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?

Simple Gifts: The Best You Can Do is Enough

My favorite Christmas stories are the ones where a humble hero offers the best gifts he can muster.  It never looks like much on the outside.

In Why The Chimes Rang, a small child accomplishes what all the rich and famous could not with their extravagant gifts.  He did what he could, with what he had.

The Little Drummer Boy, “had no gift to bring” but we keep singing about him.  I could go on, but the point is not about Christmas stories it’s about you and me.

Why Our Gifts Remain Ungiven

Where do we stop because we think our gifts are too simple.

We sooth our conscience with stopping thoughts:
“I’m really not the best qualified.”

“There’s not much I can do”

“This problem is too big”

“I don’t know what to say”

“I’m not really that good around sick people”

“They probably are being bombarded with support.”

We think ourselves out of doing.
We think ourselves out of helping.
We think ourselves out of leading.
And our gifts remain ungiven.

Encouraging Reluctant Gifts

As leaders, do we look for the humble gifts available in others?

It’s easy to pre-judge potential contributions. We look for the most talented.

We go to our “go-to” guy again. We want this project to be perfect, so we don’t give it to the woman who would grow most from the experience.

A few months ago, Ben, my high-school senior son came home and told me he was going to conduct a middle school brass quintet.

I was surprised and skeptical. Ben loves music and is a competent musician.

But he will not major in music. He does not aspire to be drum major. He has never had a private lesson.

On paper, there are more kids in his school qualified for this gig. If he had asked me, I might have offered my hesitation.  But he didn’t ask me.  And, they asked HIM.  And he said yes. 

He selected the music, he conducted the rehearsals, he found venues and scheduled performances. He put on a ridiculous Christmas sweater.  His gift was a gift.

Each middle school musician also trumpeted their gifts.   A Blast of Brass makes beautiful music and a joyful noise.

Begin the offering, more gifts will emerge

Don’t let yourself or others talk you out of giving what is enough.

 

Lead Me Please: Developing Leadership Standby Skills

This weekend, I attended the TEDxWomen’s conference in Washington, DC. The theme was “The Space Between.” Women and men sharing amazing stories about the magic that can happen in the convergence of extremes.

“One day you will want to say, this is actually the right thing to do. And when you turn around, they are following you. I just want you ready for every single moment of leadership that comes your way.”

As I sat fascinated by the courageous stories of powerful women, I kept thinking, “huh, that sure wasn’t on their life map.” For most of these speakers, they weren’t out looking for opportunities to lead. They didn’t have a five-year plan to get onto TED. They found themselves in situations that ignited their passion wars, accidents, loss, violation of human rights. Their life got disrupted. They took action. They began to lead. Most of these women don’t fit the image of a traditional leader. I doubt most were in anyone’s “binders of women” or succession list. And yet, when they started doing the right thing, people followed.

Why Prepare?

So often, I hear people say. “Oh, I am not a leader.” That may work fine in most circumstances. The world needs great followers. But what happens when your passion erupts, and everyone is looking at you. You must prepare to be a leader because someday…

  • Life will bring you a disruption you can’t ignore
  • You will need to take a stand
  • Your heart won’t be able to turn away
  • No one else will care as much as you
  • Your passion will trump that voice in your head that says, “I am not a leader”

How to Prepare to Lead

Charlotte Beers shared her stories of why preparation matters, in her talk on the Space Between EQ and IQ. She also offers 3 vital skills everyone should cultivate to prepare for the toughest scenes in life. Personal Clarity: Getting underneath the personal traits and experiences driving your behavior Memorability: Honing your communication with a keen focus on the listener, “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear” Persuasiveness: Harnessing your passion to attract others to follow I connected with Charlotte to ask for her advice. “What advice do you have for persuading reluctant leaders that they should and can prepare to lead?” Her answer…

When you want to lead in a crisis..you can’t UNLESS you’ve been practicing stepping out to lead on many small things. Watch who you are in those moments and rehearse saying it with clarity, memorably and persuasively. You’ll blow it sometime. So what, it’s only work.

In today’s connected world, I am not sure “if leaders are born or made” is the relevant question. We can all have a platform. The bigger question is, will be ready to use it?

The Secret To Increased Productivity: 3 Steps to Improved Performance

Do you hope for increased productivity? The solution may be closer than you think.

A guest post from Karin Rigas, Greve, Denmark

Karin Moeller Rigas has worked as a Sales Manager, Executive Coach, and Management Consultant within Retail Banking for more than 25 years. Founder of www.emodigy.com, an e-learning site for managers, she is the author of the book, You are special – Strong foundations make great employees.

Looking for increased productivity? Don’t look for yet another tool to implement in the organization. Instead, look seriously within yourself as a manager and leader.

Scientific studies indicate…

  • Most frustrations during the day are caused by managers
  • Frustration leads to lower productivity
  • Recognition from the manager is by far the largest trigger for increased performance
  • People want to be successful and know when they are successful
  • Highly skilled leaders create high performing teams

Why not use yourself as the tool to increase performance and productivity?

There are 3 important elements to increasing productivity: establishing key values, structuring your interaction with employees, and continuously improving your own performance.

Establish Your Key Values

It starts by leaning on simple values.

Below are the values that guide my leadership, what would you add?

  • People want to do their best.
  • People want to be involved in designing their own future.
  • People’s strengths compensate for their focus areas (when they are in the right job)
  • Great storytelling is key to emotional engagement
  • Balancing “setting direction” and “developing people” in a clever way leads to success in leadership
  • A person’s best performance is built upon solutions they chose
  • People want to learn more– everyone learns differently.
  • Leaders must be multi-dimensional to be able to support the employees’ development.
  • Receiving and giving feedback with an open mind, creates trust in the relationship and is a pre-requisite for a great learning curve.
  • Leaders must be close to their people in everyday leadership.
  • Recognition and appreciation in everyday working life is the largest driver for great performances and good health.
  • ???

Structure your interactions

Be close to people in everyday management and leadership through regular and scheduled meetings like monthly meetings. Vary meeting style to include co-hosted meetings, success-sharing meetings and performance management meetings. The core tool for these conversations is coaching and feedback. These interactions are a great way to role-model and reinforce your key values.

Improve your own performance and productivity

Get coaching and feedback yourself. Let other people see you in action and let them help you with feedback and coaching. There is nothing more effective than on-the-job training– go ”all in.” The more you are willing to get feedback (from all directions), listen to it, and change, the larger a step you will take in your own personal development. The more you improve, the larger impact you will make on people activities and results.

Beginning Better: 9 Tips for Successful Starts

How you begin matters.

Prepare the team. Reinforce the vision. Energize the plans. Refresh the excitement.

Do you begin well?

“Let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.”
~Muriel Rukeyser

A Sweet Story of Beginning Well

This Sunday, I watched our youth choir director warming up the kids by playing a game.

When she said “Ready” the kids all perfected their posture and looked at her with attentive eyes and big grins.

Then, “Not Ready” they got to be as silly as they wanted (they loved that).

Until she again said, “Ready” and they immediately assumed their sweet singing stance.

Brilliant.

She had them visualizing and embodying exactly she needed from them without telling, they were showing.

I asked one of the kids why this works, “Ms. Allison is great because she teaches us and we don’t even know it.”

Yes, she is a great teacher and leader who knows the importance of great beginnings.

Beginning for Grown-ups

Since church came next, I had lots of time to think about beginnings and the leaders I have known who have mastered the art of beginning well.

  • Call centers where every leader is visible on the floor for the first hour of each shift, greeting and inspiring and checking the temperature
  • Retail stores with pre-opening huddles to create energized focus and fantastic service
  • Leaders with remote teams calling and checking in with each team member at the beginning of the day
  • “You’ve got this” calls to team members headed into a big event, presentation or interview
  • Use of technology for virtual connection and early morning inspiration
  • Caffeine distribution yup, I have been known to drive from location to location with a trunk of Red Bull on important days
  • …???

Tips for Beginning Well

The art to beginning well can be learned. It requires a deliberate approach and focused energy. Here’s some tried and true techniques.

  • Start with big energy differentiate important days by making them feel like holidays
  • Reinforce the vision and goals
  • Explain why this day or project is vital to the bigger picture
  • Help the team visualize success “how will we know this day was amazing what will have happened?”
  • Set specific, individual goals
  • Establish celebration milestones throughout the day or project
  • Be visible and interact either face to face or virtually
  • Role model “ready”
  • Have them role model “ready”
  • ____what tips do you have?

Please share: What works best for you when beginning something new?

Who's Your Leadership Pit Crew? A Saturday Salutation

Who most serves as your leadership pit crew? How have they made a difference in your leadership? When is the last time you really thanked them?

Support Makes A Difference

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I (along with our three, 6 year olds) had an opportunity to serve as cheering squad and pit crew for our husbands competing in the Wisconsin Ironman, 140.6 mile swim, bike and run.

It’s impressive to watch the endurance and perseverance of these athletes on this important day, after so many long hours of training. I have deep respect and salute all the finishers. Equally impressive was the long line of limping athletes waiting to sign up for next year’s competition.

What was also fascinating to watch were the serious hordes of volunteers and supporters for the race. There were over 3000 volunteers for this race, nearly one for every athlete. Many competitors had large fan clubs of friends and family members with matching tee-shirts, hand-made signs, silly hats, noise makers and carefully mapped out strategies for catching their athletes at strategic points along the race.

These supporters had as much energy after 12-15 hours as they did at the beginning, and there were still plenty of cheers when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight. I also know that preparing for a race like that requires additional behind-the-scenes help not celebrated with glitter and face paint.

I must admit, I don’t have much experience on that side of the racing bib. I am grateful for all the water handed to me one the years, and for my cheering children and those who have watched with them as they have grown up in the racing scene.

All these invested supporting players got me thinking about how vital it is for the leaders to have a strong pit crew. Leadership is emotionally, physically, and logistically challenging. Two career families make choices as they carefully balance the needs of all journeys.

Kids learn the importance of making the most of time we have together. Families make sacrifices, big brothers grow strong, relatives pitch in, friends offer support. I have had tremendous help over the years for which I am truly grateful. I have been handed lots of water from my crew.

As today’s Saturday Salutation I encourage you to reflect on, and thank those who have served on your leadership pit crew.

Your Leadership Pit Crew

Who has…

  • Listened intently as you struggled with leadership decisions
  • Encouraged you after disappointments and setbacks
  • Sacrificed something in their career to support yours
  • Learned to cook while you were on the road
  • Watched and influenced your children
  • Been available in an emergency
  • Understood when you were tired
  • Supported your risk taking
  • Given you perspective
  • Made you laugh
  • Understood

To all those in my life who have, and continue to, inspire and support my leadership journey. I thank you. Namaste.

Who’s Your Leadership Pit Crew? A Saturday Salutation

Who most serves as your leadership pit crew? How have they made a difference in your leadership? When is the last time you really thanked them?

Support Makes A Difference

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I (along with our three, 6 year olds) had an opportunity to serve as cheering squad and pit crew for our husbands competing in the Wisconsin Ironman, 140.6 mile swim, bike and run.

It’s impressive to watch the endurance and perseverance of these athletes on this important day, after so many long hours of training. I have deep respect and salute all the finishers. Equally impressive was the long line of limping athletes waiting to sign up for next year’s competition.

What was also fascinating to watch were the serious hordes of volunteers and supporters for the race. There were over 3000 volunteers for this race, nearly one for every athlete. Many competitors had large fan clubs of friends and family members with matching tee-shirts, hand-made signs, silly hats, noise makers and carefully mapped out strategies for catching their athletes at strategic points along the race.

These supporters had as much energy after 12-15 hours as they did at the beginning, and there were still plenty of cheers when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight. I also know that preparing for a race like that requires additional behind-the-scenes help not celebrated with glitter and face paint.

I must admit, I don’t have much experience on that side of the racing bib. I am grateful for all the water handed to me one the years, and for my cheering children and those who have watched with them as they have grown up in the racing scene.

All these invested supporting players got me thinking about how vital it is for the leaders to have a strong pit crew. Leadership is emotionally, physically, and logistically challenging. Two career families make choices as they carefully balance the needs of all journeys.

Kids learn the importance of making the most of time we have together. Families make sacrifices, big brothers grow strong, relatives pitch in, friends offer support. I have had tremendous help over the years for which I am truly grateful. I have been handed lots of water from my crew.

As today’s Saturday Salutation I encourage you to reflect on, and thank those who have served on your leadership pit crew.

Your Leadership Pit Crew

Who has…

  • Listened intently as you struggled with leadership decisions
  • Encouraged you after disappointments and setbacks
  • Sacrificed something in their career to support yours
  • Learned to cook while you were on the road
  • Watched and influenced your children
  • Been available in an emergency
  • Understood when you were tired
  • Supported your risk taking
  • Given you perspective
  • Made you laugh
  • Understood

To all those in my life who have, and continue to, inspire and support my leadership journey. I thank you. Namaste.

What's Next? One Big Thing (Book Review)

What’s next? What are you born to do? What is your calling? A vital topic for me and for those I lead.

Phil Cooke contributes well to this conversation with his book, The One Big Thing.

“It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
~ Phil Cooke

He starts with two Big Questions about what’s next:

  1. What am I supposed to do in my life?
  2. In a hyper-connected, cluttered, and distracted world, how do I get noticed?

From there, he asks readers to consider 4 key questions about what’s next:

  • What comes easy for you
  • What do you love?
  • What drives you crazy?
  • What do you want to leave behind?

My favorite of these was, “what drives you crazy”

The more I live, the more I notice that what ticks me off strangely brings me closer to my calling. In fact, I had a great conversation with a wonderful leader today who asked me “who is your enemy?”

Turns out, my answer, which I hadn’t articulated until today is”bad leadership.”

There are lots of us fighting that fight working toward a common big thing.

Why Phil’s Approach is Intriguing

  • He is an interesting guy while completely advocating for a focus on “One Big Thing” he also recognizes that having broad interests creates paths to discovery and nurturing of that goal, “no matter what your OBT might be, you’ll be better because you approach it from a wide variety of perspectives”
  • He creates a tight linkage with finding a platform and getting noticed, “It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
  • He’s got relevant experience (leadership, writing, film producing, non-profit change) he’s been successful in various arenas and yet continues to refine his big gig with grace
  • He writes from the perspective of the Christian tradition in relevant ways, and yet is very open and accessible to those with differing backgrounds

What could be done better

  • He seems to assume that this concept is a bit new to the reader he offers lots of great fodder, but I imagine this will not be a new thought for most picking up this book
  • He relies a lot on frequently cited and tweeted leadership quotes, I would have preferred to hear more call-outs from his thinking

Overall a good read,to get people thinking about what’s next

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

What’s Next? One Big Thing (Book Review)

What’s next? What are you born to do? What is your calling? A vital topic for me and for those I lead.

Phil Cooke contributes well to this conversation with his book, The One Big Thing.

“It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
~ Phil Cooke

He starts with two Big Questions about what’s next:

  1. What am I supposed to do in my life?
  2. In a hyper-connected, cluttered, and distracted world, how do I get noticed?

From there, he asks readers to consider 4 key questions about what’s next:

  • What comes easy for you
  • What do you love?
  • What drives you crazy?
  • What do you want to leave behind?

My favorite of these was, “what drives you crazy”

The more I live, the more I notice that what ticks me off strangely brings me closer to my calling. In fact, I had a great conversation with a wonderful leader today who asked me “who is your enemy?”

Turns out, my answer, which I hadn’t articulated until today is”bad leadership.”

There are lots of us fighting that fight working toward a common big thing.

Why Phil’s Approach is Intriguing

  • He is an interesting guy while completely advocating for a focus on “One Big Thing” he also recognizes that having broad interests creates paths to discovery and nurturing of that goal, “no matter what your OBT might be, you’ll be better because you approach it from a wide variety of perspectives”
  • He creates a tight linkage with finding a platform and getting noticed, “It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
  • He’s got relevant experience (leadership, writing, film producing, non-profit change) he’s been successful in various arenas and yet continues to refine his big gig with grace
  • He writes from the perspective of the Christian tradition in relevant ways, and yet is very open and accessible to those with differing backgrounds

What could be done better

  • He seems to assume that this concept is a bit new to the reader he offers lots of great fodder, but I imagine this will not be a new thought for most picking up this book
  • He relies a lot on frequently cited and tweeted leadership quotes, I would have preferred to hear more call-outs from his thinking

Overall a good read,to get people thinking about what’s next

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.