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!

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 Shifting Keys

Funny how things change. You can be so sure of something, and over time, your views can be changed to something vastly different. It’s crazy. Like shifting sand.

 

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When I was young and just entering college, I was convinced that the secret to success was knowledge. If I could just absorb a vast amount of information, I would be valuable and successful. Smart people will always be in the lead, right?

I was sure that the key was- What you know!

So I studied hard, made good grades, and soaked up as much information as possible. You see, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to be equipped to join every conversation and have the ability to contribute a practical solution to any problem. I wanted to be the man with the answers! This would be my path the success.

As I progressed in my career, I watched others in my field advance due to networking and through connecting with groups and organizations. I observed that if you knew the right person, it would be a huge career accelerator. Just knowing that person was a door opener.

I was sure that the key was- Who you know!

So I worked hard to join groups and organizations in my industry. If my name is plastered everywhere, then I will have a great chance to be included in a new project or opportunity. I increased my address book to several thousand persons. I wanted to be a person that was known. I was sure that this was the key to being successful.

As I have gained years, I have realized that, while both of these items are very important, I believe there is something that is even more critical. And this truth cuts through everything we do in life. It is the connector. The glue that makes things work.  It holds everything together.

The key is- How you know someone!

This may sound a bit awkward, but here is the truth: Your relationships will be your mark of success. How you have connected with people on a deeper level. How you have loved and how you are loved. How you are able to meet someone where they are. How you can communicate how you feel about what you are trying to accomplish. How you make the other person feel.

I have watched and admired people through the years that truly get this. They have a way to quickly engage. You want to be around them. They may not have the knowledge or the network, yet they touch you in a deep way. They inspire. They lift you up. They make you feel valuable.

So how do you get there?  Some ways to strengthen these skills:

Be Positive- Always, always, always stay positive. If life is beating you up, find your strength to get through it. Showing you pain and frustration will not help the situation.  Dwell in the positive!  Find the silver lining, there is always something good if you look hard enough.

Smile- Use your greatest tool to engage with others, your smile. Smile often and to everyone. A sincere smile melts away insecurities and breaks down barriers.

Serve- Serve others. Put others first. Be sensitive to what is going on around you and take advantage of opportunities to help others.  Get your focus off of yourself.

Communication Skills- Take every opportunity to increase your skills as a speaker, writer, and instructor. Life is about getting your point across to others. In order to engage and inspire, you must have the skills to present your idea in a clear and compelling way.

Eye Contact- Make sure that your eyes connect in conversation. If you have a habit of looking away practice until this habit goes away. Looking away makes the other person feel like you are not being genuine and honest.

Ask Questions- Ask questions to show interest in the other person’s life. Questions are the secret to unlocking someone’s true identity. Through questions, you will find out what they are really about and you will be able to connect with them in a deeper way. This is also a skill that needs to be practiced and learned.

So graduate, if you are thinking that the general education classes are a waste, I am telling you that you are dead wrong. The liberal arts, communication, and writing classes are essential. Don’t take them lightly. Learn and practice these skills! Learn to really connect with others. Learn to be persuasive and inspiring. This is where you will find success. This will make all the difference.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

So what to do you think? What is you definition of success? What would you add #ifIWere22 again? Click on “comments” and let me know what you think!

Ambushed!

Last week I met with a woman on our team at work.  This meeting was long overdue.  We have been very busy lately dealing with problems and putting out fires.  This was a meeting to discuss process improvement, which seems to take a back seat when you are busy doing “the work”.  I had several items that I knew that we needed to work on.  None of my stuff was really dramatic.  Mainly just tweaking what we were doing now.

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I reviewed my items and she also shared some things that were helpful in refining our processes.  After we completed our review, she turned to me and said, “I have a couple more things that are not on the list”.  Then she started to share how she felt that our on-boarding process has been poorly executed.  She also shared that she felt a disconnect between the field staff and the office staff.  She shared that the office didn’t have the feeling of family that we had before the recession.

Ouch!  This caught me a bit off guard.  I was ambushed!  Yet, after considering her observations, I was in complete agreement.  And, it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Things are different, and not necessarily in a good way.  And most disturbing- I have always championed team building.  My boss calls me the cheerleader.  This is what I do.  And I have been seriously neglecting this role.

Isn’t it funny how we will often overlook something that is one of our strengths? Like it will just take care of itself? 

We wrapped up our meeting and I realized that the process improvement stuff was really minor compared to the things she shared.  I was very grateful that she had the courage to call me out on these items.  It was exactly what I needed.  A wake up call.  A reminder to refocus.  Get back to what I do that really matters.  Get back to serving and quit worrying about “feeding the beast”.

The reality is that problems will come and go.  They rarely make a lasting impression in your life.  What really matters is the story that you are writing as you touch the lives of others.  It’s so easy to let the activities of life cloud your focus.  Every so often it’s good to stop and assess where your at and where you are focussing your efforts.  If you ignore what is good, healthy, and lasting-  be prepared.  You are likely to get ambushed!

What do you think?  Have you been “ambushed” before?  Click on “Leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

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

Do The Work!

Years back, Kathy and I visited my Grandfather when he was sick in the hospital and his health was failing.  During this visit, my Grandfather was of good energy and he shared a quick snapshot of his life and some of his best life lessons.  One thing that he shared was that he believed that you really only have until a child is eight years old to mold them and teach them to behave and be a good and successful citizen.  After they reach eight years old, he believed, you now have a small person who has essentially figured out the world and changing them is very difficult.  Kathy and I were young when this conversation took place and we were in the process of raising our kids.  I am thankful for the advice.  While we were young, we took child raising very seriously.  We disciplined when it was necessary and taught our children to behave, get along with others and excel in their work.  We were not perfect but worked hard at it.  It’s not easy and you can get lazy sometimes.  But with children, you have to do the work!

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I have often said that it would be great if they gave you an Owner’s Manual when you leave the hospital.  But instead you are handed this amazing miracle of life all wrapped up in a blanket and off you go!  You may have some babysitting experience and you will certainly get lots of advice from your family on what you’re “supposed to do”.  And… you are likely equipped with the life baggage of knowing what not to do.  And you are way young and just trying to process everything and figure it all out.

You absolutely want the best for your kids.  That is a given.  So what does that look like in the inexperienced parent’s mind?

  1. Provide For Your Family:  I work really hard to give my children the things that they need.  I spend much of my time on my career and work really hard to give them financial security.  Is that what they need or do they need you to spend more time with them?  Is money the best thing you can give your child?
  2. Be Their Friend:  I want to spend every minute that I can with my child and I keep them connected at my side at all times.  Is this providing an environment where you are teaching, leading and parenting or are they really just filling a need that you have?  Have you noticed serious separation anxiety when you leave your child with someone else?
  3. Wrestling Buddy:  I want my boy to be a man and be good at sports so I love to wrestle with him.  Is this really something he needs or is it something you need?  Are you raising up a little bully by getting him “toughened up”?
  4. No Daycare For Me:  I don’t want my child to be watched by anyone else but me.  I don’t trust others- I have had bad experiences in the past.  Is this really a good thing?  Are there social skills that your child may be missing by isolating them from other kids?  Do they know how to interact with other kids?  Can they share toys and play with other kids?
  5. He’s A Good Kid:  My child is a good kid so it’s OK to give him what he want.  If he wants chicken nuggets every night of the week that’s OK as long as he is being quiet and not misbehaving.  So who is eventually going to tell them no?  Who is going to erect boundaries?  Who is the boss?  Too tired is not an excuse here.
  6. We Are Always On The Move:  My kids love visiting others and being up late.  They are used to eating on the run.  They love the adventure!  Really, kids like structure.  They need a schedule.  They want to know the rules and what is expected.  They need sleep.  They need to be able to process what’s going on.  They need calm and normal.
  7. I Never Spank My Child:  My kids don’t need punishment.  They are different than the other kids.  Are they learning that there are consequences for their actions?  Although you may be against spanking, are you teaching your children that bad behavior can lead to big trouble in later years?

Raising children is hard.  It is a full time job.  You must fight the urge to get lazy.  Children are like clay when they are young.  Yes, I believe they are born with unique characteristics, but kids need leadership, structure, direction and boundaries.  They do not do well in chaos.  They need to figure out what the world is all about and chaos does not provide the framework for growth and understanding.

Have you ever considered what a child learns in the first two years?  They are like little sponges.  So what are they learning?  Are they learning that there is order to the world?   Are they learning about authority?  Are they learning about consequences?  Are they learning how to interact with other kids?

I know this.  Good parenting does not come easy.  When done correctly, it will be the most fulfilling project you will ever undertake.  It’s a long and tiring process.  But just remember- you have to do the work!

So what do you think?  Do you have any good parenting advice?  Please press comments and tell us your story!  

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

Ask the Experts!

Recently, Kathy and I were sitting on our back patio (lanai is the fancy realtor description) in the cool of the morning enjoying a hot cup of coffee and the fluorescent beauty of the morning.  The birds were wide awake.  We have a bird feeder and we keep it well stocked with a high quality seed mix that keeps them coming back.  We have generations of cardinals that are now permanent North Florida residents as well as a group of morning doves, mockingbirds, and a host of other songbirds that are regulars each morning.

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As I sat and watched the show, I began to consider the way the birds really love the morning.  I can remember times camping when the birds would start singing at 4 am.  My response- gosh guys go back to bed!  It’s way too early!  Yet the morning is a truly special time for the birds.  They wake and they sing for the morning.  It’s like they are screaming,  “You need to get up and see this amazingly beautiful day!” They are the epitome of the morning person!

The morning is their choice.  They could easily pick the afternoon or the evening.  Unlike our comfortable living, the birds live in close contact with the natural.  They experience the earth like no other creature, living outside and largely unprotected.  They are the experts.  And they choose the morning.

So what is so special about the morning?  Here are a few reasons I think that the birds choose the morning and why you should too!

The stillness and quiet of the morning.  The birds know that their song will really carry in the morning.  They know they really own the morning.  For us, the morning gives us stillness that allows us to rest, think and let our mind wander. The stillness provides insulation from the distractions and noise of the day.  We can let our minds sing- released from the bonds of obligations and schedules.  Are you singing in the morning?

The coolness of the morning is a great time to get your work done before the heat of the day.  The birds know that they can get their business done and wait out the heat in the shade of the trees.  The morning is a perfect time to plow through your work so you can shift into a lower gear as the day heats up.  If you get the heavy lifting done in the cool of the day, you will extend your energy and be more productive.  Do you run at hyper speed in the heat of the day?

The morning is a safe place.  The predators are still sleeping and the birds group together for protection.  The birds know these facts.  The morning is theirs.  The can relax a bit more than normal.  They have the numbers and they watch out for each other.  You can also own the morning.  Seems like only good things happen early in the morning.  Evil is asleep.  Do you get up early and enjoy the protection of the morning?

The morning is a time where we are refreshed and recharged.  The batteries are on full again! The birds are darting around with extra vigor.  If danger is present, they are able to make a quick get away with strength stored from the night of rest.  This rest is also powerful for us too.  The morning is the best time to exercise and do physical activity.  Your body is designed for this.  Are you taking advantage of this stored energy?

The morning screams of His perfect design.  The beauty of creation.  Diversity.  A new day and cleansing of the old.  You can see the vigor and playfulness in the birds in the morning.  They are out enjoying life and exploring the abundance of this earth.  The morning is a great time to reflect and begin anew.  Put yesterday behind and embark on a new day with discovery and adventure.  Are you taking advantage of the extravagant beauty and gift of the new day?

I love the mornings.  I always have.  My mom never worried about waking me up, I was always the first up and out the door.  I remember being mesmerized as a kid by the beauty of the morning.  I still love everything about it.   How about you?  Can you break the love affair with your pillow?  The experts know the secret.  Give it a try- you’ll see!

Do you follow the experts advice?  Do you love the mornings?  Click “Like” if you do!  If not so much- click on comments and tell me your story!

Fight The Urge!

I was invited to join a group of friends, just men, for a cookout tomorrow.  I have decided to go.  This sounds like an easy decision on the surface.  But really it’s not that easy.

My inclination would be to stay home and relax.  See, I’ve had a difficult few weeks at work.  Traveling, problem solving, frustrations.  It’s been a real basket full of junk.  I have plenty of really good excuses to skip out on this one.

But I know that I really need to be there.  Not because they need me to be there.  There will be plenty of guys that will attend.  No, the reason I need to be there is me.

My flesh is telling me that I deserve to stay home and relax.  But I know that I need to stay in community.  I need to stay connected.  I need to fight the urge to isolate.

Men are generally experts at isolation and coming up with excuses to be alone.  But this is unhealthy and dangerous.  The enemy loves a man in isolation.  He knows he’s got us right where he wants us.  A wise lady told me “Oh that devil, he’s been around for a long time.  He’s got a big bag of tricks.  He’s knows exactly what works on you.” I think we forget that fact.  We think we will be fine by ourselves.  Independent.  Self-reliant.  American individualism.

So off I will go.  I know I will enjoy the company.  I know that I will be glad that I went.  It will be good for me.  Better than sitting on the couch with a book which would be my first choice.

Sometimes you need to fight the urge.  The urge telling you that you deserve something.  The urge that tells you that you come first.  The urge that tells you that you it’s ok to be alone.

Deep down we know what we need.  What is pure.  What is good.  What will build up.

Relationships take work so fight the urge to isolate.  Reach out and connect.  Someone has to make the effort.  Why not you?

Do you struggle some times staying connected?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!

Different Is Good!

Yesterday Kathy and I went on a hike through the Cahuita National Park along the Carribean coast of Costa Rica.  We had a guide who had an amazing eye to pick out wildlife far off in the trees.  The diversity of life that we saw was remarkable, yet everything fit together and you had the feeling that it all belonged together

Why do we always strive for things to be the same?
This park is located along the Carribean coast near Panama.  This area was settled by turtle hunters from the Carribean islands about 150 years ago.  These settlers have roots in Africa so they do not look the same as either the indigenous natives or the native Costa Ricans.
The lore is that the Costa Rica Carribean coast is more dangerous because of these Carribean natives and widespread drug influences.  Well, we were approached by the Rastafari peddling their stuff but this is not much different than any Carribean beach town.  So why is there so much talk of this area being so dangerous?  What is the reason that there is this fear and apprehension about this area?
Because they are different.
Costa Rica is not immune from discrimination.  The native Costa Ricans complain about the Nicaraguans as well as the African Carribean people.  A wise lady told us that she believes that the discrimination is based on money.  The Costa Ricans feel that they have these illegals and others costing the country money, much the same as our current conversation in the U.S.  I think this is part of it.  There is a self centered element in nearly every discussion and this logic is consistent here.  Yet, I think there is more to this.
I think much of the struggle for diversity is based on fear.
We want things to be the same.  We want things to be like us.  Anything else brings a sense of discomfort.  We like things vanilla.  We like security and the predictable.  Yet, this is not the design.
Nature screams diversity.  The design of everything from our Creator is abundant, rich, and diverse.  So what can we do as leaders?
Fight the urge for conformity.  When choosing your team, make some bold choices.  Choose the ones that are not like you, or the ones that don’t fit the mold.  If you are analytical, choose the artist.  If you are an introvert, maybe the conversationalist.  A diverse team will always be superior.  This is the design of nature.  Different is better.  You will see!

Light the Path

I believe that there is a desire to make a difference in the world that is woven into us at birth.  To make your mark- to put a “dent in the universe”.  Your choice is to either follow these desires and dreams or suppress them and give up.  The choice to give up is easy when you think it’s impossible.  Our job as leaders is to illuminate the path.  Model doing the impossible or the uncomfortable.  This is a story about lighting the path.

Light for my path

I was sitting beside a small fire on NewYears eve enjoying the company of some good friends and some outrageously large oysters.  Sitting at the fire was a girl named Rebecca who is the daughter of some good friends from church.  Rebecca was home for the holidays and was sharing some ministry stories that occurred while she was away at college in North Carolina.  Rebecca was able to seek out and find an inner-city ministry near her campus where she served on weekends.  She also shared that she had located a street church where service takes place outside in the yard of an abandoned church.  She shared some amazing stories of how she was able to serve and develop relationships with the poor in the community near her campus and also serve a church that tragically lost it’s pastor and continues because of a great effort by the surviving family.  She was beaming as she shared several truly amazing stories of restoration and God’s infinite grace.  This was my highlight of the evening.
 
While she was sharing, I began to connect the dots.  Rebecca had served throughout her high school years nearly every Saturday at an inner-city street ministry that we have at our church.  Rebecca was a regular.  She made a strong connection with the folks in the neighborhood.  When she left for college I was regularly asked where she was.  See- Rebecca made an impact!  Not by giving out surplus food, but through her amazing smile and her way of being genuinely interested in their lives.  Rebecca went deeper.  Yes- Rebecca is special- but there is more.
 
As I considered her impact, it occurred to me that the beginning of the trail actually started with her parents willingness to serve.  If her parents hadn’t modeled this behavior, it is very unlikely that Rebecca would be serving the poor in North Carolina.  It can be a tough decision to take your child downtown to serve in a dangerous neighborhood.  You can easily talk yourself out of it.  Also, to model the behavior, you actually have to get out of bed early each Saturday and drive to the ministry.  I have experienced this one first hand.  Your pillow is a hard thing to give up on the only day each week that you have to sleep in!  Yet, over both of these, they were faithful.  And their faithfulness was rewarded with a daughter that truly “gets it”.
 
Many folks work hard their entire lives trying to make that “dent in the universe”.  They store up money and build empires.  They seek to get their name on a building somewhere.  They work really hard to make their children wealthy, comfortable and self-sufficient.
 
All of these are fleeting.  Wealth will eventually be lost or squandered away.  Buildings will eventually crumble and fall.  And the pursuit of comfort and independence ends unfullfilled.

The secret is often right next to you.  You have to choose to light the path for others.  You can show them how to truly influence lives.  And when you do, it’s contagious.  They will continue on modeling for others and then the multiplication factor kicks in.
 
This is how you can truly change the world!  So, what is your plan?  Will you continue to build an empire based on things that will eventually crumble or will you invest in things that will march on for generations.  Maybe a quick look at your planner might reveal where your heart truly is?  It starts with taking a risk and putting yourself out there.  Are you ready?  Can you break the power of your pillow and the pursuit of comfort to light the path for others? 

What are some easy things that you have done that you have seen repeated by others?  Is success and comfort what your children really need?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Men: 10 Shopping Tips for Christmas!

Ah, the Christmas season has begun!  A time for family, great food and gift giving!  One problem:  The thought of Christmas shopping makes most men cringe.  I would guess that most men would do diaper duty instead of hitting the mall!  Yet, we know we have to do it AND it’s coming up pretty quickly here.  When you think of shopping for your wife or special loved one, you can’t help but think of the scars from past failures.  The dress that was three sizes too big (How big do you think I am?).  The new vacuum cleaner (Oh, I guess the place is a mess, huh?).  The earrings that exactly match the set she already has (You idiot, don’t you notice anything?).   You try every year- yet it always ends in failure.  You want to give up- just go all gift certificates.  You know that this isn’t personal.  Doesn’t show you really care.  No, won’t work.  What can you do? Christmas in the post-War United StatesI am writing this based on wisdom gained from pure failure.  I have made just about every stupid mistake possible.  Yet, I am getting better.  Last year, I probably did about 80% not returned.  Not saying that this year will be as good, but I am gaining confidence.  I know I will get a couple gifts right.  And this is the way it should be.  Because it’s important to her.  You want to see genuine joy on her face on Christmas.  Not- “Oh, thanks Honey…” and then it gets returned.  You want it to be really special for her.

OK- so what do we do?  Here is a list of hints that have been helpful for me through the years.  Understand ALL women are different, so I may not have this exactly right for your loved one so adjust as you see fit.

  1. Planning:  Start thinking about gift giving NOW.  Very often she will give you hints about what she wants.  Some will be subtle and others are not.  Be careful with the non-subtle hints.  This is when she is all but TELLING YOU what she wants.  Write it down!  You will forget- trust me.  Make a list of these hints and ideas.  Start now!
  2. Do the Recon:  Before you hit the mall, a reconnaissance mission is required.  When she is out of the house, go through her closet and dresser and write down the sizes for her clothes.  Be careful here.  Her closet can be full of traps.  There are often things in there that she wishes would fit.  Find the clothes that she always wears.  Look at the tags for the brands.  You may be able to get hints on the stores where she shops.  Write down the sizes and the brands.
  3. Right Style:  Really LOOK at what she wears.  You do not want to be a pioneer here.  Even if you don’t really care for the style she likes, buy what she wears.  She’ll tell you that she loves what you bought her- yet she will never wear it.  My daughter tells my wife that she dresses like a hippy while my daughter dresses conservatively.  Don’t generalize.  Buy what she will wear!
  4. Get the List:  Ask her for a list.  Don’t think that you are so good that you don’t need a list.  Get a few slam dunks in along with some more risky items.  Nothing worse than seeing it all go on the return pile.  Quiz her on her list.  She will likely give you more ideas as she describes what she wants.  Get all of the details- stores, sizes, colors, everything.  These are givens- so go get em!
  5. Shop with Her:  Go Christmas shopping with her.  While she is shopping for others she will spot clothes or items that she wants.  She may tell you to get something specifically or she may just be drawn to something.  Typically she will see something that she wants but thinks it’s too expensive.  Jackpot.  This is good target.  Snap your mental picture and return later and make the buy.  Shopping with her is gold.  You will get great hints here.  So do it!
  6. Danger Zone:  There are certain gifts that are very risky.  Stay away from risk- this isn’t Vegas!  Here are a few:
    1. Practical Gifts:  Household items, TV, blender, toaster, washer, new roof.  May be really needed, but not at Christmas.  Unless it’s a list item- stay away!  This is REAL quick sand here.  Stay with personal gifts.  Practical some other time- not Christmas!
    2. Fitness:  Exercise equipment, gym membership, workout clothes, yoga classes, etc.  Risky, very risky.  Realize the message that you are giving.
    3. Cooking  Items:  Careful here.  Unless she is an avid cook, you may be delivering that same bad message.
    4. Victoria Secret:  Stay away- this is also a trap!  The sizes are about impossible to get right.  There is a fine line to trashy.  And, what is the message- not sexy enough?  Too sexy?  Don’t do it!
    5. Jewelry:  This is a typical “go to” for many guys.  Spend a bunch of money in one spot- and be done.  Easy choice.  However- if she is not a jewelry girl- she’ll take it back.  Trust me on this one.  And then because you chose the “nuclear option”- she’ll have no other gifts that were good.  Now you really stepped in it!  Be careful here.
  7. Go it Alone:  Don’t bring your buddy or your daughter with you.  If you bring your buddy you know where you will end up- Ruby Tuesday’s with a cold beer.  Don’t do it!  You will just have to go out again.  If you bring your daughter and you mess up she will be collateral damage.  Ask her what she thinks, but don’t bring her.  Keep her out of it.  Come on…she’s family!
  8. Use the Mannequins:  The mannequins can be your friend!  See how it looks on them.  They generally put some of the best selling styles on the mannequins.  Look at colors and styles.  Stripes, black, paisley, whatever.  You will know what’s in by looking at the mannequins.  You can also see what it looks like on.  Things look way different on a person than on the clothes rack.
  9. Ask for Help:  Ask the sale people for help.  They will help you find sizes and match things up.  I am not suggesting that you take ALL of their advice.  This is also a trap.  I have wrapped suggested outfits that were a total bomb.  Stay with the look that you are sure she will like.  Don’t experiment with someone else’s taste.
  10. Start Early:  Don’t wait for the last minute.  Start now!  Get a few things bought and stored away.  I will admit that I like getting some last minute items.  Getting out a couple days before Christmas with all the other guys is kind of a tradition.  I do love the last minute excitement- but if you wait too long you will be stuck with what’s left.  All of the common sizes to the cool clothes will be gone.  Many of the good gift ideas will be sold out.  There are great last minute sales but try to be nearly wrapped up.  The internet is a great starting point.  Get a few internet purchases done early and start to look for ideas.  Do your research on-line so your time can be concentrated on hunter/gathering (pick-up and pay!).

These are a few tips that I have learned through the years that I think are most valuable.  Most men would say it’s only Christmas and what does this have to do with leadership?  I can assure you that Christmas gifts are very likely much more important to her, than they are to you!  I also know that being a bonehead and doing a crummy job sends a really poor message to your kids and others about how much you care about her and the importance of completing a task with excellence.  So suck it up and get it done!  It’s not that difficult and when you get it right- it is truly magic!

Merry Christmas!

Can you share some stories of mistakes or victories in Christmas gift selection?

Ladies:  Any ideas to share with the guys?

 Click on comments and tell us your story!