Friday, December 17, 2010

When you lose a leadership title

Sometimes it happens that you have been in a leadership position and then you're not.  So then what?  It kind of depends on why you no longer have your title...
Perhaps you are moving on to another leadership role.  Yay, you!  Your job is to gracefully welcome the new leader as you move into your new position.  You also need to let your team know how much you have valued them, and what a great asset they will be for the new leader.  Be gracious and don't burn any bridges.
Maybe you are retiring.  This brings about many life changes.  Try to focus on being able to devote your time only to those things that bring you joy.  Yes, you may feel some loss.  After all, your leadership title may have defined you for a very long time.  But think of the possibilities!  You have so many new opportunities open to you.
Maybe you "lost" your leadership title.  Sure you can sit and wallow and blame this or that, but what does that get you?  You need to decide if you really want your leadership title back - enough to go do the things that got you there to begin with.  Are you willing to be a leader, even without a title?  Then the question is: "Are you a leader in title or action?"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stop with the insults.

When did it become OK to insult others while we express our own opinions?
I see it all the time- in politics, on television, and on the internet (especially on blogs).
Don't get me wrong- I am all for standing up for what you believe in.  But just because it's what you believe, doesn't mean it's what someone else believes, or what I believe, or that it's OK to bash people over the head.
I've recently been following a couple of "hot" topics online.  The group has some very valid concerns.  The problem is that in the heat of the issue, several have resorted to personally insulting those that may have a differing opinion.  They've all but said, "You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny".  Just because someone doesn't agree with you, doesn't make them wrong (any more than it makes you right).  Some have even reminded me of the "preacher" at the farmer's market, who stands on his soap box shouting at people that they are all going to hell.  Seriously, who is he reaching with that message?
We need to communicate our frustrations without personally attacking people with a different opinion.  Discuss the issues, not the feelings.  Offer a solution, not an insult.  When you result to insults, you actually water down the point you are trying to make.  You anger & frustrate others, and often alienate as many as you convince.
STOP!  Re-read before you hit "send".  What is your post really saying?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bring it on!

I have now officially attended my first cheer competition.  I am already a veteran "dance mom", and there are some similarities between cheer and dance competitions (most notably the moms living vicariously through their children... but I digress).  As I watched the competition, I could compare the teams as far as which ones stayed together, how many stunts were dropped, and whether I personally liked the choreography.  I was at a loss, however, in comparing difficulties of skills.  I knew that our team had a tough routine (so I had been told), but it was difficult for me to compare.
I couldn't help but notice when a team dropped a stunt - it's like watching a skater hit the ice - it's hard to miss.  Because I am familiar enough with the potential injuries that happen when a stunt falls out, I sat, not hoping for other teams to fail, but for our team to "hit" with greater difficulty.  I wanted our team to win because they were the best, not because other teams had a rough day.
I think many have forgotten this in real life.
In politics, each party hopes for the other to fail, so that they look better.  Instead of working together, they work against one another.  The problem in that, is that we are still one country.  When one party fails, the country fails.  It used to be that once a president was elected, it didn't matter who you voted for, this was your president.  You got behind him, supported him, because he was leading your country.  Now, at any given time, about half the country is working against the president, or the party in the majority.
In real life, you have got to understand that working with a team, a group, a family, with anyone - can accomplish so much more than struggling by yourself, or working against others.
Win because you tried your hardest and did the best, not because others failed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Psychic Vampires

Psychic Vampires.  Chances are you know at least one.  You know who they are... the ones that are always complaining... always have some crisis happening... always in the middle of some kind of drama...
Hopefully, you try to avoid these people at all cost (and hopefully, this is not you).  But sometimes they are more difficult to avoid .
With the holiday season upon us, I have just a few words of advice:
1- Keep time with the Psychic Vampires short.
2- Avoid "hot" buttons.  Topics, old wounds, etc. that don't need to be brought up.
3- Always have an escape route (whether that means another room, a walk outside, an errand to "pick up ice", or another obligation).
4- Look for the good.  Whether it's your health, that you have enough food, a warm place to be or that you can be together with the non-Psychic Vampires, ENJOY those things.  Don't dwell on the crummy parts.
And maybe a garlic necklace wouldn't hurt - that tends to keep everyone away!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Plan B... Plan C...

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Robert Burns

"Life is all about how you handle plan B." Suzy Toronto
Leadership is all about how you handle plan C and D.

We can plan.  We can forecast.  We can insure.  We can control some things.  But, stuff happens.  For instance, just this week, I was part of a fantastic Holiday Open House event.  There were displays, prizes, activities, food, etc.  It was well attended, we had great feed back, we did solid business, but we had one "oops".  We had planned for an additional activity.  I had personally prepared much of the supplies.  Somehow or another, part of the supplies didn't make it to the venue.  What to do?  Freak out?  Try to put together more supplies at the last minute - during the event?  We chose to let it go for this event.  We put it away.  Of course, we will try to re-work the supplies (when we find them).  But we couldn't let one "oops" color what turned out to be a terrific event.  And you know that others looked to me as to how to re-act.  We were calm, cool and had a great time.  Plan C.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Secret to leadership

The secret to leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow. ~Godin

Do you lead a company, a family, a church, a group of volunteers or a community?  Do you believe in what you do?
Do those you lead share your vision?  Have you shared your vision?  Can you share it clearly?
Are you doing what you need to do, regardless?  Even when it's hard?  Even when no one is looking?

Don't just talk the talk.  Walk the walk.  There's a difference between telling others what to do and inviting them along the journey with you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Franchise opportunity

As I read several blogs and forums relating to direct sales, I'm fascinated by those who complain, complain, complain.  They want something, they get it, but they want it different.  They sign on to a company, but don't like how the company dictates this or that.
Direct sellers - imagine you owned a franchise... let's say "Subway" (Subway is a registered trademark & only being used as an example).  You have your location with the pretty sign, all of your food is purchased through your company, you have a fairly standard menu and you get to choose to participte in national advertising and pricing.  And, you have to sell a significant number of sandwiches to retain your franchise.
As a customer, I know that I can walk into any Subway and get a BMT that tastes almost identical to any BMT I purchase at any other location.  I know what I'm getting.
So what if Subway franchise owners put the name on the door but didn't follow franchise rules?
As a customer, I may have a bad experience and never go back to any Subway.  Maybe 1 Subway offers cheesecake, and then I'm disappointed with the others who don't.  Maybe my BMT has half the meat, or a different combination of meats, or uses a different supplier, so I don't know what quality I'm getting.  Maybe my sandwich is on plain, sliced white bread (horror!).
As the franchise owner, why would I stray from the plan?  Would I try to do my own tv ads, knowing that I can't use the trademark in them (even if I don't care for Jarrod)?  Would I put my sandwiches on Ebay or Craig's list - calling it "catering" - even though my agreement says it must be done through my store?  Is it "fair" for the company to not allow me to deviate from the plan?  What if the franchise owners request cheese soup for the menu, Subway provides it, but complain because they wanted "Wisconsin" cheese soup?  Because I don't like something does it make it OK for me to not honor my (legal) agreement?
I have 2 thoughts:
1- The company invests a lot of time, money, study & effort to provide franchisees with a quality product and plan.  They need to protect their brand to ensure consistency throughout their company.  Do they sometimes have a bad idea?  Sure.  I've seen the menu change quite a bit over the years.  Do they have shipping problems?  More than once, my sandwich has missed tomatoes (or lettuce) due to shortages nationally, shipping problems (high gas prices) or just over-selling the product ordered.  How arrogant, or ignorant, would someone be to think that they could do everything better than a huge team providing them with their franchise opportunity?  And how much more work would it be?
2-  If you're so much smarter (better, faster) why aren't you running your own company?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Job fair

At a recent event, it was my job to greet and check everyone in.  This was a scrapbook event where I also get to be the MC.  To add some fun, I was wearing blue fairy wings and blue "Cindy Lou Who" hair extensions.  Across the street from our event, was a job fair.
Now picture a man in a shirt & tie, about 40ish, looking me up and down and slowly asking, "Is this the job fair?"  Really?  Did he think I was the job fairy?  Although we do have some great opportunities available, you could see that he was relieved when I told him that the job fair he was looking for was across the street.
What a difference a few words make.  Had he asked, "Could you direct me to the job fair?" or simply, "Where is the job fair?" it would not have seemed so absurd.
Think about how you phrase things.  Think before you speak.  E-mails & texts give you the opportunity to stop and review what you are saying (although without conveying emotion or tone).
In one of the current political ads running (I am not endorsing anyone here), a man states that his representative fought "tooth & tongue" for his situation.  Isn't that supposed to be "tooth & nail"?  Did the representative lick the bad guys into submission?
Have you ever mixed up a metaphor?  Let your mouth get ahead of your brain?
Feel free to share.  I'd hate to think that I'm the only one.  Oh - and the guy looking for the job fair.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Price vs. value

Everything has a price.  Now before you dismiss this topic as one only for direct sellers, think about the services you and others pay for, or the personal cost of time, if you lead volunteers or family.
So let's talk about the cheapest price.  Is it you?  Is your product or service the cheapest around?  Chances are "no".
So what do you sell besides price?  Anything?  How about your response time?  Your customer service?  Your personal attention?  Your time-savings?  Your dependability?  Your personal commitment?  Your VALUE?
You will never win on price (unless you're the size of WalMart).
Look at your VALUE.  What do you offer that makes price less important?  You've got to know what you have to offer besides the cheapest price or you'll end up closing up shop.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What does your sign say?

I've been reading a blog by media guru Jen Fong ( who used a quote yesterday by Mary Kay Ash …"picture everyone with a sign around their necks saying ‘Make me feel important.'"  In it, Jen encourages leaders to friend their teams on Facebook.  This can help leaders keep connected to their teams and gives opportunity to offer support & recognition in a most timely way.
So it made me think... What signs do you see?
"I'm confused."
"Do you even know my name?"
"Spinning my wheels."
"Losing my enthusiasm."
Replace every one of those signs with "Make me feel important."  Then do it.
And don't think you're off the hook because no one seems to see your sign.  All the more reason to do it.  You can look at it as "pay it forward" or just what you're supposed to do.  But do it.
What do you do for others to make them feel important?

Friday, October 8, 2010

This too shall pass

Have you ever thought about how a small action can create a huge (and sometimes unexpected) reaction?
Take a moment to watch this video by OK Go, "This Too Shall Pass".  It clearly illustrates this point.
Pretty cool, huh?!
So much happened because of one push... or did it?  Imagine the preparation that went into this video.  Imagine the testing of props (did you notice the pile of crashed televisions in the background?).  Imagine how many times things didn't work.  Imagine the team effort required to ultimately achieve this feat.
What would your video look like, right now?
A few dominos falling over?
Maybe a few coordinated events?
Dusty dominos that were knocked down some time ago?
A blank screen?
Whatever is holding you back - this too shall pass.  Help it along.  Set up your dominos.  Knock them down.  Do it, again.  Add some more.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One thing

Have you ever been in a slump?  Maybe the market is down, your industry has changed, your company is having "issues" or you've had personal changes (birth, death, divorce, move, etc...).  Whatever the reason, you've been in a hole and you just can't seem to get out.
It can take just one thing to turn everything around.  Oh- you want to know what that "one thing" is?  Sorry- there is no magic answer because it's different for everyone.  In business, it tends to be an increase in productivity.  You're starting to meet some people, schedule appointments and you can see that things are starting to happen (even if you're not reaping the rewards, yet).  Several years ago, as a realtor, I heard it said that "Realtors don't die, they just become listless."  That same thing applies to most business.  People with appointments on their calendars don't quit.  They just don't.
What do you need to do to fill your calendar?  Do calls not seem to be working?  Get out where your customers are.  Meet other professionals in your field and network to see where they are meeting people.  Meet professionals in a sideline field.  You may have information you can both share and benefit from.
Does that "one thing" solve everything?  No.  But it can help propel you to the next "one thing" and the next... and the next.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ike Ditzenberger

Ike Ditzenberger is like a lot of other 17-year-old American football players. He dreams of playing college football. He attends daily practices. Most of the time he toils away in offensive drills. Then, on rare occasions, Ditzenberger runs into the limelight with aplomb. The description could fit thousands of American teenagers, except for one crucial detail: Ike Ditzenberger has Down Syndrome.

As a leader, you may have several "Ikes" on your team.  People who may not have all the skills, but their heart is in what they do.  They are not your starters, your star quarterbacks, but they are there every day, with their equipment on.
A coach alone cannot make a moment like this happen.  But he has tremendous influence over the team that rallies around this young man.  And in the course of how this team supports Ike, a rival team allowed him to have his moment to shine.  And as all these young men showed such kindness, every one who watches this truly tender moment cannot help but be touched by the generosity and character of these teams.
Your question then is, will you rally your team to support the non-all star players, or will you keep "Ike" on the bench?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sour milk

Consider for a moment that your product is milk.  You may be in direct sales, retail sales, ministry or work with volunteers... but today your product is milk.
Now, people can buy milk in lots of places- grocery stores, convenience marts, superstores, etc.  Where they purchase may be based on convenience, price, loyalty to good service, or another personal connection.  That doesn't mean that they may occasionally pick up milk somewhere else.  Or that they won't change where they pick up milk at some point.
But, what happens when someone picks up milk that's spoiled?
Some people are just annoyed, throw it away, and never think twice about it.
Some will return the milk and make sure the new one is fresh.
Some will stop buying milk at that particular location, thinking that one location is not staying on top of things.
Some will stop shopping at that chain of stores, thinking that there must be a problem at the distribution level.  That maybe their company is not putting out quality products.
And some may stop drinking milk all together.  Imagine a thirsty athlete who pours a big glass of milk and starts chugging... getting halfway through the glass before tasting the sour flavor and unappetizing texture... ick!  He may not drink another glass of milk for quite a long time.  And when he does, he will be much more cautious before taking a drink.
How does this apply to your situation?  The sour milk may or may not have been your fault, but chances are, it effected your bottom line.  Maybe you even know where the sour milk is coming from, is there some way you can improve the situation?  No matter how far removed you are from the sour milk, you still sell milk.
How many people heard about that one gallon of sour milk?  People almost never talk about the fresh milk they picked up, but will shout from the rooftop if they bought sour milk.  One gallon can effect your business, your relationships, your image, your INDUSTRY.
Keep it fresh.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't get your panties in a bunch

Have you been in your leadership position for so long that you are surrounded by "yes" men?  No matter what you say, or do, no one really challenges you?  There are a couple of possibilities...
1- You have been surrounded by the same people for too long.  The same people, doing the same things, the same way, blah blah blah... That means it's time to shake things up, get some "new blood" around you.
2- You have separated yourself from the "new blood".  You may feel that you've done your time, that new people cannot possibly have an informed opinion, and how would they have any idea what it is that you do, anyway?  You've been in this leadership position for years (maybe decades) and who are they to question your authority?
You are missing opportunity.
When you lead new people, they bring a fresh perspective.  They want to know what you do to be successful.  They bring their own set of skills and resources to the table that can be a huge asset to your organization.
If you have not been working and growing as a leader for a while - maybe you've been coasting on past success - this can get uncomfortable.  All of a sudden, you're being challenged and questioned and you might realize that you haven't been practicing what you preach.  It makes you squirm.
Instead of getting your panties in a bunch, take a look from that new perspective.  You may just find that getting your feathers ruffled actually pushes you to be a better leader.  It can be your opportunity to grow and bring others along side you.  And, it's got to be better than walking around with a wedgie.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tennis shoe leadership

It's been said before, but Nike popularized the saying "just do it".  Don't over think it, don't procrastinate, just do it.  No excuses, put on your shoes, just do it.
You're a leader.  What are you modeling?  Just do it.
Quit making excuses, there are action steps you need to take, just do it.
Are you still reading?  Get up.  Just do it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bunny slippers

One of the great advantages of working from home is working in your bunny slippers.  One of the great DISadvantages of working from home is working in your bunny slippers.  Why is that?
When you get up in the morning and get ready for a "traditional" job, you are already getting into the work mindset when you get dressed.  You have a routine that all leads up to getting your job done.
What happens when you stay in your bunny slippers?  Your footware choice may be accompanied by sweats and unwashed hair.  For most, this "uniform" signals a day off or a sick day.  It is much more difficult to be productive when your appearance is on vacation.
This is a simple fix for those of us who work from home:
1- Wash your face.
2- Get dressed.
3- Take off the bunny slippers.
Your bottom line will thank you for it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Compensation plans

I've come across many people lately who are not excited with their compensation plan.  Their commission or bonus structure is not netting them the same money that they used to make.  I do agree that the ones I talk with are not making the same money.
So why is that?
Well, the plan changed... and they didn't.  The market, the business, the CUSTOMER all changed, but they didn't.  I've heard it said that the only thing you can count on is change.  Change is a constant.  Our world is moving at a head-spinning pace.  We need to realize that and adapt.
Some became complacent and accepting of the money that comes in without much effort on their part.  And then their company expected more from them.
Others have just been slow to change.  The problem in that is that as soon as they finally fully embrace the change, it changes again.
And some others are just waiting for the next change.  Holding on... hoping that the next change will be the one to finally satisfy them.  Hoping... wishing... dragging down those around them.
Get off the fence and make a choice-
either get yourself "in it to win it" or get out.  That's how YOU effect change.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Baby steps

In working with others, whether volunteers, a team, employees or family, there is often the opportunity to help people grow in what they do.
Have you ever helped a baby when they are first learning to walk?  You first help them stand while they are learning to balance.  Then you hold their hand as they take their first steps.  Next you step a few feet away and encourage them to come to you.  You watch as they struggle to achieve those first couple of steps.  Sometimes they fall down, but you are there to encourage them to get back on their feet.  It doesn't take long before they are up and running (sometimes faster than you!).
Now compare this to your leadership or coaching style.
Do you:
1- give the baby a manual, expect them to read it and then just walk?
2- demonstrate by walking around them and expect them to do the same?
3- expect them to come into your family with walking knowledge?
4- reprimand them when they lose their balance?
5- just "know" that they could be walking faster already?
How much are you expecting from those around you?  Because it's become second nature for you, do you believe that everyone should be able to figure it out?
Be a leader who can take everyone through the basics - without making anyone feel like a "baby".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pull over

When I drive home down Polk City Highway, I always notice a very small cemetary to my right.  I am not creeped out by cemetaries, rather I find them quiet, serene places with beautiful and interesting tombstones.  Although I have not stopped at this one, I imagine that the stories of many lives are kept there, like the many others that I have had reason to visit.
The other day I glanced over to see a canopy almost overtaking the small plot of land.  Only a couple minutes later, I saw a long row cars coming toward me with their lights on.  I pulled over and waited.
As I sat, I thought about all the people in this long line of cars and how their lives had changed.  Some more than others, but changed all the same.  I said a small prayer for them.
I noticed that several cars behind me had also pulled over (this doesn't always happen these days...) and I wondered if they were in a hurry and annoyed by the interruption.  Or if they were waiting calmly, taking a few minutes for themselves.
I thought about my husband's grandma, "Grandma Sugar", and how we had to drive her funeral procession past a different cemetary, just so she could let her relatives know she was there.  And how during the memorial service, we had passed her handbag down the pew and each took a starlight mint, just like we did every Sunday at church.  And how it made us smile... and cry.
It made me think about how good life is, even when sometimes it doesn't seem that way.  It's about perspective.  It's about what I choose to do and how I choose to act and re-act.  It's about realizing that life is only good if I make it that way.  And I am in charge.
That few minutes on the side of the road energized my spirit.  And when I got home a few minutes later, I was able to hit the ground running.  Apparently, I also choose to let my energy get revved up, or sucked up.
I'm sure there's a leadership lesson in there somewhere.  What's yours?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A new voice

Have you ever told a child something that they scoffed at, and then someone else told them the same thing, and they listened?  Or sat in a meeting where you've heard similar information repeatedly before, but this time the info seemed brilliant?
There are 2 factors at work here-
Sometimes we tune out people or information sources that we hear from all the time.  It all becomes "blah, blah, blah.." and we don't actively pay attention.  The cure for this?  A new voice.  Search out your information from another source.  It could be another authority on the topic, a book or an online resource.  If you are leading others, bring in someone else to put their twist on the information.  Play a game.  Create a picture.  Just bring the information in a different format.
The other factor is that most people need to hear something seven times before it registers (some days I feel like it's at least 10 or 12 times!).  If you have children, you can probably relate.  You often don't know how many times someone has heard the same thing (including yourself).  But listen enough, and most things will eventually sink in.
Do you think this means I should start re-running my posts?  Or have you already noticed some running themes...?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Build a bridge

So, yesterday I was driving back home from the Quad Cities and I noticed that the bridge near Iowa City that they've been working on (seemingly forever) is finally looking like a bridge.  Traffic has been re-routed in that area for quite some time.  The base structure is in and the deck (the part we drive on) looks to be almost completed.  It got my mind thinking about many things (especially because I still had some windshield time), but I kept coming back to the bridge.
I thought about how long it takes to put in the foundation structure for a bridge.  And how much of the base starts out under water.  I considered how traffic changes while work is being done.  And how great it will be when all lanes are open over the bridge.  I thought about how many times I've driven past the project, and didn't notice much progress.  I thought about how quickly it seems that the structure goes in, the farther to the top you are.
This bridge is so much like leadership.  When you start, it seems like everything takes longer and often feels like you're under water.  You have to work to get yourself above water.  Sometimes, activities in your life are re-routed or slowed down during the construction.  The "building" part often isn't noticeable to those around you.  But once you have your strong foundation, it sometimes seems that you become an overnight sensation (after weeks, or months or years in your field).
It pays to spend the time building a strong foundation.  When the floods come (and they will) you must be able to withstand the storms.  If not, all your hard work will wash down the river.  And then you've wasted your time & rerouted those around you for nothing.
Do you have confidence in your bridge?  Do you inspire people around you to help you build?  Do they feel that together you can build the biggest, strongest bridge?  Will they be willing to go over your bridge, because they are confident in its strength?
Build a bridge - you have places to go.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Robe & cheescake

Back to school time always seems to be the time of year where I look at my business and evaluate the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I suppose most people do this at the end of the calendar year, or at the end of the fiscal year, but for me with school age children, fall seems to work.  The oldest moves to college and the youngest is in high school all day after a summer of go-go-go.  Unfortunately, I do tend to spend the first few days of back-to-school in my robe, curled up, eating cheesecake (rather Miss Havisham!).
So once the cheesecake is gone (and I've had a shower) I sit down and look at my schedule for the past and upcoming year.  Working with lots of other busy people, I've learned that I get a better reponse when everyone is able to put the big events on their calendars as early as possible.  Calendars can get filled up so quickly these days!
I like to pull out my packets from the past year's events.  I look at the participation of consultants and customers.  I look at the budget.  I look at the notes and evaluations from after the event.  Did customers like the event?  Did consultants?  How much return on investment did we get?  Should we do it again?  What can we tweek to make it better?  Who is ready to step up and take on some additional responsibility?
I take some time to look through my team list.  Because I tend to see those who are actively involved on my team every month or 2, I have a good sense of who might be ready to take on additional leadership.  Their sales and recruiting numbers are not their complete story.  People can be good at selling and even recruiting, but not be ready, willing or able to be a leader.  Some people very naturally exhibit leadership skills, but they may not be in a season where sales & recruiting is a priority.  I look at their potential for the upcoming year.
I look at my personal goals.  Since this is only the middle of August, I still have time to meet my yearly goals (and fall tends to be an awesome time in my business).
I look at my personal motivation.  Do I still love what I do?  Can I change the things I don't love?  Am I willing to work through the things I don't like because I love the rest?  What do I need to learn?  What can I improve?
Take some time to re-evaluate your leadership.  If you wait until the end of the year, you may miss out on some opportunities this year.  You also won't be ready to hit the ground running on January 1st.  And, hopefully, you won't need your robe and cheesecake to get it done!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I am not a hugger.
I don't know why.  Maybe it's my upbringing (just kidding, Mom!).  But I am not a hugger.
This may surprise some of you who have been the victim of a full-on, frontal assault hug.
Here's what I've learned:
When I worked in Connecticut for a New York-based company, we didn't hug.  We shook hands, we kissed on each cheek, but we didn't hug.
Now I live in the mid-west and lead a team of huggers.  So I am now a hugger.  Not because I like to hug, but because the people around me like to hug.
And you know the funny part?  I've even grown to like it!
Are you a hugger?  Do you have something that hangs you up in your interactions?  Something that keeps you separated from the people you lead?  Try to look at it from their perspective.  Will a "hug" go miles toward unity?  Will a "hug" boost someone's self-esteem.  Will a "hug" tell someone that you notice and appreciate them?
And you know the funny part?  You may even grow to like it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pink hair

I caught a few minutes of Debbie Travis' show "From the Ground Up" on HGTV the other day.  This reality show features a group of young people, with varying backgrounds, learning all areas of the construction industry.  I was somewhat amused to watch a pink-haired young woman wearing a sparkly belt lamenting that it was "unfair" for her to be judged on her appearance.  She felt that she was looked at differently because of her choice in hair and wardrobe.  Now, I may be in the over 30 crowd (ok, over 40 crowd), but isn't that why she chose bright pink hair, to be looked at differently?
Here's the challenge- she's a young woman in a male dominated field with enthusiasm but no technical skills and she thinks she should be able to look any way she wants.
In real life- you earn the right to stand out by being skillful in your craft.  If you are a computer programmer in a corporate setting that has saved and earned your company millions, and you want to walk around in bunny slippers, you probably can.  If you are a real estate magnate that has built an empire in New York and Atlantic City, and you want to wear a comb-over, you've earned it (but people may still talk).  If you're an awesome hair stylist, who's been in the business for almost 20 years, that clients (like me) will drive 180 miles to have their hair done, you go ahead and have pink (or purple or blue or...) hair.  You've proven that you have the chops to back up your "look at me" appearance.  When people look at you, they see your experience, substance, success, wisdom and skill.
But, until you can prove yourself in your industry, pink hair is probably just annoying your mother.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Have you ever met someone who has "been there, done that"?  Or bristles at new ideas because they had success another way before?  Now, if this person is still achieving and growing, great!  Talk with them and see what can be learned and translated for your situation.  If they're not growing, business is down, etc., run away!
Here's a tough question to ask yourself, "Have you stopped listening, stopped trying and stopped growing?"
When you get to the point of not listening, you have choices.
You can continue doing the same old thing, and get decreasing results.
You can stick your head in the sand, and get your butt run over.
Or, in the infinite wisdom of Cher's character in Moonstruck, you can "Snap out of it!".  Try something out-of-the-box (maybe it's just out-of-the-box for you - it's ok to copy what others are successfully doing).  Will you always hit it out of the park?  Of course not!  But at least you'll stop (or at least slow) your downward spiral.
Take a moment to consider what you can do to improve your leadership in your business, in your family, in your finances or in your community.  Seek out authorities in those areas who are experiencing continued success.  Are you listening?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fear or Excitement?

Do you remember the first time you went on a rollercoaster?  Your heart raced, you felt butterflies in your stomach, your palms were sweaty?  How about your first date?  Or first kiss?  The first time you rode on an airplane?  The exhilaration you felt?  The excitement?
Now think about how you feel when you're afraid... Does your heart race?  Do you have butterflies in your stomach?  Do your palms sweat?
Your body reacts the same way to excitement and fear.  Your mind - your perception - is the only difference.
Now, there are a few people who laugh when I say this, but, I am painfully shy.  Meeting people makes my heart pound, walking into a party makes me want to throw up, and I sweat when I pick up the phone to make business calls.  I have learned that this condition is short-lived.  I tell myself that the sour stomach and flop sweat are really excitement.  And it really is.  Every time I meet new people, I make new connections, meet new customers and meet new friends.  Isn't that exciting?!
Could you use a little excitement?  Instead of starting drama in your life or looking for a bridge to bungee cord jump off of, conquer your everday fears and see how exciting that can be!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Excuse or reason?

This past weekend, I listened to Sue Rusch, who is a Strategic Consultant, Speaker, & Business Coach (and also very tall).  Of all the wonderful information she gave (and there was a lot), the one quote that really struck home for me was, "We can look at family as an excuse, or a reason."  Ouch!  It's so easy to avoid the work that I know I need to do, by saying "my family time is more important".  But what am I calling "family time"?  Sitting in a dance studio during lessons?  Watching tv while the rest of my family watches another tv?  Sitting on a field watching soccer practice?  Dinner together (but barely half the family is there)?  Choose what is important.  And be there.  Remember the reasons that you chose leadership.  And if your leadership is important, schedule your activities.  And be there.  No excuses.

Thanks to everyone who is regularly (or even occasionally) reading this blog. I've been covering a lot of situations that have hit me personally (and I still have plenty to pull from!). Are there areas of your leadership that could use a spark? Maybe a situation or recurring theme? I think most of us really do know the answers, we just need to hear it again (and again, and again).  Please leave a comment on areas that you would like some focus (I'm sure I've messed up some of the same things at some point!) and I'll try to bring you my perspective.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.  This blog is a joy to write!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blank green canvas

This past year, our relocation to a new city prompted us to purchase a new home.  Although we have always wanted to find a property with character (maybe something historic or mid-century modern or a loft type space), we found our best choice to be new construction.  New homes have some great advantages (energy efficient, new mechanicals & appliances, up-to-date finishes, etc.), but they lack mature landscaping.
Now we have a huge blank green canvas.  What to do?  Hardscaping (patios, decks, fences) are the most expensive, but when they're in, they're done.  No waiting for them to mature.  Next come trees and shrubs.  Choose where to place them so that they will provide shade and beauty for years to come.  Perennials, for me, are the most fun.  I like that I can plant something that will come back year after year.  I can always count on them.  When they're happy and well-fed, they will grow to the point they need to be divided to thrive.  Annuals are the flashiest, but they require the most maintenance.  Planting them every year, getting them established, "dead-heading" them constantly so that they will continue to flower through the entire season.
As a leader, you are the gardener.  What are you going to put on your large blank green canvas?
Will you only have hardscapes?  You'll recruit those that already have experience and are self-starters.  They are few and far between.
Will you concentrate on trees and shrubs?  Choose carefully.  There is only room for so many and they can effect other plantings.  Once established, they can offer years of return.  They can stand on their own.
Will you fill your landscape with perennials?  These will offer a lot of variety and will come back year after year.  They work best in a large grouping.
Or will you choose the flashy, higher maintenance annuals?  These will require more of your time and offer a high return, but only for just one season.
A great garden will have a nice variety of all of these.  Everything works well together.  Those that have similar needs for water and sun are grouped together.  Colors and textures work together and enhance one another.
A great garden always needs a gardener.  Without attention, your garden gets overgrown, weeds find their way in, storms can damage...
How's your green thumb?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Should you be committed?

Most of us are volunteer leaders, not corporate CEO's with golden parachutes.  We choose to lead families, athletic teams, congregations and businesses.  We volunteer to be good examples, work harder than anyone, invest time and money, show up early & work late.  Are we nuts?!  We should probably all be committed!
Are you constantly doing the same things and expecting different results?  Insane!
Are you committed to doing things the way you've always done, no matter what?  Senseless!
Are you sitting back and resting on past achievements?  Demented!
Should your leadership be committed to an institution for being senseless?

Maybe it is time for your leadership to be committed.
Committed to learning new skills.
Committed to developing personal relationships.
Committed to controlling time (goodbye Farmville!).
Committed to being positive.
Committed to stepping up.

What kind of committed are you?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


A few years ago, I went to California with my parents to celebrate my dad's sister's anniversary.  My dad and his sister had only just met the year before and she had invited us to meet the rest of her family and celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary.  She and her family graciously showed us around the area.  Since it was my first trip to the west coast, we went to Huntington Beach to check out the Pacific Ocean.  We stopped at a beautiful cove where I took off my shoes and waded knee deep into the water.
I remember how the waves felt pushing against my legs...
I remember how the wet sand squished up between my toes...
I remember how the sun sparkled against the waves...
I remember watching my shoes go out with the tide...
Wait!  No!  My other shoes are at the hotel!  50 miles away!  Although I did manage to grab one of the shoes, it didn't bring much comfort watching the other one drift out to sea, well beyond my reach.
Leadership ebbs and flows like those waves.  Most of the time, you should be able to feel the waves and keep your balance.  You may even enjoy the location and the scenery.
Sometimes the waves are bigger, especially during bad weather.  During the storms, you have to decide if you're going to let the water knock you over, or if you're going to "hang ten" and ride the big waves.  Sometimes you need to jump in to stay afloat.
You must always be present in your leadership to make decisions.  If you're not paying attention when the tide comes in, you could lose your shoes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sharks are circling

Imagine you are in a sinking boat surrounded by sharks.  How do you survive?  Who do you throw out of the boat?
Young or old?
Wealthy or poor?
Self-taught or educated?
Female or male?
Newest hire or longest tenured?
What value does an individual have?  How do you choose?
As a leader, sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the people you lead.  You may need to make choices about where you spend your time and resources.  You may need to ask yourself some critical questions:
Did I properly train them?  Did I continue to train as needed?  Am I cause for their success or failure?
Are they a diamond in the rough?  Are they lazy or angry?  Are they a genuine superstar?  Do I know them well enough to make that judgment?
Why did I choose to lead them in the first place?  What are my leadership goals?  Can I truly lead if I don't have a goal?
Am I looking at their value as an individual?  Or only at their value to me?
Maybe it's time to see the value of everyone you lead.  See them for who they are, not just what they can do.
The sharks are circling.  What will you choose?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What you do is important

What you do is important. If you lead a company, a family, a department, a team, a group of friends or a congregation...
What you do is important.
What you do is reflected in the group you lead.  Do you lead by example, teach others to be successful, support, encourage and recognize accomplishments?  It's easy to get into a slump.  We can feel unappreciated, our feelings can get hurt, we can come up short on our goals, or life can just happen.
What you do is important.
How we react in tough situations defines us as leaders.  It shows the world what we're made of.  It's the whole "lemons into lemonade" philosophy.  Sometimes it's the small things.  Calling a team member and congratulating them for their accomplishment even when you've missed your goal.  Reaching out to help someone, even though your finances are tight.  Celebrating an anniversary, even if yours went unnoticed.  Choosing not to be bitter, even though you may have every right to be.  Choosing to act, not react.
What you do is important.  What are you doing?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Google maps

While taking a couple days in Minneapolis with my husband to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary, I realized... I love my Garmin!  (Yes, I love my husband, too.)  But my Garmin... knows where I want to go and how to get there from where I am.  And Garmin will even direct me in an Australian accent, if I choose!
After we checked in to our hotel, we decided to visit one of my favorite stores in the area (IKEA).  We jumped into the car, told Garmin where we wanted to go, and we were there just a few minutes later.  When we left the store, it occurred to us that we still needed Garmin to get back.  It was only 2 roads and about 10 minutes, but we still needed the directions.  Because we were only interested in getting from point A to point B, we never saw the big picture.  Our attention was only focused on the directions, not the journey.  Where was our destination in relation to other destinations we wanted to choose?  Were they close?  Were they far?
In these days of Garmin and Google Maps, it's easy to get from point A to point B.  The trouble is that we're often not seeing the big map.  Sometimes that's true in our leadership.  We're so focused on meeting a goal (sales, number of members, pay check, earning an incentive, etc.) that we're not seeing the big picture.  We forget about other's wants and needs to focus on our own.  We meet one goal only to find out that we have detours elsewhere.  Sometimes our batteries die or we lose our satellite.  We forget about the atlas.
As a leader, you become someone else's map.  Will you only direct them from A to B?  Or will you help them see the bigger picture?  Will you find out if they only want to get from A to B?  Or whether they would like to stay at A or go to C, D & E?  You need to help them look at the big map to see where they ultimately want to go.
Of course, that means you need to be familiar with the roads.  The best way, is to drive them yourself.  You become familiar with the potholes and the rest stops.  You can help to steer them in a more suitable direction.  You become a much better resource for those who look to you for guidance.
Stay connected to your satellite. Know your goals. Get some education.
You also need to keep your batteries charged.  What electrifies you in leadership?  What excites you in what you do?  Are you doing it?  Enough of it?
Will you be a Google Map?  Or will you be an atlas?  Either way, you are welcome to use the Australian accent!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Coconut bras & grass skirts

A few years ago, I found myself in front of a 100 or so scrapbookers wearing a coconut bra and a grass skirt.  The "tiki" theme that we had chosen dictated the need for my costume.  The fun part was that everyone in the room knew that when I hit the stage in my crazy outfit, someone was going to win a prize!
Shouldn't a leader be above dressing silly at a big event?  Never!  Would it help if I mentioned that I did have a t-shirt on under the coconut bra?  And that we all wore Hawaiian shirts the rest of the time?  Or that I've worn a Santa hat, light up necklace, blue hair, pink bowling shirt with matching glow-in-the-dark bowling shoes for other events?
So why did I go the extra mile?  Did I have to wear a coconut bra and a grass skirt to give away prizes? No. But did it add to the excitement and the atmosphere? Yes.  It brought a sense of fun to the event and unity among the team.  A large event is a huge undertaking.  Having everyone on board keeps the whole team motivated.
Now maybe you will never be in a situation where you need to wear a coconut bra and grass skirt.  Maybe you just need to be reminded to participate in group dynamics.  If there is a meeting, actively take notes.  If there is a team challenge, work for it.  If there is a dress up theme, dress up.  If there is singing and dancing, sing and dance.  If there is a softball game, play ball!
I am not asking you to be someone you're not.  I am asking you what kind of leader you want to be.  Do you want to be approachable, or stand-offish?  Fun, or dull?  One of the team, or above the rest?  Do you want to engage your team, or leave them alone?
As always, you get to choose what kind of leader you want to be.  By the way, if you need it, I have a coconut bra and grass skirt you can borrow!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Walls & windmills

It seems that the one thing that you can count is change.  Change for the better, change for the worse, but change none the less.  Change is inevitable.  We all have our own ways of dealing (or not dealing) with change.

"When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills." (Chinese proverb)

Those that build walls tend to view change as happening to them, a victim mentality that causes many to turn bitter.  Others look at change as a force to be harnassed.  A chance to build and grow, a chance for things to be better.
There is such a small difference between "bitter" and "better".  It's "I".  I choose my outlook.  I choose my action and reaction.  I choose whether I put the covers over my head or get up and greet the day to see what great possibilities are blowing in.
Put your finger in the air.  Which way is your wind blowing today?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Try something new

Last week, I attended my first auction with my daughter, Kate.  We started the day at the address listed in the paper.  No one was there.  We drove to the auction house.  No one was there.  We called the number on the sign at the auction house.  Disconnected.  We called the auctioneer's number listed in the paper.  No answer.  We called the second number.  He answered!  The auction had been moved to an old store front across town due to the forecast of rain.  Once we finally found it (after a couple wrong turns), we signed up for a number to bid.  The next step was to observe the process.  This was not like the civilized auctions you see on television.  This appeared to be a free-for-all where you followed the auctioneer, placed bids where you had your choice of several items and you could choose multiples!  We were confused for quite some time.  And there were several items that I would have liked that went for crazy prices.  After we thought we had the hang of things, we decided to bid on a few small items.  OK.  Now we can do this!  All in all, we won the bid for several items, including a beautiful mahogany dining set with 6 perfect chairs for only $25!  We were hooked!
So why do I tell this story?  Is it to show off the tremendous deal we got on a dining room set?  Maybe a little.  But there are a few take aways:
1) Try something new. If we didn't enjoy the auction, we were only out 1/2 tank of gas and a few hours.
2) You don't always reach your destination on the first shot.  Sometimes your goal changes.  Sometimes your cheese is moved by someone else.
3) You can turn around and go home, if you choose.  But since you're close, you might as well give it one more try.  Make one more call.  What do you have to lose?
4) It's okay to check things out before you jump in.  But don't wait too long.  You may miss out on some great deals.
5) Bring a friend.  You can lean on each other if things go poorly.  You can find the fun in spending time together.
6) Experiencing success gets you hooked.  Are you giving yourself the opportunity to do well?  Are you setting others up to experience success?  Are you helping them to continue to be successful?
What will you try this week?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Save the date

"There is no 'save the date' card that a crisis is coming.  Be prepared."  Dave Beroth
As leaders, we often work, work, work and get caught in day to day activities.  We're rolling along and then wham! crisis.  Crisis looks different for each of us.  Crisis can be personal (birth of a child, death of a family member, change in health, major move, divorce...).  Crisis can be in our leadership (standard operating procedures change, the market takes a dive, followers stop following, our title changes...).
All of these things affect our outlook.  Situations become magnified.  We start to be reactive instead of proactive.  We can lose our way.
Crisis is inevitable.  It's not a matter of "if", but "when".  As leaders, we need to be extra prepared.  How we handle adverse situations will set a tone and an example to those who look to us for guidance.  If we fall apart, get angry, are constantly on edge, have a bad attitude or quit, those around us will do the same.  If we rise to the challenge and show strength in adverse times, those around will also do the same.
The key is to be prepared.  You need to have a firm foundation in your leadership.  Know your strengths.  Know your beliefs.  Know yourself.  Know when to get help.
You may not be able to "save the date" and schedule your crisis, but you can be prepared.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Do you suffer from the agonizing effects of ADOS?  Do you set goals, or make a list of "to do's" and never seem to complete them?  Do you ever lie in bed thinking, "there are just not enough hours in the day"?  You may be suffering the harmful effects of ADOS - Attention Deficit... Oooh... Shiny!
Now, I am all for a business with flexibility.  The hard part is keeping the "business" in with the flexibility.  So many of us need to accomodate the schedules of others that sometimes we forget that our priorities are important , too.  Keeping schedules, priorities & goals requires discipline.
Do you remember when you were young and all you wanted was a particular toy or your first car... and your parents told you that you had to save your money to buy it?  It was all you could think about and all of your money was stashed away for the day when you finally had enough to go buy it?  Discipline seemed simple- you knew what you wanted, and what it took to get it.
"Discipline is remembering what you want."  David Campbell, founder, Saks Fifth Avenue
What do you want?
To make "x" amount of money?  What do you need to do consistently to make that happen?
A happy family?  What does that mean to you?  Supper on the table at 6 every night?  No dirty laundry in the basket?  One night a week where everyone is together?  Define the priorities.
More friends?  What are you doing to meet people?  What are you offering them?
Health?  Does that mean walking 3-4  times per week?  Or running a marathon?  Does that mean getting into a bikini?  Or just feeling more comfortable in your own skin?  Write it down.
Excitement?  Does that mean jumping out of a plane?  Or learning something new?
Once you really define what your goal is, discipline becomes easier.  When you don't know where you're going, it's hard to know when you get there.  And it's much easier to be distracted... oooh... shiny!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Leader for life

In my business, I often hear people refer to themselves as a "consultant for life".  They are committed to meeting minimum requirements to retain this title.  Unfortunately, I have never heard someone refer to themselves as a "leader for life".  Why is that?  Are leader requirements that much greater?  Hmmm...  They do require a more consistent personal business.  They do require consistently training, supporting, recognizing and reaching out to others.
Why don't people see themselves as a "leader for life"?
It kind of depends on whether you see "leader" as a noun (title) or verb (action).
Leadership is a choice.  It doesn't just happen to you.  Some people look to leadership for the short term rewards, so when some bumps in the road happen, they're done.  Sometimes leaders fall back into their comfort zones and keep their title only if it's easy enough.  These are the noun leaders.
The verb leaders work through change or adversity.  They invest in others when they may be struggling personally.  They reach out even when there may not be a benefit to themselves.  They serve others.
Leadership is not only for direct sellers.  You may lead a corporation, a family, a group of volunteers, a congregation or a little league team.
Are you a noun leader?  Or a verb leader?
Are you a leader in title only?  Or are you a "leader for life"?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Clean House

While flipping through some late night television, I came across "Clean House: Search for the Messiest House in the Country 4".  Now, without getting into a rant about how people could let their house get so full of "stuff" (let alone letting it be broadcast to the world), I want to touch on one of their underlying issues.  The dad traveled a lot with his job, and every time he came back, he brought his family gifts to show them that he loved them and thought of them often when he was away.  These gifts were contributing to a huge clutter problem and many gifts had never even been opened.  The family was disconnected, because the wife and children really just wanted to spend time with the dad, who had to keep working more to buy more gifts... do you see the problem?
This whole situation took me back to a book I read many years ago, "The 5 Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman.  According to Chapman, the 5 are: Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts & Physical Touch.  I feel very confident in saying that you probably have people around you that respond to a different Love Language than you.  This doesn't just apply to couples and families.  Think of "Love Language" as "Appreciation Language".  This applies to everyone that you have a connection to- employees, friends, volunteers, congregation, even neighbors.
Maybe you are a "service" language, so you occasionally shovel your neighbors walk.  They may be a "time" person and really just want to hang out.  Maybe you're an "affirmation" person working with a volunteer who is a "gifts" person.  Rather than just congratulating them for their contribution, a card & small token will go miles.
When you work with a large group of people, you have to look beyond what your language is and look to what each individual's language is.  Yes, it takes time.  It even takes a personal relationship.  But better to connect with someone in their language, than waste time and money by rewarding someone with "clutter".

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

People test

"If you do not pass the people test, nothing else matters.
Promotion without connectivity is destructive. I often share with church leaders that most of the churches in the United States should not promote themselves. Why? Simple. If your current membership is not actively inviting people or visitors are not staying, there are reasons why. If you do an advertising campaign, you are asking people to come in your doors only to realize why no one wants to invite anyone to your church. They never come back and leave to tell all their friends what they did not like about your church. This is not good marketing.
The heart of marketing is people. Don’t start with mailers. Start with people. Ask yourself, “What am I doing this week to learn how to reach people more effectively? It's time to evaluate. Are we creating an atmosphere that fosters growth or are we ministering unto ourselves?"
This is an excerpt from a terrific blog I found about church marketing.  I found that this translates very well to business and leadership in general.  Simply substitute "business" for "church".  Now read it again.  It quickly makes you look at your business model.  Are you wasting money inviting people without making a connection?  Do you have something to offer (and continue to offer) when they do accept your invitation?
What are you doing this week to reach more people effectively?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dr. Seuss leadership

“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” Dr. Seuss
Although this quote has been used by many, my favorite is Dr. Seuss.  Another one that I enjoy is "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."
Dr. Seuss actually wrote some very profound thoughts.  I love how these two quotes go together.
The first speaks to doing the same things and expecting different results.  When you make the same choices, whether jobs, habits or people, your results will tend to be the same (or even worse).  And yet, don't we sometimes hope that something will change?
The second quote speaks to what you can do about it.  You are smart and you have choices.  You don't always have to analyze "why" to make a change.  You only have to realize that you need a different direction.  The analyze part comes in choosing a direction.  Look at where you've been (your history) and choose where you want to be (your goal).  Then connect the dots.  It's not always a straight shot to your destination, but you will change your outcome.  You are in charge.  "You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mind your P's & Q's

"Mind your p's & q's."  Have you ever heard the phrase?  This expression, meaning "be very careful to behave correctly", has been in use from the 17th century on. Theories include: an admonishment to children learning to write; an admonishment to typesetters (who had to look at the letters reversed); an admonishment to seamen not to soil their navy pea-jackets with their tarred "queues" (pigtails); "mind your pints and quarts"; "mind your prices and quality"; "mind your pieds and queues" (either feet and pigtails, or two dancing figures that had to be accurately performed).
I recently saw an entry from that reminded me of this phrase.  Jen addressed those who publicly (on Facebook) trash or complain about their companies.  Isn't that just common sense?  You work for (or you're an independent contractor representing) a company, and you trash talk?  Publicly?  In front of potential customers, clients or team members?!
I was always taught that there is "a time and a place".  Maybe you do have frustrations or even legitimate complaints.  Bad mouthing will not only make you look petty, crazy or stupid, but it may even get you fired or harm your personal business.
When you need to address an issue or situation, seek out the individual who has the most influence over the problem.  Clearly define what the problem is and WHY (be specific and use examples).  Offer a solution.  Maybe you just need to vent.  Seek out a support person and let 'er rip!  OK- you have to warn them first that you need to vent, set a time limit, and when you're done, you're done.
As leaders, it is very important to look at the positive side of every situation.  Your influence can raise those around you up, or drag them down.  Your complaints will do nothing but harm if not focused correctly.  Have you been minding your p's & q's?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"I can do anything for a week"

Today I am in the home stretch of a super challenging week.  2 years ago, my siblings & I decided that we wanted to give our parents a really cool trip for their 50th Anniversary.  Knowing that we would need a healthy budget, we opened an account that we all contributed to monthly.  3 months before the big gift presentation, my mother's 88 year old uncle came to live with them.  Their lives changed dramatically as he needs 24 hour care.  When the gift trip was presented, my parents loved the idea, but thought it would be a long time before they were able to go.  This trip for them was important, so I decided that I would come and take care of Uncle Joe and Grandma Blanche.  Since this requires "personal care", it is WAY out of my comfort zone.  But what I wanted (for them to go on their trip) was more important than my comfort.
Lots of things are that way...
When you have a goal, it often requires going outside your comfort zone.  When that goal is important enough, you will meet the challenge.  Maybe your goal is a better business and you're not comfortable making phone calls or meeting strangers.  Maybe your goal is to beat an illness, and you're not comfortable with the recovery plan.  Maybe your goal is to protect a friend or family member, and you're not comfortable with the idea that they may not be happy with you because of your choices.  Maybe your goal is for your parents to celebrate their 50th Anniversary on a week long cruise...
If your goal is clear and important enough, you CAN go outside your comfort zone.  It's not forever, just until you reach your goal.
"I can do anything for a week.  I can do anything for a week.  I can do anything for a week."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Road trip

Picture yourself on a road trip.  Are you the meticulous planner, with detailed maps, all stops planned and hotel or campground reservations made?  Are you more of a free spirit, where you stop when you see something interesting?  Are you someone who drives or flies straight to your destination, with as few stops as possible?  Even though there are many ways to travel, there is still a direction and a destination.  Your personal style may be this way.  You may be a checklist person, where you need to write down all the small steps to your goals.  You may fly by the seat of your pants to get where you're going.  You may be single-minded and driven until you get there.  The thing to keep in mind with leadership, is that you are driving a bus to your destination.  You have responsibilities to your passengers.  Even though you have a preferred mode of travel, it doesn't always work for the rest of your group.  You need to look at their comfort, their safety, their preferences and motivation.  They need to have the same destination as you.  Your passengers get to choose what bus they're on.  Are you on the same bus?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What are you REALLY doing?

Don't you hate getting "called out"?  You know what I mean... you're making excuses that you think everyone will accept, and someone asks you a question that gets right to the heart of the matter.  Sometimes it's a relief to be able to get a struggle out in the open and get help.  Sometimes it's a reality self-check that isn't always pretty.  Have you been untruthful with yourself?  Hiding from responsibilities?  Strangled by fear?  Just plain lazy?  Take a moment to examine yourself and re-focus your energies.  You can save energy when you use your time productively, instead of using your time to hide or make excuses.  Make it a priority - it's much harder to hear it from someone else.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dead plants

I have never had a lot of luck with house plants.  I'm usually lucky if I can keep just one alive at any time.  I know the problem- house plants need to be watered regularly.  I have found 2 plants that I can do pretty well with- Christmas cactus & peace lilies.  Why do these work when everything else dies?  They each have characteristics that help keep them alive.  The Christmas cactus takes very little water or attention.  By the time I think about watering, it's still alive.  The peace lily actually lays down when it needs water- a sign even I can't miss.  Now, I know if I were motivated to have a house full of plants, I could set a schedule to make sure that all the plants are fed and nurtured the way they need to be to thrive.
Picture your team, family, employees or congregation as house plants.  How much are they growing?  Are they lush and happy? or wilting and sad?  Are you filling their needs and nurturing them?  Or, are only the strong surviving?  Do you only do well with those that require very little attention? or those that "lay down" to let you know they need you?  If you're motivated, you can be diligent to nurture all of your "plants" so that they grow and flourish.  If you ignore them, even the strong, low maintenance ones will die.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Last night on the Celebrity Apprentice (a guilty pleasure) I watched as Bret Michaels (another guilty pleasure) stated "the more I worked, the luckier I got".  Although this adage is originally credited to Samuel Goldwyn (a well-known Hollywood motion picture producer and founding contributor of several motion picture studios), it still rings true.  Another way to say this is "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" (Seneca, Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD).  Luck is not a new idea.  It's a perspective.  You have to recognize it and be prepared for it.  Luck can happen on its own - just like a lightning strike.  But how many more strikes would you get if you put up a lightning rod?  What about 10 lightning rods?  Be prepared.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Corn & bean fields

Have you ever been driving along and suddenly realize you have no idea where you are?  Now I'm not talking about a black out or a fugue, just not knowing precisely where you are.  Since I moved, I travel I-80 between Des Moines and the Quad Cities a lot.  When I can't find anything interesting on the radio, I tend to call my mom to keep me entertained.  Occasionally she'll ask "so, where are you?" and I just don't know.  I know approximately - on I-80, corn & bean fields to my left and right, and maybe I remember what city I recently passed, but I really don't know where I'm currently at.
Sometimes our goals are like that.  We're on the same road to the same goals so often, that we go into auto-pilot.  We're not connected or excited.  We're doing the same old thing, time after time and we're bored.
Maybe it's time to take a different road or at least stop off at a different exit.  Maybe we need to remember why we're on the road, where it's taking us, and what we'll do when we're there.  Get out of the same rut!  Sometimes a "wrong turn" is a good thing!  It gives a different perspective, sometimes appreciation, and we still get where we're going.  Is it time to take the "road less traveled"?

Monday, May 10, 2010

If you build it

In the movie "Field of Dreams", Kevin Costner's character famously quotes "If you build it, they will come."  That may have worked in the movie (there were also baseball players coming out of the corn fields), but not so much in real life.  You need to get the word out about what you are passionate about, whether that is a cause, a product, an idea, a service or a theology.  Everyone is assaulted every day by ads to "buy this", "do this", "join this", so what makes you stand out?  You!  Your passion, your personality, but mostly, your personal relationship with your audience is what brings your message to the forefront.  So often, we spend so much time "building" that we forget to invite others to join in.  It's like planning a great party and not calling anyone to come and join the fun!  Then you're stuck sitting at the party alone.  Talk to people - personally.  E-mail blasts, form letters and generic Facebook invites don't count.  Be sincere.  Build it - but spend at least as much time inviting them to come.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Honor among thieves

In days gone by, there was a phrase "honor among thieves".  The concept being that even those who stole from people, had a code of honor among themselves.  There was a code for those in the mafia that they never "whacked" someone in front of their family.  There was even a code in prison that those that had hurt children, were tortured the worst.  In this day and age, we see very little honor.  CEO's stealing from retirement funds.  Public figures admitting publicly to infidelity.  Sports figures taking steroids.  Children teasing each other to the point of suicide.  You can't even get everyone to take turns when they merge in traffic.  This has become the day of "as long as I get mine...".  Now I totally get that most everyone wants to "win" or "be the best".  But how you get there should matter, too.  Did you win following the rules?  Or did you cheat, or at least bend, the rules?  Is that truly a victory?  Are you winning at the expense of others?  Good leaders excel by bringing up everyone around them - not by climbing over them.  Is your leadership code honorable?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Run your strengths

How many times have you looked at your strengths and weaknesses and became determined to improve your weaknesses?  You compare your weaknesses to others who are better in those areas and strive to beat them?  Does this ever cause you to beat yourself up because you keep coming up short?
What about your strengths?  Those are usually the areas where you have some natural talent or a passion for what you're doing.  Your strengths are where you excel and find enjoyment.  Why not do more of that?  You like it.  You enjoy it.  Take what you're good at, and do it more!
Are there weaknesses that you still need to work on?  Probably.  But your greatest growth will be in running your strengths.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Leadership can be exhausting

Sometimes leadership is exhausting - but in a good way.  Whenever you have many people around you looking to you for direction (whether a team, employees, congregation or children) there is a lot to manage.  The bigger the group, the more to handle.  You've probably heard that as any group grows, you can (and need to) delegate more and more tasks.  That is true.  This helps the group be more connected as they take on additional responsibility.  This lightens your load, right?  Yes and no.  Yes, some tasks are now being performed by others, but now you have more people that are accountable to you.  You now have the additional task of overseeing, mentoring, training, guiding and sometimes picking up the slack.  All this in addition to growing and mentoring new additions to your group and developing new ways to engage and encourage the original group.  Your load changes, but doesn't get smaller.  When you choose to lead, the only time your total load is lightened, is when it gets smaller... and smaller...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leaders vs. servants

Tuesday night I attended a ceremony where ministers received their license and some took additional steps to be ordained.  I watched as each one was given a "servant's towel".  The symbolism being that, as leaders, they are to be true servants and this towel was a physical reminder.  What a great visual!  Leaders reminded to be servants first.  It seems so easy in this day and age, to forget that concept.  We often see self-important leaders with big egos, who forget that part of leadership is serving first (by example), then leading (to expand service to individuals & groups).  They have the attitude of "I already put in my time".  And that attitude may work in the short term, but if you want to continue to expand those that you lead, you have to continue to serve.  How you serve may ebb and flow.  Your activities have to change to meet the needs of those you serve.  Often, when things get out of balance, the answer is to get back to basics - find the need, meet the need.  Who will you serve today?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I've heard many in leadership lamenting about the lack of volunteers.  If you lead a church or other non-profit, or are in direct sales, you lead an army of volunteers.  Sometimes, your volunteers will not hit you over the head with their willingness to serve.  Sometimes, they will.  Are you ready to mentor them in their volunteer position so that they will be successful?  Do you follow through with them while enthusiasm is high?  I think we all believe we do.
About two years ago, I volunteered with a non-profit in the Quad Cities area.  It took several weeks just to be able to get through to the correct person to volunteer my services with.  I was invited to attend an open meeting, where I spoke of the service that I was willing to provide.  Although there was much agreement that my service would be a great addition to the service they were providing, and several follow up calls on my part, I never was given the opportunity to volunteer.
After I moved to the Des Moines area, I volunteered with my church outreach program.  I was turned over to the director of the program who e-mailed that she would love to meet with me to talk about where I could help.  After I have initiated many attempts to schedule this meeting, my services are still not being used (several months later).
What poor leadership this is!  I was practically begging to get involved with these organizations, and I was met with little more than apathy.  Here's what happens to your volunteer pool - they either volunteer somewhere else, or they stop volunteering.  Ouch!
Sometimes we have volunteers that we forget to train properly so that they can succeed, or we don't help them along when they need it, or we don't show how much we appreciate everything that they do.  If these volunteers are not self-motivated, we lose them, too.  Are you treating the volunteers around you with the respect that you would like in return?  Or are they "tired" and ready to take some time off of volunteering?  Do you have people volunteering, but you're just not recognizing them?  Look around - are you missing an opportunity?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Have you ever walked into your closet, pulled out a piece of clothing, and realized that you've had the item for a decade (or two or three)?!  Sometimes, the item hasn't even fit for longer than you care to remember.  Why is the item still in your closet?  "I'll fit into it again, someday."  "It'll be back in style someday."  "I forgot it was there."  "I'm saving it for a special occasion."  "I just need to mend the small hole in it."  These are all excuses that are cluttering up your closet.  When it comes back in style, it won't be quite the same.  If you were going to fit into it, you would by now.  How many years have you waited for that special occasion?  Do you even know how to mend a hole?  You can take control.  Be realistic.  Let go of things that don't flatter you where you're at right now.  Purge.  Make room for something new.  Fix it, if it's of value.  Throw your own special occasion.  Don't put it off for another year, or two, or decade.  There's a lot of good intention sitting there, but if we don't get it out and use it, it's just clutter.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What is your role?

This past week I was reminded that sometimes it's hard to define your role.  My oldest, Kate, had the grandmother of her boyfriend pass away.  I've always believed that funerals are about the families, not so much the deceased, so there is a certain amount of awkwardness when you're not family.  You care about the family, but you only met the grandma and grandpa a couple of times.  Your sadness is not for the deceased, but empathy for the family.  So what do you do?  What do they need?  Do they need a shoulder to cry on, a bottle of water, a distraction or some comic relief?  Don't be offended that comic relief came up, because sometimes you just need to be reminded that it'll be okay to smile and laugh again.  Even "Saturday Night Live" came back on the air after the tragedy of 9/11.  You need to listen.  You need to be responsive.  They need to know that you care.  Sound familiar?  These are leadership skills that are invaluable in all parts of your life.  Leadership is not limited to your work.  It comes through in all areas - family and friends included.  How do you see your role as a leader?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Do you smell that?

Have you ever played the game "you touched the baby last, so you have to change him"?  Even though you know the baby needs it, and you are the parent, AND it will smell better once it's done, we resist and avoid.  We don't want to do it.  It's unpleasant, we're tired, and "isn't it somebody else's turn?".  Change is like that.  It happens all the time - your favorite shampoo is discontinued (or your hair color, yikes!), your job description changes, your children grow and develop into actual people (with opinions!), you buy a new home, or a family member passes away.  Some changes happen and we barely notice.  Others change the course of our lives.  Sometimes change happens to us and sometimes we initiate the change.  Sometimes we resist change until we have no other option than to face change and make a choice.  Do you change the diaper right away?  Or do you have to smell it for a while?  Are you ready to embrace change?  Or are you hoping to avoid it?  How stinky is your diaper?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What are you selling?

"Nothing happens until someone sells something to someone."  This quote has been around for many, many years.  You probably sell something every day, whether you realize it, or not.  Sales reps sell manufactured products to consumers.  Applicants sell themselves to interviewers.  Thinkers sell ideas to others to act on.  Speakers sell motivation to their audience.  Ministers sell God to a congregation.  Parents sell ideas to children.  Friends sell friends on movies, restaurants and vacation locations.  Leaders look at what they're selling (ideas, motivation, encouragement) with purpose and consistency.  What are you selling?  Who are you selling to?  Are you successfully getting your message out?  What can you do to be purposeful in your activity?  Will you lead, or follow?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Who's watching?

In 1984, R&B artist Rockwell sang these lyrics - "I always feel like, somebody's watching me...".  The song's lyrics relate the narrator's paranoid fear of being followed and watched. (It featured Michael Jackson on the chorus.)
Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.  In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you".
Even Santa "sees you when you're sleeping..."
Although these are all original examples of paranoia, is someone always watching you?  The quick answer is "no".  But what are you putting on the internet?  How many people can see what you've been up to?  Although Facebook and other social media sites have been a revolution in the way we connect with people, there are some problems.  It's easy for those you interact with to know when you've been out partying, when you're on one of these sites during work or on a call, what causes you support, and how late you were up playing Farmville.  Even potential employers are "Googling" applicants to get a better picture.
In leadership, particularly, you need to protect your image.  What do your sites say about you?  Are you saying one thing, but "Big Brother" is seeing something else?  You open the door to allow yourself to be watched and judged.
Feeling creeped out?  Look at your personal sites with a critical eye, or have someone else give you feedback.
Who's watching you.. and what are they seeing?

Friday, April 16, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Shortly after I woke up this morning, I started thinking about how different my morning was yesterday.  Yesterday - dizzy, spinning (and worse), today - calm (where's my coffee?).  Yesterday - "how will I get everything done that's on my schedule?", today - "what still needs to be done?".  Yesterday - laying in bed (or on the floor), today - working at my computer & making phone calls.  Yesterday - couldn't even think about food, today - where IS my coffee?  Yesterday, I was reminded that sometimes other people need to take care of things so that I can take care of my most important things.  Yesterday, it was taking care of my health so that I could be productive today.  Sometimes, it's saying "no" to a project or commitment, so that I can say "yes" to the things that make the most difference.  Sometimes you need to take a day, a few hours, or a few minutes to take care of yourself, so that you can be your best today.  Will you let your schedule be filled with "yesterdays"?  Or "todays"?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If a tree falls in the woods

If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Aah... I remember this debate in science class. The debate centers around the definition of sound. defines sound as "the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium". This definition seems to require ears to be sound. But wait, this is a blog about leadership, isn't it? If a leader performs the activities of a leader, and no one is around to hear it, are they really a leader? Can someone be a leader only in their heart? There are definitely those who seem to be born with the heart of a leader (passion), and those who have learned the skills of a leader, but how do you recognize them as leaders?  Are leadership activities leadership? Or do you need "ears" for leadership?  Does your leadership make a sound?  The debate continues...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Out of the nest

In leadership, we learn that we need to recruit and grow people, then let them go.  In theory, that should work, right?  And it usually does, for a while.  It works as long as the new leader stays motivated.  Aren't all leaders self-motivated?  You wish.  There is initial excitement as they spread their wings and start to fly.  Then rocks start getting thrown at them - confusion, disappointment, isolation, anger, fear, embarassment, CHANGE.  All these things start coming at them to take them off course.  Often, they don't reach out - they don't want to disappoint, or they're embarassed that they are not meeting expectations.  They may even avoid you when they need you the most.  So now you get to decide what kind of leader you want to be.  Will you wait, and assume that "they're fine" because they haven't reached out to you?  Or do you continue to offer your support, train them to keep them on track, and recognize their efforts to keep them excited?  Do you just throw them out of the nest and hope they get their wings?  Or do you stay along side them to help them soar with you?  A wingman makes your flight easier, too.

Monday, April 12, 2010


A "mulligan" is defined as a shot not counted against the score, permitted in unofficial play to a player whose previous shot was poor.  It's a "do over".  How many times do we need to take a mulligan in our game?  In our work?  In our business?  In our family?
The problem with do overs is that they aren't always easy when we're dealing with people.  There is a 3 step process:
1- Take responsibility.  Don't play the blame game.  Own it.
2- Apologize.  Sincerely.  And repeatedly, if necessary.
3- Do better.  An apology with no change in behavior, is just words.
Currently, lots of people take a different approach to the mulligan.  They just start a new game.  A new job.  A new city.  A new spouse.  It takes more strength to turn things around than to run away from them.  Sometimes you have your foot run over but, eventually, you can get back in the game.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Video Killed the Radio Star

In August 1981, the Buggles had the first video to be shown on MTV (back when MTV actually showed music videos). It was called "Video Killed the Radio Star". The song spoke to the idea that you couldn't just make great music, you had to make a great video, too.  Before MTV, if you wanted to see an artist, you either had to go to a concert, or maybe, you could see them perform 1 song on tv (when there were only 4 channels).  Next came videos on MTV - 24 hours a day.  Now MTV is about reality shows and you can watch music videos on YouTube.  Originally, you had to be somebody before you made a video.  Now anyone with a webcam can be a "star".
Are you keeping up with progress?  Are you relevant in the 21st century?  In your job?  In your community?  In your family?  Do you have to know everything about everything?  Of course not.  But it is in your best interest to be current.  Get some education.  Talk to teenagers.  Surf the internet.  LEARN something!  Dinosaurs were a big deal in their day, too.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Technology in leadership

Is technology undermining your leadership?  Do you use it so much that you've lost the personal touch?  Can you really have a personal relationship with someone only over the internet?  Are you certain that wonderful, sensitive soul you've connected with online isn't doing 20 to life in the penitentiary?  But, I digress...
At some point, you have to talk and touch and feel people.  Do you know what motivates the people you lead?  My children are very different.  When they were little, and being naughty, I could stop the oldest in her tracks with a stern look.  The youngest, however... if she set her mind to something, there was no stopping her.  Why do I mention this?  Because they are motivated differently.  The oldest is a people pleaser, the youngest, not so much.  This is information that could never be learned in an e-mail.  This is also true with those around you.  It's nearly impossible to learn someone's motivation if you don't have a personal relationship with them.  I'm not saying that you need to be their new best friend, but you need to connect with them on some personal level.  It may be cliche, but the old adage "they don't care what you know until they know that you care" rings true when you are in any type of leadership role.  Those that you lead need to know that you care for their success, not just your own.  When was the last time you personally connected with those you lead?  Has it been a while?  It's time to step away from your computer and pick up the phone.  Just be sure to introduce yourself - they may not recognize your voice.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

8th grade spelling bee

When I was in the 8th grade, I was fortunate enough to qualify for the state, and ultimately the national, Scripps Howard Spelling Bee.  Now, having a certain amount of talent in the spelling area, I made it through my school and regional qualifiers without much effort.  Once I was qualified for state, I knew that I needed to put some work into learning new words to be more prepared for the contest.  I started going through old spelling lists and reading (yes, reading) the dictionary!  My mom quizzed me almost every day and my parents gave me my 8th grade graduation present early - a huge, electric typewriter (that kind of dates me, doesn't it?) so that I could type words as another way to learn them.  My teacher/principal would send me to the library during school to study.  Since my teacher/principal was also the school librarian (and she was teaching class), I often ended up falling asleep during this time.  After winning state, the local newspaper came out to do a story and take a picture.  The picture showed me sitting on the front lawn of the school with my teacher/principal, studying together and the news article quoted her as saying how much she had worked with me to achieve this accomplishment.  I always thought that was a little humorous...
So why am I telling this story?  There are several lessons we can pull out of this story:
1- Natural talent can only take you so far.  Once you hit a certain level, you must practice your skills to advance.
2- There are different ways to learn.  Some need visual, some verbal, some interactive learning and a combination of these is ideal.
3- You can't send a child into the library and expect them to stay awake.  Wait- that's not the lesson...
You can't just tell someone to do something and expect that they will actually do it.  There needs to be some monitoring and accountability.  Progress should be checked and sometimes additional instruction may be needed.
4- You don't have to know every word in the dictionary to coach or mentor someone else to greatness.  Parents are awesome.  Spelling is definitely not my dad's thing.  But he was there (mom, too) to support and encourage me in the challenge.
5- Be deserving of what you take credit for.  What is your perception of the teacher/principal in this story?  Insincere?  A bit of a weasel?  Do you know people like that?  Are you people like that?  Who really deserves the credit?
What kind of leader will you be today?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Image matters

You probably don't want to hear this, but... image does matter.  What you wear, how you communicate, your position, how you perform under pressure, all contribute to your effectiveness as a leader.
What you wear-
Society, as a whole, has become much more casual in what is considered as appropriate attire.  Now that may be fine if you are attending an event, or working for someone else.  But, as a leader, or someone who wants to be a leader, you should dress one level above what you expect everyone else will be wearing.  If the group as a whole is in "business casual" (which often means jeans or khakis & a knit shirt), then your business casual should be crisp & put together (not a wrinkled shirt you just pulled out of your suitcase).
How you communicate-
Grammar & spelling count!  If these are not your strong suit, be sure you have a good spell check and grammar check program for written communication, or someone who can proof for you.  If you stumble over your words, practice (out loud) before you present.
Your position-
Are you a "salesman" or a "consultant", a "manager" or a "team leader", "secretary" or "executive administrative assistant"?  What makes you a "professional" in your field?  If you get paid, you're a pro.
How you perform under pressure-
Do you crack & lose your cool or do you take a few minutes to assess and readjust?  Do you blame others or do you take responsibility?  Are you the problem or the solution?  Would those around you agree?
Is it "fair" that people make immediate judgments about you in the first few seconds of meeting you?  No... but they do (and you do it, too).  So the question is... if you know this to be true, shouldn't you be aware of the image that you project?  You will be more believable and more effective.