Talker or Doer?

Are you a silver-tongued leader?

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I’ve met a bunch of people in leadership through the years.  Some were gifted motivators.  They knew how to communicate a goal and guide to the finish.  They had the ability to paint the picture.  A great gift to be able to help folks see the finish line.  Yet sometimes this was all you got.  A picture and a story.

Then I have met some great leaders who are really in it.  These are the folks that might say less but are next to you in the battle.  They realize that talk won’t always get you there.  They are willing to really help out.  Get dirty.  Get into the fight.

The rub lies in that the talker is often seen as the better leader.

I really hate this.  The talker uses his mouth.  The doer uses his hands.  But classic leadership will tell you that you don’t have the time to be a doer.  You shouldn’t get bogged down in actually doing the work.  If you’re a leader -you are worth more.  Your ability to motivate and direct is more important.

Messed up thinking!

While I agree that you should not get bogged down doing tasks that should be delegated, many leaders feel that it is below them to jump in and help out.  They are the boss.  It would make them look bad if they were seen actually doing the work.

I can’t be a used car salesman leader.  I personally have a hard time trusting and believing someone who talks too much and doesn’t really want to pitch in and help out.  I realize that there is value in motivating and directing yet by only using these two tools you are forgetting the most powerful tool.

Serving your team by actually working along side of them. 

Here is a question to ponder- What do YOU create?  Do you actually produce things as a leader or is your day filled with walking and talking?  Do you produce or do you talk?

My opinion- we need more doers and less talkers!  What do your think?  Let me know by clicking on “Leave a Comment” and let me hear your opinion.  Talker or Doer?

 

 

 

Stick to the Big Stuff!

Can you REALLY get all that you want?  Is that reasonable?

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I have always been amazed at leaders that have been able to be effective by getting the big things and accepting that not getting the small things is OK.  A great leader is able to distinguish what really counts. Unfortunately, the world has embraced a “winner takes all” mentality.

 

A great leader is able to transport themselves into the shoes of the other person.  They have the ability to be able to view the world from the other side.  The gift to truly understand and appreciate the good of the other viewpoint.

 

We have reached a point where we truly believe that our own way of looking at the world is the only correct way.  Everyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid?  Really? Why have we become so intolerant?  Why is it all or nothing?  Is this the only way to get things done?

 

There are examples of leadership that leads to REAL victories.  Billy Graham was able to navigate the extremely divided Christian denominations by focusing on the big things.  He was able to avoid the things that divide the faithful.  Think of what he was able to accomplish.  He met with leaders of faith and leaders of countries.  How did he do it?  He concentrated on the big things.

 

Jesus.  Love for others.  Serving others.

 

The rest of the stuff- he was able to avoid.  He accepted that the BIG STUFF was what really matters.

 

We have wasted so much time and energy fighting against each other.  Compromise is the way to get things done.  This doesn’t mean that you give up the big things, but let go of the winner takes all mentality.  See it from the other side.

 

A great leader recognizes what is a big thing.  What can get things done.  The rest is minor stuff.  And that is all that really matters.

 

So what do your think?  Why have we become so intolerant?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Don’t Be A Pac-Man!

Are you getting swallowed up?

Do you remember the game Pac-Man? This is going back a bunch of years, but it was one of the first video/arcade games where the Pac-Man travelled the course swallowing up all the cookies as he goes along. Never stopping. Devouring the cookies.  The cookies just go away.

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I used to work for a developer who required weekly updates to the project schedule. They developed a spreadsheet where everything was connected so when we were actually ahead of schedule, the final completion date would just move up to coincide with our hard work in trying to get ahead. So much for being ahead of schedule!  All of our hard work disappeared. The Pac-Man just swallowed it up!

I’ve seen the Pac-Man emerge in other places. There are times when we have an employee or team member that excels or works extremely hard in tough situations. They are just good at what they do. Dedicated and a hard worker.  These are your best employees.

They consistently STEP UP and take care of business.

They work HARDER and FASTER.

They carry MORE weight than the others.

And what happens next? The Pac-Man comes in and eats it all up.

All of the extra effort and skill actually becomes expected. It’s no longer seen as extra or exceptional. The bar just gets raised up under your feet. They move the goal posts!

Do you have a team member or employee that just knows how to get it done? Have you forgotten how much they really contribute to your business? These are your go-to people. Have you REALLY thought about what would happen if they left? Decided that enough was enough?

LEADERS: Don’t be a Pac-Man! Recognize what you have. If you continually move up the bar and deem this performance as normal you will WASTE your best workers.

Don’t get used to exceptional. If it’s exceptional then recognize it and reward it. Continually. Non-stop.

You will not explode if you say “good job” over and over again.  I promise!

Stars are stars. If they don’t shine with you, they will shine with someone else. Keep your eyes open! LOOK at what you have. Don’t be a Pac-Man or it may be GAME OVER for you!

So what do you think?  Have you seen the Pac-Man at your workplace?  Click “Like” to tell me you agree.  Or , click on “Leave and Comment” and tell me your story!  I ALWAYS appreciate your comments and insight!

Don’t Do This When People Make Mistakes

We all screw up sometime.  Maybe a careless moment or a poor evaluation of the circumstance.  There are consequences when mistakes are made.  I have been “blessed” many times with being clean-up crew when there is a big mess that needs to be cleaned up.

The fact is mistakes are how we learn.  I have really come to realize this as I have gotten older and gained more experience. There are so many times I get that “deja vu” feeling because I am in a similar circumstance I’ve been before and I remember the proper way to navigate out of it.  Experience is huge and you can’t always make up for it.

I have watched mistakes happen and I have watched how various leaders handle the problem.  There is one thing that I have learned that never seems to work in fixing a mess.  This is using blame.

When you are in the midst of fixing a bad situation the worst thing you can do is to immediately go to blame.  There is a time and a place to analyze and discuss the failures that led to the problem, but going to blame will only magnify the issue.

You will likely isolate the person who messed up.

They will feel that it was all their fault.

They will feel attacked.

They will not be in an effective position to help you fight your way out of the mess.

When one of your reports messes up its for a reason, in the vast majority of cases, the person responsible for the screw up is the person you see in the mirror.  They were not trained properly.  They were overwhelmed and you should have provided help. They weren’t ready for the assignment.  They didn’t have the proper resources.  It’s not them- it’s you!

So why are we quick to blame?  It’s our own ego and pride response.  We blame to protect ourselves.  Protect our perfect standing.  It couldn’t be me?  I did everything right!

After the dust settles and emotions die down, then you can take a look at the mistakes that were made.  The only way for learning is to confront the mistakes that were made and make changes so they don’t happen again.  This is the learning experience.  This is life.  The best lessons are learned out of pain.  It’s not fun- but it’s true.  When you have a mess, concentrate on clean up.  Jump in and help make it right.  Then, after things are fixed, take a good look at what happened and fix the problem.  Time to heal allows for objectivity and reflection.

Stay away from blame.  When you feel like you need to play the blame card- STOP AND THINK- about your role in the problem and understand what you are really doing when you blame.  A great leader will accept responsibility.  They understand that they are not perfect.  They are emotionally mature enough to know that they can make mistakes sometimes and they accept the failures of their reports.

Jump in and fix the problem.  Keep your mouth shut.  Talk about what happened later.

So what do you think?  Have you worked with a “blamer” before?  Do you see the connection between blame and pride?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Photo Friday: The Little Things

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Photo Credit:  Snapwire Amarpreet Knur- CC Public Domain

I’m traveling again on business. At the TSA check today, I pulled out my toiletries out of my bag and spotted a little note card that my wife put in my bag about five years ago. I was leaving for a men’s retreat and she snuck the note in my bag along with some other stuff. The note is now yellowed and showing the wear of thousands of air miles

I looked at the note and smiled. The smile came at the right time. I was tired, just out of gas and getting on another airplane. Heading out again. But there was that note…again. Reminding me that I have someone who is supporting me. Someone who is on my side. Someone who I can count on no matter what happens.

These little things are big. They have weight- at least to me. I also have come to realize that some folks go through life kinda clueless. They don’t have any idea what is going on around them. They are rushing through everything. They are missing so much of what is going on around them.

But I see the little things. And they brighten up my day. And that makes all the difference!

3 Life Lessons I Learned Coaching Youth Basketball

I coached youth basketball when my kids were young. I loved the game and I love kids so it was a great match for me. Basketball is a perfect mix of skill and strategy. This was also evident in the kids. Some where great athletes and some made it through being smart and working hard. I was a student of the game. I studied and observed different defenses and offenses and also what made up good mechanics and personal skills. While I was the teacher when it came to basketball, I learned some valuable lessons that have been ingrained into the way I manage people and the way I look at the world. Yes, these are big statements, but they are true. I still go back to these truths and use them for teaching moments when I am mentoring or problem solving.

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Here are these truths:

Talent Blindness: Some coaches are great at judging talent but most are not. The reason is not because they are not skilled or unintelligent- they are human. We have a very tough time being completely objective. Coaches will tend to provide preference to the kids they like. The kids that make them feel good. The kids of the parents they like. The same can be true in the business world. We provide preference to the folks that are like us. The ones that make us feel comfortable. The ones that make us feel good about ourselves. We can be so talent blind! We judge talent based on how we see the world and how we feel. We can easily miss a diamond because they are different, peculiar and not like us.

Another Set Of Eyes: When I was coaching, I would sometimes get caught up in concentrating on the nuances of the offense and defense and miss big things that were going on. Sometimes I would leave kids in the game too long. Sometimes I would miss that a particular player had a hot hand and was scoring and I would inadvertently pull them out of the game. Its hard to watch everything. No really its impossible. I valued my assistant coaches to speak up and set me straight. In business, we can miss the big picture while we are drilling down on particular issues. I must have a group that I empower to tell me whats really going on and have the guts to confront me when I am doing something stupid. A support group. A few trusted advisors to help us avoid getting caught up in the game.

Emotion Cloud: I struggled with the referees. Kind of a lot. They were often times volunteers and high school kids and their skill level varied. Some were pretty good and some were just horrible. I remember throwing my clipboard on the gym floor of an auxiliary gym once in the middle of a game and then- the gym went completely silent! Not a shining moment for me but a great lesson. You just can’t let emotion take over. People will let you down and do things that are wrong and out of line. You can count on it. It’s how you react that matters. Once I let emotion rule, my head goes to mush and all I got is to fire back. A poor example of leadership no matter where you are. Keep your cool and keep your head!

These are a few of the valuable lessons that I learned while coaching. It’s funny how I consistently learn while teaching others! Learning just never ends. I am always seeking the lesson in things that happen to me. How about you? Are you learning as you go? Do you see the world as a giant classroom? Stay alert to things going on around you. You will be better for it. I promise!

So what do you think? Have you learned while you are teaching? Did this story remind you of a lesson your learned? Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think!

Teach, Love, and Peace Will Follow!

This is a guest post from my friend Cristie Powers.  She has been serving the homeless, needy, and many others in her neighborhood and her circle of friends for as long as I have known her.  Cristie gets it.  She knows how important it is to serve others.  She is selfless.  She is a beautiful person.  I wish you all could spend some time with her.  I know you would agree!   

This blog is in reference to our current word of the year…. “Community”.

A word that seems to be tossed around and thrown from one ball field to the next. Which isn’t a bad thing of course because it’s a sign that people actually care about each other and about the relationships we share. However, we’ve come to a point we’re not sure if we are playing baseball or soccer. Seriously. We talk a lot of game but who is really winning here?

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The first important thing to understand is that today’s communities have become what we call cliques. Ok, now that is awesome for those who are in the cliques, but what about the rest of the world?

The word “community” derives from the Latin word “communitas” or “communis” which means all things in common.

Rather than looking at this as a small, communal, geographical area, I believe that if we are truly community driven individuals, then we need to learn how to be teachers instead of leaders. The world needs more teachers and less leaders. Instead of forming a community “clique” and stopping there, we should be encouraging everyone in those community “cliques” to spread the love and start new “community gatherings” all over the place. That is what we seek, right? We want to see a change in our world, not just our neighborhoods.

This means that instead of simply leading a community group in our own area, we should be encouraging everyone within that group to lead some other type of community group throughout the week in their own area of the world. This way the love and communal relationships are able to be spread and built stronger than ever before.

It’s extremely important to everyone around us that we lead by example. We must not get caught up in the glory of all the credit that we receive for being a community leader, but rather rejoice in knowing that we have made a greater difference around us by spreading more relationships than we can count. Even if no one else close to us knows what we have done.

Community is a great word but we need to change our way of thinking and realize that it is not defined by a small demographic area, like we once thought. If we define it this way, then our goal is not truly to change the world, but only the areas in which we live.

Now naturally things must start small, however our goal as community lovers should never stop at small. Again, this is not our ticket to fame and it doesn’t mean that we need to be this well-liked leader who people look up to (although that is important too). The first problem with this is that when there is only one man or woman carrying the weight of leadership without distributing the load the leader will become completely exhausted, which does not help anyone. The second issue is that dedicating all of this effort will begin to take time away from your own unit, which inevitably is quite contrary to the whole “community idea” that you’re trying to accomplish. It becomes vital then, to remember to teach instead of solely lead.

What would happen if every Saturday when we led that community event that we hold so dear, we reminded the whole group of the reason behind the gathering, the joy that it brings, and that each person has it in them to start something of their own wherever they go? At that point community may begin to spread its wings and begin to cover the whole world verses only hovering over our itty bitty neighborhoods. Which is what they are in the grand scheme of life.

If we can better understand the word, then I believe that we can better understand the world. It’s this “world” that is our real community and it’s the world that needs this change.

In my world there is a little homeless Asian lady who walks the neighborhood (who should never be hungry again, or be without adequate clothing, shoes or blankets because everyone in our area knows that she’s there), there’s the black man who walks up and down McDuff St. speaking gibberish, so everyone thinks that he’s lost his marbles (and who knows, maybe he has), there’s the white man who lives in a tent in Lackawanna (who turns to drugs every chance he gets because relationships have failed him), there’s the old man who rides his bike all over the city yelling as if he is pissed off at the world because he suffers from PTSD, then there’s the young man standing outside of CVS in Boulder Colorado for hours in the snowy weather probably just needing a real friend (not just a temporary conversation but a life long connection), there are the men and women sleeping in the streets of Asheville, NC in front of almost every shop downtown (every time you go for a visit to the mountains they are there), then there is the neighbor “Bobby” that walks up and hands me these flowers as I sit on the side of the road writing this blog.

What does this mean? How is this our problem? Can we fix people? Is it our fault why they are the way they are? The answer is no, probably not. But the point is we have the power in us to bring change. We have been given the authority as humans to help and to heal.

Once you make change, move on and make change somewhere new. We cannot allow ourselves to get stagnant.

Personal example: Feeding homeless in Jacksonville verses where ever we are during that time of year.

I have been serving Jacksonville’s homeless community on Christmas morning for over 12 years. Until last year that is. For some reason I no longer felt that burning passion inside to get downtown and to serve. I later realized that it was because the need had been met. I served because I knew there was a need and once I saw that other groups were beginning to serve, I realized that I was no longer needed in that area. And that is ok.

Now it’s time for me to move on to a new place where there is another need to be met. Whether I move to a different park down the road or to a different city makes no difference. The move is what’s necessary. People learned how to do what I did by watching and by wanting to make a difference. Many different people came with me throughout the years and it stirred up passion. I taught by example, but we can also teach by reminding people of what community really is (ideally these two are the same thing).

Don’t stop where you are. Keep going, keep giving, wherever you are, and see community as something that can be created by everyone and not limited to a few outgoing leaders. Keep serving and teaching others and the rest will happen…naturally!

Cristie Powers

So what do you think?  Have we have lost our desire to teach things that are important and needed?  Is our sense of community dying?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Trust is the Glue

The power base of any cohesive and unified team is trust.  If you believe in your people and you have confidence in their abilities and decision making, it has a way of multiplying the impact of the team.  You are, in effect, advancing your leadership to all of your team members.

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Leaders often have a tough time passing this responsibility on to others.  They are often used to making the decisions and developing the strategy for the group.  Leaders have confidence in their abilities to provide direction with effectiveness- that is how they became a leader.  The problem is that one person cannot think for the entire organization.

Once you let go of the reins and allow others to think and make decisions, you are tapping into more brain power.  Much more brain power.  The front line team members often know the situation better than the leaders.  They are involved in the struggle every day.  They see things first hand.  They know the intricate details that are involved in the process.

Most employees have no problem following direction.  They will proceed as directed.  If the plan is flawed from the start, they will generally avoid blame for the outcome.  The tension develops when you allow your team to think for themselves.  When they are allowed to put together their own plan and strategy, they are now open for scrutiny.  They feel vulnerable to judgement.

How do you remove this apprehension to leading?  Trust is the key.

Once the employee knows that his manager and the company are squarely behind them, they will feel the freedom to step into a leadership role and make decisions.  Without trust, there is a breakdown in authority.  And trust must go in both directions to bind the team together.

Trust is the glue that holds together a successful organization.

Mistakes will be made.  There is no way to completely avoid them.  You must always be ready to help clean up a mess resulting from a poor decision made by someone other than yourself.  This is natural- but not fun.  You can’t avoid it.  This is part of the learning process.

To unleash the power of your entire team- you must trust them and they must trust you.

There is no other way.

So what do you think?  Have you experienced a lack of trust that kept you from acting?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Twenty Questions

One of the most common management practices is to enter the office of your report and after a few little icebreakers, begin to fire off the questions:

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Is the project on schedule?

Have you handled the budget overrun?

Were you able to engage a vendor yet?

Did you fix the issue with the client?

And on and on it goes….

After the twenty questions and reassuring answers from your report you leave the office feeling good about the project as well as your special abilities as a great manager. You can now check the “I managed” box. I took care of my management duties!

But did your really manage here? Did your twenty questions change anything? Have you really made an impact?

Maybe or maybe not!

The fact is that the answers to your twenty questions are probably half truth. Most employees that know the twenty questions management style will tell you what you want to hear. They may not be actually lying to you, but they may spin the facts or tell you only part of the story. You may be only making yourself feel good regardless of your ability to craft great questions. So what can you do other than twenty questions? Do you need to be an interrogator or have the skills of prosecuting attorney in order to manage a person or a process? Here are a few ideas beyond the questioning:

Look at the numbers: The truth will likely be in the numbers. Always. Develop systems to track things statistically. It’s tough to spin facts and figures. Find ways to track performance with numbers.

Look downstream: Instead of quizzing your report, ask others downstream, your clients or other stakeholders for feedback. This will be results driven feedback- not a measure of action or effort by the report.

Be observant: Most problems will leave clues long before they blow up into a full fledged forest fire. Watch for hints that things are not progressing properly. Build some early warning systems to head off problems. Don’t simply rely on talk.

Build trust: The best way to manage is to have the report come to you for help or to get advice on a situation. If they don’t feel that your office is a safe place, they will never walk through the doorway. It is far better to learn about a situation or problem in this manner than trying to pry it out of them.

Face the music: Most of us tend to be inherently optimistic and believe that things will work out in the end. If things are going poorly, they are likely to continue going poorly and changing things from bad to good can be very difficult. Face your problems head on. Don’t fool yourself that things are going to get better because you received answers to your questions that make you feel good.

Twenty questions can be a dangerous way to manage people. Asking good questions is valuable in management, but you can’t rely solely on the answers that you get. Don’t be fooled. Put systems in place to measure progress. Keep your eyes open to what is really going on and make yourself open to be a resource instead of an adversary. If you really enjoy the questioning- then go ahead and change careers and go to law school!

The F Word

When I was in high school I remember sitting frozen by the phone thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Would I be rejected?  

Would she laugh at me?  

Would she make me feel foolish?  

Would everyone hear about it and think I was crazy?

Was I overstepping my boundaries?

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Sometimes I just couldn’t pick up the phone.  I tried to overpower the thoughts that I had, but sometimes they just won.  I wasn’t good enough.  What was I thinking?  She is way out of reach for me.

I was strangled by the F word.  FEAR.

Now as I look back at it- what is the worst thing that could happen?  She says no.  There may be some laughter and maybe I was overstepping.  Yet, I will never know because I didn’t try.  The F word.

Fear is powerful.  Yes, I am a man and I have been afraid and ducked out plenty of times in my life.

When I should have moved forward.

When I should have taken the chance.

When I could have stepped out and made a difference.

What does the F word do?  Let me give you a few of the finalities of fear.

You Freeze:  Fear stops you from making a decision.  You stop.  And while you are stopping, the rest of the world is moving.  You loose your advantage.  You are now looking from behind.

You Miss The Boat:  Opportunities are an instant.  A moment in time.  When you decide to wait or you decide it’s too risky, the opportunity is gone.  Things change.  You can’t go back to that spot.  It’s gone, quite possibly forever.

You Determine The Outcome:  If you fail to act you know what will happen.  Nothing.  You have decided it.  Maybe that’s what you want.  Maybe the risk is too high.  But one thing for sure,  It’s done.  If you choose to risk the outcome might be good.  Choosing not to risk decides the answer.

Often the root of a failure to act can be traced to pride.  I never loose.  I always come out on top.  What would everyone think if I actually failed?

Yet failure is actually healthy.  It doesn’t feel good when you are in it, but I have learned some of my greatest life lessons through failure. So what do you really learn in failure?

You learn that the sun will rise the next day.  You find out that the people that really love you are still there.   You find out that the F word is mostly in your head.  You find out that faith is the thing that allows you to risk.  Faith in yourself.  Faith in your family.  Faith in a Father who loves you no matter what!  Fear is a product of the enemy.  An old scheme he uses to take away your power.  A way to neutralize you in the spiritual battle that is going on around us.

So what are you going to do?  Are you going to crumble and let the F word decide for you and make your final decision OR will you fight through it and go for it!  Do something risky.  Do something big.  Shake off the F word, have faith and trust in yourself!

So what do you think?  Have you had times when you were overcome with fear?  Have you failed to act because of fear?  What do you do the beat the F word?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!