Thursday, December 31, 2015

LifeEditing

In his book titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2011) Donald Miller makes the case that we edit our own lives, we write our own stories.  To be sure, things happen to us in life that are beyond our control.  Generally, however, we have the power to be who we want to be, proceed as we want to proceed, and react to prosperity/adversity as we wish.  We do, in fact, "edit" our lives.

We will continue writing the story of our lives tomorrow.  As such, we usually hang a sort of esteemed status on the new year's dawning, christening it with the specialness of a clean slate.  Indeed, yet we have that same opportunity with the dawn of each new day.

The authors of the best stories (both the literary kind and the life-story kind) do their writing with an eye in both directions.  They connect with the pages/chapters past fluidly as they craft the pages/chapters future.  Knowing they can't unwrite the pages already published, they are fully aware that they can take the next pages/chapters in any direction they wish.

Here's to writing the next pages/chapters as you wish them to be.  

Happy New Life!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

WhatGreatPrincipalsDoDifferently

I recently read What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker (2012).  This is a second edition; I read the original version back around 2004.  


In this work TW outlines 18 tangible attributes he identifies as blue-chip qualities of great principals, from his decades of research.  

My biggest takeaways, from a book that is chock full of great thoughts:

  • It's the people, not the programs, that make the real difference in successful schools/organizations.
  • Be ultra visible and ultra accessible.
  • Hire the people you want your organization to become, not the ones who fit the organization as it is. 
  • Refuse to let hot-button issues or inconsequential urgencies distract us from what matters most.
  • Focus first on behaviors; beliefs will follow.
  • Base organizational decisions (e.g., schedules, rules, protocols, guidelines, expectations) on the best employees, not the worst ones. 
  • Ignore minor errors.
  • Behavior and beliefs are implicately tied to emotion.  

My favorite quote:
"Every principal has an impact.  Great principals make a difference." (p. 141) 

TW's thinking regarding principals adapts nicely to leadership in general, germane regardless of organizational setting.  Glad I read this book (again). 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

InfluenceMultipliers

Colin Powell (former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and former U.S. Secretary of State) refers to what he calls "force multipliers."  These are strategies we can use that accelerate or intensify the impact of an action/campaign/initiative.  Think of them as steroids for impact.   

According to David Rock (2008) there are certain similar factors that allow us to magnify our ability to influence others.  By reducing the sensation of threat and at the same time leveraging the nuanced impression of reward we can enhance our influence via five domains:

Status - making others feel more important
Certainty - removing as much uncertainty about the future as possible
Autonomy - giving others as much control of their own work/destiny as possible
Relatedness - fostering a sense of safety
Fairness - cultivating an environment of equity and fair exchange

Using this SCARF model, we make it easier for others to trust us.  Sort of like steroids for influence.  

Or, to channel General Powell, influence multipliers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fire

Fire is...
what warms us when we're cold.
what we use to cook much of our food.
how we incinerate stuff we don't want around anymore.
what we do when we discharge a weapon.
when we terminate someone's employment.

Fire is a tool for our use (both in its noun and verb forms).  As with all tools, we get to decide whether that use is for purposes good or bad.

Metaphorically, fire is what burns deep inside of us, providing the passionate connection to our goals, our dreams, and the ones we love.

That metaphorical fire can and often does go out, but only if we quit purposefully stoking it.

Still, the choice is ours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

ArtfulDodgers

Most of us encounter artful dodgers as we work in or volunteer for organizations of some kind.

What do artful dodgers look like?  They avoid...

  • making substantive decisions.
  • owning the decisions they do make.
  • having tough conversations.
  • sharing the praise/glory/kudos.
  • the messy but meaningful work that occurs on the front lines.
  • change when it's evident that change is needed.
  • the explosion, once they've lit the fuse.

The worst of the artful dodgers are those who happen to occupy positions of leadership.  

While we can't completely avoid the artful dodgers, we can most certainly avoid being like them.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Guilty

I've committed every one of the leadership mistakes in the list below:

  • Talking too much and listening too little
  • Trying to "fix" the weaknesses of others rather than leveraging their strengths
  • Deploying too many initiatives at one time
  • Believing flattery
  • Noticing only the bad stuff
  • Attempting to resolve conflict through email
  • Allowing uncertainty to prevent progress
As I abandoned each, slowly but surely, our results got increasingly better.

Still got work to do, but knowing what doesn't work is a good start.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Distrust

Distrust causes us to...

  • View others warily, as if they have malicious intent.
  • Act in defensive ways in the interest of self-protection.
  • Limit our communications.
  • Bureaucratize processes/rules/structures that constrain others.
  • Engage others with skepticism and apprehension.
  • Refrain from letting ourselves care.
  • Live in a state of disquiet and foreboding.
Distrust tends to restrict our vision, our level of communication, our productivity, our connectedness, and our happiness.  

Generally, distrust makes us less than we can/should be.  We are better served, both personally and organizationally, when we extend distrust only to those who have proven they deserve it.

Trust is by far the better default setting 
(unless we like living in of world constant anxiety and suspicion). 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

ChangingMe

Change is not discomforting to me.  I've come to accept change as the norm.

Change continually happens around us, in the form of technological advances, political winds, social arrangements, fashion trends, and the like.

Sometimes, however, I feel the need to change me.  That need usually springs from one of the following:
  • A desire to be/get better, somehow.
  • The realization that I've been wrong in some way, and need to rectify it.
  • The need to adapt to evolving external factors.
Two questions drive my decision to change me:
  1. Is there concrete and irrefutable evidence that I need to change?
  2. Will I be a better servant to others as a result of the change?
Emotion and social trends are not sufficient to trigger change effort in me.  The need must be something deeper and more substantive.  

Well-intentioned change makes us better (which is a good thing).

Monday, December 14, 2015

BusinessSecrets

I recently read Business Secrets from the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin (2014). 


In this book, Rabbi Lapin outlines 40 "business secrets" that he believes are rooted in scripture.  He often references "ancient wisdom" as he makes the case that working for and attaining wealth is a good and holy thing. 

My biggest takeaways from the book:
  • Worthy work, and the money that flows toward it, is always premised on serving others. 
  • Faith drives both religion and commerce.
  • We are meant to work and commune others.
  • The greatest gift we can give is to do something good for another person's children.
  • We are ALL in business, serving customers (which is sometimes our employer).
  • Success is a direct function of self-discipline, integrity, and character.
  • Culture and language shape one another.
  • Time is inextricably tied to speech and music.
  • The two primary means of making money are creation and transport.
My favorite of his "business secrets":
  • Secret #7: Focus on other people's needs and desires, and you will never, ever be short of what you yourself desire and need.
  • Secret #9: We love the people whom we help more than we love those who help us. 
  • Secret #10: Life isn't about what you know - it's about who you are.
  • Secret #18: The importance of service is that you cannot lead if you cannot follow.
  • Secret #33: Don't live beyond your means - give beyond your means. 
My favorite quote:

"At the end of the day, what we know means nothing; it is who we are, what we do, that matters."  (p. 73)
A provocative read.  Thanks for the recommendation, TC/DC.    

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saboteurs

Damage and destruction occur at the hand of saboteurs.  Sometimes that harmful work is done quite intentionally.  Other times, however, it is the product of the unwitting.

Tools of Willful Sabotage (via the ill-intentioned)
  • Insistence on adherence to the rules/processes - slavery to the letter of the law
  • Pervasive use of committees
  • Talking "it" to death
  • Introducing distractors - taking focus off the vision
  • Incessant word smithing
  • Constant rehashing of past decisions
  • Being stuck on the starting line - reluctance to say "GO!"
  • Aversion to ownership
  • Continual permission seeking

Tools of Unwitting Sabotage (via the well-intentioned)
  • Insistence on adherence to the rules/processes - slavery to the letter of the law
  • Pervasive use of committees
  • Talking "it" to death
  • Introducing distractors - taking focus off the vision
  • Incessant word smithing
  • Constant rehashing of past decisions
  • Being stuck on the starting line - reluctance to say "GO!"
  • Aversion to ownership
  • Continual permission seeking
There are some rather obvious similarities, no?  Regardless of the motivations, sabotage is sabotage.  And saboteurs are saboteurs, irrespective of intentions.

Constantly reflecting on what we're doing, why we're doing it, and how we might do it better can help us avoid the sabotage trap (both of the ill- and the well-intentioned varieties).  

It's the only way to improve, continuously.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

LittleFolks

One of my favorite songs is titled "Little Folks," written and recorded by Charlie Daniels.

This time of year always heightens my awareness of the need to model the best of human attributes for those young people whose eyes perpetually follow us.  

Attributes like... 
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Patience
  • Positivity
  • Courage
  • Kindness
  • Gratefulness
  • Respectfulness
  • Love (expressed and manifested)
  • Forgiveness (offered and accepted)
  • Faithfulness (to each other and to the God of our understanding)
While this season is known for giving, what better gifts could we give the "little folks" in our lives than to teach them the ways of right living, as embodied in those attributes above?

"Little folks are people, too; very much like me and you." 
(Per the song referenced at the top of this post.)  

Indeed.  They become us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Transcendant

We can transcend...

our biases,
our weaknesses,
our learned prejudices,
our preconceived notions,
our blind spots of ignorance.

But only if we're willing.

Willing to learn, that is.

Monday, December 7, 2015

AmI?

Am I...

  • stronger than I was yesterday (physically, emotionally, intellectually)?
  • more knowledgeable than I was last week?
  • more empathetic toward others than I was last month?
  • more inclined to serve than I was last year?
  • more loving and forgiving than I have ever been?
  • less judgmental than I have ever been in my life?
  • closer, somehow, to the God of my understanding than I was in the last hour?
An answer of "no" to any of those questions calls for a bit more polishing.

I'm on it.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hereafter

Hereafter is one word, not two.

The HERE is part of the AFTER.


This moment is part and parcel of our future.  Any aspirations, planned changes, or dreams we have for that future start now.  
Planning to get better later doesn't work.

Self/Organizational improvement is actionable and appropriate in this moment, and it continues ad infinitum.  


Continuous improvement is a way of thinking which drives the way we act/react.

Here, now, and after.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Strength

Diversity adds richness - diversity in thought, diversity in age, diversity in maturity, diversity in skin color, diversity in expertise, diversity in gifts, diversity in political leanings, diversity in religious inclinations.  

Diversity, however, does not necessarily imply strength.  

Strength comes from unity, unified effort around a noble and worthy vision.

The best leaders (and the ones, unfortunately, that are hardest to find) are the ones that encourage us to celebrate our diversity and teach us how to respect our differences, yet have the ability to help us see the better future we can create through coalescing around that vision.  

That kind of leader is worth more than his/her weight in gold.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

ConsequenceOrCoincidence?

My friend and wellness advisor, Dr. Roby Mitchell, is fond of saying, "Consequence is no coincidence."

RM's assertion is spot on.  Our habits guide our behavior, every day, in small ways and large.

From our daily hygiene routines to the way we read newspapers/newsfeeds to the order in which we eat our food to the processes we use to organize our schedules, all are driven by habits.  In most cases, there's not a right or wrong way to do such things.  For instance, there's not a correct way to shave our faces/legs, but each of us has a habitual process by which we accomplish the task.

Some habits, however, are far more consequential than the routine ones noted above.  When it comes to our health, our spiritual state, the nutrition we choose to consume, our intellectual growth, the "rules of engagement" we use when interacting with others both professionally and personally, our habits have far greater impact on our happiness, success, and wellbeing.  

Can we change our habits?  You bet!  First, we gotta want to.

To be certain, "Consequence is no coincidence."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Purpose

Purpose.
On purpose.
Purposeful.
The purpose behind.
Repurposing.
The purpose of.

Purpose gives our efforts meaning and direction.

We can pick worthy purpose(s), or we can surrender to the bogus and/or hollow.

Purpose is like the lighthouse that guides a ship through storms, darkness, and fog.  It keeps us "steady" when circumstances dictate uncertainty. 

Purpose is not as much the end we seek as it is the direction we choose.

And, yes, we get to choose.

Monday, November 30, 2015

BridgesOrWalls

We encounter folks all the time.  Some we know, some we don't.

With each encounter one of two things occurs, we either build a bridge between us and the other person, or we build a wall.

We make this choice, whether we realize it or not.  That bridge or wall building is enacted through our words, our facial expressions, our level of attentiveness, our degree of listening, our disposition, our emotional state, and our body language.

To be happy, successful, and productive in life, we need to build a LOT more bridges than walls.

In fact, walls are rarely beneficial.




Saturday, November 28, 2015

PermacultureS's

Permaculture is a worldwide movement dedicated to teaching the principles of agricultural, environmental, and social self-sufficiency.  In effect, it is a pedagogy of regenerative sustainability in the production of food and in the provision of environmental/social security.

I have become a disciple of the movement, for a number of reasons: 
  • I no longer trust government to provide for the best interests of me, my family, and my community.
  • I no longer trust corporations (e.g., big ag, big pharma, etc.) to provide for the best interests of me, my family, and my community.
  • I no longer want to be enslaved to those whom I do not know to provide for the best interests of me, my family, and my community.
Rooted in the philosophy of permaculture is the tenet that abundance is achievable, even at the micro level.  Individuals and communities can liberate themselves from dependency on costly and self-serving governmental structures, and in doing so, can experience greater levels of productivity, happiness, wellbeing, and health.

A number of "S" words align well with the precepts of permaculture:
  • Sustainability - long-term health for Earth and all its inhabits (human and otherwise)
  • Self-sufficiency - for individuals, for families, for communities
  • Symbiotic - relationships with/in nature 
  • Seditious - in that it frees us from dependency on government
  • Subversive - in that it authentically advances social equity
  • Self-reliance - in providing for ourselves and our families
  • Self-actualizing - in fostering a healthy sense of confidence, competency, community
  • Spiritual - in heightening our awareness of the magnificent systems in and Source of our existence
I find myself increasingly drawn to all those "S" words. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

AChainOfThunder

I recently read A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara (2014).  The book is an historical novel, detailing the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1863, by the Union Army under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant.  


A Chain of Thunder provides insight into the thinking, the tactical strategies, the key players, and the politics at play in 1863 as the Union Army struggled to control the vital shipping route of the Mississippi River, on which Vicksburg served as a critical Confederate stronghold.  

It is good for me to read novels of this nature as they remind me of the sacrifices made and hardships endured in the evolution of the United States.  As in all points in the history of mankind, leaders with flaws were/are called upon to act in extraordinary ways in the interest of the greater good.  Not always have such leaders met with success;  and, those efforts are often accompanied by egregious loss of life (innocent and otherwise) and property.  

To be sure, war is an ugly affair, its atrocities eclipsed only by the ugliness of capitulation to the forces of evil.  

I have read numerous books by JS (and his father, Michael Shaara) over the years.  All are compelling and well-written accounts of pivotal military campaigns in the history of the United States.  I’ll continue reading their works.  They inform me and cause me to reflect on the important things in life, both at the micro- and the macro-level.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

SparkChampions

In the video titled "Spark: How We Thrive," Peter Bensen describes the power of recognizing, igniting, and feeding the "spark" of children.  The video is just over 20 minutes long, but well worth the time.  Click here to view it.  

In a graduate class I teach, I recently asked students to recollect a teacher/adult who recognized and nurtured their "spark."  My students easily called forth the names and impact of powerful spark champions in their lives.  The testimonials moved me to tears.

Each of us has the opportunity to influence the children in our lives through this relatively simple process.  We can notice what interests them, feed that interest freely and zealously, and relentlessly show that they and their success are important to us.

As the stories of my graduate students indicate, spark champions come in many varieties:  parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, professors, bosses.  

It costs us virtually nothing to be a spark champion.  The gift is freely given, the fruit of the efforts intangible and timeless.

On this day of thanks, I am intensely aware and grateful for the spark champions in my life. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MarkLeaving

I am an educator by profession.

In my 35 years of service in the profession I have seen many extraordinary teachers.  All left/leave a positive and long-lasting mark on their students.  In fact, I'm the beneficiary of numerous teachers/coaches/counselors/principals/superintendents/professors of that ilk.

It's not enough, however, to only leave a mark on our students.  While leaving a mark on our students is extremely important, we also have the responsibility of leaving a mark on our profession.  

How might we do that?  Through mentoring the next generation of professional educators, through pushing the boundaries of our craft in order to broaden its scope and effectiveness, in sharing what we have learned about the teaching-learning process with others, by engaging in substantive discourse about getting better at our work (both as teams and as individuals).

I suspect that that kind of mark leaving applies to all professions.  While serving the "customers" is a laudable thing, advancing the profession is equally important.

If the profession matters to us, that is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Anomalies

"Anomaly" is an interesting word that means that something/someone is different from what is normal or expected.  Some words that have similar meaning are irregular, rare, abnormal.

It's unfortunate that leaders 
who speak plainly, 
who model integrity, 
who exemplify honesty, 
who are service-oriented, 
who consistently adhere to principle, 
who willingly own their decisions (and mistakes), 
are often viewed as anomalies.

Wouldn't it be nice if those leadership anomalies............weren't?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

JustFishin'

Trace Adkins recorded a song in 2011 titled "Just Fishin'."  

The song describes a father taking his young daughter fishing.  While she believes the experience is all about fishing, the father understands the experience to be intentionally multidimensional.

My younger years were filled with those experiences that I thought were simply "fishing trips."  Perhaps you also have benefited from the wisdom, the guidance, the mentoring, the relationship building, the solace, the teaching of a beloved parent/grandparent/great grandparent, embedded in the simple activity of fishing (or sewing or cooking or gardening or building stuff).

As time has passed, the shoe has increasingly been on the other foot.  More and more I find myself sharing important nuggets of life-wisdom through the profound acts of fishing or playing cards or gathering eggs or walking in the pasture.  Little do they suspect.  They think we're just fishin'.

Here's the song.  

Enjoy.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Matter

1) Matter is physical stuff that occupies space - a noun.

2) Matter is an incident, an experience, a situation - another noun.

3) Matter is a condition of being significant, to be consequential - a verb.

We can just be matter (#1), or we participate in a matter (#2), or we can actually matter (#3).

#1 requires little of us, #2 requires a bit more, #3 requires a LOT.

We can matter little or we can matter a lot.  It's our choice.  

And, it matters.

"In fact, we're capable of creating work that matters only if we're willing to be uncomfortable while we do it." - Seth Godin (2014)


Thursday, November 19, 2015

DefenseShieldSyndrome

We all have our defense shields.  It's when our instincts tell us to BEWARE, danger or offense may be imminent.  For the most part, this psychological mechanism protects us from harm, either physical or emotional.  That's generally a good thing.

What is NOT a good thing is when our defense shields have to be constantly deployed in our workplaces.  In order to do our best work, we should be able to spend all our energy focused on the intentional pursuit of our goals.  Being constantly in defensive mode drains our energy, our time, our creativity, and our productivity.  It's sort of like a slow bleed.

Leaders can create and empower workplaces free of the Defense Shield Syndrome by:

  • Being persistently transparent in our actions and discussions.
  • Practicing and encouraging vulnerable behaviors, by which we signal it's okay to make mistakes and to talk about them openly and to learn from them.
  • Noticing and praising the effort of others consistently.
  • Censuring hateful and disrespectful behavior, at any level of the organization.
  • Promoting an environment of caring.
  • Celebrating the good stuff, often and in many ways.
  • Encouraging creativity and innovation (i.e., risk taking), in all quarters.
  • Modeling honesty and trustworthiness, all the time.
It really boils down to creating an atmosphere of trust - trust that runs vertically, horizontally, obliquely, and multi-directionally throughout the organization.

We can start NOW...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Robotic

Moe (my lovely bride of 38 years) and I made a rare foray into the big city recently.  On one of our stops we did some shopping in a multinational retail chain store.  

Upon checking out, I was struck by the disconnect between what the cashier was saying versus my mental reading of his authenticity.  Per the script, he said things like, "How're you folks doing today?" and "Having a good day?" and "Did you find everything you were looking for?"  

Between these well-scripted exchanges meant to forge a positive relationship with us his eyes were wandering past us, in disinterested observation of other things going on.  I'm not sure he even heard our responses.  He even yawned at one point during the exchange.

Perfect, but not pitch perfect.  Right stuff, wrong way.

In effect, he was robotic.  I'm sure the management folks of that company are proud of the money, time, and effort they put into their training systems.  However, the critical link in meaningful human interactions is and always has been authentic engagement.  Some do it quite well naturally, some do it quite well by faking it, some don't even pretend to care, and the equally egregious kind (like the fellow mentioned above) do it robotically.  

Back to the training modules...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fundamentals

In our personal and professional lives we default to our fundamentals.  Wise coaches/mentors ingrained in me that understanding early in my life as an athlete and later in my professional career.  When things turn a bit chaotic or when the pressure becomes really intense, we automatically default to the fundamentals of our training.  

What are those "fundamentals?"  They're our basic behavioral responses.  Things like courtesy, respectfulness, thoughtfulness, reflectiveness, kindness, fairness.  More could be added to this list, but you get the point.

Just like in athletics, we can embed certain fundamental response behaviors into our pysche.  How?  By making them habits, by practicing them every day, by building them into our daily routines.

Then, when the world gets a little crazy on us (and it always will), we automatically default to those fundamentals.

And, just as in athletics, if we neglect purposefully practicing those fundamentals, we'll default to much uglier kinds of responses.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Heartless

Leading requires heart.

There are those who think they can lead without it, that they can insulate themselves from caring while leading others.  But, any evidence of effectiveness in this regard is chimeral.  

Trying to express care through memos or public address announcements doesn't really work.  We have to show up, in person.  Some ways we can manifest caring:

  • Notice - others, what they're doing, how they contribute, when they hurt.
  • Help - by lending a hand, by offering support, by rolling up our sleeves and contributing.
  • Defend - the good work and noble effort of those around us who are diligently pursuing our collective goals.
  • Remember - names, past efforts, former campaigns together, interests.
  • Touch - through hand shakes, hugs, fist bumps (but don't get weird).
  • Listen - a hole right through 'em.  Always listen, too much.  

Caring takes work, but the dividends are plentiful.

Being heartless is just another way to dodge our own responsibilities as leaders. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

PersonalizedLearning

Real learning has always been personalized.

IF the learning stuck, it became personal to us somehow.  Whether it's figuring out how to say the alphabet, how to multiply two-digit numbers, how to solve chemical equations, or how to interpret poetry.

Same goes for learning non-academic stuff like how to cook biscuits, how to keep books, how to plow a field, or how to raise children.  The more important the stuff we're learning, the more likely that that learning can never end.  

Real learning is lasting learning, and it only occurs when it becomes personal to us.  There comes a point when we actually get curious about it, when we decide its worth learning in the first place, where we desire to know more of what's there, when we see its relevance for today and beyond.

A lot of variables are at play in the ignition of real learning, but the most prominent is a magical teacher to light the spark.  Those magical teachers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, and levels of education.  So thankful to have had so many of them in my past.  

Blessedly, I have many of them still.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

FoodSanity(17.0)

Dog lovers know that when we feed our dog crappy, nutritionally sparse food (usually quite cheap), we see worsened physical condition, lower energy, and behavioral deficits emerge.  When we feed our dog high quality, nutritionally dense food, we see the positive effects in their physical condition, in their level of energy, and in their performance (usually expressed behaviorally).  In cats, we see the same manifestations occur in proportion to the nutritional quality of the food we provide them.

Moe and I see the same scenarios play out with our dairy cows.  High quality, nutritionally dense feed yields improved physical condition, improved energy, and improved quality of the milk they produce.  Same thing happens with our chickens.

When we feed ourselves low quality, nutritionally sparse food our physical condition also diminishes, our energy levels decline, and our behavioral/performance markers wane.  When we feed ourselves high quality, nutritionally dense food, we see rapid and significant improvement in our body condition, our energy levels, and our performance/behavioral markers.  

Imagine the impact on our bodies if we consume poor quality, nutritionally scant food for years, or even decades!  Been there, done that, and my body/mind/emotions showed it.  For at least forty years I was extremely well-fed by volume (too much so), but nutritionally malnourished.  And, I was paying a price for it.

REAL FOOD is what our bodies crave and need.  And, with a wee bit of work, we can find it (or produce it ourselves).  The benefits are priceless.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

BoldaciousLeaders

We've all followed leaders, lots of them.  Some, however, stand out as exceptional in our minds.

I like to think of those extra special kinds of leaders as boldacious (yep, I made that word up).

Here are some of the things about boldacious leaders that make them so extraordinary:

  • They help us see better futures for ourselves, both individually and collectively.
  • They invite us to come along on their journey (they don't demand compliant followership).
  • They are passionate about the journey they're on, and it's contagious.
  • They accept us just as we are, then invest in us like crazy to move us toward our best possibilities.
  • They communicate consistently and persistently about where they think we oughta go and why they think it's important to go there.
  • They genuinely care about us, and it shows.
Sign me up, Captain.  I'll gladly play on Team Boldacious.

Significance

Our significance in life is directly proportional to the service we provide to others.

When we are focused on serving others we make their lives better, often without their even knowing it.  These acts of service can be small or large, they can be ongoing or ad hoc.  Those served by us can be loved and well-known, or complete strangers.  Service has no limits or boundaries. 

No credentials or specialized training is required to serve.  We can all provide service to others regardless of our age, our level of education, or our station in life.

When serving ourselves we become less; when serving others we become more ... significant.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

TheOppositeOfWinning

The opposite of winning is learning.  Or, at least, it should be.  

Winning is great fun, but none of us get to win all the time.

Losing can be, and often is, quite painful.  But, it's rarely fatal.

Each time we win, we should be thankful (graciously so).  Each time we lose, we should think deeply about what we've learned from the experience that will help us get back into the win column the next time around.  

Oh, and one more thing:  The opposite of learning ....... is losing.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bobbleheads

Most of us have worked on a team or in an organization that had some bobbleheads.  These are the folks that smile, nod, and pretend to agree (whether they do or not).  

Some classic "symptoms" of bobblehead-itis are:
  1. The disinclination to participate fully in crafting solutions.
  2. The incipient insertion of the question stem of "Yeah, but how ... ?" into almost all discussions.
  3. The unwillingness to energetically engage in the deployment of an agreed upon strategy.
  4. Hiding from or outright fearing responsibility.
Organizational leaders can, by the environments we create, encourage or discourage the number and impact of the bobbleheads.

Here are some strategies that will reduce their number and their deleterious impact:
  • Ensure full and open disclosure of information relevant to the organization.
  • Make sure all members of the team/organization have voice.
  • NEVER punish members for using the voice we have given them.  Make it safe for dissent.
  • Praise the team for the "wins," and own the "losses" personally.
  • Constantly review, revisit, revise (i.e., continuous improvement mode).  
The more complex the problems we face, the more unclear the "right" solutions will be.  All voices need to be heard, all minds are needed in the crafting of solutions.  Once decisions are made, all shoulders are needed at the wheel. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

DoOvers

In both our personal and professional lives one of the most powerful questions we can ask of ourselves (or those on our team) is this:

What would we do differently if we were starting this project/task anew?

WITHOUT implied critique and 
WITH         invitation for reflection, 
that question puts us in the zone of the continuous improvement mindset.

That, by the way, is a great zone to live and work in.

Do overs should not only be allowed, but encouraged.  It's how we get better.

Friday, November 6, 2015

CommunicationsGold

More than any other time in history, we have available to us a plethora of communications tools with which to connect with our audience(s).

Those include blogs, podcasts, email, videos, newsletters, Tweets, Instagram posts, direct marketing, Pinterest, paid advertising, Facebook, microbursts (such as Pandora ads and pop-ups).  Each day seems to bring a new way to communicate with our customers, associates, friends, and family.

However, the most powerful tool we have in our communications tool chest is and always has been...

LISTENING!

It cost so little, and always pays huge dividends.  It is simply the communications gold standard. 

We can start (or continue) now...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

BarbedPraise

One of the techniques of supervision is to soften the blow of critical feedback by sandwiching it between elements of praise.

Most of us have probably been a victim of such disingenuous connivery.  As soon as the first lines of positive feedback come our way we begin to feel the tension, to expect the barb, to steel ourselves against the expected negative critique (often called "constructive criticism").  The defense shields go up.

To complete the loop, the person offering the negative feedback (often the boss) then tries to soothe the pain by applying the balm of more positive feedback.

Most of us also remember only the negative ("constructive") criticism that came to us through the exchange.

Since none of us receive negative criticism all that well (a fact grounded in research), why not simply offers lots of positive feedback to others?  The kind that is real, legitimate, authentic, and springs from our actually noticing the good stuff they've done.  

Leaders would do well to skip the negative critiques unless/until we're asked for "constructive criticism."  When it is requested, deliver it gently and in the form of opening a dialogue about how we get better, on purpose, everyday.

Monday, November 2, 2015

WhichPeak?

We all need a mountain to climb, a big-picture goal around which we can build our plans and focus our efforts.  Knowing where it is we want to go is critical, in both our personal and professional lives.


It's not like there's a right or a wrong peak to challenge.  Pick one.

For any chosen peak/goal we get to select the path(s) by which we traverse it.  Pick one.

Challenging the peak/goal is always more fun and more self-actualizing when we do it with another person or a team of others.  Pick one.

When pursuing lofty goals we can expect setbacks.  The only question is which path we choose to overcome/circumvent the barriers.  Pick one.

Our cheerleaders are usually those who are at, or busy pursuing, their own pinnacle.  They are legion.  Pick one.  
(Our detractors, by the way, are typically those who are still "stuck" at the base or who have given up on their own aspirations.  Don't pick one.) 

Godspeed if you're already climbing your chosen mountain.  If not, pick one.  

GO!