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".