Monday Quick Tip ~ Get Mad, but Don’t Get Even

Image courtesy of coward_lion/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of coward_lion/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. ~ 12th Century saying

Has another leader ever ticked you off?

I’ll go first.

YES!

It happened recently when I called the leader of another organization to ask for a little favor.  It was small in my mind, at least.

His negative reaction caught me by surprise.  He was unyielding, uncooperative and downright rude in his response. He was unwilling to work with me. I wanted to hang up on him.

I stewed about it and told others on my team what a jerk this leader was and that he was the cause of their inconvenience.  (Not my finest hour.)  I was frustrated for me and my team.  Fortunately, I calmed down and realized why I didn’t tell this leader where to stick it.

I didn’t because, for purely selfish reasons, I may need a bigger favor down the road.  In addition, this leader may need a favor from me down the road and I’ll have the upper hand at that point. (Both terrible reasons.)

But then I had a flash of insight that made sense.  As leaders, there are times when we have to take the high road for the good of our organization.  It is not fun, it’s not our first choice, but nevertheless, it is the road we walk as leaders.  The organization we lead comes first. Life has a way of turning the tables.  Circumstances change.  There may come a day when our two organizations will need to work together.  That time may come after I’m already gone.  I don’t want to be known as the leader who blew up the bridge between the two.

We’d all rather be known as leaders who built rather than destroyed.  So we restrain ourselves and take the high road.  Our nose will thank us… and so will our team.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Stand for Something

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A new week brings new opportunities to put our leadership values into practice.  Assuming, of course, that we are crystal clear about what we value.

A quote from The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy that resonates with us is, “A clearly defined sense of purpose ties our values to concrete intentions and gives us external direction – a reason to get up in the morning and a fuel to stay the course in the face of the inevitable setbacks that arise along the way” (Page 238).

Or if you prefer, “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

I’ve discovered that leadership has a way of forcing us to clarify what we believe and then requires us to take a stand on those beliefs.

Sometimes our purpose gets fuzzy because we’re under the stress of a looming deadline, busy with the day to day grind or emotionally distracted by things happening in our relationships. That’s when it is important to step back to think about why we are doing what we are doing.

Our bias for action as leaders calls us to push ahead in spite of the lack of clarity, but the wise move is to stop, step back and reflect.

Once we are clear about the PERSON we want to be and the PURPOSE we want to serve, nothing can defeat us unless we let it. We won’t fall for anything.

What really matters to you today? This week? What are you really trying to accomplish?

When we get those things straight, we have the spiritual fuel we need to make it happen!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Set the Pace

Richard Petty Rookie Exp

He who hesitates is lost. 

Adapted from Joseph Addison’s play Cato (1712):”The woman that deliberates is lost.” 

One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life was driving a race car around the Atlanta Motor Speedway in excess of 150 mph.  I was fortunate to take part in a morning session of the Richard Petty Driving Experience.  After a short instruction period, we were led to the track to take our place behind the wheel of a 600 horsepower speed machine.

In session one, I ran 8 laps before being brought in for some coaching by an instructor.  He told me, “You are getting too close to the pace car. Make sure you follow his lead and don’t get so close.”  I kept my distance and did better the second session.  My lap speeds by 10 miles per hour.

It’s been said many times, “Speed of the leader; speed of the team.” We, as leaders, set the pace for our team members.  This is where leadership becomes an art.

If we move too fast for our team, we run the risk of losing touch with those who are following.  Team members become tired from trying to keep up.  Eventually they become discouraged and quit.

If we move too slowly, top team members become bored.  Other members get distracted and have a hard time staying on track.  Petty squabbles and divisions soon cloud pursuit of the mission.

When we find the right balance of pace, the organization’s mission is accomplished in a way that energizes those who follow us.

Balance is the result of knowing ourselves as leaders.  Do we demand perfection or have expectations of our team members that are too high? Do we know the strengths and limitations of our team members?

As leaders, we set the proper pace so that our team members feel great about being a part of our team and accomplishing the organization’s mission.

What tips do you have for setting the right pace? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Monday Quick Tip – Count the Cost of Your Life

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every man is his own greatest enemy, and as it were his own executioner. — Sir Thomas Browne

It all came together this week during my daily commute along a fast and busy highway.  One of those rare moments when the “university on wheels” curriculum matched what was going on outside of the car.  I was listening to Tony Schwartz and Jean Gomes’ book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.  They posed a question that grabbed me and caused me to turn off the sound so I could reflect on it.  The question was, “Is the life you’re leading worth the price you’re paying to live it?” (The question is on page 26 in the printed version.)

As I traveled in the “slow lane” I noticed cars moving past on my left at high rates of speed. Then I saw a highway patrol officer in front of me, lights flashing.  The fast moving cars were about to pay a price for their excessive speed.  I silently wondered, “Is the price of a ticket and the hassle of getting it taken care of it worth a few minutes gained?”

As leaders, we want our team members and the people we lead to be healthy so that they can give their best energy for the good of the team.  Our followers require the same of us. They want leaders who are healthy and practice good self-care.  Rare is the person who will follow an unfit and unhealthy leader.

At the beginning of a new week, it is good to count the cost of the choices we are making.  Are we taking care of ourselves so that we can offer our best to the people we lead? Do we have time built into our day to simply enjoy ourselves?

Excessive speed will cost us.  Eventually we will slow down.

Can we do it before someone makes us and we have to pay a high price for it?

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 ~ Don’t Be Fooled by Sunshine and Roses

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are not always what they seem… – Phadeus, Roman poet

I attended a gathering of leaders recently in which we were going around the room telling how things were going within our teams.  Each of us, except one, stated some good things that were happening as well as some things with which we were struggling.  When it came to one leader in particular, this leader shared that everything was going great!  Wonderful! Good things were constantly happening!  All said with a smile that betrayed believability.  I knew first-hand that things were not in fact all sunshine and roses.  Things were quite the opposite.

As I reflected later on that meeting, I realized that the combined experience of the leaders in the room was over 80 years.  Yet, here was a leader who chose shut off any wisdom from   other leaders in the room who had wrestled with the very same issues and had grown through them.

Why do we unintentionally spurn the wisdom in the room?  Is it to make ourselves look better because we feel inadequate?  Do we want to appear as leaders who have it all together?

None of us have it together.

None of us want to see other leaders fail.  As leaders, it is in our nature to see others succeed, even those in “competition” with us.  We don’t want other leaders to make the same mistakes we did.

When things on our team are not sunshine and roses, the sharp leader is not afraid to admit it and glean from the wisdom in the room.  Instead, they embrace it.

What wisdom can we gather this week that will help us grow in our leadership?

Monday Quick Tip ~ Don’t Take the Blame

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“A poor workman always blames his tools.”

As leaders we are in the business of making others successful.  I had a boss at General Electric who used to say, “Your success is my success.” His words were backed up by a commitment to meet with me regularly, coach me, guide me and make sure I had what I needed to get the job done. He understood that as leaders we are there to serve those we lead.

We provide the tools and resources for our team members to get their jobs done well.

What do our team members need to succeed? Here is a very partial list:

  •        Tools – Computer, phone, supplies, etc.
  •        A listening ear
  •        An open door
  •        Our presence – Encouragement by walking around
  •        Checking in with them
  •        Following up with them
  •        Offer to help – “How can I help you today?” works wonders
  •        Time off maintain balance between work and family

The art of leadership is figuring out what individual team members need in order to succeed. Each person is different.  For some, all it takes is a listening ear. Others need to see us involved and working alongside them.

The above proverb reminds us that poor workers naturally look for others to blame.  Sometimes, that blame is directed at us because we “didn’t train them well enough” (or whatever excuse they want to use).

However, leaders with integrity do what it takes to set their team members up for success.

If a team member doesn’t measure up, it won’t be because the leader didn’t try their best to set them up for success.

In that case the blame will lie squarely with the team member.  We give them what they need to succeed and the rest is up to them.

What are some things you offer your team members to set them up for success?