, half of all jobs could very well be entrepreneurial in nature. The opportunity to be on someone’s payroll in a traditional w-2 job is rapidly diminishing. Companies can generate wealth with far fewer people than ever before. For example, according to the Brookings Institute, in 2014 Google was valued at $370 billion with only 55,000 employees, a tenth the size of AT&T’s workforce in the 1960s.

The key characteristic to possess in order for anyone to survive, let alone thrive, in the emerging economy could be the ability to be nimble. While there are arguments about whether automation and artificial intelligence will displace millions or will generate new jobs to employ the displaced or will have very little impact on employment rates, there is significant concern about where things are heading with our economy and what we should do about it.

Flexicurity is a term first used in 1995 to describe a partnership between business and government to support the citizenry as the economy continues to morph and destabilize current jobs. If it is possible for the majority of goods and services to be delivered (droned, even) to our homes through a handful of super corporations such as Amazon, who buys the goods and services with what money from what jobs? A closed system must be kept intact between makers and consumers. A pure-market system economy could very likely create this closed system with fewer people, leaving a significant portion of the population on their own to survive. Taken to extremes, a Darwinian order sorts out the weak from the strong.

Fortunately, the United States is already using a hybrid economic system that mixes big multinational corporations with big government deterrents and incentives with an independent sector of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as black marketplaces that provide every imaginable good and service. Our economic sector is a complex system of forces that regulates infinite variables that result in how we personally experience economic freedom and security. Because the complexity is mind-boggling, the desire to over-simplify solutions to sell to the mass public for political and financial reasons is strong. The desire to repeal and replace Obamacare, for example, affects one-sixth of this massive economy. As I write this, Congress is finding it increasingly difficult to find the votes to repeal it and replace it with something else that can be presented in a sound bite to the American public as a better alternative.

The Call to Adventure for the economic and education sectors is to look around the globe and learn. It is time for us to let go of the arrogant notion that we are the best nation on Earth, and therefore we should be mentoring everybody else, end of story. Far from it. As I suggested, the new global metrics of happiness, low crime, low poverty rates, and high life satisfaction tell us that we are losing ground to nations that are getting smarter about their economies and educational systems.

Paul Poler, CEO of the massive multinational corporation Unilever, wrote an editorial that was featured in the Huffington Post in July 2014. I have excerpted portions of this radical and optimistic call to adventure to the business community. It is worth reading the entire editorial. The following excerpts reinforce my assumptions about what the true call is for the economic sector:

“It was Winston Churchill who famously said that ‘democracy was the worst form of government apart from all the others that had been tried.’ Much the same can be said for capitalism, particularly the form of capitalism that has been practiced over the past 20 years. . .. “

“. . . capitalism, with all its faults, is the only game in town. The task confronting the present generation of leaders is to improve on it, to build on its strengths and eradicate its weaknesses. . .. “

“. . . Addressing the weaknesses of capitalism will require us, above all, to do two things: first, to take a long-term perspective; and second, to re-set the priorities of business. . .. “

“. . . The requirement to report back to investors every ninety days distorts behavior and priorities. It is absurd for complex multinational companies to have to invest huge amounts of time preparing detailed income and margin statements every quarter. . .. “

“. . . It is nothing less than a new business model. One that focuses on the long term. One that sees business as part of society, not separate from it. One where companies seek to address the big social and environmental issues that threaten social stability. One where the needs of citizens and communities carry the same weight as the demands of shareholders. . ..”

The bottom line cannot just be quarter-to-quarter gains. The B-Corps movement in the United States is gaining traction with the formal adoption of a triple-bottom line: profits, people, and planet. From the B-Corps website: Collectively, B Corps leads a growing global movement of people using business as a force for good. Through the power of their collective voice, one day all companies will compete to be best for the world, and society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity for all. When it comes to reducing poverty rates, my bets are on the influence of this and similar movements.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Four of Four: Common Responses to Poverty

The call to adventure to address poverty typically comes in one of these four ways:

    1. Provide private, limited charity to deserving, needy people as prescribed by my faith.
    2. Mentor someone poor who wants to learn how to not be poor anymore.
    3. Directly hire the poor.
    4. Support any policy that would eliminate subsidies that ultimately enable the poor to stay poor.

What’s wrong with solution No. 4: Dismantling subsidy programs?

Finally, the idea of simply dismantling subsidy programs in an effort to stop enabling people to stay in poverty is promoted as the ultimate quick fix to dependency. Unfortunately, as compelling as this might sound to conservative ears, reducing poverty is more complicated.

Let’s review the key causative factors of poverty that emanate from each of the six major sectors of society—business, government, education, human services, civic and faith, and philanthropy—and what their call to adventure for reducing poverty rates might be.

When I contemplate how well our nation is doing compared to other nations, I look at global metrics that go beyond a simple GDP number. In the Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness is defined as a fundamental right, as long as you don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others. Using this fundamental right as the main metric, how is the United States doing?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a group of 34-member countries that discusses and develops economic and social policy. OECD members are democratic countries that support free-market economies. Their first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012 in support of the United Nations high level meeting on happiness and well-being. Since then, OECD members have come to see happiness as the proper measure of social progress and effective public policy.

In June 2016, the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts.” The six variables for the index are income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom, and trust, with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government.

In 2007, the United States ranked third on the happiness index for OECD nations. In 2016, it had dropped to 19th (out of the 34 OECD nations) due to an increase in corruption and a decrease in social safety nets. At the top of the happiness index were the Scandinavians for the opposite reasons. George Lakey, author of Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Rightand How We Can, Too, explains in an easy-to understand manner how the Nordic nations emerged at the top of the Happiness Index, as well as in these other important categories: freedom of the press (measured by Freedom House, the United States ranked 26th); best place to grow old as measured by Global Watch Index; and life satisfaction as measured by OECD.

The OECD also does poverty rate comparisons across the 34 nations. Iceland ranked No. 1 with the lowest poverty rate, followed by Denmark, Czech Republic, Finland, and Norway. In the No. 30 spot was the United States, followed by Israel, Brazil, Costa Rica, and China. I don’t know about your reaction to this list, but my mind jumped off the rails when I read it.

Most people in the United States know, and perhaps take pride in the fact that our GDP is $18.56 trillion, far and above second-ranked China at $11.39 trillion, and third-ranked Japan at $4.73 trillion. Our per capita income ranks fourth, behind Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland, according to OECD data. It’s interesting to note that overall GDP does not correlate positively with lower poverty rates or higher happiness indexes.

Being a wealthier nation also does not translate into being safer. According to Nation Master, China is ranked 12th out of 189 nations for highest homicide rates, and the United States is ranked 14th. In other words, you are less likely to be slain in 175 other nations than in the United States.

Wealth disparity is running twice as high and broad in the United States as in any other industrialized nation. The top 5% own more than 90 times the wealth of the median household. In the second-ranking nation, the top 5 % in the Netherlands owns 42 times the wealth of the median household. What is the factor for the happiest place on the globe, Norway? Twelve times. Is there a correlation between a national value of equity and happiness, lower poverty rates, higher productivity?

As Lakey says in book, Viking Economics,

Like most Americans today, Norwegians a century ago didn’t like the results of a wealth gap: the hunger and poverty, the crime, elderly friends warehoused or left in isolation, young people without hope of a good job. Norwegians also didn’t like the attitudes that went with inequality: an inclination toward arrogance among higher-income people and the feeling among lower-income people that they were losers, defeated by the system.

The Nordic model has been promoted by many in the United States who want to see more equity and less poverty. It has been demonized by others who feel strongly about the free-market system and limited government. The polarity between right and left media, politics, and arguments within one’s own family has accelerated as more people find themselves unable to participate in the American Dream.

Learn more: Transformational Leadership: A Framework to End Poverty ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.