Thursday, June 30, 2016

ShowingUp

One of my mentors claims that 90% of success in life is accomplished by simply "showing up."  When I first heard that assertion I was a bit skeptical.  As I have observed successful people in action for over five decades, however, I have come to accept that idea as credible.

Another way to phrase the concept of "showing up" is to think of it as being fully "present."  Some folks physically show up, but they're not present.  Some folks show up, but they're not accessible.  Some folks participate in a conversation, they technically show up, but they're not really present.  Some folks gladly don a job title (some quite lofty) and show up (mostly for the goodies), but they're not present.

Being present, really showing up, does not guarantee that we'll be more loved or richer or smarter or healthier or more respected.  It does, however, get us a lot closer to those things than not showing up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Snapshot

We tend to experience life in the now, in this moment, as if it is a snapshot.  Dismay, elation, happiness, grief, pride, love and so many other emotional states seem to envelope us right now, today.

Yet, life plays out rather like a movie.  To be sure, the moments, events, the experiences have a specific date and time attached to them (just like a snapshot).  However, when we think of and view our lives as a movie, we have tremendous power to affect the "story" as it unfolds.

We write the script.  We greatly influence the way the story unfolds.  We have ultimate control of how the main character - ourself - is developed, we have the power to foster healthy relationships (or not), we can impact our world through acts of service (or not), we can gently engage with the planet upon which we live (or not), and we can choose to commune authentically with the God of our understanding (or not).

The snapshots count, but the movie matters most.  

Lights, camera, ...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cooked

Leading is the art of "moving" people - to action, toward a better future, in pursuit of a worthy goal.  Managing is the act of moving "stuff" - inventory, products, services, fleets, etc. 

Some leaders are also excellent managers, but know they can't possibly do all the managing, too.  They learn to juggle managerial responsibilities, with the healthy cooperation of many others, while continuing to stay focused on the big picture tasks of leading.

Some leaders are not so good at managing, and realize it.  Consequently, they figure out how to compensate for their managerial shortcomings by effectively enlisting the help of others in that work. 

Some leaders are not so good at managing, but don't know it.  The organizations they lead are often "on fire," lurching from one crisis to another.  The whack-a-mole game we play at the carnival comes to mind with this type of leadership model, with tremendous effort being expended in reactive bursts, and more frustration than success to show for it.  

Finally, some leaders are excellent managers, so they try to do ALL the work of leading and managing.  They find themselves over scheduled, sleep deprived, family starved, and over worked.  Despite their considerable gifts and talents, they often crash - physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  

Wise leaders constantly assess the state of their own wellness and that of the organization.   Cooking either is a not a useful outcome.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Robust

A handwritten letter sent via the postal service will still get the message to the receiver.  A horse with a saddle will still get us from one town to the next.  A blackboard and chalk can still serve as a presentation method by which to convey information.  Oxen pulling a plow can still be used to farm the land.  The card catalog in the library can still be used as the look-up tool for research.

But why?  Why would we choose anything less than the most robust tools available to achieve our goals?

If we cling to old ways of doing things for sentimental reasons, perhaps we can be forgiven (who doesn't like riding in a classic car?).  If we cling to obsolete tools for ulterior motives, perhaps we can be forgiven.(digging a hole with a shovel is great exercise).  However, if we opt for antiquated and/or less efficient ways of doing things simply because we're too lazy or afraid to adopt the use of more powerful tools, it's probably time for some self-reflection.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Generators

Many effective leaders I know are powerful generators.  They generate the best thinking of their teams.  They generate high levels of commitment and effort.  They generate enthusiasm in the endeavor.  They generate exemplary performance and service.  How do these folks generate all that powerful synergy?

They're masters at listening and asking questions, 
                                           and listening and asking questions, 
                                                              and listening and...

Questions like:
How might we make this even better?
What things might we stop doing that will improve our service/product?
What ideas could we pilot that might add to our effectiveness?
What opposing points of view or arguments can we expect to hear?
How might we better SERVE our customers?  

I'm guessing it's rather obvious why those leader-generators are so effective...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Clarity

The best leaders I know work relentlessly for clarity.  They perpetually pursue clarity of purpose for themselves and the organizations they lead.  They tirelessly seek ways to communicate that clarity in the simplest ways possible.  

That's the stuff those high quality leaders do.  Here's the stuff they attempt to eliminate:

  • Deceptive practices and language.
  • Energy sucking processes.
  • Time wasting procedures.
  • Ambiguous expectations.
  • Team members who are either unwilling or unable to get better.
  • Obfuscation.
  • Mindless redundancies.
Sign me up!  I wanna play on their team.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Homeostasis

Homeostasis is the physiological tendency to move toward stability or equilibrium.  

We observe homeostasis in human development.  In the early years, children grow rapidly - physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially.  That growth occurs in fits and starts, and reaches its most chaotic peak (usually) in the teenage years.  It's as if all those integrated systems of humanness are banging against each other, trying to reach some sort of consensus on how this thing called "living" is supposed to unfold.  

Inevitably (for most of us) the systems begin to stabilize and move toward more balance and better overall control.  This movement toward homeostasis creeps ever forward through midlife, until in the latter years, it's as if there's no energy left.  Just staying alive, not living, seems to become the primary objective.

The same sort of developmental evolution toward homeostasis occurs in organizations (yes, they're just organisms, too).  In the early stages of raging hormones and rapid growth, chaos and erratic behavior seem to rule the day (mostly absent of good systems and effective protocols).  But, as time goes by and maturity sets in, well-designed systems begin to move the organization toward homeostasis.  At this point, organizations often become the bureaucratic monsters we have come to hate.  They seem to exist only for the purpose of their own existence.

Wise humans and wise organizational leaders understand these processes well, and with astute vision and leadership craft a fulfilling path toward maturity, but carefully avoiding the deleterious effects of stagnation.  

Continued LEARNING is key to realizing a rich and healthy "old age," both in humans and in organizations.     

Monday, June 13, 2016

Surrounded

A hallmark of successful people, in all walks of life, is that they are surrounded by intelligent, talented, passionate, and committed others.  That correlation is not the result of happenstance.

Successful people understand, either intuitively or by purposeful reflection, that worthy accomplishments are seldom achieved on one's own.  Consequently, they seek out, both in overt and covert ways, the kind of people that are willing and able to substantively contribute in the pursuit of noble goals together.

There's a catch, however.  (Isn't there always?)  The question begs: 
Why would intelligent, talented, passionate, and committed others choose to join our team?  
The answer is telling, and worth spending some time considering.

Friday, June 10, 2016

RighteousFails

Authentic learning and growth are always, ALWAYS, coupled with mistakes, screw ups, and failures.  Whether it's learning how to walk, how to write, how to parent, or how to run a business, failures are going to happen along the way.

As mentors, parents, and leaders, our job is not to impugn, embarrass, or malign those within our sphere of influence when they make those inevitable mistakes.  Rather, it is to teach them how to glean the lessons from those mistakes, to use the missteps reflectively to sharpen their skills and abilities, and to leverage the booboos in forecasting future moves and possible outcomes.

On the other side of the ledger, being members of that cohort of mistake makers, we must learn to own the mistakes we make, to not drift immediately and persistently into modes of damage control and denial, and to avoid the slippery slope of transferring the blame for our own errors toward others.  (We witness these egregious behaviors daily in the actions and reactions of many of our political leaders.)

Failing along the pathway to betterment is a necessary part of growth, and righteous ownership of those errors/mistakes is one of the healthiest components of that process.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

LeaderMoxie

"Moxie" is a word that implies force of character.  From a leadership perspective think of it as followability (a new word for your dictionary!).  Leaders with moxie tend to behave/think in ways that attract others to the cause.  

Lots of leaders have moxie.  Many don't.  

One of the hallmark traits of leaders with moxie is that they have the ability to make people feel better - better about themselves, better about the work, better about the team.

Moxie is a pretty powerful ingredient in achieving high performance status.  I'm pretty sure we don't need to aim for anything less.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Climate&Culture

In organizations of any kind - whether families of two, nations of millions, or any size in between - there are two constructs that give us insight into the organizational mindset, its ways of thinking, its ways of behaving.

The first is called "climate."  Climate is the vibe an organization emits.  Most of us can relate to the different sensation we experience when we are at the division of motor vehicles office (regardless of what state we live in) versus that of a locally owned business that serves our community.  One treats us an an inconvenience, knowing we are a captive audience.  The other (the latter) treats us as a valued friend upon whom their very livelihood exists, and as such, engages with us accordingly.  We can absolutely feel that difference in climate when we walk in the door of those establishments.  

"Culture" is the other dimensional construct of organizations.  It is the underlying beliefs, values, principles, and norms that drive the thinking and the behavior of that organization.  It is the heart and soul of the organization.   

Climate is the tangible expression of the culture.  What we feel when we engage with an organization - the climate - is the manifestation of the deeper, cellular make-up of that organization.  

Leaders must pay attention to both, and must diligently work to shape both in a positive and tightly aligned way.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

LongView

The best leaders I know keep a keen eye on the long view, on the vision for the organization as collectively crafted with others.  

Short term stuff always seems to cloud that view.  Today's urgency tends to cast a shadow on that view.  This moment's crisis tends to obscure the main objective.

The mundane but necessary processes - meeting payroll, shipping product, reviewing and revising policy, assessing software fidelity, etc. - have the effective of distracting us from the long term purpose for our existence and work.

Wise leaders are diligent in keeping the main thing the MAIN THING (to channel the late Stephen Covey).  They faithfully keep themselves focused, and they persistently work to keep the others in the organization similarly focused.  

The long view is the most important view.