Saturday Salutation: The Cairns of Strangers

This week, my husband and I scrambled up the boulders of Mt. of the Holy Cross one of Colorado’s spectacular 14ers.  The trek was a beautiful journey of cairns, challenge and connection.

The most tangible beauty came from the dramatic 360 views on this clear, cool summer day.

There was also intense beauty in pushing through when the summit seemed unattainable.

And, I was ironically warmed by the connection I felt with my husband as he looked at me and said, “we are losers if we don’t finish this.” I knew he was right, and I also knew he wouldn’t push me past my limits, (after all, this is the man who once said, “honey, I know what you said, but you really need that epidural).

Mostly, I found beauty in the community of strangers– some of whom we connected with on the trail, and others whom had come before. As the trail became most obscured and the trekking became most treacherous, hikers had built large cairns that seemed to surface from nowhere– beautiful monuments to the support and teamwork of like-minded adventurers.

Finally, as we were nearing the end of our descent, there was the beauty in the hearts of the 2 men hiking back up in search of some strangers they had met along the way (a task that seemed unfathomable to me at that point).

“It’s getting late, and they seemed tired, and it’s just taking too long, we’ve got extra water, we are going up to find them and see if they need help.”

Thank you God for the Cairns of strangers.

Namaste.

 

Leadership, Influence and Self-Deception

In the context of the conversation on “influence,” my friend, Lisa Kohn turned me on to The Arbinger Institute’s work on Leadership and Self-Deception. Not a new book (first published in 2000), but quite useful in this context.

The main idea, in any leadership role, we must first look deeply at ourselves– and understand how our experiences and motives impact our view of others.

“Self-deception, blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the ‘solutions’ we can think of will actually make matters worse. Whether at work or at home, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our view of others and our circumstances, and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions.”

The first obstacle is understanding when we are operating from a less than objective place.

The irony is that even when we think we are working on a conflict, or working on ourselves, we can’t really do it, if there is self-deception involved.

From a place like this, it’s tough to.

change ourselves (because we don’t believe we need to)

implement new skills or techniques (because we are not truly open)

communicate clearly (because we are not sure how it will be received)

reach compromise (because we believe our way is right)

what else?

Everybody into the Pool: Influencing from the Inside

In almost any large organization, there are the folks doing the work that touches customers, and there are the supporting players influencing vital work to make that easier. Except when they don’t. Or, it’s perceived that way.

Today, as we stop the music, I am in a supporting role. Not long ago, I was leading a large line organization. Prior to that staff role, prior to that, line.

I have been talking to everyone I can find about what makes a great influencing player. My favorite metaphor, “get into the pool”.

“I am trying to run a tight synchronized swimming team here. You can’t shout direction from the pool deck. Get in the water. Feel the music first. See how it feels under the water. Try holding your breath while kicking hard. And then, once we are all equally exhausted, I am all ears.”

I love this one, because growing up, I actually was a competitive synchronized swimmer, and yup, my coaches got into the pool all the time.

The other main ideas:

Deeply understand my business

Support my vision and goals

Tell me the truth

Ask what you can do to help

Share what you can

Provide best practices

Lend your expertise

Offer tangible tools

Help me see the future

Ask me lots of questions

Don’t have checklist

Questions of Influence: Asking Questions that Inspire Results

How can we best ignite change and inspire growth, when we don’t have control?

Later this month, I am bringing about 100 folks together to chat about influence. We will create space to share our stories. And take an honest look at how we roll.

“Because everything we say and do is the length and shadow of our souls. Our influence is determined by the quality of our being.”
~Dale E. Turner

Questions of Influence

What is influence?

Why does it matter?

What skills are most vital?

How do we build them?

What if our influence isn’t working?

What if you went back through your life and gave out “most influential awards”?

Who would win?

Why?

Did they have power and control?

Or was it something else…?

Saturday Salutation: Postcard from the United Nations Youth Assembly

This quote set the tone for the 11th Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations sponsored by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, which I attended this week. The focus was on youth empowerment, and how social networking can be used to create change.

“This is a guest post from my son Ben Evans, 17. Ben is a youth envoy to the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Organization, and recently served as a delegate to the National Youth Assembly at the United Nations. He holds a variety of leadership roles at school and church, and enjoys music and drama.”
“Youth are problem solvers, not problems to be solved.”
~Jasmine Nahhas di Flori

All of the panel speakers are fantastic leaders with truly amazing stories. Some were ambassadors from countries like Romania and Kenya. I also met Jacuqes Cousteau’s grandson and teens my age who have made big changes by starting something small. For example, Talia Leman began a trick or treating campaign when she was 10 years old, and has now raised over 10 million dollars for relief efforts around the world.

Each attendee was given a rubber bracelet with a personal QR code on it. When the code was scanned, all of my social networking information was immediately transmitted to my new friends and connections. Empowering simple networking with peers around the world.

I strongly encourage you to check out the following organizations which impressed me throughout the conference.

Education for Employment Foundation: (provides cellphones to connect Middle East youth with jobs)

Pavegen (harnesses the power of footsteps to create green energy)

Two Degrees (college campus-based programs selling energy bars to provide a 1:1 donation of food kits in third world countries)

Liter of Light (creates light in poor countries using only soda bottles, tin, and water)

“Being a leader of tomorrow does not exclude you from starting today.”
~Unknown

 

Portrait of Charisma: Something About Larry

As we have been working through our “Charisma Project,” I have been on the look out for signs of great charisma in every day life, and realized it’s time for me to talk about Larry.

Larry Owensel is a professional dancer and personal trainer, and teaches the interval kickboxing class I have been taking each week for the last 4 years. It’s a great workout for sure, but mostly I go to experience Larry in action. Larry, a great grandfather in his mid fifties, has charisma. He transforms attitudes and bodies by motivating his loyal following to believe in the possibilities and always stretch for more.

Perhaps his leadership comes from his humble beginnings, or his inspiring mother who constantly encouraged him to not settle for “good” when he could be “great.” Or maybe the secret is his training in the martial arts (he holds a 6th degree blackbelt in Shotoko Karate and a 3rd degree blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do), or his time spent as a marine corps drill instructor. I am sure all this has helped him to hone his style, but after talking to him, I am convinced it’s his passion for his calling and his deeply spiritual approach to leadership.

Passion

His eyes light up, “I am in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with dance nothing else makes me feel the way dance does.” It shows in his every move. It shows when he stops the action to get all our clumsy bob and weaves moving in the right direction. It showed on the morning the sound system broke and he taught the entire class through non verbal motion and just sounding out the beat “tat tat tat.”

Spirituality

The passion is clear, but so is the spirituality. “It’s about getting everyone’s energy flowing together, all those hearts and minds. I don’t want us to think about it, I just want us to flow.”

I asked him about how he works so differently with each person in the room (there are usually over 70 of us and various levels and personalities), and he tracks with each athlete in a different way (he calls us “athletes”, we like that). Today in class, I got the intense “you are stronger than that” speech, while others he treated to his encouraging grin.

“I just step in their aura, and look in their eyes. I see what they need deep inside, not what they think they want. It gives me a good sense of what to ask right in that moment, and I take my best shot, he said humbly.” And the grinned, “I am usually right.”

Deliberate Approach

We learned in Olivia Fox Cabane’s work that deliberate choices on every move make a difference. I asked Larry about that. “Oh, It’s all very deliberate.” He doesn’t move or lead by chance.

I notice his deliberate and careful approach to not up the intensity of what he refers to as “an extreme cardio class for athletes.” He just works on the basics and gets them to feel mastery over one thing, so that they can move to the next thing the next time.

I was struck by our conversation on humility, also a very prominent theme in the Cabane book. “When people come back to me and say they dropped 2 dress sizes, and try to give me the credit, even if I know I had an impact, I bow (he shares his namaste gesture), and say “thank you.” It is important to Larry to acknowledge the spirit that is moving through him, and treating that power with sincere humility.

We often think of charisma as something vital for business or politics. Charisma can have awesome power to transform in all professions. I am grateful for my weekly dose of inspiration and role modeling.

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Dan Rockwell, “The Leadership Freak”

One of the most amazing parts of this new journey into writing and blogging is the amazing connections I am making with tremendous leaders.

The support of this community is fantastic, and I am growing every day through the people I am meeting.

Thank you Dan Rockwell, for your time and energy.   Dan talks about my thoughts on growing young leaders in his post today.

Interview with Dan Rockwell, "The Leadership Freak"

One of the most amazing parts of this new journey into writing and blogging is the amazing connections I am making with tremendous leaders.

The support of this community is fantastic, and I am growing every day through the people I am meeting.

Thank you Dan Rockwell, for your time and energy.   Dan talks about my thoughts on growing young leaders in his post today.

Maximize Your Potential:It’s Never Too Late to Grow Great

Over a year ago I had a debate with a friend that just keeps staying with me. His premise, “by the time we are in our 40s our path is set your potential is channeled, you are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started” For some reason that comment from a friendly conversation infuriated me, and I keep trying to decide why.

“I wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.”
~John Maxwell, Beyond Talent

He and I both have great spouses, awesome kids, interesting lives, important work. Both paths, even if they were truly “set” are good. And for some reason, I have to know there is more. There are still many areas where “great” is an option, and I can’t imagine not opening my heart to new possibilities.

We all know people with incredible talent at all stages of life, who for one reason or another are not maximizing their potential. Many of these folks are in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplaces. Sometimes they remain good (rather than great) because they are not investing the time and energy in the arena in which they could become great. There is also the crowd that seem to be in the right field, but for lots of “reasons,” don’t take it to the level they could. The athlete who doesn’t properly train, the musician who doesn’t practice, the leader that does not hone her skills. There are usually lots of “reasons” for the settling, often beginning with the words, “not enough” money, time, energy, network, support.

I worry what they really lack is belief in their ability to pull it off.

In his book, Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Achieves Extraordinary Results, John Maxwell identifies 13 choices we make that can amplify our talent. A good read, and all focus areas to consider. He begins with a chapter called “Belief Lifts Your Talent.”

“Its one thing to believe that you possess remarkable potential. It’s another thing to have enough faith in yourself that you think you can fulfill it. When it comes to believing in themselves, some people are agnostic.”

Maxwell offers several “Talent and Belief” application exercises, designed to get people thinking about their opportunities for greatness.

As many writers do, he starts with a strength inventory (identifying top skills and talents) and moves on to thinking about what activities arouse your passion. What I like about his approach is that he then asks the reader to consider what opportunities might be presenting themselves, and to create picture to bring it all together.

“Take some time to consider what kind of picture emerges based on these talents, interests and opportunities. How might they come together for someone other than you, someone with fewer obstacles or limitations– someone who is in the right place at the right time? Dream big– no idea is outrageous. Brainstorm what someone in that situation might be able to do, and what he or she could become.”

Ever since that conversation with my friend, I believe I am dreaming a bit bigger, and looking for opportunities in more arenas.

What is your picture of greatness?

Maximize Your Potential:It's Never Too Late to Grow Great

Over a year ago I had a debate with a friend that just keeps staying with me. His premise, “by the time we are in our 40s our path is set your potential is channeled, you are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started” For some reason that comment from a friendly conversation infuriated me, and I keep trying to decide why.

“I wish I could show you a picture of yourself with your potential intact.”
~John Maxwell, Beyond Talent

He and I both have great spouses, awesome kids, interesting lives, important work. Both paths, even if they were truly “set” are good. And for some reason, I have to know there is more. There are still many areas where “great” is an option, and I can’t imagine not opening my heart to new possibilities.

We all know people with incredible talent at all stages of life, who for one reason or another are not maximizing their potential. Many of these folks are in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplaces. Sometimes they remain good (rather than great) because they are not investing the time and energy in the arena in which they could become great. There is also the crowd that seem to be in the right field, but for lots of “reasons,” don’t take it to the level they could. The athlete who doesn’t properly train, the musician who doesn’t practice, the leader that does not hone her skills. There are usually lots of “reasons” for the settling, often beginning with the words, “not enough” money, time, energy, network, support.

I worry what they really lack is belief in their ability to pull it off.

In his book, Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Achieves Extraordinary Results, John Maxwell identifies 13 choices we make that can amplify our talent. A good read, and all focus areas to consider. He begins with a chapter called “Belief Lifts Your Talent.”

“Its one thing to believe that you possess remarkable potential. It’s another thing to have enough faith in yourself that you think you can fulfill it. When it comes to believing in themselves, some people are agnostic.”

Maxwell offers several “Talent and Belief” application exercises, designed to get people thinking about their opportunities for greatness.

As many writers do, he starts with a strength inventory (identifying top skills and talents) and moves on to thinking about what activities arouse your passion. What I like about his approach is that he then asks the reader to consider what opportunities might be presenting themselves, and to create picture to bring it all together.

“Take some time to consider what kind of picture emerges based on these talents, interests and opportunities. How might they come together for someone other than you, someone with fewer obstacles or limitations– someone who is in the right place at the right time? Dream big– no idea is outrageous. Brainstorm what someone in that situation might be able to do, and what he or she could become.”

Ever since that conversation with my friend, I believe I am dreaming a bit bigger, and looking for opportunities in more arenas.

What is your picture of greatness?