Monday Quick Tip ~ Admit When You Don’t Know it All

Image courtesy of Nujalee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Nujalee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools learn in no other. – Benjamin Franklin

In almost every leadership position we hold there is a honeymoon period that allows us to get settled in and learn the lay of the land.  Very soon reality sets in and we realize there are challenges that are rising to the surface.  Our temptation is to turn on our mental autopilot and try to solve it the way we’ve solved it in the past. But then it doesn’t work.

I’ve discovered that no matter how many years of experience I get under my leadership belt, I run into issues I’ve never faced before.  Every leadership context is different.   An experienced pilot when facing turbulence can’t allow autopilot to take over. Instead, the pilot flies through it.

In the same way,  we can’t afford to go on autopilot thinking that “we’ve seen this before know what to do.”  When I find that attitude creeping in, I know it’s time to check myself.  Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture or don’t know all the facts.

The best leaders admit when they don’t know it all.  They grow with the trials, deepen their experience and sharpen their skill.

Leadership expert Jim Collins, in his famous work on how good companies became great companies, says Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark is one of the greatest CEOs of the twentieth century.  Collins says, “Smith, a man who never entirely erased his own self-doubts, later summed up his tenure by saying simply, ‘I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.’” (http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/the-misguided-mixup.html)

Our experience informs the present to help us figure out what to do.  It begins with the attitude of humility.  Celebrity leaders rise only as high as the moment they think they know it all then they fall.

Leaders who last rise to the challenge and grow through the new experience.

Rick Pitino, championship basketball coach, writes, “The longer I live and the more I experience, the more I believe that humility is the quality essential to sustained success, and a lack of it is the major stumbling block for those who find success for a time, then lose it.” (The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life­)

Could it be time to turn off autopilot and fly the plane?

What challenges are you facing that require a humble attitude and the willingness to learn something new?

Monday Quick Tip ~ The One Who Laughs Lasts

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Laughter is the best medicine

Have you ever been a cranky leader? I have on too many occasions.  I’m currently going through a very busy season that only promises to get busier in the coming weeks.  I find myself with a bad attitude that is in need of some serious adjustment.  Here are some signs that it is time for a break.

  • No fun to be around (even when I’m by myself).
  • Frowning or grimacing most of the time.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Mind racing through the never ending To-Do list.
  • Tired, even after a night’s rest.
  • Paying more attention to the clock than people.
  • Allowing gratitude to be nudged out by expectation or worse, entitlement.

I believe in the biblical proverb that those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed (11:25).  But I also believe that those who refresh others must first refresh themselves. Or, to use Stephen Covey’s admonition: “Sharpen the saw.” Or the airline’s instruction: Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.

We all need time away from the stresses of leadership.  We need time to re-set.  We need to give ourselves the gift of time away.

Time to push the pause button.

Time to do something totally unrelated to our organization.

Time to do something fun that brings the laughter back.

I know what I need to do to bring back the laughter.  How about you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As leaders we want to be liked.  We want people to follow us and have fun doing it.  But one of the perils of leadership is to be so emotionally needy of the adulation of our followers that we compromise our identity.

We have people on our teams who will praise us excessively to the point of flattery.  It makes us feel good to be liked.  But in the secret places of our heart, we know that we are not that good.

We suspect that the praiser wants something from us and just telling us those nice things because they are going to want a favor down the road. They are “greasing the skids.”

As a leader, I’ve found that the people who are quickest to praise me without really knowing me are the first ones to turn on me when times get tough.  They are the first ones to blame and criticize.

To stay centered as leaders we need people in our life who love us without strings attached to what they can get from us.  Those people are rare.  It gets even more confusing when we think we have those people in our life only to find out that they had a secret agenda all along.

This is the essence of the excellent and critically acclaimed Netflix series, House of Cards.  Things are not always what they seem and the Frank Underwoods of the world will stab us in the back while praising us to our face.

Flattery from those we lead may feel good, but if we treat it as more than it really is, it will get us nowhere.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Live the Golden Rule

greeting

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Do unto others, what you would have them do unto you – Jesus

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ― Maya Angelou

This quote from Maya Angelou has been running through my head a lot lately.  It applies in many arenas of life.

Much of leadership is how we make people feel.

We inspire, encourage and correct.

I will never forget a time when I was going through a rough patch while in graduate school.  Finances were limited, my course load was increasing, people I loved were having relational issues that were affecting the entire family and I was 1600 miles from home.  I felt as if I was facing these challenges all alone.

Jay KeslerJay Kesler, the then President of Taylor University, was visiting campus for some speaking engagements.  I was hurriedly going from one class to the next.  I saw Dr. Kesler coming towards me on the sidewalk.  He was by himself.  As he saw me, his face lit up with a magnificent smile and he said, “Hello, how are you today?” I returned the smile and said, “Fine, thank you.”  Of course, I wasn’t fine given the circumstances, but that day, the load seemed a little lighter.  I don’t remember any of his lectures on campus.  But to this day, I remember the sidewalk encounter and how it made me feel.  I felt that I was not alone.  An easy thing to do that had powerful impact.

Sometimes leadership is not about budgets and vision and grandiose schemes.

Sometimes, leadership is a smile on a sidewalk to a fellow human being.

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 ~ Get Lucky by Working Hard

Image courtesy of kibsri/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of kibsri/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diligence is the mother of good fortune.

Very few people are lucky in the purest sense of the word.  It is possible, but extremely rare, that infrequent lottery ticket buyers hit it big. Most of the time we create our own “luck.”

I know people who win big at sweepstakes and to the outside observer they seem to be the luckiest people in the world.  What we don’t see are the many hours spent culling websites and persistently filling out entry forms.

“Luck” is what we are forced to rely on when we don’t do our homework.  Showing up to practice and hone our craft gives opportunities we wouldn’t get otherwise.

In leadership I’ve sometimes been guilty of impatience and hoped luck would bail me out. When hiring new employees, I could have done more to check out their background or spent more time with them to insure a proper fit with the organization.  Instead, I congratulated myself on “filling the position so quickly.” Big mistake.

I’ve been on the other side too.  I’ve accepted employment in which I knew I was not the right fit but hoped my uneasiness would work itself out in the form of luck. Instead, I got an example of what not to do for this blog post.

At the start of a new “work” week, I’m asking myself, “Where do I need to get busy working and quit trying to take shortcuts?”

When we are diligent, it’s amazing how lucky we can be.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Take Stock of What Matters

hands together

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There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven…

 A time to plant and a time to uproot.  Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2b

My current leadership responsibilities include helping the organization I lead to take stock of how it is doing in light of the current reality.  To do that, we are closely examining our programs and people.

I’ve been thinking about what is important and what isn’t important in the life of the organization I lead.  I’m challenging the organization with the questions found in Peter Drucker’s small yet powerful read, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization. Here are the 5 questions:

  • What is our mission?
  • Who is our customer?
  • What does the customer value?
  • What are our results?
  • What is our plan?

The questions get to the heart of what is most important.  Not a bad thing to examine, both in organizations and in our personal life.

Answering the questions lead us to make some decisions about what to uproot and what to plant.  They help us move forward in why we are here.

The beauty of the questions is that they also apply to our personal relationships.  Our mission in life is to be as loving as possible.

Our “customer” is our friends and family.

Our friends and family value time with us, laughing, having fun, and sharing great experiences.

The result is ever deepening and more meaningful relationships.

So what is your plan to build the relationship with those who love you most?

Loss of relationships can come swiftly and unexpectedly.  All the success in business can’t make up for the time we lost with those we love most.

Build relationships and the rest will take care of itself.