Merry Christmas: Are YOU the Gift?

Soon will be Christmas, December 25. I’m not really ashamed to admit that I still celebrate Christmas. It has been in my family tradition for many decades. I respect the needs of saying ‘happy holidays’ to those who may not be of Christian descent and choose not to celebrate in the tradition of Christmas, but for me and my family, today still has special meaning on several levels.

I would like to ask you a somewhat personal question.

Since the Christmas season often is associated with the giving of gifts, what have you done to be the gift for someone?

Yes, I mean you, personally, unashamedly, and individually, being the gift for someone in your life. They could be family, work, or community members.

It seems we don’t think about that personal, really personal touch anymore. There are so many great technological gadgets to buy for one another. We share things that have material value, maybe a special meaning, or other reasons for identifying a material gift. Yet I find it interesting that it is difficult to think of ourselves as being a gift for someone we care about.

Last year the virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt, wrote a new book called “Living Forward”. In that book, he and his co-author, Daniel Harkovy, introduce a continuum of human existence that goes like this. In their model, Michael and Daniel talk about three distinct phases of life. The first phase is drift.

DRIFT

If you have found yourself in a period of your life that feels uncertain, without direction, and maybe even without purpose, you, my friend, are drifting. You wake up each day and you allow the day to pass just living through the circumstances and situations that arise on their own. There’s really not a plan. And there’s certainly not a goal. Drifting is a state of our existence that happens to all of us. It’s not uncommon to experience a little bit of drift at some point in your life.

Clearly, it would not be a good thing to live your whole life in a state of drifting. You want to be able to identify a goal or an outcome that has positive meaning for the purpose in your life. So we have to get out of drifting. You need to be able to stop the drift and begin making some more intentional forward progress.

SHIFT

That leads us to the second phase which is the shift. Once you’ve recognized you might be drifting and you agree that you want to stop, you have to make a shift. You have to find a focus, a new goal,  and a plan to get you onto a path for forward momentum.

Making a shift can be as simple as changing your mindset. Instead of waking up each day with the thought of repeating yesterday, you start the new day with an intentional statement of purpose. You say I’m going to do something different today. You set the course and you choose to do things differently.

Albert Einstein is attributed with the famous quote that says doing the same thing and expecting different results is the perfect definition of insanity.

Making a shift allows us to break the cycle of monotony and repetition that causes drift. By agreeing to shift, we find a new focus, a new strategy, and a new direction.

LIFT

Once the shift has begun, you find yourself beginning to experience lift. You experience new accomplishments. You have a sense of progress. Goals are starting to be achieved. You find a new direction and you find levels of success.

The lift in our lives is what gives us the energy to begin to be able to influence those around us. As you experience lift, you have an energy that can be shared with others. Lift is a very interesting physical force. Lift is the principle by which birds fly and airplanes are able to rise into the sky.

Many years ago I decided to tackle a bucket list item that I had carried for some time. I wanted to get a private pilot’s license. I enrolled in a local flight school where I began taking the courses and learning the principles of aerodynamics. There is a very interesting undeniable force that happens with flight.

When a wing is moved forward there is a dynamic of the wind passing over the wings. The variation in pressure that occurs with that forward momentum, we call that thrust. But as the intensity of the wind flowing over the airfoil increases, there is this notion of lift that occurs.

In essence, as a plane gains ground speed during takeoff, there is no denying the force of the wing wanting to lift the whole plane off the ground. If you apply enough power and begin the forward momentum, that wing can do nothing but lift you off the ground. So the essence of flight is the ability to control that natural lift that is occurring.

I see great similarities with having a lift in our own lives. If you begin experiencing lift, there will be an undeniable force that you create. You will have an attraction to you that others cannot deny. You will have the ability to influence people.

The next question is, could there be a fourth phase of human experience? I say yes. I call it the Gift.

GIFT

As you move away from drifting and you start to shift your life and your presence, you achieve this lift in life. Ultimately you become a gift. With the momentum, you create by shifting and lifting you get to the point of being able to start gifting. This is the stage when you can help others. You can influence them with your thoughts, your ideas, and your compassion.

As you experience lift in your life, you become a gift to those around you. Your families can be enriched. Your workplace can be influenced. Your whole community can receive value and benefit from who and what you are. As you become a gift to the world around you, you become a thing of value; you become an inspiration.

This Season

Yes, this is Christmas. But while the rest of the world is thinking about gift giving with boxes and bows, I ask you again, have you been the gift to those around you?

It’s a great time to be that person, be that influence, and bless those around you with the power and the privilege of you being who you are. Now if you’re stuck in a drift, obviously your gifts not going to be that special. Maybe you won’t even feel like doing anything. But if you found a shift in life and you’ve begun to lift, you can become a precious and wonderful gift.

I wish each and every one of you a very blessed and Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. All my best to you, your family, and your business.

 

PS – Many of my clients consider me their closest confidant. We discuss things that they feel they cannot discuss with anyone else. It’s a tricky balance to build the kind of rapport and relationship that can have the level of trust you may want. If you are looking for just such a confidence, think about giving me a call. Let’s discuss where you are right now at work, with your family or in your community. Perhaps I can offer some encouragement.

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Leading in Life: Survive or Thrive

Leadership in life and business is about influencing others to achieve something; hit a goal, make a mark, win a prize. Usually, we think about leadership in terms of doing something special. But being “special” is not a natural human condition.

In a recent interview, Alabama football coach Nick Saban made these remarks:

The human condition is programmed to survive. That’s how we got here. It is not natural to perform at a special level for an extended period of time. If you want to be on top, you have to figure out how to be and stay special. You must work to thrive rather than just survive.”

Think about that for a moment. As a tribe, we came from a heritage of living and working to survive. “Survival of the fittest,” they say. Scientific studies support that idea. Our brains are wired for fight or flight reactions to threats around us. If we choose to flee the scene, we are trying to survive. If flight is not an option, as in the foe to too fast or too strong, we have no choice but to fight. Usually, the fight is not to win for winning’s sake, but to win to survive.

The way we think and the emotions we feel that have survival value will then produce behaviors that increase our chances of survival. Our “fight-or-flight” reaction may be the best-known expression of our survival instinct. This response set is triggered when we (and all animals) perceive a situation as a threat to our existence; our sympathetic nervous system activates rapid emotional, psychological, and physical changes.

Emotionally, we feel either fear or anger intensely. Psychologically, our senses are heightened, and we’re able to make faster decisions. Physically, we get a shot of adrenaline, our heart rate increases, blood flow is diverted to essential parts of the body, and we experience increased strength and stamina. Without these essential changes, our primitive forbears would have died, their genes wouldn’t have been passed on.

Thankfully, you likely don’t have that direct survival challenge each and every day, at least not in terms of dying. Yet we all face uphill battles that test our sense of survival. So the question is whether you choose to merely survive the day or do something special.

Survive or Thrive

Employment statistics tell us the average workforce is not all that engaged. The average employee recommends their workplace at a 3.2 / 5, according to Glassdoor ratings. That’s a measly 64% confidence rating. Companies performing above this are not necessarily large or small or in a particularly “sexy” industry. Rather, they are focused on their people.

If you look at Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work you see companies of all size, all industry, and all ages. The reason is that employee engagement is not a simple thing: it takes leadership commitment, investment, and a complete and integrated focus.

This translates into large populations of workers merely trying to survive; punch the clock, get the paycheck, feed and shelter ourselves and our families, then do it all over again.

To go back to Nick Saban’s remarks, there is a small percentage who choose to be special. They do this by doing more. They establish daily routines for health and welfare that include fitness, mental health, technical expertise, and personal growth.

Whatever personal predisposition you may have, becoming the owner of a business or the manager of a work team forces your hand. Will you survive or thrive?

Taking on Leadership

When you assume the role of leader within any group setting, you not only have to produce personal performance, but you become responsible for group performance as well. Saban’s role as a coach puts him in the hot seat for that “special” performance he describes. In this case, it is winning national football championships. He’s done it both at LSU and now at Alabama.

People outside of Saban’s programs study his methods for achieving high performance that is both repeatable and sustainable. In business, those are key characteristics that any business leader should aspire to have. We need performance that is repeatable, scalable, and sustainable.

Repeatable – allows you to do it again. If you have a great month or great quarter, can it become a great year? If you have a great year, can you do it again next year?

Scalable – is your system and platform scalable for growth? Can you replicate what you do in such a way that you can increase capacity without losing efficiency and effectiveness?

Sustainable – this is the extension of repeatable. You might repeat success once or twice, but can you do it multiple times.

Creating a System and a Process

The key to achieving these special results comes from establishing a system and a process by which great things can happen. Yes, Nick Saban recruits capable and talented athletes, as you should too in your business. Finding the right employees to plug into your system is critical. However, having a room full of gifted employees will not result in high performance without a system and a process to get you there.

Systems

As the leader, you must either create the system yourself or learn to use the system that exists. If you are the owner/founder of the enterprise, either you develop the system or you engage an expert at execution who can design it. If you are a senior manager/executive, you must embrace what has been designed.

If you suspect the system is flawed, you can work with the creator of the system to make changes or you can choose to abandon the effort and take your talents some other place.

Football coaches like Nick Saban expect the assistant coaches to follow his system, make subtle changes appropriate to the details they are responsible for, but stay true to the system. If the assistant doesn’t agree, then they won’t stay there long (see the long list of coaches who have worked for Saban).

In upcoming articles, we will explore the things that make an effective system work.

Question: What sort of system do you use to achieve special performance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Independence Day

Overcoming a personal foe

Tomorrow is July 4th. In the U.S. we call it Independence Day. It is a good time to reflect on the real meaning of deep, personal independence.

Courtesy 123rf.com

Courtesy 123rf.com

I love this picture showing the dawning of a new day. When we declare independence, there is a new day, a fresh beginning. Independence implies a freeing from something. The history of the United States declares a freedom from rulers who, at the time, were seen as oppressive, demanding laws without representation. Yet the quest for independence can be very personal and far more significant.

When any of us is impacted by a force that controls us, we need independence. The control can be a bad boss, an unethical company, a work environment that is oppressive and cruel. The control can be internal; like a mindset, substance abuse, limiting thoughts, or emotional scars from prior experiences.

As my pastor says, “There’s a story on every pew.” People all around us face challenges to release themselves from something.

  • Bad habits
  • Bad relationships
  • Poor choices
  • Health problems
  • Financial problems
  • Bad bosses
  • And the list goes on . . .

Regardless of the force or factors from which you are claiming your independence, the stage is set for a new day. Facing the truths of who you are and what you believe can give rise to making a fresh new start.

Helping others overcome tough odds is a noble and honored effort. Countless numbers of good neighbors do that in communities large and small every day. Each victory is deserving of a celebration.

Yet, I think the toughest challenge most people face is driving change for themselves; overcoming those personal things that hold us back. Yes, joining a community or a tribe of like-minded souls who, themselves are trying to make a change, can be a big help. However, the ultimate change is up to you and you alone.

For those of you who, as I do, hold dear to a deep faith in God, we have Him to hold onto while we fight to claim our independence. He is an unending source of power and courage through the fight. Take a moment and reflect. Ask yourself these important questions.

Question: What is your fight today? Have you made progress to overcome your foe(s)? What strength will you choose? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Happy Independence Day! One day your fight will be won. Why not let this day be the first day of the rest of your new life!

Changing Our View of Fatherhood and Leadership

How fathers can impact our leadership ability

Next Sunday is Father’s Day, at least here in the USA (The tradition is celebrated on different dates around the world). As we turn our hearts and minds to fathers everywhere, let’s take a look at certain aspects of what it means to be a Father and the leadership influences of fatherhood.

Fatherhood

Who and what you do in a leadership role may be directly influenced by the father figure you had. Good or bad, right or wrong, the impact on young lives meted out at the hands of our fathers drives us. Perhaps it’s time to reform your view of fatherhood so that your leadership influence can get on a better track.

Much of our current view on fatherhood comes, sadly, from pop culture. Movies and TV make our Dad characters out to be odd, clumsy, goofy, or obnoxious oafs. There aren’t too many quality characters playing lead roles from which we can draw conclusions about what it means to be a Dad.

Tradition plays a role too. Father’s get straddled with deciding which values they want to pass on to the next generation, if they have any values to share at all. The values and ideals that are present were passed down from generations before. It’s a domino effect. Attitudes about race, creed, and culture were either forced or mandated. Many are not that good to start with.

What is a young person to do? How do you decide what kind of Dad you want to be? Here are a few thoughts to consider.

Do an Inventory

Look at the structure and quality of the things you may have been taught as you grew up. After going out “into the world’ you certainly have experienced push back on many of them. How can that that feedback help you make changes?

Maybe what you were told about other people is just plain wrong. Or maybe the standards you were given are too low or too high. Demands to follow in someone’s footsteps can be stifling if that vocation does not suit you. I’ve known far too many people in my life who are miserable in their jobs because they went a direction dictated by a dominant father figure. Loyalties to schools were demanded and young lives suffered.

Include these considerations when you take inventory. If too many aspects are misaligned, consider a course correction.

Plot Your Own Course

Get out from under the spell. Seek alternative direction that is better for you. Yes, I know this can sound a bit too simplistic. Yet, making these kinds of changes can have monumental effect on the outcome.

Your whole career may be needing a make-over.

Find a Better Role Model

If real world experience has shown you that the model you grew up with needs adjustment, then find another model. Seek out and connect with a mentor. Find community leaders who may want to share their wisdom and experience.

Reset the mold. Invest in learning new and different things about who you are and what you should be doing.

People of faith should dive deeper into the teachings of their faith. Forget the biases from an earthly father and the traditions of failed generations before that. Go straight to the core of your faith. Find the central figure there who can guide and renew your understanding of why you are here and what you should be doing.

The Job Description

Fatherhood is somehow synonymous with leadership, or at least I submit it should be. If you are now a father at home but a lousy leader, then you’ve got some work to do. Or if your work team gets far more positive influence from you than your family does, you have some work to do.

Question: What will you do about reshaping your view of fatherhood? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Gut-Checking Goals for Mid-Year Course Correction

How’s it going for 2017 so far? Have you met your goals? Are you tracking to positive results?

16060185 - symbol diagrams done in 3d, white background

Courtesy 123rf.com

Or have you stumbled out of the gate and never quite recovered? If so, what is holding you back? I am going to offer some simple two sided attributes for you to consider; a whole new alphabet to follow. There will be a coaching tip with each one.

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How Do I Find Personal Growth?

Every year, people spend a lot of time and money learning how to work their goals; setting goals, making goals stick, and achieving their goals. I think there’s a different, more meaningful question. What about setting your sights on growth?

When was the last time the question you asked yourself was not about setting goals to do more, but being more.

Personal Growth

Personal Growth

 

Have you maximized your full potential? Are you capped out? Guess what? Even if you genuinely believe you are performing at the max, I guarantee you there is another level out there. Whether the metric has to do with career, family, finances, business, faith, or any other domain we live in, there is always room for growth.

Whatever your habit and process may be for goal setting each year, try changing the context. Set sights for growth. You can still get a lot done in respect to the things that normally make the goals list, but change the focus on why you are doing these things.

Set your mind for growth. You can decide to grow personally, professionally, financially, spiritually, or most any other dimension of human existence. But please think about growth.

The first most common hindrance for growing is the fear of failure. What if I can’t do it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I miss the mark?

Here’s the real truth. There are two kinds of fail.

TYPE A:You try. You fail. You learn from it. You try again. This isn’t really failure. This is Learning and Growing.

TYPE B:You try. You fail. You don’t learn from it. Or you learn the wrong lessons. THIS is Failure: Trying to make the unworkable work.

Cycle to reach Growth

Cycle to reach Growth

The hard part is this:When you’re in the thick of it, with muddy boots, a scratched up face and torn coat, it can be hard to tell if you’re Learning or Failing.

Here are some observations from my own experiences both Learning and Failing to help you do more of the former and less of the latter.

When you pride yourself based on who you associate with, you’re Failing.
When your pride flows from an Inner Knowing that you’re doing what you should do when you should do it, you’re Growing.

When you try to be the person other people expect you to be, you’re probably Failing.
When you slow down and figure out what you really want first, you’re Growing.

When you look for the Right Way to Succeed, you’re probably Failing.
When you study the principles to understand why things work when they do and don’t when they don’t, you’re Learning.

When you flit from one info product or teacher to another, and never really mastering what any of them can teach you, you’re Failing.
When you read, listen, and apply what you learned from one teacher before going on to another, you’re Growing.

When you worry that you are inadequate in some important way, you are Failing.
When you know that the mind game is to see how far you’ve come – and not how far you still need to go – then you’re Learning.

When you try to do it all yourself, you’re probably Failing.
When you surround yourself with people who are on the same path as you and you learn from each other and hold each other to a higher standard, you’re Growing.

When you believe the talking heads on TV, you’re probably Failing.
When you ignore them and believe those who have done what you want to be doing, you’re Learning.

When you think the problem is your spouse, you’re Failing.
When you realize you’re probably guilty of the same actions and more, you’re Learning.

When you take responsibility for things you can not control, you’re probably Failing.
When you take full responsibility for the things you can control, you’re Growing.

When you fear man and forget God, you’re Failing.
When you remember that you are here to serve God by helping your fellow man, you’re Growing.

When you hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself you’re Failing.
When you hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold others, you’re Learning.

When you’re busy, busy, busy and not making time to think deeply about what you really, really want… you’re Failing.
When you regularly make time to reflect. To think. To ponder. To question…. you’re Learning.

I’ve made all these mistakes and more.

And the greatest gift is to become aware of them, so we can learn the lessons and keep on moving. Set your sights on ways to grow. Growth as a person, a mentor, a leader. We all have untapped capacity that can only be realized by stretching outside of our normal day-to-day habits and beliefs.

Go for it!

Question: Share ways you have recently pursued growth in your own life. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you’d like to talk about this idea, just let me know some times that work for you. Click HERE

Disclaimer & Attribution: Portions of this text are attributed to Dov Gordon. Dov is a friend and fellow coach/teacher. Check out his blog too.

 

Thanksgiving at Thirty Thousand Feet

Here are my thoughts as we move into the celebration of the Thanksgiving season here in the U.S.

At thirty thousand feet, so many things seem so clear. The roads that wind across the landscape seem to make perfect connections with each and every stopping point. What could seem to be insurmountable obstacles in the road, like curves, hills and turns, merely melt away when seen from such an altitude. Though the obstacles remain, it becomes ever so clear what and where the paths might lead.

aerial

Unfortunately, our daily lives aren’t readily witnessed from a vantage point such as this. Only God has that view. We, as the mortal souls we are, slide along through this life, bumping and jogging along the trail that has been laid before us not knowing for sure what will be around each bend.

We strive to anticipate with great effort in planning, protecting and prodding to move along. Some people choose to find a comfortable spot along the way and simply stop their journey. The surroundings seem nice, the climate is good and comfort is found. Yet they stop short of an even better place that might be discovered just around the bend if they had only been willing to move ahead.

Others forge ahead recklessly ignoring warning signs and safety markers along the way. These people careen out of control around curves or dash headlong into gullies and ravines along the way. Crumpled and bruised they crawl from the ditches of life only to resume their haste, and achieve full speed once again.

For all the time and energy, all the hassle and waste, for all the success and all the failures, I believe the most tragic of all adventurers along life’s winding way are those who choose to make the journey never seeking nor experiencing deep, meaningful love and peace.

On the outside, they seem so in control. Certain material success, maybe even fame and fortune mark their journey. Others travel quietly, unassuming, never being noticed by anyone else, making no waves along the path. Yet from deep within their heart is a longing for a connection with just one someone with whom they could share the journey.

At first the desire is very real, but then they are able to push it aside or press it deep within their soul so as not to have to speak to it. A pattern develops which some call denial. It becomes easier to say “I did it my way” than to acknowledge the ache that pounds from within. For to admit means having to deal with it.

Yes, it might be nice to see all the answers and know the final destination, just as it can be seem from 30,000 feet above Earth. But somehow, it seems that would eliminate the surprise, making the living of this life just an exercise in locomotion.

I believe God has not made us for the destination. Rather, He has created us, each uniquely and wonderfully made, for the journey. And I also believe this journey is not meant to be lived alone.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for those loved ones, family and friends who make the journey a joy and a blessing. While not every step is smooth, having those good people along for the ride is a wonderful treat. Hug somebody you love or admire. Let them know their worth in your life.

5 Ways to Avoid Convenient Excuses

As we go through this life, things happen to us and around us. Often there is a call to accountability. Sometimes that call is obvious and loud, for example when the boss is really mad. Other times the call is quiet.

Those of us with any moral conviction at all tend to offer an answer when one of those calls for accountability arises. However, if you are like me, you can be guilty of occasionally offering excuses rather than true, accountable explanations. To be an effective and respected leader, you must fight the temptation to give excuses.

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