Be Happy

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Two simple words to say, but not always something so simple to do. My 4 year old has been known to blurt this out after he has done something wrong and knows he is in trouble. Like if he just says this, it will automatically make his poor choice go away and instantly I will be happy!

Throughout our leadership journey, how many times have we said to a peer or team member something along these lines? “Let it go,” or “Get over it,” were my two personal favorites. Yes, if someone just tells me this, I will magically move past something that has annoyed or upset me. And of course I have said these very words to others, so I am just as guilty.

I believe that we often try to fix a situation just by saying something. While this might help a little, it will not address the issue at hand. We are conditioned as leaders to deal out advice because we have been led to believe this is what our team members want. And, in many cases they do want our advice, but sometimes we need to dig a little deeper and listen more than we speak. In many cases I have often found that a team member will come to you when they are unhappy and in need of a sounding board – someone who can listen and help them work through something that might be bothering them. Guiding the conversation and probing a little further can sometimes aid a team member in finding their own solution without some cliché saying being tossed around.

Do we all need to let it go or get over it sometimes? Yes we do, however simply saying the words doesn’t make it happen. Sometimes as a leader just listening will go much further than offering your words of wisdom!

Leaders Take On Various Personas

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Just as they peacocks show us, some are bold and some are plain. Leaders can take the same approach. Not all leaders are the bold, vibrant people that we encounter at our jobs. Some people display and live leadership by example without the vivid display. Both types of leadership are valued. Which type of leader are you and which do you aspire to be? Your choice will take you down a different path on your leadership journey.

Smashing Through the Comfort Zone

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By Lead in the Moment guest blogger, EJ Widun

As leaders, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to bring our team to new levels of success. As servant leaders, we are always looking for ways to breakdown barriers and empower our team members for their personal fulfillment and success. My question is whether or not we truly live and practice this in our personal life or do we simply focus on the team?

As leaders, we are called to lead by example. We are also called to sharpen our own skills. If we are not sharp and constantly learning and developing, how can we expect our team members to live what we ask?

I find this to be one of the hardest things about leadership to practice. I spend a lot of time focused on my team and will delay my own development. What ends up happening is that I grow complacent. I will put off my development at the expense of the team and say that I will make that up later. The problem with this statement is that later never comes. Daily leadership challenges will aid in your development, but are you really pushing yourself. Are you pushing your limits and thinking differently?

For me the concept of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone came several years ago. I attended a team-building event on a high ropes course. The goal was to climb a three-story tower that required you to stretch yourself to reach the top. On this day, I reached my personal threshold; I was half way up the tower and didn’t think I could go further. My team below me began to cheer and push me forward. In the end, I made it to the top of the tower and I learned that limits and development are often self-fulfilling statements. Today, I will continue to push my goals and growth in several ways. I will add more miles on to my daily bike ride, when I think I cannot go any further. Other times, I will receive encouragement from others. I had this experience again recently. I was co-authoring a piece with my wife Kristin and I did not want my name on it. I have not published anything since the first Bush was president. She told me to embrace the opportunity to put myself out there. If not this time, then it would come soon. We co-authored our first piece and published it this week.

No matter where we go in our careers, always push yourself and help push others. You never know whom it may help.

Cynical – Who Me?

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What happens when you show appreciation by making a good will gesture to your team members and they dismiss it, or worse express their displeasure with your grand gesture? Do you go tell them to pound sand? Or do you just let it go and move on with your life, wondering why you even bother?

I personally experienced this a couple of times with a group of people I was supervising. I thought it would be nice if I bought everyone lunch as a surprise. Thinking this might be a positive morale-boosting event, I brought in what I perceived to be a nice lunch only to have some of my team members complain about the choice of food, and point blank ask me why I opted for one type of food over another. My first instinct was to ask why they were complaining about something free which was definitely better than what was being served in the employee cafeteria! Fortunately, I was able to hold my tongue and not say what I was thinking. I answered their questions politely and asked what type of food they really liked (so if I chose to ever do this again, I certainly would not get it wrong!) This scenario really angered me, as I was brought up old-school where you thanked the person for their thoughtfulness, took what was given to you and kept your mouth shut. This definitely made me think twice about doing something nice for my staff, which I considered to be sad.

How do you keep from becoming jaded by your team members? There is that old saying about one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch. What happens when you have a couple of bad apples that just are not satisfied with anything that you do for them?

An Expert Opinion

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Experts are all around us. There are those whose expertise we value and those we ignore. There are high-priced experts who can provide valuable information for an organization, versus those who believe their own level of expertise far exceeds what they really know.

How does someone gain expert status? Do we consider someone an expert when they have an education or extensive background? If someone is successful in his or her chosen area of expertise, it could be said that person is an expert. Or do we trust someone who has an advertisement proclaiming his or her merits?

So who are we to believe? Is the term expert too widely used in our vocabulary today?  When something bad happens in the world, there is usually some expert interviewed by the news media.  Where do they find these experts?  If I can speak authoritatively on a specific subject, even though I may not have extensive knowledge to back it up, am I an expert? Unfortunately in many cases people will believe someone is an “expert” based upon his or her ability to appear credible.

What do you believe makes a person an expert?

Fake It ‘Till You Make It

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Many have uttered this phrase when times get tough. There are times in our lives when we just aren’t sure how to keep moving forward when things are going to hell around us. This can be especially true in leadership. How often have you had one of those days when nothing is going right and you just want to yell at someone but you don’t, because as I have often told my 3 year old, throwing a tantrum and yelling at someone is no way to go through life!

In these instances, do we just paste a smiley face on and go with the flow? I have previously written about not panicking unless there is a really good reason to do so; but what about a day when your mojo is just off and you don’t feel like jumping up and saying yeah! It is really surprising how the mood of one person can impact the rest of the team. I once had a team member who was an extremely happy and positive person, someone who had a gift for putting the most miserable person in a good mood. Once, this person had a very bad day and her positive personality disappeared. The mood of the entire group mirrored her and soon, I had a group of nasty, whiny, complainers. This made me contemplate the way in which I approached a bad day. Knowing that others would follow my lead, I tried to be conscious of how I interacted with everyone.  If I could curtail my annoyance, no one would suspect I was having a bad day. I guess in a way I was faking it – pretending that all was well in order to preserve the positive attitude of everyone around me. In the end, this exercise actually helped me turn my negative mood around, just by acting positive I was able to block out the negative thoughts in my head.

How do you respond as a leader when dealing with a bad day? Do you fake it till you make it?

How Does Your Culture Grow?

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Organizational culture – what is it and why has it become so important in the landscape of corporate America?

Where does an organization’s culture come from? Is it just a set of rules written by a committee and everyone is expected to blindly follow them? Is an organization’s culture a slogan or thought that a CEO just thinks up on the fly and insists everyone admire his or her brilliance? Does culture amount to the way in which everyone within an organization behaves or interacts with one another? These questions could go on and on, as there are probably as many interpretations of organizational culture out there.

I am always interested in hearing what people think about culture within the organization that employs them. Some believe it is the best thing out there, others believe it stinks. In reality, how many people actually understand the basics of your organization’s culture and could communicate them to someone? I have spoken with people throughout the years about the culture within their organizations, and to be honest, I was surprised at the responses. Many could not articulate a concise idea of what their organization stood for. They got hung up on the idea that organizational culture was how leadership treated them. While that is an important part of an organization’s culture, it is not the only thing. An organizational culture extends past the leader-team member relationship to also encompass an overall attitude about how you do business. Are you an organization that likes to have fun while working, are you passionate about making the world a better place, are you completely possessed with providing excellent service to your customers? These are all examples of what an organization’s culture might look like. Do we allow our team members to understand how our organization’s culture was created and why it is significant to our success?

How often do we communicate this information with our team members? Is organizational culture something we talk about during new team member orientation, and then promptly forget about it, leaving it on the shelf along with the new team member handbook? A piece of paper on a bulletin board in the team member break room doesn’t cut it. Organizational culture is not something that can be stuck up on the wall if you expect people to live it. If you expect your organization to have a strong culture, it needs to become part of your everyday thoughts and actions. If you personify the culture of your organization, then others will follow.