Courage Today and Tomorrow

I’ve been thinking about fear and courage more than I care to these days.

I am watching my mother handle a poorly timed and devastating cancer diagnosis with grace, optimism and courage. We are all scared. We are following her lead. Everything is suddenly put into amazing perspective. We hope, we learn, we get more information, we wish we had more, sometimes we wish we had less.

“Courage is a special kind of knowledge; the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared, and how not to fear what ought not to be feared. From this knowledge comes an inner strength that subconsciously inspires us to push on in the face of great difficulty. What can seem impossible is often possible, with courage.”
~David Ben-Gurioun, The First Prime Minister of Israel

Sometimes we feel courageous, sometimes we do not. We are all doing the best we can.

She is an inspiration.

Moms are always teaching.

And meanwhile, we try to go on with our lives and so I go to work, and church, and to my children’s activities. I am now ultra-sensitive to acts of courage and lack thereof.

We all know examples of the human spirit rising in the biggest challenges. I know you also have them in your family.

How can we bring more courage to our daily living and leading?

I have noticed that the stories we have most wanted to tell during this time are those of courage. Stories of supporting the underdog. Stories of taking the controversial view. Stories of when our talk got mixed reviews. Stories of leaving the easy path.

Courage creates lasting stories 

Courage inspires great leadership

Courage inspires great loving

Courage inspires great leading

And so I am inspired to wonder what can be learned from these times of big courage?

What can we do to become more brave right now?

Why do we…

  • listen to those who tell us our dreams are not practical?
  • back down when we know we are right?
  • withhold the most important coaching?
  • tell our boss what we think will please him, instead of what he needs to hear?
  • sacrifice our principles to fit in?
  • implement initiatives we question without asking the right questions?
  • delay starting something we know will make a difference?
  • ???

When the going gets tough, the tough do get going. But when life is more benign, we may back away. We question the effort. We over-value the costs.

How do we get more big courage right now?

Where do you need to be more brave?

Good Leaders Remember Names

Two leaders are presenting at the meeting. Both wander around the meeting before hand making small talk. Both address the group and take questions. One responds to each person calling them by name. The other doesn’t.

Two fitness instructors present the identical class, although one takes the time to learn any new names at the beginning of the class, and uses the names throughout. The other does not.

“And when someone else speaks your name you feel pleased. You feel wanted. You feel there. Alive. Even if they’re saying your name with dislike, at least you know you’re you, that you exist.”

One principal takes time to learn the names of each student as well as the parents who go with them. The other does not.

All recent real-life scenarios from my world this month. Which scenarios feel best to you?

And yet. I can’t tell you how many leaders I have heard laugh and say, “I’m just not good at remembering names,” as if this is as a permanent genetic condition.

Using a person’s name…

  • demonstrates that you care
  • reinforces that they matter as an individual
  • shows you are paying attention
  • makes them feel valued
  • enhances your credibility
  • ???

If you wrestle with remembering names, why not have this be the year you improve that aspect of your leadership?

Tips for Remembering People’s Names

In his book Remember Every Name Every Time, Benjamin Levy shares a simple FACE model to make things easier.
Face: Notice and study the person’s face

Ask: Ask what version they prefer Ben or Benjamin?

Comment and Cross Reference: Make a linkage to an image you can remember

Employ: Use the name in the course of the conversation
If you want more ideas, there are some good ones in this blog post. How to Remember a Person’s Name, 11 Steps with Pictures.

I have also had luck with making an organizational “year book” which we shared throughout our remote organization. We don’t get together that often so it can serve as a useful refresher.

How To Be Your Own Experiment

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? I am always astounded at how many folks tell me that their resolution is “the same as last year.”

It’s often the same with our leadership. We read the books, we take the course, we build our action plans. We keep working on the same stuff, it gets better for a while and then we hit a snag. Perhaps we revert back to our old behavior. That’s when the real work begins.

“If you call failures experiments, you can put them on your resume and claim them as achievements”
~Mason Cooley

Hmm… Perhaps we are going about it the wrong way. What if instead of a New Year’s resolution, we approached 2013 as an ongoing experiment toward what we are hoping to become.

I’ve been intrigued by the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.  It’s not a leadership book per say, but worth a read, particularly if you are serious about making a significant change.

Be The Scientist and The Subject

What struck me most in terms of application to leadership was the concept of “being the scientist and the subject.”

Whether working to lose weight or changing your leadership approach, it’s not about following someone else’s diet or following the steps outlined in a leadership course.

Instead what works best is trying something new and carefully paying attention to how that worked adjusting and trying again.

The changers we studied discovered what worked for them through a scientific process of trial and error. They didn’t get it right the first time. in truth, when people are struggling with tenacious habits, few ever do. Instead they took two steps forward and one step back — and sometimes the reverse. But they had a skillful way of learning from their setbacks so that their plan evolved in a deliberate direction. They snipped a little here and added a little there. They tried a new technique, observed, learned and tried again. Day by day, week by week, they moved forward until one day their plan addressed all of their unique challenges– and they succeed.

Change Anything author Kerry Patterson and team go on to share how identifying critical moments, vital behaviors and understanding the sources of influence can all inform this personal experiment.

“If you want to succeed, you’ll have to give up the hope of simply being the subject of some smart person’s discovery. You’ll have to be both the scientist and the subject– in search of the most important science discovery of all: how to change you.”

How can you “turn bad days into good data?”

When your resolution becomes an experiment, even mistakes can be progress.

What is your 2013 experiment?

Push Harder, Dig Deeper, Raise the Bar…Or?

When we feel stuck, there is a tendency to push harder. What if that doesn’t work?

“If you do everything you possibly can to get something to happen, and it doesn’t, than an angel must be on the road somewhere, so don’t beat the donkey. Take a little time out, smell the flowers, and rethink your route and your mission.”

Frustration is part of leadership

Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. We all get stuck from time to time. The typical reaction

  • push our teams more
  • push ourselves even harder
  • work longer hours
  • add more resources
  • ?

Sometimes pushing more is helpful. Sometimes it is not. In his best-selling book, The Dip, Seth Godin shares how to know when to push through the muck, and when to “quit with integrity.” Much time and future opportunity is wasted on pushing through when it would have been better to quit and to try a different approach.

Frustration is part of careers

Frustration can also be part of careers. I often see people get “stuck” and start to push. The typical reaction.

  • push for an explanation
  • push for more feedback
  • do more stakeholdering
  • question our worth
  • ?

I remember the first time I felt really stuck in my career. A mentor told me, “what’s for you won’t miss you.” Not what my ambitious twenty-something self wanted to hear. I pushed harder. I got frustrated, disappointed and angry. The thing is, I never did get that “dream job.” Ironically, a few years later I was offered a much more senior job over that department, leading the people who now held that role.

Apparently, she was right “what was for me” didn’t “miss” me. I now regret all that wasted frustration.

Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. reminds us to “surrender control and allow yourself to be guided to the outcome that will be of highest service to both you and the world.” That can be difficult, but surprisingly effective.

How to Build On What’s Working

I am honored to have published the first post of the year on Lead Change Group, Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: Building on Your Leadership Success.

In this post I encourage you to think beyond what must change in the New Year, and ask yourself targeted questions of what you must continue on your leadership journey. How can you build on what’s working?

I encourage you to click on the link and enjoy the post as well as the other posts from leadership thought leaders.

Happy New Year.

How to Build On What's Working

I am honored to have published the first post of the year on Lead Change Group, Beyond New Year’s Resolutions: Building on Your Leadership Success.

In this post I encourage you to think beyond what must change in the New Year, and ask yourself targeted questions of what you must continue on your leadership journey. How can you build on what’s working?

I encourage you to click on the link and enjoy the post as well as the other posts from leadership thought leaders.

Happy New Year.