Monday Quick Tip ~ Think Beyond the Obvious

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A drowning man will clutch a straw. – 19th Century Proverb

We’ve heard it said often that “desperate times call for desperate measures.”  I’ve found in leadership that the default mode in stagnant organizations is “desperate times call for comfortable measures.”  We tend to do what has worked in the past without considering that times, people and conditions have changed. The familiar approach ends up becoming the straw that the proverbial man grasps while sinking.

A better approach is to think beyond the comfortable obvious.  Lately, this idea has smacked me in the face to wake me up.  Here’s what I mean:

  • In the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane (Played by Brad Pitt) argues with his scouts telling them that they can’t choose new players the same way they used to.  They have to think differently.  They have to define the real problem. To the scouts, the problem is obvious. But to Beane, it is something entirely different.
  • In the DIY television series, The Vanilla Ice Project (http://www.diynetwork.com/the-vanilla-ice-project/show/index.html), Rob, (A.K.A. Vanilla Ice) buys rundown Palm Beach mansions and renovates them. I enjoy watching the show because he is continually thinking beyond the ordinary to add what he calls the “wow factor.” It’s a way of thinking beyond the obvious.  Having seen firsthand, two of the homes he has redone, he has definitely succeeded.
  • In the late Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture, he tells about an assignment he gave his Carnegie Melon students to virtual reality world. They could not use shooting violence or pornography.  Realizing the default mode for 19 year old males is to create a game with sex and violence, he required them to think differently. He was amazed at what they came up with when they thought beyond the obvious (“They Just Blew Me Away,” Pages 120-122).

As leaders we help define reality then help our team members think beyond the obvious.  If team members were already thinking that way, they wouldn’t need us.

Our challenge as leaders is to throw the life ring of extraordinary thinking so that clutching a straw becomes impossible.

How will you help your team members think creatively this week? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Monday Quick Tip ~ Shake and Stir for Best Results

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A rolling stone gathers no moss. – Publilius Syrus, 1st century writer of Latin maxims

In the organization I lead, we’ve been going through a time of assessment and transition.  My days have been filled with charts and graphs of income and expenditures. In my research, I’ve discovered the health of the organization is not as robust as people in the organization believe. So it became my job to shake things up and (as Peter Drucker says) define reality.

We have all seen the snow globe that looks calm and serene when the snow is settled at the bottom. No disturbances and a clear view.  But that’s not what snow globes are designed for.  The beauty comes in the shaking. Flecks of snow descend, hit beams of light and beauty emerges.

That’s part of what it means to be a leader.  Leaders shake things up to see what beauty appears.

After my report to the leaders about our organization, I expected some disagreement and push back. I got some minor comments.  But the leaders among the group responded by saying, “that was exactly what we needed to hear.  Keep shaking and stirring us.”

There are a couple different interpretations of the rolling stone proverb listed above.  The one I like best says that people are always moving and looking for freshness and creativity.

There is a restless streak in leaders. We are always on the move in our own growth and in our leadership of the people we lead.  To allow moss to grow is to become stagnant.

For best results this week, shake a few things, stir a few others and watch what happens.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Become a Dull Person

Image courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fans of writer Stephen King will remember one of his main characters in The Shining repeatedly typing the phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  It’s a phrase that serves as a good reminder to us in our “get to work” world.

We struggle with “work-life” balance as leaders.  The people we lead struggle with it too.

If we don’t take some regular time off for rest, renewal and recreation, we will become boring and bored.  Life is more than a one dimensional existence.

Do you have some outside interests that restore your depleted energy?  When we take time to recreate our creativity is “re-created.” Our energy is renewed.

I recently attended the funeral of a 90 year old man.  His was a life well lived.  On the altar at the front of the church his family placed some personal mementos that symbolized his life.  A Pittsburgh Steelers cap, an American flag and a worn tennis racquet stood as gentle reminders that there was more to his life than the 9 to 5.

For people in the United States, today is the celebration of Veteran’s Day.  It’s a great day on many levels, the greatest of which we celebrate and remember the millions who have preserved our freedom in America. One of those freedoms is the pursuit of happiness.

We won’t take today for granted. If you are fortunate enough to have the day off we’ll use it to do something fun and remember the price that was paid to allow us to do it.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Find Your Song

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Those who wish to sing, always find a song.  ~ Swedish Proverb

As leaders we set the tone for the teams we lead.  If we have a negative, small, critical attitude, we will soon experience the same among our team members.

A story I read years ago in Max Lucado’s book In the Eye of the Storm illustrates the effects of letting life steal our energy.

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner.  She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage.  The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up.  She’d barely said “hello” when “ssssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie — still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water.  Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering.  “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore — he just sits and stares.”

It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.  (In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 11)

Bad things happen to good leaders.  It can sap our energy and harden our attitude, if we let it.

Sometimes a little attitude adjustment is in order.

Here are some things to sing about:

  • That you don’t have to lead alone, you have a team to help you.
  • The individual skills and talents of your team members
  • That you get the honor of leading others.
  • That you are growing and are farther along the road this week than you were last week.
  • That this is a new week and you will make progress toward your vision this week.

As country music legend Willie Nelson sings,

Without a song, the day would never end
Without a song, the road would never bend
When things go wrong, a man ain’t got a friend
Without a song!

It’s up to us to find something to sing about.  When we find it, don’t sit and stare… SING!

What song will you sing this week?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Life Skill 101 advice for those of us who want to live a meaningful and profitable life is to “find a need and meet it.”  The world is full of opportunities brilliantly disguised as needs.

Life is exciting when need meets creativity.  The old adage is true: Necessity is the mother of invention.

One of my newly discovered fun websites is www.quirky.com where creative ideas are turned into useful products that help us in our daily life. (I “need” to win the lottery so I can buy all the stuff in the Electronics and Power section.)  Admittedly, we could argue all day about the need for an egg tray that lights up, but for the most part there are smart, simple solutions to the challenges we face.

What needs are you facing this week that have to be met?  You are already half way there, because you’ve identified the need.  Once we figure that out, our creative juices start flowing to come up with a workable, practical solution.

I once heard leadership author and speaker Mark Miller (http://greatleadersserve.org/) say in a workshop I attended, that “not every creative idea is a good idea.”  Once we have identified the need, the next step is coming up with an idea that actually works.

Most times, trial and error is the only way to find out what works and what doesn’t.  It seems obvious but it’s human nature to try to find a shortcut.  It strikes me as ironic that we try to find a shortcut on the way to designing a shortcut.

This week, get ready for some creative solutions to come your way.  Test those ideas to find out if there is a good one that actually works.

Who knows, you could be on the verge of the next million dollar idea that changes the way we live.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Cross the Bridge Until You Come to It

Image courtesy of Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As leaders we are people of responsibility.

We plan.

We worry.

We take risks.

We think ahead.

We try to stay at least one step ahead of our followers.

I’ve discovered that my “futuristic” strength (See Strengths Finder 2.0 and Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath) has a downside in that I can sometimes imagine problems and challenges where none exist. When that happens, my energy is redirected and drained.  I lose focus on the present.

Planning and thinking ahead is important, but we live in the here and now.  We can live in the “there” and miss the “here.”

We can get so far ahead of our team members in our thinking that we miss what is happening in their lives now.

What’s the value in not crossing the bridge too soon?

We can be flexible and adjust as needed.  Conditions change constantly.

Things happen to us that are out of our control.

If we rigidly adhere to a plan, we may take a path that no longer meets our goals or the needs of our team.

Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it is a reminder to be adaptable enough to make adjustments as conditions change.  It’s also a reminder to not allow unnecessary worry to drain our energy.

There are times when leaders are like the captain of a speed boat that takes a direct line across the lake.

There are other times when leaders are like the captain of the sailboat that has no direct path, but adjusts as the conditions change.

What bridges are you crossing that you have not come to yet?

Monday Quick Tip: Do it Well!

Glass Blowing

Image courtesy of worradmu/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” ~ English proverb

This past weekend, I got to attend my first Renaissance Festival (http://renaissancefest.com/).  There were jousting demonstrations, comedy and danger shows and lots of opportunities for shopping.  One of the highlights for me was watching a glassblowing demonstration.

The glassblower formed a beautiful tumbler using a few simple elements: air, heat, a metal pipe, water, and molten glass. What was not simple was the amount of skill he used to accomplish his art.

He made it look easy, but it took him countless hours to perfect his craft. He mentioned during the demonstration that he started glassblowing in 1968.  He was poetry in motion as he combined the right amount of air, timing and centrifugal force to create his masterpiece.  He explained that the incorrect temperature or the wrong timing could shatter the glass.

Developing our craft as leaders takes time.  There is an art to leadership that can’t be acquired in a book.  It is learned through years of well-focused practice.  Leadership as art is not accomplished by the quick fix.

This week, focus on doing leadership well by getting better at just one thing.

What is it for you?

What is the one thing that you could get better at this week with a little focused practice?

A lot has been made about the 10,000 hour rule. That is overwhelming.

Masterpieces are formed an hour at a time here and there. We can do that.

Do it well. It’s worth it.

Do it with excellence, because “good enough” only leads to shattered glass.

 

What will you get better at doing this week? I’d love to hear your thoughts.