Is Your Project a Self-Eating Watermelon?

self-eaten watermelon

What is a self-eating watermelon? Definition : A project that contains enough seeds of success right within its own boundaries.

How many of you work for or in a self-eating watermelon project or organization?

self-eaten watermelon

I doubt many would say yes. You see I hear a lot of excuses why a project fails.

Outside influences get a big part of the blame. Low budgets, poor facilities, bad technology, broken tools, weak ideas… the list goes on and on.

What about bad leadership, or no leadership? Any organization that suffers a leadership gap is destined to miss the self-eating watermelon kind of success.

Great leaders can overcome basic obstacles. OK the tools may be dull, the budget may have gotten cut back, the building is second rate. Many great world changing events have happened with far less in terms of physical resources to do the work.

An Old Story

Leadership made the difference. I’m old enough to have been a student of the great war, WWII. Leaders like Dwight Eisenhower or Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill looked at the mess the world was in and saw a vision. They dug deep into core principles both human and domestic to design the way out.

Leaders like these inspired thousands to stand up and fight. Troops fought with second rate gear sometimes. Warm clothes and rations were scarce. Yet the forces that were mustered heard the call and forged ahead, securing victory for a free world.

If you get a chance, go tour Churchill’s bunker underneath the streets of London. By today’s standards, you just cannot imagine suffering years of isolation running the war effort from there. But his team and the plans they made were a true self-eating watermelon project. The seeds of success were grown right there.

Those who helped the effort saw a clear picture of the need. Churchill had his detractors. He was a classic modern day politician with a large percentage of the country not voting for him, yet his leadership shined brightest when the country needed it the most.

He rallied the support when it was needed. His influence on the situation was undeniable.

The Newer Story

A seldom told tale comes from banking. In the 1980’s, the automated teller machine was blazing its trail into our lives. The hardware was operating before the software. While each bank could purchase their own machines for use by their customers, there was no access sharing between banks.

I worked for a large regional bank called Texas Commerce. We had 71 locations spread across Texas. We were one of the three largest banks of our kind at the time. You have to realize we did not yet have interstate banking laws, so each state had its own banks; leave the state without cash, and you might be stuck for a while.

I was sitting at the table when our Chairman, a banking legend named Ben Love, was presented a plan to operate these ATM machines. Again, understand this was the very early days of the idea. Ben heard all of the pros and cons, saw the numbers, but decided to pass on the opportunity. In his mind, there were far too many variables, yet unknown.

In the case of the self-eating watermelon, no one knew what the seeds of success needed to include. Ben took a pass, but specifically told the team to stay vigilant, watch the other guys try, then, when the time was right, we’d jump in.

It was almost two years later that we took our dive. And dive we did. Not only did we enter the market, but we crushed it, becoming the founding members of the PULSE Switch. You see the network required to connect all of these machines needed to be built. We needed a technological super highway to carry the transaction data from one machine to the next, regardless of which bank sponsored the machine. PULSE solved that.

As a founding member of PULSE, we also captured a large share of the transaction fees that went with each swipe of a card. It was a huge play for the bank and banking in general. Yes, I know ATM’s are a given these days. No one thinks about this card or that, which network it runs on, or who gets what, when. The old model blazed the trail to create a new normal.

Ben Love had other historical accolades too. He championed branch banking and interstate banking, exerting a strong influence in the Texas legislature to pass the laws needed to open the borders for eventual e-commerce. His ties to New York banking led to the eventual merger of our bank with what is now JP Morgan Chase.

Ben Love

The seeds of this monumental success were sown into the very fabric of who and what we were as a bank. That, my friends, is leadership. Now, let it be said, Ben Love had his detractors too, just like Churchill. Not everyone who ever worked for Ben left with a positive appreciation for Ben’s ways. But you cannot deny the influence he had at so many levels.

Leadership Is the Key

In summary, there are no self-eating watermelon projects or organizations that exists without strong, capable leadership. It is the presence of leadership that steers the course, musters the resources, and wins the day.

You can be a manager, flipping switches, making a few things happen. But leadership takes the venture much further than mere management can.

If your project needs a few self-eating seeds implanted, call me for some ideas on ways to grow your team into this self-actualizing champion of your industry. You can grow your leadership ability, let me show you how.

Footnote: I was introduced to the “self-eating watermelon” terminology by Kent Cummins of Magic Hotline. Kent is a renown speaker and author.

Management and Leadership: Actor or Expert?

elevating team performance

 

If you are in a position of management at your place of employment, you have choices to make every day. If you are relatively new to the position, whether due to sudden promotion or career advancement, you likely feel a sense of being overwhelmed. As you get your feet under you, you have even more choices to make.

There’s a way of thinking known as “fake it ’til you make it.” As insincere as that sounds, it is a widespread practice for aspiring managers and those simply trying to survive.

leadership

I like to think of this concept as the difference between being an actor or an expert. From time to time I am asked if I am an attorney. Over the years I have worked with so many lawyers, I have a pretty solid understanding of the key principles they use to accomplish their job. So, in many instances, I can talk at deep levels about the aspects of deals being done.

When I am questioned about my law degree, I usually reply “no I am not an attorney, but I played one on TV.” You can have a deep understanding of a subject yet still not be an expert. You can act the part, but not really know the material.

Preparation

Actors famously study their characters, often pursuing real-time experiences doing the things the person did. The experience builds an appreciation so that the portrayal on screen looks real. Managers often do the same thing. Good managers walk the floor, asking questions about the activity of their team so that they can better comprehend the details and build a base of understanding for what it is they manage.

Leadership is another specialty unto itself. While many think they understand what management is about, few really differentiate leadership from management. After all, we know who the managers are because of the titles given to them. You’ll seldom see a nameplate with “leader” somewhere in the title. Leaders work on the development of their leadership skill set too.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”John Maxwell” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”16″]If you don’t have a following, you’re not a leader, you’re just taking a walk.[/perfectpullquote] Leaders are recognized for their ability to create followers. If you lack a tribe of followers, you are not yet a leader. You may want to be the leader, but without the ability to influence those around you, you are not their leader.

Lead in the MOMENTThe Difference

To understand the difference between management and leadership I like this simple explanation; Management is about process. Leadership is about people.

Managers impact the way a team operates. They can set procedures, policies, and practices. Good managers hit the goals, control expenses, and keep things humming. However, leadership gets into the hearts and minds of the people. Becoming a true leader can set you apart from the managers in your peer group.

Becoming an expert at leadership allows you to begin building a legacy of leadership, influencing those who report to you. [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”16″]It has been said the true measure of a leader is not what happens while they are present, but what happens once they are absent.[/perfectpullquote]

Development and Coaching

Business schools have only recently added leadership courses into their curriculum. For decades MBA factories focused on balance sheets, cost control, and finance to teach the business leaders of tomorrow. Then someone decided maybe this leadership arena is worth our attention. Now, going for a post-graduate degree in business will likely have you participating in leadership classes and workshops.

However, if you are already in the workforce and never got that leadership training, coaching is your primary option for expanding and growing your leadership effectiveness.

As I engage new clients we always have an “AH-HA” moment. The light bulb goes off and the client realizes the missing link for the subtle, but significant difference between being a good manager and great leader.

Once that happens, the energy levels rise and the focus on creating meaningful impact grows.

I’ve dealt with very senior managers, C-suite people, who still needed their own AH-HA moments to make the difference. You too can join them in growing your ability to lead others.

coaching call

Question: What are you doing to develop your leadership muscle, your toolkit for better leadership and influence?

Leaders: Are You Coachable?

groupthink

In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask the question “are you coachable?” It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable. How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.

Business owners and professionals at all levels sometimes struggle with being coached. Success and achievement creates a false sense of not having any need for change. If you are getting results, why interrupt the methods that got you there? That may be a good mindset in the short run, but long term success requires growth.

To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable. When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Jerry Rice), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.

Recently Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer, was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice. Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.

Here are the a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.

  1. Do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all? Being open to the pursuit of growth as a professional is key. The best individuals in any aspect of life will be constantly trying to improve. Whether that includes technical knowledge, insight, or wisdom, the effort is there. Those who excel believe there is always more to learn or be.

  2. When you get advice do you act on it; following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action? Using what you learn is important. In leadership, it takes practice. Once you learn and understand a skill, you must apply it to your tool kit. By using your newly found understanding, you help to create confidence in its worth. Just as athletes work to build muscle memory for critical physical moves, leaders can build “influence memory” to work to their advantage.

  3. Do you seek follow-up from the coach to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice? Even the best coaches require feedback from the client to know whether the teaching and training is working. Be proactive in giving that feedback to your coach. When you realize you are working on a new dimension of your training, open up the communication with the coach. Let them know what feels right or needs better explanation.

Make Your Decision

If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.

Leadership: Shining Light v Casting Darkness

“The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Heard that before? How often have you worked for a boss who operated that way? It’s not fun. Actually, it’s a horrible environment to suffer. Yet, work we must, and sometimes it comes out this way.

Shining Light v Casting Darkness
Shining Light v Casting Darkness

Despite all of the great teachings about leadership, the effective demonstration of it comes down to two simple realities. As a leader, we can either shine light on our world or we cast darkness.

[shareable cite=”Parker J. Palmer, PhD.”]A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow [darkness] or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there.[/shareable]

Think about the simplicity of this idea. Darkness or light. Which do you choose? This is an age old question, yet it is one that is renewed and reenacted daily by managers and leaders everywhere.

You can be having the proverbial ‘bad day’ and inflict great darkness on those around you. Whether your bad day started as an argument with the spouse or significant other, or perhaps the clerk at the coffee shop, it doesn’t matter. Your team doesn’t deserve the darkness your misfortune might cause.

As leaders we have to be ever-mindful of the significance of our duty. Rather than letting a darkness creep into out world, we have to fight that urge and produce light.

Light helps things grow (unless you are working with a bunch of mushrooms planted in you-know-what). We use the phrase “well that sheds a new light doesn’t it” to describe taking a new view. Vision works in light. It doesn’t take that much. After all a simple small candle can light a whole room of pitch darkness.

Deep Within

A critical consideration is whether you have a propensity to generate darkness due to some deep inner matter left unresolved. Is your look at the world skewed? Do you even have the ability to generate light? Is there an inner darkness that can be triggered at will?

You have to combat the urge to spew darkness when light is preferred. Please refer back to my missive on “bitter or better” for further insight.

Shine Only Happens with Light

The sparkle and glimmer we see coming from nice, pretty objects is only a function of light being reflected. Does your team sparkle because of light you give them? Yes, a leader has that ability, to help others shine.

You an offer “light” for your team by giving praise where praise is due. Give grace to those who need it (mistakes do happen). Encourage the team member who needs encouraging. Teach the person who needs to know a little more.

None of those actions include belittling, condescending thoughts, or criticism. Reverse psychology is a cruel tool for a leader to rely upon. It’s just too easy for it to be taken the wrong way.

Communicate freely and keep others connected. Build trust to amplify the light you are spreading.

Its Your Choice

It is your choice. Think about the quip you feel the need to say. Filter it. If it doesn’t produce light, it probably is dark. Leave it alone.

Find the ways you can harness the power of light in your world.

So you want to be a difference maker? Check yourself for the levels of light coming from your leadership efforts these days.

Light makes might! Go for it!

Do you suffer from Bright Shiny Objects?

Bright shiny objects distract us right? Too many leaders suffer from an occasional bout of BSO Syndrome, chasing bright shiny objects. A leader’s focus must remain clear.

What are some bright shiny objects?  I am not talking about material things, although those certainly can distract. I once knew a CEO who had a large 10 foot mural of a road racing bicycle he owned hung in his office. Seriously, a 10 foot picture of a bike, with pedals and chains. Kudos to him for his dedication to cycling, but seriously. How distracting was that mural?

The notion of bright shiny objects means the shifting of focus from the central track we need to be operating on to less than significant efforts that rob energy and effort from the venture. In one word, distraction.

When we fall prey to chasing BSO, we lose sight of the plan we are on, priorities slip, even relationships change. We can get blinded to the lure of the BSO.

There’s a funny thing though. People subject to frequent BSO syndrome usually don’t even know they do it. Why? They are too busy bouncing from one object to the next.

When you are tasked with leading a team, you have to be ever-vigilant for BSO distraction. They come in many ways. Here are the key ones:

YOU GET LOST

You as the leader find and see some BSO, so you get lost. Your attention shifts away from the primary direction. You take a detour. You become the one with glazed vision and a fixed stare, looking at the new thing, unable to refocus on the key elements of your work.

I have attorney friends who often complain about clients who miss the critical aspects of a legal fight because they are more focused on the BSO elements instead of the bigger picture. Big cases have been lost over BSO chasing mentality.

THE TEAM GETS LOST

A whole team can get caught up in some form of bright shiny object, causing a herd mentality. When the masses shift on you, their leader, you have to rein it back in again. By over-communicating core values, vision, and direction, you reduce or eliminate the risk of the team shifting away from you to chase a BSO.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Being proactive rather than reactive can eliminate the herd mentality.[/shareable]

Fortunately, team shift caused by bright shiny objects is rare. In most cases, a team shift is not about bright and shiny things, but doom and gloomy things. Bad momentum can cause a whole team to shift. But that’s another topic.

THE MARKET GETS LOST

This may be the toughest form of BSO Syndrome to fight. When a whole market shifts to the next big thing, you have to be ready to make informed decisions about whether you want to take your business in a different direction. There is a fine line between waiting out a temporary shift (a true, but temporary, flight to some BSO) versus a real change in a market.

Kodak infamously missed the digital photography shift. Digital wasn’t just some BSO, it was a disruptive progression of change.

Being too dedicated to avoiding all bright shiny objects may leave you behind or totally out of a market. Occasionally what appears to be a BSO may need to be carefully evaluated after all. This is especially true with shifts in the market value of your product or service.

The Best Solution

The best way to avoid distraction from chasing BSO is to maintain an awareness of your priorities and purpose. Allow for frequent checks on the primary objectives you have set in your plan. Be true to to those efforts first. Be open and honest with yourself and others about chasing bright shiny objects. As a leader you must have a feedback loop provided by trusted advisors who can call you out on a venture down BSO Lane.

[reminder]Leave a comment and share your latest story about bright shiny objects.[/reminder]

Also, I have some limited times during the day that I am willing to take calls to answer questions from the tribe here. To schedule your call, just click below.

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Leaders: Get Out of Your Own Box

Nowadays ‘thinking outside the box’ is cliché. We’ve heard it so much we have either forgotten what the idea was really about or written it off.

The problem is that psychologists tell us we all have these personal paradigms that drive our reaction and interaction with culture and society. The older we get, the more “Set in our ways” we become. This is the perfect example of operating from within a very narrow box.

In front of a large audience one day, I asked two volunteers to step on stage. I had arranged two large shipping boxes, something as large as the crates that refrigerators come in. The two volunteers were to step inside each box (doors had been cut to ease the access). Then I asked them to proceed with talking to one another as though they had just met, introducing themselves to one another and talking like this was a networking event.

They couldn’t do it very well. They were talking over each other, interrupting, missing words and phrases from the other person. Clearly their communication was suffering. With little to no connection, their meeting was turning out to be a disaster.

They were then told to exit the box; step outside and face each other. Now resume the effort. Well, of course, things improved quickly.

This was a graphic display of the problems with operating from inside our personal paradigms. Whatever bias, value structure, prejudice, or judgment you have against the world, staying inside your box will prohibit you from adequately connecting with others.

By staying inside those boxes we filter everything being heard and received. Often that filtering corrupts the message or the intent of the sender.

As you meet a new person, strive to understand their “box” first. Forget your bad ideas and limited scope. Hear them genuinely and seek first to understand (a la Steven Covey). You just cannot build a high trust relationship without it. This fits for hiring managers, sales leads, new friends, and other personal relationships.

Give yourself a test. Try this for just one full week. Make a concerted effort to unfilter everything you receive from those around you. Don’t jump to any assumptions or conclusions. If you’ve already ‘tagged’ a person, give them the grace to erase that tag. See and hear them for what they might really be saying.

See the amazing things that can happen. Post back here and let me know what you find.

If you would like to explore more ideas for growing your own leadership influence, click the link below to schedule a short, but free call.

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Leadership: How do you handle feedback?

Feedback

The further you get into management and leadership, the farther away you might get from personal feedback. Yes, the boss will certainly let you know what you are doing wrong, but what if you ARE the boss? Is there anyone or any way you receive feedback?

Feedback
Feedback

Receiving feedback is not always easy. Seldom is the feedback positive as in “hey great job” or “wow, you really crushed that moment”. If you are getting this positive feedback on a regular basis, you are in rare air. Enjoy it.

[shareable cite=”Jack Canfield”]Leaders cannot work in a vacuum. They may take on larger, seemingly more important roles in an organization, but this does not exclude them from asking for and using feedback. In fact, a leader arguably needs feedback more so than anyone else. It’s what helps a leader respond appropriately to events in pursuit of successful outcomes. [/shareable]

No, sadly, feedback is usually more negative. There is never a need for more negative feedback. You can find it often. For every great decision you make, someone somewhere will be doubting or objecting. That comes with the territory of being a manager.

How do you handle feedback?

There are three ways that people receive and react to feedback.

Categorical Denial

There are those who profess a tough skin and merely choose to ignore feedback. They take the position that no one knows my job better than me. Anyone who disagrees can take a hike. Doubt me and I will show you.

If the feedback is anonymous,as it sometimes may be, the person operating in denial merely brushes it off without any response.

That’s the kind of manager you want to avoid. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It’s a sad position to be in as a leader. There is always an opportunity to grow and learn. If you reject feedback, you have shut the door on learning. Of course mistakes will get made.

Regardless of how flawlessly you think your decisions can be, there is room for error. Error creates a natural feedback loop. Whether your team was impacted directly or indirectly by your error, you need feedback to make the right corrections. For every action there is a reaction.

I’m So Mad

The next response may be to just get angry. The mindset sounds something like this “I am so mad they tried to call me out” or “I am going to be sure they pay for such an insubordinate move”.

Anger and hostility toward feedback is a narrow and uninformed response. As mentioned above, there is always room t grow as a leader. If you choose to reject such growth, you will stay stuck at one level for a very long time.

There is one other downside to getting angry about it. People will stop communicating. If you explode every time someone points something out, well-meaning subordinates will give up. They will cease to participate in growing the team.

Emotional Intelligence

A leader with a higher degree of emotional intelligence will welcome feedback and administer it properly. Sure you need to analyze the details. Some may be bunk, but the majority is usually valuable. Consider the source as credible or simply disgruntled. There are always different possibilities.

Once the source and the substance of the feedback is understood, then an emotionally intelligent leader will take it in. They will distil the teaching moment. The recommendation or suggestion will be seen through an objective lens of consideration for improvement.

If there is learning to be done, then this leader will do so; applying the feedback as a positive, looking for the gain from the experience.

How do you respond to feedback?

What is your natural mode? For anyone who wants to be a better leader, thee is only one response. You take feedback in, process it, distil it, and learn from it.

[shareable cite=”Bill Gates”]We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.[/shareable]

[reminder]Share your most recent experience dealing with feedback.[/reminder]

Leadership: Are You Inbound or Outbound?

In the fast paced world of Internet marketing, there are two distinctly different approaches. There is inbound and outbound. Management and leadership has these same two dimensions.

Outbound marketing is the traditional approach we all know where companies try to push their message, putting up posters, banners, signage, sending phone messages/dialers, and very forward efforts to get your attention. The end game is the hope you buy something.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is the more subtle and gentler approach. The provider offers valuable information about a good, service, or topic. This information is something the prospective buyer can consume for free. There may be a voluntary exchange of contact information to receive the information (think ebook or survey result). The buyer’s willingness to give up that contact info is more than offset by the value of the content they receive.

As I was dealing with my own marketing service providers, I was struck by the idea that management and leadership has this same inbound/outbound conundrum.

When you assume a leadership role, you have to choose. Will my approach be inbound or outbound? Here are a few indicators of each style.

Outbound Management Style

  • Giving directives
  • My way or the highway mindset
  • Closed door environment where employees are not welcome
  • The workplace has a feel of autocratic rule with no regard for what the employees think
  • “I’m the boss, they better pay attention”

Managing Up the Organization

Inbound Leadership Style

  • Nurturing trust relationships with the team
  • Employee environment of permission and protection – freedom to do the work and knowledge that the boss has my back
  • Open communication
  • Servant heart for leadership
  • Freely given recognition for a job well done

Clearly it is safe to say the outbound style is a tradition of management, Theory X approach, taught and followed for decades. Just like outbound marketing, outbound leadership is the approach used by far too many. The tide is shifting. Outbound leadership isn’t really leadership at all. It embodies the core of management, but not leadership. Outbound will get things done for some period of time, but at what cost?

Employee engagement will not be very good under outbound domination at the hand of the boss. Instead, the inbound style is far more likely to draw workers in, inspiring them to perform rather than beating them down to get something done.

The workplace has a long way to go to embrace the inbound leadership style. As I write this, I can almost hear the eyeballs rolling in people’s heads.

New, emerging business leaders must entertain the move to inbound leadership. The growing number of younger workers demand it. Inbound is the way they now live. Forcing them to live one way, then shift to the old outbound management style at work will not do much for your talent retention.

[reminder]What are the ways you operate as an inbound leader?[/reminder]

To dig deeper on your own leadership style, call me for a free consultation.

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Are you really a “people person”?

When was the last time you heard someone say “I am a people person”? Candidates for various management jobs often describe themselves as a people person. What is that exactly?

I have a friend who is an HR professional. He tells me the response they use is “Oh good. If you are a people person, we can pay you five people a week. Will that be OK?”

But seriously folks. Most of us know where that concept came from. Originally when someone said they were a “people person” it meant they could deal with others in a positive way. It also likely meant they liked doing it. It was supposed to indicate a sincerity for interaction, the ability to relate, a consensus builder. Do you think people really do that anymore?

I fear the truth is we have lost some of the drive, desire, and ability to truly relate with people. Of course some of us are really good at it. But I don’t see where we teach that anymore. Instead, it seems young people are being encouraged to get better with computers and automated interfaces, but they do not get the same encouragement when faced with facing a live specimen.

When have you heard about training for one on one communication? What about simple social graces like waiting outside a conference room right before the meeting starts. Instead of making small talk, faces are buried on smart phones or tablets. Leaders can build more rapport with their team in those short moments outside the meeting than they do inside the meeting once the official discussion has started.

Social media is not really that social at all.

One indication: A recent Pew Research survey of adults in the U.S. found that 71% use Facebook at least occasionally, and 45% of Facebook users check the site several times a day.

That sounds like people are becoming more sociable. But some people think the opposite is happening. The problem, they say, is that we spend so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships. Too much chatter, too little real conversation.

Others counter that online social networks supplement face-to-face sociability, they don’t replace it. These people argue that we can expand our social horizons online, deepening our connections to the world around us, and at the same time take advantage of technology to make our closest relationships even closer.

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says technology is distracting us from our real-world relationships. Keith N. Hampton, who holds the Professorship in Communication and Public Policy at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information, argues that technology is enriching those relationships and the rest of our social lives.

Let’s rally together and do something different. If you struggle with making new friends, try baby steps first. Try simply saying hello to someone at the grocery store. Wave to a neighbor you haven’t spoken to in a while.

A second issue is the difference between connecting and communicating. While we may have hundreds of Facebook friends—people we never would have met otherwise, with whom we can share many new things—do they really provide the kind of human interaction that is so essential to our emotional health?

Psychologists define social capital, or the benefit we derive from social interactions, in two ways: bonding and the more superficial bridging. Research shows that virtual-world friends provide mostly bridging social capital, while real-world friends provide bonding social capital.

Larry Rosen states

“For instance, in one study we found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

To be a true people person, the number of friends or connections on social media has nothing to do with the people you can influence with your day-to-day behavior. Can you add value? Can you emote empathy and support for someone in need of encouragement during a tough time? Are you genuine?

The next time a friend or co-worker expresses something personal, decide whether you are truly a people person. Or will you simply brush it aside so you can get back to posting on Twitter or Facebook.

Let’s try to be a real “people person”.

Lessons in Leadership: Soaring with the Winds of Life

 

In learning how to fly an airplane, one of the first lessons has to do with understanding winds. Winds come in basically three types;

  • Head winds – those which hits you right in the face
  • Tail winds – those from behind
  • Cross winds – those at angles from the side

I believe the challenges we face in life model these three types of wind as well. If we consider all the forms of challenge we face, we can boil it down into these three categories. However, it might be interesting to compare the pilot’s concern with each of these winds as we think about our daily responses to life’s winds…..

Head Wind

First, the head winds. Too often we might be prone to think of these negatively. As wind hits us in the face, it slows us down, forces us to press harder against the wind. Bob Seger wrote a great ballad titled “Against the Wind…stronger now still just running…against the wind”.

When a pilot encounters head wind during flight it can be a challenge. Fuel consumption is increased as air speed decreases. The time it takes to reach a destination increases. Stress and fatigue can set in. But did you know it is preferable to take off and land “against the wind”? Why? Because the increased force of that head wind causes “lift” on the wings which is the force that makes planes fly.

A good steady head wind actually makes take-offs and landings easier, more comfortable and effective. So the next time you sense a head wind in life, ask yourself whether it has been provided to allow more lift for a better take off to a new place in life or whether it is there to afford a safer, smoother landing from where you have just come.

Tail Wind

Next let’s talk about tail wind. This is just the opposite from a head wind. We tend to think of tail wind as favorable. During flight that might be true. It can serve to push us forward, reduce effort and speed the time towards the destination.

But did you know it is the most difficult force with which to reckon during take off and landing? At those times, it actually impairs control, reduces efficiency and creates danger.

Maybe in life we need to be cautious of the perceived tail winds. Rather than gliding along with them, we need to watching for hindrances to gaining new achievement or resolving old challenges.

Cross Wind

The final force is cross wind. All things considered, crosswind is the most challenging of all situations. That is true in flying as well as life.

Crosswind means what it implies… a force crossing you at an angle to the direction you intend to fly. During flight, a cross wind will blow you “off course”. A constant watch must be given to direction and compass heading while flying in crosswinds. There is no cruising during crosswind conditions. It is a constant battle.

Yes, this is me on a round trip cross country from Houston to Shreveport, flying a Piper Archer PA71.

Take off and landing is even more severe. Very special techniques are required to manage a crosswind situation. This is why you see planes doing a crab landing, angling sideways right before touchdown. In some situations the crosswind can be so severe that its force exceeds the designed strength of the air frame on the airplane, which makes the good pilot seek an alternative landing site, one where the winds are more favorable.

Life has crosswind too. It is the skill and grace with which we handle life’s crosswinds that determines our ultimate success. Failure to recognize and manage a crosswind can cause certain disaster. Either we ignore the presence of that crosswind or we acknowledge it but underestimate the consequences. Forging ahead means grave results.

So next time you feel a certain extraordinary force influencing your life, consider the pilot. Is the wind you feel one of these? If so, which one and how will you choose to handle it?

If you need help discerning the winds in your path right now or want to find better ways to navigate those winds, schedule a time for a free consultation.

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