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!

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Who Are You?

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As I look to make changes to my current website, it has become an interesting exercise in identifying who I am and what do I want to accomplish?

So many times an organization will write a business plan based on a life-long dream, create all of their content, start to sell their product and then forget what motivated them in the first place. Or better yet, what happens when things change and the dream evolves into something completely different than what they originally started with?

Would you consider this an identity crisis? An organization thinks they know what direction they want to move, but after a bit they start moving in a different direction. A case of a short attention span – possibly? I believe it can become an identity issue when you attempt to continue with your initial plan while dabbling in something new, and not doing either especially well. It becomes confusing to the public, let alone your team members. What do your customers expect when they walk through the door? Are your team members able to clearly communicate what it is you do?

For example, think about what every major fast food chain has tried to morph into. For many consumers it has become confusing. Most chains had their specialty and they did it well. Now, when you hit the drive-thru at any major chain, the menu is so expansive and diverse, you wonder what exactly do they specialize in? I realize the public gets bored, but it seems to me that most of the fast food chains have lost their identity as they try to appease absolutely everyone. And, it appears many of them are not doing well financially. A correlation? Maybe.

I am going through the same identity crisis as I have started to move down a different path than the one I originally thought I would travel. I don’t see it as a bad thing, just something new that I need to explore and figure out. We should consistently revisit who we are and what motivates us. If it is the initial idea, then great! If it is not, that is okay too.   That gives you an opportunity to explore your passion and figure out the best path to take.

Growth vs. Fulfillment – What is the Difference?

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We all hear about personal growth, whether it is physical, spiritual, or work-related. I used to believe it was a pretty simple concept; you made a decision on what you wanted to do and outlined the steps to get there. This was my thought process back when I was younger and slightly naive. What I didn’t bargain for was the fact that our ideas of personal growth change over time and life experience. For example, when I graduated from college, I thought I had it all figured out. I wanted a career with a specific company where eventually, I would move up the ladder and my career would take the specific trajectory I had planned out. For the first seven years, everything worked out pretty much the way I had intended it to. I was growing, learning more every day and enjoying where my career had taken me. I felt like my personal growth was off the charts. Then, around year eight, something inside of me changed. I continued to learn and grow within my career, but I didn’t feel completely comfortable with where I was or what I was doing. I started to feel unfulfilled with my career and more importantly, my personal life.

I had achieved what I set out to do, but once I got there I had no idea what was next. Little did I know that I had tied up my entire identity with my career, and not only did I lose touch with who I was as a person, but I didn’t realize my own idea of personal growth had changed over time.

Personal growth versus personal fulfillment – are they the same thing? I looked up the definition of both words and found this interesting. Growth is based upon the idea that you are in the process of developing. The basic idea of fulfillment centers on the notion that you have accomplished something and you are satisfied. So in reality, a person could experience a high level of personal growth, yet never achieve fulfillment.

This can be a challenging idea to grasp as we all have a different definition of personal growth. Many will see it as just that – what they are doing in their personal lives to grow. Some (like my younger self) believe that personal growth is tied up with your career. Yes, there are many cases where someone experiences personal growth through their career. The trick is to understand how to tie your growth to your personal fulfillment.

Does your personal fulfillment come from your personal growth or does growth lead to fulfillment?

Selling Your Story

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What happens when as a leader, you are expected to be the champion for change when you may not necessarily agree or believe in the change?

Change can be difficult and it is typically up to the leadership team to communicate a positive, united front to the entire organization. If you do not agree with the change, do you brush up on your acting skills and pretend that everything is great? Or, are you honest with your feelings and communicate this to your staff, jeopardizing team member buy-in?

The question we need to ask ourselves is this – If we as leaders have become award-winning actors, do our team members really buy what we are selling? Or, do they play the same game and pretend to agree with everything you say? How do we know we are getting a legitimate buy in from our team members if we are unable to communicate honestly?

Do you believe that the manner in which you convey your message is all that important to your team? When you experience organizational change, does your team mirror your attitude and/or demeanor, or is their behavior an example of how they truly feel, regardless of your attitude?

How do you “sell” your story if you do not believe in it?

Outside the Zone

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When was the last time you did something really scary? Maybe not jump-out-of-an-airplane scary, but something that put you way outside of your comfort zone. How did this make you feel? Were you relieved when the experience was over or did you revel in the excitement of doing something new and scary?

I believe we could all agree that doing something outside our comfort zone is uncomfortable at best, terrifying at worst. Have we stopped to consider why we become resistant when testing our limits? It is interesting how people will rationalize their aversion to stepping outside of their comfort zone. There are a million reasons not to try something new when in reality it comes down to a fear of failure. Now think about your team members – those who have performed the same tasks day in and day out. What happens when you ask them to do something completely new and outside of their comfort zone? My team members would either give me a blank stare or the famous deer in the headlights look, followed by a vehement “No, I don’t want to do that.” I used to believe these team members were uninterested or just plain lazy. It took me awhile to understand that it was fear speaking and preventing them from taking a chance.

As leaders, it should be important to set the standard for your team members that jumping outside of your comfort zone is okay and encouraged. Trying something new or presenting a new idea is not always easy, but it is important to understand that risk sometimes involves failure and that should be expected and embraced. If you inspire your team members to try something new through your own example, they may see how the benefits outweigh the risks. Showing them first hand that fear should drive them forward instead of keeping them paralyzed in place, can create a greater comfort level with the idea of stepping outside of their comfort zone.

Trying something new can be scary, but it doesn’t need to be limiting. If you are not willing to go outside the zone, where will your next million-dollar idea come from?

Keep Moving Forward

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This post was inspired by our recent move to the Detroit area from out of state.

When opportunity comes knocking, don’t slam the door in its face. Always a credo I have lived under throughout my life. While change can be big and scary, I always get some sense of exhilaration from moving to a new town. I love the mystery of finding that new awesome spot for lunch, a new park that the kids will love, or the fun festivals that give a locale its character. I guess it is no mystery that I have moved around quite a bit since I graduated from college. And no, I was not running from the law – I just happened to work in the hospitality industry and moved often to advance my career. When my husband came home and asked how I felt about the possibility of moving to Detroit, I really didn’t know what to think. I had been to downtown Detroit once when I was in high school, and I didn’t really remember much of the experience. All I knew about Detroit was what I heard in the media. And at this point in my life, I usually believe about half of what I hear from the popular media. So, we talked about it and decided it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up.  

When we told people we were moving to Detroit, everyone said, “Really? I am so sorry,” or “why would you want to move there?” I don’t understand why someone would say this when they have never been to this city. Yes, the city does have it own set of issues, but I believe you could probably say the same for many other cities across the country. Cities have problems, that is just a truth that exists.  While the media portrays the city of Detroit as this miserable hopeless place that people should flee, it is amazing to see what kind of city actually exists. I can look at this objectively, as I am not a native Michigander so I don’t possess the same sense of “hometown pride” that others that were born and raised here might have. What I have noticed in my short time here is a place that has this crazy frenetic energy. It appears as if people have this sense of hope, like everything is going to be okay if they just keep moving forward.

To truly understand a place, I feel it is important to be still and watch what goes on around you. As I write this, I am being quite cliché and sitting in my favorite coffee house in downtown Detroit – The Roasting Plant. I love one of their tag lines, “Fueling the Motor City.” – It is as if they believe they are keeping the city of Detroit moving. Besides having a terrific cup of coffee, they are also located in a great part of the city, Campus Martius – a crazy hub of activity. Watching all of the young professionals grabbing their important cup of human-fuel on their way into the various office buildings. People are sitting at tables like me and tapping away at their computers. One cannot be sure if they are actually working or just checking the sports scores from last night. Trying to look official while easing into a busy Friday. Cars keep moving around the circle, trying to get where they are going, dodging the multitude of pedestrians attempting to cross the street anywhere but in the crosswalks.

This place is always moving. Shuttle buses weave through the city with “Opportunity Detroit” splashed across the side – like a rally cry to those who live here. Inspiring everyone with an idea that the city is sitting on the verge of greatness. There is an opportunity for something amazing to happen if everyone keeps moving forward. The city is alive and buzzing with activity. Crews are setting up a stage for an upcoming concert in Campus Martius; vendors are setting up booths in Cadillac Square to sell their goods to all who come by to visit. Food trucks are parked, primed and ready for the lunch rush. People are taking a mid-morning break to escape the confines of their office buildings and soak up some late summer sunshine. I’m still looking for the abysmal existence that is supposed to belong to this city. I am not naive enough to believe that it doesn’t exist, but you cannot find it in this part of the city.

It’s high noon, and people are still on the move. An afternoon concert is entertaining the masses while they hang out by the food trucks, eat their lunches, enjoy the weather, and dance when the mood strikes. People move about enjoying their afternoon, wondering how long they can stretch their lunch hour without being missed.

When the workday concludes, people pour out of the various office buildings to gather together to enjoy their summer. They eat, drink, listen to music, and laugh. They gather together to prepare to see their beloved Tigers or Lions. Fans of all ages dressed in their team colors enjoy the scene prior to heading over to the game, moving in the same direction.  

There is a true sense of community in Detroit. The energy flows throughout this city and is a contagious force. When Detroit made a bid to host the X-Games and lost out to another city, did they sit around wringing their hands about the injustices of life? No, they went back to work and are in the process of developing their own event for the city. The can-do spirit here seems to defy reason. Despite the financial crisis that has put the city on the brink, the attitude is one of defiance – this will not break the spirit of those living here, they simply will not allow it to happen. They have an immense amount of pride and love for their city. They keep moving forward.

The media wants everyone to think that Detroit is all doom and gloom. Problems do exist, but it does not dictate the attitude of its residents. I would challenge those naysayers to come and get a true representation of what Detroit and its people are all about. They are not about giving up and going into hiding. They are about rolling up their sleeves and moving forward to prove everyone wrong about their city. 

Formulating your own opinions prior to making an informed decision about something may not always be a popular or hip thing to do – people believe it is important to listen and follow what the popular media feeds us. We allow our opinions to be formed by Twitter, Facebook, and whatever major celebrity might be blogging about. Had I listened to the popular media and those who thought their opinion was worth sharing, I might have missed out on experiencing life. Had my thoughts been governed by what I read online or watched on television, I never would have discovered many great places nor had as many wonderful experiences like we are having in the “D”!