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!

What Do You See?

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By Lead in the Moment guest blogger, EJ Widun

When you look at the picture above what do you see? Do you see an upside down landscape or do you see something more?

This picture is actually a photo of a reflection of a landscape and sunset in a pond. If you look closely, you can see the ripples in the water. I took this photo while walking through a park with my daughter on a beautiful summer evening. Both of us have a passion for unique and interesting photos. As we were walking, she asked me to take a picture. So I snapped the photo, but did not realize the real beauty of what I captured until she showed me.

When I brought the picture up on my phone, my daughter showed me the true amazing features in this picture. Things I did not see when I snapped it. You can see the ripples in the water or you can see an inverted picture. If you look closely, you can see the slight orange glow of sunset reflected in the water.

After realizing how cool this photo was, I was more impressed at what I learned. It is amazing how you can change your perspective just by listening to a simple conversation. Do you ever stop and realize the golden nuggets in a conversation with a friend or colleague over coffee? Do you marvel at what a child can notice compared to what you take for granted or can be too busy to see?

My lesson from this day was to make sure I take time to notice the small details and intricacies of each day; otherwise, I will miss out on something amazing. When you think about your personal life or your career, these are words of wisdom to live by.

All Things to All People

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Do people-pleasers make good leaders? Pleasing others can create a nice, happy environment, but in an organization, can being a people pleaser lead to big problems?

You know the old saying about not being able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. If you have figured it out, please let me know your secret! When you are tasked with creating a positive work environment for numerous people, it is simply not possible to be all things to all people. Everyone looks at the world in a different way, and have different perspectives, which can bring conflict. If you spend all of your time trying to please every single person all of the time, you are not leading – you are just reacting to those around you.

There are times when a leader needs to make a difficult decision, and it is not necessarily a popular decision. While it is important to take the opinions and feelings of your team members under consideration, there are times when tough decisions must be made and there will be unhappy people. Trying to be a people pleaser doesn’t help out; it can make an already difficult situation even worse. For example, if you have to make a difficult decision and you attempt to make everyone happy, there will be some who are satisfied with your decision and others who believe that you are just accommodating others and do not care about them. This can create division and animosity between your team members.

I worked for a leader one time who led with the idea that you could not make everyone happy, but as long as you treated everyone in a consistent, fair manner, people may not be happy with your decisions, but they could at least respect you.

Are you all things to all people?

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.

Do You Have a Back-Story?

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A strange thought occurred to me the other day when I was preforming my annual after-Easter tradition of turning all of the Easter eggs into egg salad. As I was peeling and mashing up a dozen hard-boiled eggs, I noticed there were a few eggs where the coloring had gone through onto the egg white. This is nothing new, typically when small children color Easter eggs, the words “gently place the egg in the color” does not apply and a few eggs will be cracked, allowing the egg dye to seep through.

Where am I going with this, right? If I went to the store and bought egg salad then discovered small pieces of green and blue in it, I would definitely return it. However, I don’t have a problem with small pieces of green and blue egg in my own egg salad because I know why it is there.

How many times have we taken a look at a person or situation in a negative light because we do not have all of the information? We are quick to judge something because it looks unusual or appears unsettling to us.  What happens when we have all of the information about something or someone? Does the same situation that previously bothered us impact us in a different way once we understand the back-story?

I guess you could say it is like the old saying that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Maybe things wouldn’t bother us as much if we understand why. If the pizza you ordered takes longer than 30 minutes and it is snowing heavily, you understand why your order might be taking longer than expected and are less likely to get angry.

Am I saying that you should keep food from the grocery that has foreign objects in it? Definitely not! What I am saying is that sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to understand that there is generally a reason why something might not appear to be as you expect it to, just like green and blue egg salad!

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.