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!

 

Monday Quick Tip ~ Lead Yourself First

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“He that is master of himself will soon be master of others.”

A contemporary paraphrase of the above proverb is, “The person who leads himself or herself will lead others.”  Self-leadership is a must if we are going to lead others.

My leadership has been heavily influenced in this area by one of my mentors, Homer Rice who wrote a book about how our fitness to lead others begins with our ability to lead ourselves.  (See Leadership Fitness: Developing and Reinforcing Successful, Positive Leaders, by Homer Rice)

We lead ourselves in two critical overlapping areas: life management and time management.  Our time is our life.  When we manage our time well, chances are greater that we’re managing our life well.

Life management means that we are able to control our goals, emotions, physical well-being (diet, exercise, and sleep), thought patterns, finances, positive habits and personal growth plans.

Time management means that we can create priorities and get done the things that need to be done in an efficient and effective manner.  We can organize our day and give our energy to the most important matters at hand.

In moments of brutal honesty, I ask myself, “Knowing what I know about myself, would I follow me?”

Have I forfeited my leadership influence because I lack self-discipline?

My answers to those questions guide me to make the necessary changes in self-leadership.

Our credibility as leaders depends on our ability to lead ourselves.  If I show up late, don’t return phone calls and turn in a mediocre performance I’m giving my team members an excuse to do the same.

Lead yourself and you’ll have the credibility to lead others.

What practices do you have in place that ensure good self-leadership?

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 ~ 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 ~ Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I believe in being cautiously optimistic.  Good expectations and positive visions of the future are part of our make up as leaders.  We imagine the projects we oversee as successful long before anyone else does. For the most part, it’s a strength.

But as with any strength, this can also be a weakness.

It becomes a weakness when we get ahead of ourselves and act as if it has already happened.  We take things for granted.  We assume too much and it comes back to bite us.

It is good to have tentative plans so that when the good thing we are expecting happens, we are prepared for it.

The other side is waiting until the good thing we are expecting has actually happened before we make any specific concrete plans about it.

In college, I was told by a friend that he would send $100 per month to help with expenses.  If I went to graduate school, it would be $150 per month.  I planned my budget accordingly.  In the 7 years of school, guess how much I got?  $100 total.  I got a dead chicken.

The chicken we thought was in the egg may be dead.

A healthy dose of skepticism can go a long way.  Experience is a painful teacher at this point. We’ve had too many things fall through at the last minute.

We can strike a balance by being cautiously optimistic. Don’t spend your Christmas bonus before you have it in hand.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

What are you counting on this week that you may need to reconsider?

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.

Monday Quick Tip: Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This seems like common sense, but sometimes leaders get a “big head” and forget that there is no such thing as a solo leader.

These types of bosses are “glory hogs” who act as if their team’s contributions don’t matter.

When it comes time for praise or evaluations, they take credit for the good things the team has accomplished. They are selfish and insecure. They practice “3D Leadership” that demotivates, demoralizes and demeans their team members.

Not surprisingly, their followers don’t stick around. Who wants to be on a team where our contributions are ignored or where credit is taken by the leader as if it was their own?

This week, pay attention to the people you lead.

How are they doing?

What contributions have they made that you are overlooking?

Thank them for being a part of your team. Reward them for their contributions.

Don’t be a glory hog. Instead, do what your mother taught you: give credit where credit is due.