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...?