Monday Quick Tip ~ We Are What We Think

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature. ~ Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor & Philosopher

Our life is what our thoughts make it ~ Marcus Aurelius

It’s true that garbage in leads to garbage out.  We can get a serious case of “stinking thinking” when we continually think about what could go wrong instead of the potential of what could go right.

As leaders, our thinking is critical to the attitude and morale of the people we lead.

If we feast our minds on a diet of the worst case scenario our actions will reveal our thoughts.  Playing it safe instead of going for it or giving up on pursuing our dreams started when we tasted the fruit of negativity.

Examples of stinking thinking include:

  • Overgeneralization – using words like “always” and “never”
  • Habitually looking for and finding the negative in people and situations
  • Discounting the positive
  • Predicting negative outcomes before giving it fair trial

When we give our minds clean, wholesome positive information and images, positive words and actions will follow.

The bottom line is that we become what we think about.

Think good thoughts this week and the people we lead will thank us.

Monday Quick Tip ~ Silence is Golden

Man with tape

Image courtesy of Stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Silence is golden and I want to be rich” was my teacher’s way of getting us 2nd graders to be quiet and listen.  The phrase, “silence is golden” has been around for centuries.

Wise leaders know when to speak up and when to give their tongues a rest.  It is no secret that our mouth gets us into trouble. That’s not only true about our work life, but all of life.

Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert, writes about getting along with the significant people in our life.  I love the three questions that she says we need to ask ourselves before we speak our mind:

  • Does this need to be said?
  • Does this need to be said by me?
  • Does this need to be said by me right now

“If the answer is yes to each one then it’s time to sit down and have a reasonable discussion. If it’s no then let it go.” (Check out Jacqueline’s post here)

We encounter circumstances daily when it is best to say nothing.

Silence is golden when:

Speaking will not help the situation but may make it worse.

We need to think clearly about an issue or problem we are facing.

We need to pray.  Prayer is not always talking, but about listening for the “still small voice.”

We need to focus and get undistracted quality work done.

We need sleep.  Noisy neighbors and barking dogs can make sleep a challenge.

This week there are opportunities for us to “be rich.”

Take time to enjoy the benefits of silence.

Guard Your Heart

heart-of-L-10-linkThis is a guest post from Mark Miller.  Mark’s latest book is, The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow.

Originally Posted on greatleadersserve.org on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

GUARD YOUR HEART!

The Heart of Leadership is built upon a simple premise: unless your heart is right, no one cares about your skills. This may sound harsh, but it’s true. If people don’t trust our heart, they don’t trust us. If they don’t trust us – they won’t follow our leadership.

That’s the idea the book is built upon, and when we demonstrate leadership character, others see it. They see it as leadership character in action. They see it when we…

HUNGER FOR WISDOM

EXPECT THE BEST

ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

RESPOND WITH COURAGE

THINK OTHERS FIRST

But why does this matter? Aren’t we just supposed to get results? If you’ve been leading long, you know you can get results without creating follow-ship. Results can be the byproduct of a very toxic workplace and poor relationships with those you lead. The irony of this approach is two-fold. It is not the way to maximize results. And, it is not sustainable over the long haul.

There is a vast reservoir of untapped potential in most people and in turn, most organizations — potential that goes unused and wasted. It resides in the discretionary efforts of our people. The day of the hired hands is dead. Leaders operating from that perspective are the dinosaurs of our day. As Peter Drucker said, “We are all knowledge workers.” The implications for leaders…

For every pair of hands you hire, you get a free brain.

Our challenge is to create the context and the work environment to mine that potential, to capitalize on that FREE brain. It starts with us. People don’t leave organizations, they leave their supervisor. Are we becoming leaders people want to follow? Or, are we driving talent away from our team?

Yes, we need the skills of leadership. I’ve devoted decades of my life to helping leaders acquire the requisite skills to lead well, but skills alone are not the answer. I’ll go back to where I started this post and to the premise of the book. If your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills. You and I will be dismissed as a leader if all we bring to the table are skills.

Leaders rarely fail for lack of skills. Certainly you can find examples of this, but in my experience, for every leader who fails because she can’t build a team or cast vision, countless others disqualify themselves for issues of the heart. The good news, we can change the condition of our heart. If we couldn’t, I wouldn’t have written the book.

So, what’s my point? I want to encourage you to be vigilant and diligent – give adequate attention to matters of the heart. It is much more important than most leaders think – it is critical. These are not soft issues; these are issues that ultimately determine our impact on the world!

There is an ancient proverb that summarizes why the matters of the heart matter so much – it captures my thoughts as well as I could ever hope to…

ABOVE ALL ELSE, GUARD YOUR HEART. EVERYTHING YOU DO FLOWS FROM IT.

MarkMiller_About_179x240_050813Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow with those who are ready to take the next step. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

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 ~ 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 ~ 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?