Category Archives: Relationships

The Power of Meaningful Engagement

zig_ziglar_help_enoughIn a recent post (“Make it About Them”) by  Matt Holmes, the Denver networking guru brings up a fundamental – but never too-often-repeated adage about shoulder-rubbing: Engaging others should start with a conversation about them – not you. He also refers to one of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes from the book, “Secrets of Closing the Sale” (click to get it), which I highly recommend.

Matt’s angle is tactical, as it reinforces the practice of basic inquiry in the context of active business hobnobbing. I’d like to go further with it, though, because it’s already easily halfway to a much more meaningful way of living in a broader sense: Actually engaging with others from a place in ourselves where we actually seek to help them along in the universe.

Of course that’s easier said than done. And I can imagine some of the eye rolls I’ll get here when I not only say that it’s a bit of work – and perhaps even more challenging – it involves matters of the heart. (If anyone is ready to click away here, that means it’s even more important to stay!)

My point: Everywhere, especially in the startup world – where we’re in many cases actually building awesome solutions with a lot of benefit to others – it’s tempting to run on (and on, and on) about OUR stuff. But even if one looks at it pragmatically, the best way to connect your business “out there” is to change “in here” (in our hearts) so that knowing others and their goals becomes part of the DNA of our M.O.

When we approach others this way it’s not “faking it” to find out what others are into. It’s not about feigning interest so that we can “see where there’s a fit” to launch into selling our product. The Zen idea of truly “forgetting ourselves,” even for for just a moment while we meet someone new, turns the dynamic around to create a true emotional/spiritual engagement and can spark a commitment to mutually helping each other achieve our greater purpose.

Imagine if everyone approached networking, or – (gasp) every single interaction we have, from the beggar on the street to the venture capitalist with whom we have a high-stakes meeting – with the intent to help others reach the ultimate purpose they were put on this Earth to achieve!

Would sales increase? You bet! Would people feel more connected and loved, and actually get further along in their ultimate purpose? Without a doubt.


HELP! I’m Obsessed With the Four Learning Styles!

Understanding and Evaluating for Kolb’s Learning Styles

The Two Preference dimensions, or axes (Click images to enlarge)

This is a good representation of Kolb’s “Four Learning Styles”, with the axes and the types clearly organized. At the bottom of this post I reposted a brilliant hand-drawn interpretation of the concept.
Notice the popular “4 Spiritual Types” model is simply flipped upside down and backward. Same Axes, same idea. This concept is used in Christian ministry, other missions orientation assessment. Compatible with Briggs-Myers.










Perception Dimension

In the vertical “Perception” dimension, people will have a preference according to two main continuum running along the vertical axis above:

  • Concrete experience: Looking at things as they are, without any change, in raw detail.
  • Abstract conceptualization: Looking at things as concepts and ideas, after a degree of processing that turns the raw detail into an internal model.

People who prefer concrete experience will argue that thinking about something changes it, and that direct empirical data is essential. Those who prefer abstraction will argue that meaning is created only after internal processing and that idealism is a more real approach.

This spectrum is very similar to the Jungian scale of Sensing vs. Intuiting.

Processing dimension

In the horizontal “Processing” dimension, people will take the results of their Perception and process it in preferred ways along the continuum between:

  • Active experimentation: Taking what they have concluded and trying it out to prove that it works.
  • Reflective observation: Taking what they have concluded and watching to see if it works.

Four Learning Styles (a.k.a. Four Spiritual Types)

The experimenter, like the concrete experiencer, takes a hands-on route to see if their ideas will work, whilst the reflective observers prefer to watch and think to work things out.

1) Divergers (Concrete experiencer/Reflective observer) = NLP: “Why?”

  • Divergers take experiences and think deeply about them, thus diverging from a single experience to multiple possibilities in terms of what this might mean. They like to ask ‘why’, and will start from detail to constructively work up to the big picture.
  • They enjoy participating and working with others but they like a calm ship and fret over conflicts. They are generally influenced by other people and like to receive constructive feedback.
  • They like to learn via logical instruction or hands-one exploration with conversations that lead to discovery.

2) Convergers (Abstract conceptualization/Active experimenter) = NLP: “How?”

  • Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. They like to ask ‘how’ about a situation, understanding how things work in practice. They like facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes.
  • They prefer to work by themselves, thinking carefully and acting independently. They learn through interaction and computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods.

3) Accommodators (Concrete experiencer/Active experimenter) = NLP: “What if (I do this)?”

  • Accommodators have the most hands-on approach, with a strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They like to ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ to support their action-first approach. They do not like routine and will take creative risks to see what happens.
  • They like to explore complexity by direct interaction and learn better by themselves than with other people. As might be expected, they like hands-on and practical learning rather than lectures. 

4) Assimilators (Abstract conceptualizer/Reflective observer) = NLP: “What (is this)?”  

  • Assimilators have the most cognitive approach, preferring to think than to act. The ask ‘What is there I can know?’ and like organized and structured understanding.
  • They prefer lectures for learning, with demonstrations where possible, and will respect the knowledge of experts. They will also learn through conversation that takes a logical and thoughtful approach.
  • They often have a strong control need and prefer the clean and simple predictability of internal models to external messiness.
  • The best way to teach an assimilator is with lectures that start from high-level concepts and work down to the detail. Give them reading material, especially academic stuff and they’ll gobble it down. Do not teach through play with them as they like to stay serious.

So what?

So design learning for the people you are working with. If you cannot customize the design for specific people, use varied styles of delivery to help everyone learn. It can also be useful to describe this model to people, both to help them understand how they learn and also so they can appreciate that some of your delivery will for others more than them (and vice versa).

See also: Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

FINALLY, here’s an excellent post from which I grabbed the image below; it has a number of interpretations on this concept:


Here’s an excellent (and short!) video explaining this material:

Material adapted by Christian LeFer for Speaker’s Connection, Bozeman, MT, March 2, 2013

Most text borrowed from

Images, in order of appearance, from:

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Foundation Awards Christian and Allison LeFer “Foster Parents of the Year”

Reprinted from Spring 2012 Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch newsletter, “The Wrangler”.

To understand why Christian and Allie LeFer were chosen as Foster Parents of the Year for Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch in south central Montana, one must consider their “out of the box” approach to therapeutic foster parenting.

Within 10 days of receiving their first foster child placement, Josie, age two and a half, was removed by the state and reclassified to a less costly level of care. After several days of grief, Christian and Allie wiped away their tears over losing Josie and they chose to try again, welcoming into their home a Native American teenager named Peggy Sue. She came from a reservation community in Montana, and her history with her own family had been marked by alcoholism and drug use.

Peggy Sue had very little supervision before arriving at their home, and her behaviors were nearly unmanageable. She was angry and withdrawn. Christian and Allie set about the perilous expedition to break through to Peggy Sue’s hardened heart.

Very early in their relationship, Christian and Allie realized that Peggy Sue had never been outside the state of Montana and had very little familiarity with modern American history. So they packed up the whole family and took a 30-day road trip to New York City and zig-zagged down the East Coast to experience historical places, firsthand.

The LeFer family went from Times Square to Washington, DC to Colonial Williamsburg where Peggy Sue was fascinated by the re-enactment of Revolutionary War times. The trip she had said would be “boring” took on new life. Christian and Allie’s newly expanded family set off on an adventure to discover what the big world outside Montana had to offer. The new experiences helped bond the family and helped them all get to know one another as they drove more than 7,000 miles across the nation.

Christian and Allie have also worked hard to help their children create a new personal and positive history for themselves. Christian said, “We’ve had to help them rewrite the hard drive of their family memories. Not removing their culture or traditions, but replacing the painful memories from their home lives with new, happy ones.” They create photo albums showing the kids being held and cuddled by their parents. They took pictures of birthday parties and cakes that they never had before. “They can look at their albums and see themselves happy. Being valued,” Christian said. And the photos reinforce what Christian and Allie want them to believe about themselves.

Christian is also developing a website to provide support to foster parents worldwide. The website will offer a place for foster parents to share ideas and to support one another in the difficult but rewarding work of foster care.

Christian says, “Every one of our children is treated the same. Some foster parents don’t treat foster children like their own. Maybe it’s because they are protecting their own hearts because they fear that the foster children to eventually leave. We don’t do that. Whatever we sacrifice for the boys, we’ll sacrifice for Peggy Sue. We aren’t so different. We’re just defiant. We do it with our whole heart, and it’s on the line for each child. Even if they leave some day by their own choice, we are always ready and willing for them to return to open arms. They’re our kids for life.”

They have now adopted Josie, who is now five years old and has been with them for more than two years. They look back on how much she has grown and flourished in their home.

“To have her relax in your arms and trust you, that’s huge,” Allie said. “To see her giggle and laugh and let down her guard and act like a normal child, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. We see the really bad behaviors and anxieties fading away and we marvel over those behaviors she doesn’t engage in anymore because she’s not afraid. It’s amazing!”

Christian encourages others to consider becoming a foster parent saying, “If you want to change the world, become a foster parent! You can add value to society through this child! Our generation may or may not cure cancer but we’ll be 100% better off with each child who is raised, loved and nurtured. Imagine taking a troubled child who is a ward of the state and turning them into a happy, problem-solving, freedom-loving person. It happens before your eyes! If you want to stretch yourself farther than you think you are capable, and grow and learn more about yourself than you ever have before, become a foster parent. You’ll be

rewarded beyond your wildest dreams.”

Christian and Allie’s kids are already suggesting adding more foster kids to their home. Older son Caleb recently exclaimed, “Dad! We have an 8-passenger Excursion! We can fit at least 2 more kids in it!

To download the original article in PDF, click here.