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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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.

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?

The Real You

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Real, not fake, trustworthy – a few thoughts that come to mind when you think about the word authentic. How do we look at our authentic self when it comes to our work persona? Do we choose our positions and/or organizations based upon how they align with who we are? I have often thought about those organizations that encourage people to be real. What happens when an individual person’s “real” does not fit with a company’s culture?

I have thought about the many positions I have held in my lifetime and the level of authenticity I have applied to each of them. In many cases, I was a true authentic – I performed exactly how I am in real life, true to myself. Unfortunately, there were a few positions in which I did not act within my authentic self and I always wondered how it would impact me as a person. For example, I was once employed in an organization where the team members were not as valued as I thought they should be. This created conflict, as my value stream was not in alignment with the others on the leadership team. I attempted to behave in the manner, in which I was expected to, but eventually I could no longer continue to act against my authentic self. I made the conscious decision to act counter-culture to the others on the leadership team. While this did not win me friends within the leadership team, my team members appreciated my efforts in placing value on their positions and work.

It is important that we understand who we are as individuals and how we apply our authenticity to our life in the workplace. If you are not able to be authentic at work, then you may have to question if that is the place you want to be?

 

All Guts, No Glory

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Why do you want to lead? This is a simple question that generates various answers. People have different reasons they desire a leadership role. Some may like to be in charge and leadership allows them this freedom. Others may see leadership as a calling, something they were meant to do. Or, you have the person that thinks their life will get exponentially easier by becoming a leader – they will not have to do all of the work they do now if they are in charge. I always got a kick out of those types, how little they understand about the true meaning of leadership.

Leadership is a labor of love if you want to be an actual leader and not just a manager of people. It takes guts to be a leader, not when everything is humming along well and no problems are on the horizon, but when you are faced with challenging situations. Leadership is when you have to publicly take the blame for something your team did in order to protect their identity. Leadership is when you have to deal with team members who don’t like one another and refuse to work together. Leadership is when you are responsible for making an unpopular decision which impacts many of your team members…. I could go on.  The point being that true leadership is far less glamorous and more of an endurance event.

If you truly want to lead, take away the idea that leadership is all glory and it takes guts. The glory should go to the team for a job well done, not to the leader for helping them get there.

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?

Respect or Fear

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Have we ever stopped to think about how our team members respond to our leadership? Do we lead by respect or fear? I remember certain leaders whom I would go to extremes to provide them with what they requested immediately as I did not want to be on the receiving end of a tirade. Or, I would get a sick feeling in my stomach when I saw their number pop up on my cell phone, wondering what was wrong now. When I reflect back on those experiences, I find it a very sad state of leadership. I felt as if I was unable to have a productive relationship with these leaders due to their style of leadership by intimidation. You did what you had to in order to stay off their radar screen. Unfortunately, most of us have encountered leaders such as these, leaders whom we feared instead of respected.

Thankfully, I have encountered just as many great leaders that I had immense admiration for due to the way they led with respect for their team. These leaders led with high regard to their team members, not a high regard for themselves. These types of leaders were easy to be around, they expected the best out of us, but did not scare us into producing excellent work. They believed in an open and collaborative environment. Having such respect for these leaders made it easy for everyone to work hard and do what was best for the organization.

I believe that leadership by intimidation occurs when a leader’s ego gets in the way. When an over-inflated self worth overshadows the purpose of leadership, this leader believes they can get the job done any way they want, even if it means belittling team members. The sad part to this line of thinking is this type of leader believes their team has great respect for them. In reality, these teams perform out of fear.

Don’t confuse leadership intimidation with leaders who are tough when they need to be. Leaders may need to exhibit a tough facade when there are issues at hand. However, it is possible to be tough without compromising the respect you have for your team members. True, your team may not enjoy having a difficult conversation with you, but having these conversations in a respectful manner shows that you care and want the best out of them.

Respect is earned, not coerced through intimidation. How do you lead?