Monday Quick Tip ~ Read, Lead and Succeed

heart-of-L-4b-linkA Review of The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow,by Mark Miller

Mark Miller’s latest book, The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow is a short, simple yet powerful read.  It continues the story of Blake from one of Mark’s earlier books, Great Leaders Grow.  But you don’t have to have read the previous book to be up to speed with what is happening in this edition.

I found Mark’s tone to be conversational and warm. He’s not preachy and writes as one who is a fellow traveler on the road of leadership growth.  He doesn’t talk down but instead honors his readers by pointing out road signs along the way.

I resonated with one of the central themes of the book that leadership character matters more than leadership skills.  As we grow deeper in character, the necessary skill mastery will come in time.  It is true that we’ve seen too many highly skilled leaders derail themselves by their lack of character.  Miller reminds us not to put the cart before the horse.

Using the well-traveled metaphor of an iceberg, Mark asserts that 90% of leadership happens below the waterline.  Then he goes to work defining the essential elements of those below the waterline traits that we need to lead well.

I liked how the elements were told though a variety of people in different settings.  Too often I’ve found leadership books to be too narrowly focused on marketplace leadership leaving out the arenas of non-profits, education and community groups. The effect was that we are able to see how the concepts are applicable to a myriad of situations.

While the book is simple, it is not simplistic.  The character traits mentioned here will take a lifetime of practice to master.  This is not a bad thing because it reminds us that none of us have arrived as leaders. We’re all still learners among leaders.

The element that meant the most to me was the section on responding with courage.  As leaders, responding with courage is a daily occurrence as we tackle the challenges that come our way.  Mark reminds us that courage takes the actions necessary to correct the situation.

This is one of the best leadership books I’ve read this year.  It is one that I will read again and again so that I can continue to be reminded of its principles and apply them to my leadership.

Read this book and you will discover that it is not a 5 hour energy shot for your leadership skills, but rather a multi-vitamin for your leadership soul.

Enter to win:  I am giving away 10 copies of The Heart of Leadership to my blog readers.  You can enter to win by signing up to follow my blog between now and October 31, 2013. I will choose 10 winners at random. If you are already a follower, you are already entered to win! Good luck!

 

Live Full to Die Empty

Die-Empty-3dMy Review of Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry

A disclaimer is in order.  I have been a Todd Henry enthusiast since I read his first book, The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.  His regular podcast is on my weekly “must listen to” list.  I was thrilled when I heard the title and theme of his second book.    I’m what business guru, Ken Blanchard, calls a “raving fan” of Todd’s work.  Admittedly, I’m biased not just because we share the same first name.

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day is about how we can unleash our best work each day and increase the odds that we won’t regret the work we’ve done when we come to the end of our life.  It’s about living full so we can die empty.

What I Like Most

What I like most about Todd’s writing is his courage.  He doesn’t hesitate to call out the fluffy platitudes that we are fed in too many business and career books.  He doesn’t shy away from saying that success and our best work will require effort and self-discipline.  Those two things go against the grain of our comfort driven culture.  I was practically cheering out loud when he said, “You cannot pursue comfort and greatness at the same time.”

One popular fallacy Todd takes on that resonated with me was, “The Passion Fallacy.”  We are told countless times to just “follow your passion” and the money will follow you.  Besides the obvious impracticality of this advice, (How many of us actually do get paid for playing video games all day?) Todd points out that it is a selfish approach to finding meaningful work.  Eventually the passion dies down and we are left searching for a different obsession.

A better approach is asking, “What value can I add?” instead of “What can I get?”  When we pose the question this way, it correctly reminds us that we are not the center of the world.  We know that when we are the center of our own world, it’s a very small world…after all.

Challenge Accepted!

Another example of Todd’s courage occurs in the chapter titled, “Finding Your Voice,” which tackles discovering our unique expression of value through our life’s journey.  He challenged me when he wrote, “Great work results when you stop doing only what you know you can do and instead begin pursuing what you believe you might be able to do with a little focused effort.”  In the infamous words of television character Barney Stinson (Played by Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother), “Challenge accepted!”

Todd’s writing tone is one we would find from a buddy who is sitting across the table having coffee with us.  It’s friend to friend encouraging conversation rather than top down pronouncements.  In addition, his stories are nicely balanced with practical applications and probing questions at the end of every chapter.

This is the type of book I can see myself rereading on a yearly basis to keep myself on track in fulfilling my life’s mission.

The message of the book is simply stated: “Don’t go to your grave with your best work still inside of you. Choose to die empty.”

May that be true for us all.

Monday Quick Tip ~ A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

Image courtesy of africa/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of africa/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am all for taking calculated risks and stretching beyond our current limits.  However, I’ve discovered that there are times when taking the safe, comfortable, and known path is best.

The adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” applies here.  It refers to falconry where the falcon resting on the hand is a more valuable asset at that moment than the two unknowns that we have no control over.  It’s a cautionary statement that warns us about going “all in.”

Here are some times when playing it safe is to our advantage as leaders:

  • Hiring from within the organization.  Hiring from outside is a crap shoot at best. If you hire from within, you have a better known quantity and quality.
  • In times of crisis.  When the plane is going down is not the time to change the location of the exits.  In that moment, the known path is best.
  • Immediately after the completion of a major project.  Our team member’s internal resources need some time to be renewed before we charge the next hill.
  • When followers feel that “there has been too much change around here.”  Their perception may not be correct but that is how they feel.  If they feel unsafe already, adding more change or risk can overwhelm them.

We move forward by taking risks and pushing the envelope.

The key is in knowing when to let the bird leave the hand so we can go for the two in the bush.

Timing is everything.

What risks do you need to pass by right now in favor of the safe path?

Monday Quick Tip ~ You Can’t Have it Both Ways

Image courtesy of Rawich/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Rawich/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it” – Yogi Berra

Life is a lot like the television show, “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Life forces us to make choices.  We can trade the benefits of one thing for the greater benefits of another.

The wise leader knows when to trade one thing for another.

We’d like to think that all of our trade-offs are trade-ups, but reality says otherwise.

Sometimes our choices are between “the lesser of two evils” as the saying goes.

We’d like to have a flea less dog or a hairball free cat. There is no such thing. Imperfection is a part of life.  As one of my friends used to say, “The fleas come with the dog.  If you want the dog, you’re going have to figure out how to deal with the fleas.”

That’s good life advice, too.  With our choices come consequences.  As leaders we have choices in how we use the resources we’ve been given: personnel, budget allocation, and time management.  We can’t hire everyone we’d like to or spend money on everything or be everywhere all the time.

Here are a few choices we’re faced with:

  • Superficial abundance or deep little
  • Comfortable familiarity or uncomfortable unknown
  • Laser-like focus or scattered distraction
  • Demanding excellence or low effort average

What choices are facing you this week?

What consequences are you willing to accept?

“While we don’t always get what we want, we always get what we choose.” – John Maxwell in The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

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.

Whew! That was Close: A Leadership Lesson from a Crash

B1 BomberLiving within earshot of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, it is common to hear fighter jets roaring by overhead.  I’ve gotten used to it.  On Monday, August 19, 2013, Ellsworth was in the national spotlight when a B-1B Lancer Bomber crashed in southeastern Montana.

Fortunately all four people, including the two pilots and two weapons system officers ejected and parachuted to safety.  No one on the ground was hurt.  The aircraft was not so lucky. It was a total loss. Or was it?

For the men who flew the plane, I imagine they were not thinking of having to rocket  themselves out of it on a high powered ejector seat. They were prepared should something happen, but it was to be a routine training mission.  When I saw the news reports I thought, “Whew! That was a close one!  It could have been much worse.”

I thought about the times in leadership when we’ve narrowly escaped a disaster that could have taken us out of the game but didn’t.  For example, when we almost hired the wrong person for our team.  Or when a deal broke down in negotiation and we found out later the other party in the deal was caught cheating.  Narrow escapes and dodging bullets, such is the life of a leader.

Sometimes we get lucky in leadership and that’s okay.  But we need more than luck to be a successful leader.  We need skills to adapt when crisis occurs.

There are times in our leadership life when a seemingly routine event goes wrong.  In those moments, we have to adapt our mode and style.  As Todd Henry says in The Accidental Creative, we need to be “brilliant at a moment’s notice.”

The training mission suddenly changed when the plane went down.  It went from a training mission to search and rescue to recovery of the parts of the plane to an investigation as to why the crash occurred.

Yes, it could have been a lot worse, but it can be a lot more because of what we can learn from the crash.

This is what it means to be a creative leader: when crises occur, we adapt to the changing mission and learn all we can from it so we can be better in the future.

Our mission may change today.  Are you ready?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you have developed your adaptability skills.  Leave your comment below.

Be a Leader Worth Following

Image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Focus on getting better, before getting bigger.” – S.Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants.

“If I stop learning, I stop leading.” – Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller in Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life

Leadership titles don’t mean very much if the leader isn’t worth following.

As leaders, we have a bias toward action and we want to see our organizations grow. We want to charge the next hill and accomplish the next goal.

However, like the proverbial dog that chases cars, what are we going to do with it when we catch it?  Do we have the character that can handle the growth we desire?

When our focus is on getting better as a leader, the growth will take care of itself.

Why get better?

We respect leaders who grow.

No leader can be perfect, but we want those who lead us to be trying to grow.  We want them to be constantly improving their character.  As Adam Grant points out in his fantastic book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, the motivation to become better precedes the development of the skills themselves.  Leaders are motivated learners.  Respected leaders are those who know they don’t have it all together and are willing to put in the time and effort required to grow.

We have a harder time following leaders we consider to be “takers” who are only in a position of leadership for themselves.  We expect our leaders to be humble enough to see that they can’t do it on their own but need the help of others and are willing to give to others.

One way we help others is by growing ourselves.

Superman, Iron Man and Captain Kirk are great for comic books and summer blockbusters and it turns out they have something to teach us about leadership when they exemplify honesty and courage. (See http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougguthrie/2013/06/14/looking-for-leaders-settling-for-superheroes/).  These are issues related to our leadership character rather than skills.

How to grow

Growing leaders feed themselves a steady diet of leadership books, podcasts, blogs, conferences and workshops.  Some leaders find coaches or mastermind groups to give them personal attention to areas that need to be strengthened.

We are blessed to live in a time of abundance of information that can help us grow in our leadership character. We can be mentored from a distance by people we’ve never met through books and online resources.

If we are serious about becoming better before bigger we, as author Bill Hybels suggests in Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, will do whatever we have to do to increase our leadership input, because we know it will make us better.

We become leaders worth following by making ourselves better before we get bigger.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways you are trying to get better as a leader.

Book It!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” ― Ernest Hemingway

We’ve heard it said too many times to count that “leaders are readers.” It’s one of the lessons they teach in Leadership 101. Read, read, read. As an introvert, this advice has been easy to take to heart and put into practice. I have friends and family members who don’t like to read and will never pick up a book to mine its wisdom. That’s okay for them. They can grow in their leadership in other ways. For the readers among us, we’ve found some benefits in reading books that we don’t get anywhere else. Here are a few of my favorites.

Reading books helps us stay current.

With the advent of the Internet, books are the slow turtle in the race for fresh information. The turnaround time from the submission of a manuscript to a publisher to when it is available for sale can take up to a year.  Quick information is available 24/7 on the World Wide Web. However, when we want to dig deeper into a subject, we rely on books to help us sort through the weight of research. When we read Jim Collins’ classic, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t  or Chip and Dan Heath’s, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work or Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, we have hours of the most relevant and best research on the topic at our fingertips. We have food for thought rather than a snack for skimming.

Reading books helps us observe different leadership styles.

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and styles. The way John Maxwell leads and writes is not the same way Jack Welch leads and writes. (I have an amazing grasp of the obvious.) Through their words, we get a sense of who they are as leaders and how they approach the various leadership challenges that we all face. There is room for a variety of styles at the leadership trough. The diamonds are there for our choosing.

Reading books is fun.

This one varies in degree according to our personal taste. I find reading pleasurable while some of my extroverted friends find reading a chore. There is a joy in discovering new insights as I pore over the latest Malcolm Gladwell offering (David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants). Fresh wisdom is mashed with existing wisdom in our heart and mind to give us a new creative edge.

Reading books gives us perspective into our situation.

One of my favorite authors is psychologist and leadership consultant Henry Cloud (Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge; Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses and Relationships That All of us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward; 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life).  When I read some of the composite stories of clients from his counseling practice or business consultations, I sometimes say to myself, “Thank God, I’m not that messed up.” Other times I say, “God, help me to be more like that person.”  Reading gives us perspective into our situation by helping us meet people we would not have encountered in daily life.  We would have missed out on some much needed perspective for our own situation.

Reading books affirms who we are.

This benefit is related to the one above. A couple years ago, Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs was a bestseller.  With any individual we read about, there are things we relate to and things we don’t relate to in their story.  I’ll never be Steve Jobs and neither will you. There was only one.  In the same way, there is only one you and only one me.  Reading helps to affirm who we are and who we are not.  It reminds us to celebrate our unique contribution to the world.

Reading books gives us practical ideas.

When we read great books like Todd Henry’s, The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice or Peter Bregman’s, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distractions and Get the Right Things Done, we’re taken to the toolbox of the author and shown what has worked for them. Because we share the human condition, their ideas may help us to be more effective in our leadership.  Even if we don’t use the same idea in the way it is presented in the book, it may spark a thought in our mind as to how we can handle a challenge we are facing.

We take the books that we’ve read, mix in our experience, combine it with our personality, add it all together with our skills and talents to be the creative leaders we are meant to be. Those that make a difference in the lives of those we lead.

What books have had the most impact on your leadership? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Action Steps:

Check out my reading list and add your suggestions below.

To go the extra mile see: http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-retain-more-of-what-you-read.html