If you’re like me, you often find yourself in “note-taking” situations in meetings, lunches or classrooms. I’m a bit of a visual learner, and there are a few strategies that seem to help me retain ideas and how they relate. One is called “mind-mapping” and you can read a great explanation of it on mindtools.com. This website has some amazing resources for problem solving, time management, information skills, decision making, project management, communication skills, and creativity. Check it out.

Back to mind-mapping. Basically, it is a way to show the structure of a subject and its related pieces. “A good Mind Map shows the ‘shape’ of the subject, the relative importance of individual points and the way in which one fact relates to other.” For me, this is an even more effective brainstorming tool. I’ve found this to be very helpful as we are piecing together ideas about starting an NGO/alatpitvány in Hungary.

Write your subject in the middle of the page. Connect your subheadings. Third and Fourth levels of information and facts are connected to your subheadings. I love the organic nature of this method. The structure of your ideas will naturally grow and reveal itself.

Mindtools.com gives a few ways to improve the effectiveness of your mind-map: use single words or simple phrases, use color, use symbols, and cross-link identical ideas. Try it out!

johari window

In 1987, Kouzes and Posner did some extensive research in preparation for their book entitled The Leadership Challenge. In this research they asked what characteristics people find most admirable in leaders. There were only four traits which received over 50% of votes: honest, 87%; inspiring, 68%; competent, 58%; forward-looking, 71%. Other research has also shown honesty to be the runaway winner and the most valued characteristic in a leader.

People can intuitively sense honesty and authenticity. It’s a matter of being “real.” This “realness” breeds a culture full of grace, truth, common purpose.

The Johari Window gives a nice picture for how honesty and feedback can grow in a person or culture. Each of us posesses qualities which are either public (top-left), private (bottom-left), blind (top-right), or unknown (bottom-right). The public window pane contains things about me which are know to myself and others. The blind window pane contains things others know about me, but which I don’t know about myself. It’s sort of the “spinach in the tooth” or “bad breath” window. The private window pane represents things I know about myself but which others don’t. These are the skeletons in the closet. The unknown window pane represents things about me that neither I nor others are aware of.

The very simple thought is that honesty and openness to the input of others are pathways to authenticity…which is a powerful thing. It’s the growth of character. It’s common sense really, but it can be easy to forget and hard to practice.