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.

CONTACT

Leaders: Sometimes There Aren’t Enough Rocks

Being a child of the 60’s I love the movie “Forrest Gump”. It was on cable recently, cycling through the home spun wisdom of the south and reflecting on the troubling times of the age.

FORREST GUMP, Robin Wright, Tom Hanks, 1994

There are many classic scenes throughout the movie. There is one that touches me every time I see it. Forrest and Jenny are walking through the countryside and come upon her childhood home. At first she gazes, then stares. She steps slowly toward the old, ramshackle house that once was a home. Paint is dried an peeling. Windows are broken. The roof sags. It’s obviously not lived in for quite some time.

Slowly Jenny’s stare turns to anger. She bends over, picks up some rocks, and begins hurling them at the house. Her frenzy intensifies.

Forrest is stunned, not knowing what to do. Jenny finally connects with a fast ball through one of the windows. Glass shatters. She tumbles to the ground sobbing. For sure this house was NOT a home to her. There had been too many disturbing memories. By her own admission her life was a mess. Now we seem to know why.

As she sobs, Forrest quietly and slowly bends over, first a crouch, then he takes a seat in the mud beside Jenny. In the narrative voice you hear him say “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Let’s talk about rocks and leadership.

Anger can be like that.

A burning hurt or disappointment can fester over the years. Unresolved issues boil into contempt and rage. Have you ever worked for someone who seems to be right on the edge with such emotion? It’s not a pretty picture.

As managers and leaders, we run out of rocks before we start. I contend you cannot be willing to throw even the first rock.

He who throws the first rock usually loses.

No, leaders must refrain from letting emotional turmoil boil over. Any issues you might be handling must be dealt with in more subtle, but hopefully, effective ways.

Your team doesn’t deserve the outburst. To be an effective leader, you must be seen as more even tempered. Though things may be swirling around you, the heat of battle cannot trigger other, unrelated matters that might cause some rock throwing.

Oh, it’s easy

Wanting to throw a few rocks seems easy. A rock is small but hard. It makes a great projectile when launched with the right velocity. Here’s the problem. Most of us don’t throw that well. I mean that figuratively.

Even when launching a tirade intended for one someone or some thing, the message might be misguided. If it lands off the mark, you certainly may cause collateral damage.

You might be furious at Steve, but spew something that hits Sally. Steve feels fortunate to have been missed, but Sally is now upset. Steve knows it was intended for him, so he starts running scared. It’s a mess that can only spiral further downward.

Managers and leaders have to do much better. There just cannot be any ‘rock throwing’.

Effective Leadership needs a throttle

To be a good leader you have to have a throttle mechanism. Let’s face it, the heat of battle can fray your nerves. Pressures mount and you have to vent somehow. A well disciplined leader knows NOT to vent in the direction of the troops. Your people never deserve that.

While you might have occasion to sit everyone down and have a stern talk about performance, direction, or momentum, the message should never feel like you are throwing rocks.

I started this piece by saying ‘sometimes there aren’t enough rocks’. In leadership, there shouldn’t be ANY rocks.

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!

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.

Read More »

Convicted, Conflicted, or Confused

A leader can easily find themselves in three states of mind; convicted, conflicted, or confused. Your situation may shift between the three. Each new day brings new tests and tough decisions that have to be made. In which state of mind do you usually operate?

Convicted-conflicted-confused

Convicted-conflicted-confused

Convicted

In this context, when I use the word convicted, I am not talking about the criminal sense. The detective Lenny Briscoe on Law and Order once famously quipped when asked about his marital status “Two priors and no convictions”. That would be the legal definition.

No, convicted here means a sense of purpose. You hold a conviction about a matter. You are dedicated to the cause. You are firm in a belief. That is conviction.

People of faith find conviction in aligning with the calling of their faith. You hear them say “I am convicted to follow this principle”.

Leaders can and should be convicted about the purpose of their role, their position, and their duty. A leader without conviction of purpose is not much of a leader at all. With lack of conviction, you can be swayed from moment to moment.

Conviction can give us confidence. It becomes the core from which you operate. Maybe it’s a set of principles, not just one idea. Either way conviction gives meaning and direction. It fuels the vision leaders are supposed to have.

Conflicted

Being conflicted should be pretty easy to understand. You hear people say “I am torn about this subject”. Conflict suggest two sides competing for the outcome. War is euphemistically called a conflict.

At work, being conflicted means you can see both sides of an issue, but simply do not have a strong opinion one way or the other. That is a dangerous condition for a leader to be in.

Admitting to being conflicted may communicate a sense of empathy for one side or the other, but it is not a place a leader can stay for long. Decisions need to be made.

Resolving conflict requires information and analysis. Maybe it requires coaching or mentoring. Staying in conflict over a topic, whether internal to one’s self or external with the team, is not a good condition at all.

Confused

Clearly this may be the worse of all mindsets. Simply being confused means you don’t get it. You have been overrun by the facts and circumstances. Or maybe you just cannot comprehend the situation.

Confusion is ok for a little while so that you can sort out the details. However, confusion for an extended period of time often becomes chaos. When the team that reports to you sense the confusion, they will resort to their own values and answers.

Where are you?

What is your mindset right now? Are you confused? Do you need help with the details?

Or are you conflicted, trying to choose a side?

Better still, are you convicted about the purpose and direction? Can you stand firm, moving your team toward a goal, inspiring their effort all along the way?

Think about these three mindsets. You may vacillate across all three from week to week as things change. As you grow into your role as a leader, you should move across this spectrum to more routinely reside in conviction, being distracted by fewer conflicts of ideas, and seldom confused about what you need to be doing.

If that progress is not happening for you, it may be time to seek a coach or ask a mentor for input. Just know that leaders do in fact experience all three. The key question though is how long you stay in one frame or the other.

Question: Share your thoughts on which state you may be operating in right now. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

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.

Living With a Community Connection

What is your sense of community?

Living in a community takes on many different definitions depending upon your view. The traditional meanings include family, neighborhood, church/religion, school, organization, ethnicity, city, county, state, and country.

The news is full of serious events impacting communities of all kinds. My question today is how well connected are you to your communities?

Read More »

Honoring Memorial Day

A Special Tribute and Call to Action

This post is dedicated to the service members everywhere who made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight to preserve freedom. In the U.S. we recognize Memorial Day on the last Monday of May.

memorial-day

Memorial Day honors those who actually died in service to the country. Volunteering for the military carries with it the potential for the ultimate human sacrifice, one’s own life. The brave men and women who train and deploy are faced with the ever-present threat that they too may join the ranks of those we honor each year on Memorial Day.

The public response to veterans past and present has changed over the years. Today, I am blessed by the routine outpourings of respect and affection given to those returning from the Gulf War theater. I can recall soldiers returning from Vietnam who were not welcomed so warmly.

While public opinion may be fickle as decades pass, the undeniable truth is we all owe our freedom to those who fight and sacrifice.

I encourage anyone who is in a position of leadership to take a moment to reflect on the solemnity of this day. If you are an entrepreneur owning your own business, you should be grateful for the opportunity to operate your enterprise in a free commerce society.

Managers at all levels also carry a special burden often unrealized. I contend that we too should honor, support, and defend the ideals of freedom and equality in our respective places of work. I am speaking of the very freedoms our soldiers fight to defend.

Depending on the size of your company, your programs about diversity and equality may range from the subtle to the very formal. Nonetheless we as managers must shoulder the duties for maintaining standards of respect for our teams.

While HR programs often go to serve the masses of employees, if we, the leaders, assume greater responsibility for administering a safe, respectful workplace, the masses would be far more engaged and loyal.

Our veterans serve nobly to support and defend the rights we have. Let’s not let the workplace lose sight of that.

To my brothers and sisters in arms, thank you for your service. Words cannot express the gratitude. May God be with you.

 

Doug Thorpe’s company HeadwayExec is proud to have been recognized by the Veterans Administration as a Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB).