Maybe A Smoke Screen?

John is a real charmer.  He is good at getting what he wants.  First it was a cookie from Mom.  Then an extension on an assignment at school.  Then a date with the homecoming queen.  A promotion at work.  You get the picture.  He was attractive and engaging.  He found it easy to win people over.  It was his “go to” when he was in a tough spot or if he really needed something.  It was John’s secret weapon.

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So are charm and good looks the keys to influence?

A big smile and just the right witty responses and we can be rewarded with instant engagement.  I have watched it over and over again.  Some people are simply masters at it.  They have a way of pulling you in.  They have a special power that you just can’t explain.

I have never been much of a charmer.  I am more of a “tell it like it is” kind of guy.  There are times that I wished I had this mysterious power over people.  I think it can be a gift.  I also think there are dangers here.

People who use charm to get what they want often abuse the power.  They begin to believe that they have the ability to get whatever they want.  They have seen it work over and over again.  They begin to feel invincible.

Leaders can fall into this trap.  The smile.  The endearing comments.  Charmers make you feel important and valuable.  Soon you find yourself doing whatever they ask.  Eventually, however, you will begin to see through the charm.  You will get a glimpse of their heart- either good or bad.  Charm can be a real smoke screen.

Just like that date who has only one thing in mind- the truth will come out.  If you truly care for your team, employees, friends…. they will figure it out.  It’s a heart issue.  You simply can’t hide it for very long.

If you are a charmer- be careful!  You may have honed your skills when you were young and the stakes were not all that important.  You were a popular kid.  Captain of the whatever team.  There is nothing inherently wrong with being charming and engaging- unless the goal is to manipulate to get what you want.  Unless the goal is not the common goal.  Maybe it’s just your goal?

Sincerity is built through action.  You will have a difficult time convincing someone of your sincerity with just talk.  The fact is- they are watching you!  They know where your treasure lies by your actions.  You are not fooling anyone.  The smoke will eventually clear- it always does.

So what do you think?  Have you been charmed and later found out the truth?  Have you seen this in action before?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

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The Boring Banquet

Have you ever had to suffer through a boring banquet?  The kind of event where you listen to someone blow their horn and share statistics and personal accomplishments-

Sales increased 150%!

My new product line was a huge success!

My products have entered the European market!

Revenue increased 83%!

Numbers, dollars, percentages.  All great things when measuring your business.  Measurements and statistics are an important way of judging your effectiveness and efficiency.  And let’s face it- we need success and money in business and making money in itself is not a bad thing.

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But it makes for a boring banquet!  Numbers, charts, graphs, yawn…  And it’s not really measuring life- is it?

Contrast this with this true story banquet-

My son recently attended an 80th birthday party for a business partner and friend named John.  Now this was a pretty lavish affair held at the Ritz Carlton and included friends and family that flew in from all over the country.  The ballroom was fancy, and the food and music was great- but that was not the amazing part of the evening.

The highlight of the banquet was the stories that were shared by family and friends about the way that John touched their lives and made them better.  Stories of how he went out of his way and helped them get started in business.  Stories of how he risked his own money to help them.  Stories of a man who mentored and served others without obligation.  Stories of a man with an amazing heart and the capacity and courage to lift others up.

One by one, the stage was occupied by family and friends who shared true stories of how John changed their lives.

No statistics.

No list of personal accomplishments.

No inventory of things earned or gathered.

Just stories of changed lives.   Many of which were not family members.  Just folks that John met along the way, providing confidence and resources to get them started on the path to success.

These kind of stories are never boring.  This is the story of a person who truly serves.  Who understands that living a life of success really provides a responsibility to serve others.   It’s not about accumulating stuff, money and personal accomplishment. Or maybe this might be your banquet?

I broke the 8 handicap on the golf course or I caught a 200 pound tuna or a 12 point buck.

I made a million dollars in the stock market and bought a vacation home in the mountains.

I travelled around the world twice.

In my industry, I was the greatest….

All fine and admirable accomplishments- but they make for a boring and self-centered story.    Could you see others taking the stage and sharing how you touched their lives or would your story be about your personal statistics?  To avoid the boring banquet concentrate on giving and leading with your heart and learn to forget the numbers.  Focus on what is really important and eternal.  Focus on leaving a legacy of love.  And this way, your banquet will be AMAZING!

So what do you think about this- did it get you thinking?  Or am I way off on this one?  Don’t be a stealth reader- Let me know what you think!  Click on leave a comment and share your thoughts! 

Copyright © 2013. Leading by Serving- Leadership is for Everyone!. All rights reserved.

Andy’s Sailboat: A Love Story

Sometimes it’s about finishing that really counts…

I grew up on a lake in Michigan.  Two doors down was a boyhood friend named Andy.  Andy and I were good friends growing up.  Andy and I were way different in many ways.  Andy was a tinkerer.  He always had a project that was in progress.  Maybe rebuilding a bike, a lawnmower or repairing the family camper.  Andy always had a project or two that was in progress.  His father was an engineer, and Andy had a mechanical mind that I am convinced was at least partially genetic.  His father also encouraged him to figure out how things really worked.  I remember visiting his house and helping him repair the oil burning furnace in his basement.  Now this is a 13 year old kid- yes with direction from Dad- repairing an oil furnace!  I admit, there was generally an excitement with doing these projects.  My dad would never give me the latitude to tackle a project like this but Andy was encouraged by his father to do crazy and challenging projects.

English: Sail Boat Fairhaven Lake

One of Andy’s projects was rebuilding an old wooden sailboat.  This boat was not pretty or remarkable.  It was a common sailboat, probably about 16 feet long.  Most everyone thought the boat was simply junk and was a lost cause.  The boat was made entirely of wood with many parts broken, missing or in need of stripping and refinishing.  Andy kept the boat on the side of his family’s house under a tarp.  Andy completely dismantled the boat, and over time, began to rebuild it.  This process went on for several years.  I remember going to his house to see what he was doing and getting a lesson on how the keel worked or what repair was necessary for the rigging.  The boat contained many typical marine materials, weathered teak, marine plywood, brass screws, stainless steel cables, etc.  I learned a great deal from Andy about boat construction and marine components.

Boats are a hole in the water that you throw money into…

Andy had a paper route that financed his boat rebuilding efforts.  I was often his back-up or companion while he delivered the Detroit News.  He had a relatively small route and I knew first hand that the money that he made was hard earned.  For several years, Andy poured much of his earnings into that sailboat.  Marine parts and supplies are very expensive.  My father was convinced that the label “marine” just was a way to double to price!  I remember Andy telling me about his latest purchase- marine varnish, brass fittings or mahogany and knew immediately that I would never spend that much money on that boat.  Yet, slowly over time he was making progress.

One year as the summer was waning, Andy and I talked and agreed that we would- somehow- sail the boat before the lake iced up for the winter.  The idea was to just put the boat together so we can sail it.  We were missing parts and some stuff needed some pretty intensive work so we would overlook those items and just make it sailable.  Let just sail the boat.  So, over a period of several weeks, we worked after school and into the night under lights reassembling the boat and working to put the boat in service.  Andy was especially committed.  I did my best to sneak off from my parents to give him a hand, but it was really Andy that was determined to sail the boat that year.  See, Andy bought the boat in disrepair, so he had never experienced the boat under sail.

Where is the rudder…

We worked tirelessly putting the boat back together.  Many of the parts had been refinished, yet many were missing, so we found ways to fabricate temporary parts.  We were especially concerned about the keel area.  Andy patched and sealed the keel and was still unable to get the area completely sealed.  It still leaked.  We would make sure that we included a suitable bucket for bailing if the keel was still leaking.

The weather was getting increasingly colder.  Most of the docks on the lake were out in anticipation for the winter ice up.  Andy put the finishing touches on the boat and we targeted the next day for the sail.  We were under the gun.  This was early November.  So after school, we fitted the boat for the first sail.  We were bundled up and there was a steady wind.  The weather was cloudy and it looked like rain.  I was a bit nervous.  The boat had never sailed.  Many bad things could happen- we could have a giant leak, broken mast, the keel leak, rudder problems, etc.  There were no boats on the lake to help us out.  The water was real cold.  We knew we were on our own.  Yet we pushed the boat out  into the lake and prepared to raise the sails.

Do we have life jackets…

The first minute was a bit chaotic.  We were not a very experienced crew and we were really tripping over each other.  Yet, after a few minutes, the boat began to lean over under the weight of the sail and we were picking up speed.  The boat was actually sailing.  I wish all of the naysayers could have been sitting in the boat with us!  The “POS” boat that was nothing but junk to most was actually sailing!  I felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.  Yet, this was really underscored by the delight that I saw in Andy.  He was glowing.  My involvement in his project was limited- yet he was involved in every screw, every component and every piece of rigging.  His joy was amazing.  I will never forget it.  We let out a few hollers of joy across the cold water and laughed in victory as we made our way across the lake.

We took a quick look at the boat.  The keel was still leaking.  We had some issues with the rigging.  We talked about the future repairs and improvements that we would make.  Yet, for the most part the boat performed pretty well.  After sailing for about an hour it stated to rain.  Not hard, just enough to make it ridiculously cold.  We looked at each other and decided to head in.  We planned another sail the next day when it wasn’t raining.  We pulled the boat up on shore and pulled over the cover.  What an amazing day!  We actually sailed Andy’s boat!

Well, the next day came and went.  And the next and the next.  We didn’t get to sail the boat again that fall.  In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the boat was never sailed again.  The boat sat covered on its trailer for another year or two until Andy eventually sold the boat.  I don’t know if the act of sailing the boat was enough victory that Andy lost interest in the project or if he just couldn’t get the time to properly complete the process.  It really didn’t matter.  In my eyes, Andy did it.  He took a project that was viewed as impossible and he pulled it off.  I learned a great deal from this project.  Some of it was practical marine stuff, but the more valuable lessons were about  love and not giving up.  You see, Andy loved that boat and he wouldn’t give up on it.  He put his heart and all of his money into the boat.  I think he would say that it was worth it.  Even after all of his time and money.  Even just for a single solitary sail on a cold November evening!