Day 21 – Leadership… a few final words…

Leadership can be really tough. It’s not always easy to motivate people who aren’t interested or to work with people you don’t like. Despite these outside circumstances though, Here’s a brief recap of some of the principles discussed throughout the recent Leadership Series…

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

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There are experts and mentors out there that we can learn from! So do it! Don’t allow your pride and “do it yourself” attitude to keep you from continuing to learn. If you get stuck somewhere along the line, ask for help. Leadership is not a solo act so lean on others when necessary. Don’t start from scratch when there are great resources out there to help!

Some book recommendations

     a) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

     b) Strengths Finder 2.0

     c) The Traveler’s Gift

     d) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Some website recommendations:

     John Maxwell on Leadership

     Jim Collins

     Coach Wooden

2. Strike a pose

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Well, strike a balance really, but strike a pose just sounds cooler. As a leader you’re juggling tasks and relationships. I prefer to be led by someone who is more focused on relationships because not only do I feel cared for, but I also feel more motivated getting the tasks completed for someone I respect (and who I know respects me). The work needs to get done; that goes without saying. But not at the expense of the people.

3. Be a team

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Remember how those Titan boys brought the whole town together with their inspiring teamwork? And Charlie’s Angels were there for each other, protecting one another from all things evil in the world?! Well, we can be that for each other too! (So to speak). When a group of individuals come together, each person is strengthened. There is something powerful about a team coming together to reach a common goal. Don’t go rogue! Surround yourself with like-minded people and see how you fuel each other’s passions and the goal suddenly feels more and more within reach.

4. Don’t quit!!!

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Some of the world’s most successful people, failed before they succeeded. Let their stories inspire you to stay focused and keep moving forward toward the finish line!

5. Be a visionary

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It takes someone with a vision of the possibilities to attain new levels of experience. Someone with the courage to live his dreams. – Les Brown

Day 20 – Three Words… and a 4th of July adventure

 

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Last night my husband and I decided to hit up the fireworks in one of the neighboring towns. We were so excited! Being from CA, we used to go to shows at the Hollywood Bowl pretty often, especially during summer. There is something about the outdoor amphitheater that we love! We usually bring a picnic and sit out under the stars drinking wine and enjoying a good show… which is what we were hoping would happen last night.

We left home with our picnic in hand and marveled at the fact that this was a free event! You don’t find that often in CA. Parking was a breeze and there was even a shuttle transporting people from the parking lot to to the amphitheater. The weather was nice although we read there was a chance of showers around 9pm. Weather reports had been saying that all week and so far, nothing. When we arrived we found seats on the lawn and set up camp. It was so relaxing! A local band was playing and the NC Symphony was up next followed by a fireworks show!

There was a brief transition period when the local band finished and the NC Symphony was getting set up. The lady sitting in front of us turned back and commented on the fact that they sure were taking a while to get going. I agreed and we just hoped the delays weren’t weather related. The sky did look a bit darker but the clouds were moving quickly and we continued to hope they would pass right over us.

Suddenly we felt a sprinkle. Then another. Within a few short minutes it was pouring! And I mean, POURING! Buckets of water pounded the ground and pandemonium ensued as the crowd raced back to the concession area for cover.

When we got back there we huddled together and became somewhat of an extended family with everyone else as we waited out the rain. Some of the little kids who were scared, cried in their parent’s arms while others got separated from their parents and were taken in by other families until the storm ceased.

My hubby and I ended up by a family of four. The mom and dad laughed, reminiscing about their 10-year anniversary at the Cary amphitheater where they also got rained out. The kids looked a little timid at first but the parents surrounded them and helped them feel safe. The mom told her daughter, “this is an adventure! This is fun!” and the daughter began to smile. She laughed and later even said “This is fun!”

Those parents had a choice the moment that rain started. They could either get anxious worrying that their kids would catch a cold, about losing them in the crowd, among a hundred other things. Or they could laugh it off and call it a 4th of July adventure, which is exactly what they did. This in turn comforted the kids and helped them to see that all was okay.

We have a choice when we are leading others. Sometimes it may mean setting aside our own feelings in order to protect and comfort those around us. It doesn’t mean you should act fake but rather focus on the positive for both your benefit and the benefit of those around you.

Three words: Lead by example!

Day 19 – What NOT to do if you’re trying to motivate others!

Do not be cheap!

If you want to impress a high level of quality amongst your team, don’t scrimp on the small stuff. Treat them with a high level of quality. For example, if you’re taking your team out on a retreat, get good snacks. Go out for a nice dinner. These things may seem superficial but it doesn’t break the bank to spend a few extra bucks here and there to make your team feel special. Surprise them with an afternoon off just “because.” Don’t worry about productivity that afternoon or money lost. I remember one of my old bosses saying once that if we weren’t happy, we wouldn’t work as hard. We were treated with the utmost respect and care by her, and our team clicked better than any other team I’ve been involved in.

Do not keep work to strictly work.

Take your team out to lunch. Celebrate a holiday at your place with a white elephant gift exchange or a meal. Take your team off-site and have a “Team Day” where you focus on your personal lives instead of work for a day. Get creative.

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Do not ignore your team.

Be a student of your team members. Get to know their quirks, personalities and what makes them tick. If you only focus on work, it will be incredibly difficult to motivate and inspire. Work is extrinsic; figure out the inner workings of each team member. Learn some psychology 101 and use it to help your team function in the best way possible.

Do not be a slacker.

If you say you’ll follow up on something the next day, do it. Don’t let it slide. If you say you’re initiating a standing meeting, don’t cancel it half the time. There are few things more unmotivating than not being able to count on your boss, the schedule, the plan etc. Don’t be a flake!

Do not be a hypocrite.

If you don’t lead by example you will not be able to motivate anyone else. It all starts with YOU, the leader, and if you demonstrate integrity and a willingness to go exactly where you’re asking your team to go, your team will eagerly follow. Be willing to get on the floor and wash their feet.

 

Day 17 – Why do some people fail?

Yesterday I described four people (and “Senifeld”) who failed before they succeeded. And the list is even longer than that!

Take for example…

John Grisham: “A Time to Kill” was rejected by more than 15 publishers and Grishman himself was even rejected by an agent!

Louisa May Alcott: Alcott wrote one of my favorite books, “Little Women” but was told “to stick to your teaching; you can’t write!”

Anyway, you get the point. Thank goodness each of the people I’ve described (and many others out there) persisted despite negative feedback early on in their careers!

So why do some people fail while others succeed?

1) Those who succeed are persistent: I know many people who get discouraged at the first sign of failure. I used to be one of those people! As I’ve gotten older and I’ve been exposed to more people and situations, I realize that failure and rejection are a part of life. I have learned more from those negative experiences than I have from the postive ones. It’s so funny how we tend to brush off the good things that happen and dwell on the negative. If you’re a dweller like me, at least be productive in your dwelling… what could you do differently next time? What did you learn from the mistake? How can you move forward toward greater success in the future?

2) Those who succeed understand that there will be bumps in the road. I read a great book called “The Dream Giver” by Bruce Wilkinson that describes how hard, yet rewarding it really is to pursue our dreams. We will undoubtedly encounter naysayers who will try to convince us that we’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough etc. to get where we want to go! We tell ourselves those lies too. As the cliche goes, anything in life worth having is worth fighting for and as dreams are pursued, opposition will cross our paths. Successful people dont let the opposition stop them; they push through it and move on.

3) Successful people define success and failure accurately. In other words, failures are viewed as opportunities for growth. Life is successful, not just when the ultimate goal is met but when smaller goals are met along with the way. Life is not all about the bottom line. Check your perspective.

Sometimes just a few small tweaks can shift us from a path of negativity to great success! We can reach our goals but we have to keep moving forward and get “back on the horse!”

Day 16 – I never would have guessed it!

My mom is a teacher and just retired from a long career working with elementary students. Each year at Open House her kids would dress up as famous people and memorize facts about “themselves” to tell the parents and students coming through the classroom. This event was always a huge hit because the students absolutely glowed bragging about their heroes! It was by far one of the best events of the year for teachers and students alike!

One thing I noticed the years I stopped by was, although the students were factual in the biographical information they shared, for the most part they tended to focus on the positive aspects of their hero’s life. They aren’t heroes for nothing! But not all of the famous people we admire and respect had everything in life handed to them on a silver platter, as we tend to believe.

Check out these success stories… that didn’t exactly start out that way:

1) Henry Ford’s first few businesses failed. After losing all of his money several times throughout his life, he started the Ford Motor Company and is known to this day as one of the Founders of the American-made car.

2) The TV show, Seinfeld, almost didn’t get picked up for a full season, yet finished among the top two shows on TV from 1994 to 1998. It’s still considered one of the best shows of all time.

3) Van Gogh struggled to make money painting his entire life. He created over 900 paintings, which since his death, have been sold to museums, individual people, art galleries etc.

4) Charles Schultz was not only rejected from his high school yearbook staff but he was also denied a position working for Disney. His Peanuts comic strip is now beloved world-wide.

5) Babe Ruth is known for his home runs but most people forget about how many times he struck out. According to Babe Ruth however: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Don’t be discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work out so well the first time. As Babe Ruth did, try to look at the positive aspects of your journey and know that even your failures are bringing you closer to your ultimate goals!

Day 14 – Lessons from Lincoln

When I think of strong leadership, I think of Abraham Lincoln. But as much as I hate to admit this, I really don’t know much about the guy. He just has a reputation, still to this day, as someone who knew his stuff and led with integrity and courage. We all know the “Honest Abe” nickname from when we were kids right? Well, as I have been doing my research for this series it seems to add up. Here are a few leadership characteristics to be gained from Honest Abe’s life:

1) Don’t separate yourself from your peeps. Be one of them. Apparently Lincoln was pretty hard to guard and protect because he was constantly out and about. I love that though. Have you ever been led by someone who seemed so out of touch with the realities of your organization? I’ll never forget assisting executives back in the day who couldn’t remember how to make copies or transfer calls. I’ll even give them this: They did try at times! But inevitably I’d get called in to help! It’s not that hard people!!! As a leader, stay in touch with the minute aspects of the job as well as the wants/needs of the people working for you.

2) Get comfortable in front of a group. As president, Lincoln did his share of public speaking. Leaders need to develop their public speaking skills or at least get comfortable communicating in an articulate way. Communicate your vision for the organization clearly and passionately so that others jump on board.

3) Become a storyteller. Why do you think most people become so invested in the lives of film and TV characters? We love to be a part of their stories. They mean something to us. Lincoln was known as a storyteller. When you can paint a picture with your words, it is easy to inspire people. Learn how to deliver messages using stories, colors, pictures and of course, passion.

Lincoln left a legacy worth paying attention to so I suggest we all learn a thing or two from this former President!

Day 13 – Eyes to the stars, Feet on the Ground

 

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There are few things worse in an organization, than employees, volunteers, etc. simply going through the motions… the “working for the weekend” mentality. As a leader, it’s crucial to communicate the vision for your organization in such a way that the people surrounding you get on board and begin to care as deeply as you do. When a group of people share a common passion and desire, the possibilities are endless.

What is vision?

 “Vision is everything for a leader. It is utterly indispensable. Why? Because vision leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within, and draws him forward. It is also the fire lighter for others who follow that leader. Show me a leader without vision, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t going anywhere. At best, he is traveling in circles.” – John Maxwell, Vision: Are you moving forward… or in circles?

“To me, vision is being able to see where you’re going, to see what’s up the road ahead, in both literal and figurative senses. It’s being able to see the potholes before you drive the car into them, being able to skillfully navigate.” – Christopher S. Penn, What is visionary? What is vision?

“…leadership success always starts with vision.” – John Ryan, Leadership Success Always Starts With a Vision

“Vision: A mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be.” Andy Stanley, vision. andy stanley

Day 12 – What makes the difference?

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Check out this short video of leadership expert, John Maxwell, explaining “The Difference Maker”… this applies not just in the work world but in life too! Enjoy!

Day 11 – Top 11 BEST Leadership Practices

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1. Be consistent in character, words and actions.

2. Foster respect by being firm and fair.

3. Admit when you’re wrong.

4. Lead by example.

5. Communicate clearly.

6. Learn what motivates others and encourage personal growth.

7. Express gratitude.

8. Humbly ask how you can serve and assist others.

9. Do the things that no one else wants to do.

10. Be someone worthy of trusting.

11. Focus on that which is MOST important and let the unimportant stuff go.

Day 10 – You’re fired!

One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to let people go. This may mean laying them off, firing them or letting them know that their volunteer services won’t be needed anymore. It’s brutal! Unfortunately though for all involved, it needs to happen from time-to-time for the betterment of the organization. 

We have to be real with ourselves; we’re not going to be good at everything and sometimes the skills we bring to the table, don’t meet the needs of the organization. But that doesn’t make the news any easier to hear. Nor, is it easy for the person delivering it. Here are some thoughts for both the bearer of bad news and the receiver.

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If you’re giving the news…

The number one thing to consider is this: If the person being fired is shocked, you’ve most likely done something wrong. Let me explain. Employees, volunteers etc. need to be clear on your expectations as a supervisor. If there are rules employees are unaware of, they may unknowingly break them. Once you’ve explained everything in easy-to-understand terms, it’s up to the employee to ask if clarification is needed. However if they don’t and you notice they are still not doing their job right, explain again and make sure they have ample time to make changes before you give them the boot! It is my belief that if someone is getting let go from a position, they should have been able to see it coming… or perhaps something went wrong along the way.

Letting someone go is more than simply a conversation. It involves human emotion and for many some impending hardship after they’ve officially left the position. These things need to be handled with care.

  • Be sure you have documented everything so if you’re ever questioned, you can clearly explain why you had to let the employee go.
  • Do the dirty work yourself. Remember the movie “Up in the Air?” Companies would outsource all firing responsibilities to George Clooney’s character, who had no prior relationship with the employees. You know the employee and if you are confident enough to let them go, the least you can do is deliver the news yourself.
  • Be firm but kind. Although you may be angry at something the employee has done or disappointed in their work ethic, their ego is about to be severely bruised. Cut them some slack and try to end on a good note.

For the person receiving the news…

  • You’re going to feel upset and possibly angry over what’s happened. That’s natural. You may even be disappointed in yourself for not being able to “cut it.” Allow yourself some time to grieve what’s lost.
  • Understand that while your skills may not be needed or the right fit for this job, there are plenty of other areas they can be used… You just have to find them.
  • Don’t hold a grudge against your coworkers for what happened. Yes, you will be embarrassed and upset for a while but if you made friends at your old job, you don’t need to abandon the relationships completely. They probably feel just as weird as you do and someone will need to break the ice;  it might as well be you. You don’t need to go out for coffee with them the very next day but once some time has passed, consider reestablishing those relationships.

Hope this is helpful. This is an awkward part of being a leader… but sometimes it needs to be done and if handled well, can be a positive move for both the employee and the company!

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