How to Have More Joy at Work

The other evening, I was sitting at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on next week’s keynote for the American Health Quality Association. They’d invited me to talk about “finding joy in your work,” a subject that’s at the core our entire Winning Well philosophy, but that I’m not usually invited to address head on. I kept feeling I was about 90% there when my son, Sebastian, walked in and plopped a crinkled sheet of notebook paper down my keyboard.

“Mom, here’s my story for the 5th-grade graduation speech contest. What do you think?”

I read the words he’d painstakingly written, full of the usual “I’d like to thank my parents and teachers.” I’m not sure if it was the look on my face or the fact that he knew it wasn’t his best work, that revealed my concern.

“It’s not that good, I know,” Seb winced.

Now here comes one of those awkward parenting moments. Perhaps you’ve been there. I know he can do better. I mean, this kid is a storyteller. In fact, he explains some of our concepts better than us.   But I also don’t want to be one of THOSE moms creating too much pressure, particularly around speaking.

But Seb and I have a deal. We tell one another the truth.

“Sebastian you are an amazing storyteller. This speech doesn’t just tap into that. You’ve got an important message to share– I imagine if you spend a little more time, you can find it. If you want to go with this speech you can, but if you want to take it to another level I think you’re not that far off.  Let me know if you want my help.”

And then, Sebastian curled up into a fetal position and said “I’m not changing it. It’s fine.”

Finding the Joy

The next morning at 6 am, Seb crawled into my bed and says, “Mom go get your computer, we’ve got to workshop this.”  Yikes, “Workshop?” I guess he’s been hanging around too many professional speakers. But that’s what we did. We talked about what the audience needed most. We mined for stories. We debated deep or broad– (all relative for the three minutes he had to fill.)

“Okay. I’ll think about it some more at indoor recess. It’s raining.”

When I picked him up for school, he hadn’t even shut the car door before he shared the advice three of his favorite teachers had given when he asked for input. Good stuff. Then we went to the back porch to finish the “workshop.”‘ And Bam. He had it. His speech was FANTASTIC. This child who the evening before had been ready to give up, was literally running around our home dancing to the “Happy” station on Pandora.

Joy.

Joy in his work.

Bam. The missing element from my speech.

Yup. Joy is contagious.

I thought about the times I’ve had the most joy in my work. And when I’ve seen the most joy in others. There’s a lot of joy that can come from working really hard at something you care about, and honing your skills to build your capacity to accomplish it. Sure there’s joy in the outcome, but there’s also joy in perseverance and growth. Joy comes from working really hard until you get it right.

Joy comes from rocking your role.

When we’re feeling joyless, it’s easy to give up. But just past that, joy is lurking.

 

How to Help Your Children Grow as Leaders

Leadership development is not just for grown-ups. If you’ve been with me for a while you know how passionate I am about this. Most of us take a deliberate approach to developing other skills in our kids early on: we teach them to swim, to ride a bike, to read, and read music, as early as we can. Leadership development should be no different. The earlier we can ingrain these skills, the more natural they will feel.

I was recently interviewed for this awesome article by Mryna Beth Haskell: Are You Raising a Leader? She does a great job of pulling together several nice perspectives. I’ve included an excerpt here, and hope you will read on.

Are You Raising a Leader?

Some children seem to effortlessly fall into the role of leader, no matter what the environment. However, there are those children who are late bloomers. These are the ones who blend in early on, but blossom with maturity and become presidents of their high school class or captains of a varsity team.

What does this tell us about the development of leadership qualities in our youth? Why do some young people take charge of school projects and playground activities with ease, while others are happy to take the proverbial back seat? Are leaders born or nurtured?


NURTURE OR NATURE?

“Talent for leadership is a combination of nurture and nature. Leadership requires the building of a strong central core,” says Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., a nationally recognized family and child development expert, author, and educator.

Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, LLC (letsgrowleaders.com), adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and prominent keynote speaker, explains, “Important leadership skills can be nurtured in all children. Of course, some personalities will be more drawn to leadership roles, but the truth is that every one of us will face situations in our lives where strong leadership skills are necessary to accomplish something we believe in.”

If nurture is a substantial influence, how can parents encourage their children to embrace those qualities that successful leaders possess? Continue reading 

Also, if you’re new here, and interested in the subject, you may also like to take a look at Alli Polin’s and my FREE eBook, A Parent’s Guide to Leadership.

On Being an Entrepreneur Mom: The Inside Story

There’s no better picture to sum up this year’s entrepreneur mom journey. My kids are in it with me and I with them. Seb (8) is the self-declared Chief Marketing Officer (he loves to say CMO)….he tells everyone he meets about how I can help them become better leaders. Ben (19) is a bit more subtle, but is kicking beneath the surface getting it done as the LGL Summer Intern (be sure to tune in on Friday for the Frontline Festival for which he’s an integral part).  I don’t normally dedicate a whole post to a podcast Interview, but my interview with Mary Kathryn Johnson of Parent Entrepreneur summed up the story so well, I felt it would be useful for any working parent… not just entrepreneurs. Listen Here

Why the Pic Describes the Entrepreneurial Mom Journey.

This pic was taken just before the 3 of us sang a customized-lyrics-changed rendition of Sunrise Sunset for my parents 50th anniversary party this weekend. Here’s how the pic’s a metaphor for the journey.

  • It’s not easy (Seb’s broken arm)
  • Ben’s always helping.
  • It’s not elegant (I realized the new dress shirt didn’t fit over the cast, and in the mode of just about to give a party… hacked off the sleeve).  Real Simple had a solution if I had more than 3 minutes to Google.  Plus notice the stains on his face (lovely, I know… don’t tell Martha).
  • We didn’t have enough rehearsals.
  • Thank God for clutch players.
  • We worked as a team.
  • We made important and meaningful connection.
  • We listened and blended.
  • There was joy in the song, for the singers and for those we were hoping to touch.

Thanks for being on this journey as we work together to make a joyful noise.

Namaste. P.S. If you’re interested in leadership and parenting, you can also download our FREE ebook, A Parent’s Guide to Leadership from the sidebar. For more of our family’s extended shenanigans. hr-0487-519-762--0487519762016

The Most Dangerous Way to Measure Success

Only you know if you’re accomplishing who you set out to be. Stop looking around at silvery glimpses of other people’s lives and judging yourself. Trust me, you don’t know the whole story. We never can. Define success on your own terms and stick to it.

“A man should look for what is, and not for what he
thinks should be.”
~ Albert Einstein

Oh, there’s big inspiration in success and possibility, but be sure it resonates with your life strategy. It’s easy to measure a single dimension of success by trophies and other trappings. Great leaders and great human beings set their own benchmarks of success.

Laura’s Story

“I just love coming to the National Speakers Association convention, but I had to stop coming for a while.”

I was sure my new friend, Laura, (not her real name) was going to tell me about tight finances, a booked business calendar, or kid’s soccer schedules.

Instead Laura confided:

“Don’t get me wrong. The convention has always been amazing. The trouble is, I would be totally happy before I came. I loved my life. I had a strong business which I juggled well with the priority of raising my children. But then I would come to the convention and see how much everyone else was doing to build their speaking career, and I would get depressed thinking of all the things I should be doing.  For a while it was just easier to stay away.”

“How do you feel about your choices now?” I asked. Laura lit up:

“Fantastic, my kids are all good human beings doing well in the world. I was able to involve them in some of my travel as I built the business, and also to be around. I built a strong foundation for my career and now that the kids are older, I’m making more discretionary money which we’re using for big family vacations with our grown kids. They want to hang out with us. I feel really good about my choices. I have no regrets.”

We talked about motherhood and values, and raising children deliberately (and saving money for vacations). I couldn’t resist: “You might really enjoy my e-book on developing leadership in kids…it’s free.

“Want me to send you a copy?”

“No way! She replied.”

Now I was a bit puzzled, surely she would resonate.

Laura shared matter of factly:

“Every time I read a book like that I feel I SHOULD have written it, and it makes me sad.”

I imagine more than a few folks have told her she SHOULD write a book.The most dangerous “shoulds” were still lingering inside her.

The Power of Shoulds

Shoulds are powerful and dangerous. “Should haves” are an energy-sucking waste of time. Be sure your shoulds are your own. If they won’t shut up, turn your “should haves” into concrete plans.

Parents as Leadership Coaches

It’s interesting to see leaders who take their servant leadership philosophy seriously at work, but have a more hovering approach when it comes to their children. In an effort to protect and scaffold, they actually overlook natural opportunities for their children to emerge as leaders. The best way to learn the piano is to practice. The best way to learn to do a flip-turn is to get in the pool and get some water up your nose. The best way to learn leadership is by leading. Our children surprise us when we stop looking for perfection and see the leaders that they are becoming.

Having my kids spread so far apart, I’ve had the joy of my son, Ben, now a college freshman, really mature into an inspiring leader across many contexts at school, the community, at church, and even working with the United Nations. As I was writing the Parent’s Guide to Leadership, I asked him what he remembers most about our work on leadership growing up.

Ben shared:

“It’s not just one technique, but an entire parenting philosophy. I was always involved and given a great deal of responsibility in decisions. We worked out a lot of plans together.”

This Summer I’ve had the joy of working with him as a true partner as he interns for Let’s Grow Leaders. As I prepared a trust workshop for a group from Nigeria, we shared ideas of what exercises would work best culturally, I wrote content, he made slides and tools pop visually.

We discovered how differently our brains worked and the wonderful synergy that came from really listening to each other’s ideas. There were times I was taking direction from him. It was fun to work together as partners, with the parent- child boundaries beginning to blur.

This week we’re Scuba diving and the roles are completely reversed. An aspiring Scuba instructor, it’s clear he’s got more confidence, competence and commitment than me for this sport. I’m mostly there to play with the fishes (and take great pics). I do whatever he says and follow his underwater hand signals no questions asked. I feel safe under his leadership. It’s fun and fulfilling to tread some water and follow your child as they lead the adventure.

Introducing A Parent’s Guide To Leadership

Today, I’m pleased to share with you the Parent’s Guide to Leadership: How To Inspire Leadership in Young Children which I’ve co-written with Alli Polin with a guest chapter from Matt McWilliams, This is a free e-book available for download. Click here to get your Parent’s Guide to Leadership and you’ll receive an email with a link to download. This won’t subscribe you to my blog (you’ll need to do that separately if you want to join the fun). This list is just for folks interested in leadership and parenting. We’ve got a children’s picture book in the works as well, and we’ll keep you posted when that’s published.

Why Good Moms Make Amazing Leaders

7 Reasons Good Moms Make Amazing Leaders

No one puts mom as a job title on their resume. In fact many moms hide their mommy status when interviewing for a new job. They may even strip their resume of relevant volunteer experience that would reveal their motherhood status.

I’m in the other camp entirely. Most moms bring a maturity and level of endurance to their leadership that’s hard to gain as quickly from other leadership roles. I’ve never had a problem with a leader on my team related to her mommyness. And I’d rather work for a boss (and with peers) who have children. Turns out I’m not alone.

A study done by WorldWit found that 69% of workers would rather work for a mom than a non-mom, while only 2% preferred a non-mom.

So in the spirit of Mothers Day, I bring you 7 reasons moms make amazing leaders. Does this apply to Dads too? Of course, but it’s Mothers Day, so lean in and read on.

7 Reasons Good Moms Make Amazing Leaders

  1. It takes a lot to shock them – My mom’s favorite story is when I ate the diaper pail deodorizer. I’ve got some doozies from my own kids. Moms deal with such stupidity around the clock. So it take more than a little workplace nonsense to get them rattled.
  2. They take the long view – Moms invest deeply for the long run. They know that every move won’t be perfect, but they’re going for the long-term impact. Good moms and amazing leaders see mistakes as an opportunity to grow.
  3. Juggling is a way of life – For most moms, juggling has become an important survival skill. This translates well to prioritizing and getting a heck of a lot done.
  4. They’re resourceful – No funding? Ask a mom to figure out a way to make it happen. Moms have to get creative and make the most of what they’ve got lying around.
  5. They have to act like grown-ups – My friend says that she considers a finished book report a win if the kid is the only one crying. Moms get enough drama at home, they don’t have energy to get sucked into more of it at work.
  6. They learn to speak simply and check for understanding – Moms know that just because you ask a kid to do something, doesn’t mean they heard you. They learn to double-check to ensure the message is clear.
  7. It’s all about influenceBecause mommy said so doesn’t work. Moms learn to influence and inspire the behaviors they most want to see in their children.

Thank you moms for all you do to grow the future–and for translating those skills to your day job.

P.S. A free subscription to Let’s Grow Leaders makes a wonderful Mother’s Day gift for you or your mom. Enter your email address to join the LGL community.

Effective Networking: 6 Secrets Your Kids Know

We’d spent the last 5 days reconnecting as a family, completely dark from any semblance of social networking. Alright, I’ll be honest… all networking…each night my husband and I requested a table for 4 on this 5 night cruise to Mexico. It’s cool to meet other travelers… but not this time, we needed family and rest.

The final evening’s entertainment was a magic show.

My son, Sebastian, was lucky enough to be selected as the “assistant.” I wasn’t shocked by his hammy performance (he comes by that naturally). What happened next intrigued me.

As we exited the auditorium, people approached my son and began waving and congratulating him from across the room. He had stories about everyone. “Oh those are the women who taught me Mexican dominos at the pool, they live in Bri-ain,” trying to work his Liverpudlian accent, “but are really from Daaaalllas,” adding a draw. “You remember Abe, he calls himself the sausage king, he’s half deaf but likes to play the drums.”

The pattern continued as we hopped on the elevator…. “She’s the mommy of the girl I played ping-pong with on Tuesday.” And then on the way to dinner… and then again in the customs line the next day… This kid had connections.

The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups. We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it.

What Kids Can Teach Us About Networking

Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of these approaches into your networking.

  1. No agenda – Kids connect with no agenda. They don’t think, “gee, if I meet this girl, maybe she’ll introduce me to her brother with the Pokemon shirt…he may have a card in his collection I need…” Nope, they just join in and see what happens. They build relationships for the sake of relationships.
  2. Are open to new relationships – If someone introduces themselves, they don’t question motive.  Kids don’t wonder, “what’s this guy really want?”  They get past the small talk sooner. “Yeah, my math teacher’s really mean too… but maybe it’s me, I hate math.”
  3. They play – You’re going to meet a lot more people playing in the pool than on the deck. Kids get in the pool. Play leads to natural interaction and builds relationships.
  4. They share toys – Kids are taught to share their toys, and doing so leads to friendships. Grown-ups lose this instinct. I’m always amazed in my fitness class how grown-ups fight over weights (that don’t even belong to them). You can only use one set at a time, but everyone likes to have choices in front of them, just in case. Asking the person one mat over to “borrow” their weights typically leads to a dirty look. No one proactively offers. Most grown-ups don’t follow the same rules they teach their kids.
  5. They follow-up – When they meet someone they like, they attach more quickly. “That was fun, are you going to the kid’s club after dinner? Wanna meet at the pool again tomorrow?” They don’t call it networking. They have no system, they just ask.
  6. They bounce back. – No one likes to feel rejected. But most kids seem to accept casual slights for what they are. They don’t over-analyze. “What happened to John?” “Oh, he didn’t want to play any more.” They move on.

8 Ways To Nurture Leadership In Young Children

“Mommy, I’m not a leader.”

Why do you say that?

“Because John is the one that tells us what to do on the playground and we follow him. So that makes me a follower.”

Ugh. Tricky. I’m not impressed by John’s “leadership.” I want my son (and all young children) to see kindness, listening, understanding, and caring about other people as important leadership qualities.

We must stop trying to over-simplify leadership for our kids. Being picked to be “line leader” at school, Mother May I, Simon says… all involve telling. Children learn to do what mommy, daddy, and teachers say. Sure, we want kids who listen and follow directions. But even young children can learn servant leadership.

8 Ways to Nurture Leadership in Children Under 8

Start with lots of love and building self-esteem. Too many grown-ups with power mess things up because they’re still dealing with childhood muck. Be a role model, and know they’re always watching. Beyond that, here are a few deliberate approaches for building leadership in young children.

  1. Teach them to give – Involve them in volunteer activities and talk about the “why” as much as the “what.” Help them look for needs in everyday situations, and to consider how they can improve the scene. Help young children find joy in giving and call it leadership.
  2. Talk to them like grown-ups – Young children are smarter than they look. Talk about current events. An 8-year-old may not need to know all the political issues involved with healthcare. But in our house we’ve had some pretty good conversations about what’s going on and why. Get them started, and kids can ask some pretty good “whys.”
  3. Give them a say in some family decisions – Pick some decisions where you don’t need control. Invite your young children to brainstorm creative options. Encourage each family member to listen to one another’s viewpoints before deciding as a family.
  4. Nurture a love of reading – Read together and talk about the characters and relationships in the stories. For a list of great books to read with your young children click here.
  5. Bring them along and give them a role – Kid’s love to see mommy and daddy in action. My older son’s now 19, I’ve brought him along to all kinds of places. I’ve explained what I’m doing and why. I’ve given him “important roles.” I’ve enjoyed watching him apply the skills he’s learned in the arenas he’s now leading. See A Great Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership.
  6. Admit when you screw up – Talk about your leadership mess-ups. Kid’s need to know that leaders aren’t perfect, and that mistakes are all part of their learning.
  7. Hang out with other leaders – So they can see leaders are regular people too. Dinner guests can be fun for the whole family.
  8. Teach them to craft and deliver a great prayer (or toast) at family gatherings – When he was younger, I would help my son prepare group gathering prayers. “Let’s talk about why we’re gathered and what people may want God to hear.” Now I just give my 8-year-old the whisper that he’s going to be “on” and I’m amazed at what he comes up with. If your family is not into prayers, it works for meaningful toasts too.

If you enjoyed this post, or are a parent with young children, you can download my FREE ebook:  A Parent’s Guide to Leadership.

Inspiring Servant Leadership In Kids

Simon says, following the leader, being line leader at school, many of the messages we share about leadership are simple: “I’ll tell you what to do, and you do it.” And if we’re feeling particularly cranky, “because mommy (or daddy) says so, that’s why” may even slip through our lips.

Hardly examples of servant leadership.

We must teach our children early and often about REAL leadership. They must see that servant leadership requires serving, transparency, building up, and helping others to grow.

In Search of Kid’s Servant Leadership Stories

I’m looking to talk to children and youth serving as servant leaders across countries and contexts. I’m equally interested in hearing from grown-ups dedicated to inspiring servant leadership in children and youth.

The tricky part is servant leaders are humble, and may not want to toot their own horn. This is about spreading the word of possibilities and techniques. Bring on the confident humility that will change the world.

Please contact me at letsgrowleaders@gmail.com to share your stories. Thanks for helping us grow the next generation of servant leaders.

Christmas In July: How To Make Everyday Magic

It was a sweltering July day, the heat wave had been going on for weeks. We only had a window air conditioner in one room in the house. It was starting to feel crowded. My mom had used up her usual tricks to stay cool the library, the movies, peppermint stick ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. And then on the 25th of July, we woke up to Christmas carols blaring throughout the house, and the smell of French Toast and bacon. “No swimming lessons today girls, it’s Christmas in July.”

We ran downstairs and sure enough our kitchen table was covered in paper snowflakes and a small pile of fun little gifts. We forgot about the heat. What a morning what a mom.

Finding Christmas in July

Leaders create extraordinary. Magic moments require effort, not money. All told, I bet that “Christmas” cost less than $30, and yet it stands out more than the real deal.

Create leadership magic through:

  • Creativity
  • Absurdity
  • Surprise
  • Effort
  • Silly
  • Caring
  • Just-in-time support

Alex’s Lemonade Stand: Leadership And Kids

Kids can, and do, make a leadership difference in their community every day.

My nephew, Jared Herr and his friend Caton Raffesperger, have raised over $28,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand through their independence day lemonade stand in Gettysburg, PA.

They share Alex’s story and their own journey in this short video.

As Gettysburg celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, they’re hoping to set a weekend record. To make a donation visit their site  or text an anonymous $10, by texting Lemonade 112680 to 85944.

Happy 4th of July.

You may also enjoy:

The Top Three Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Gettysbug
Democracy- 5 Ways You Can Make It More Meaningful
Why Volunteering Makes You a Better Leader
Leadership and Kids: The Best Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership

*Photo Lemon Aid by Larry Kohlenstein

Alex's Lemonade Stand: Leadership And Kids

Kids can, and do, make a leadership difference in their community every day.

My nephew, Jared Herr and his friend Caton Raffesperger, have raised over $28,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand through their independence day lemonade stand in Gettysburg, PA.

They share Alex’s story and their own journey in this short video.

As Gettysburg celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, they’re hoping to set a weekend record. To make a donation visit their site  or text an anonymous $10, by texting Lemonade 112680 to 85944.

Happy 4th of July.

You may also enjoy:

The Top Three Leadership Lessons from the Battle of Gettysbug
Democracy- 5 Ways You Can Make It More Meaningful
Why Volunteering Makes You a Better Leader
Leadership and Kids: The Best Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership

*Photo Lemon Aid by Larry Kohlenstein