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Burn the Boats – The Toughest Leadership Command

burn the ships

We all like Plan “B” options that afford us an escape when things don’t work out. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. How’s that for bold leadership?

What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. A retreat was not an option.

In order to achieve the highest level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the boats.”

The obvious question becomes “what are my ships or boats”? For starters, your ship may be anything that you are afraid to let go of.

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A Mentor’s Greatest Lament

It’s easy to find a lot of talk about mentoring; being a mentor, using a mentor, and growing from mentorship. One of my most popular posts was about being a stepping stone. But what will you do about that?

Mentors come in many varieties. Anyone who’s been through some form of higher learning has probably been influenced by a teacher or professor. You may remember a magical mentor who inspired you to think differently or be different. To this day, I owe much of my passion for writing to my senior English teacher from high school, Mrs. Geneva Curry.

A Story

Dr. William Hendricks, a well-respected professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was once asked what his greatest fear may be. His response shocked the audience. Again, keep in mind, he was one of the most highly regarded faculty members there.

His answer was “To present and teach my best material, but no one learns.” Let that sink in a minute.

Here’s a well-respected professor who had people clamoring to attend his lectures. His fear was teaching and no one learns.

What did he mean by that? He meant having an audience that was somehow closed to learning.

When I first heard this, I was struck by the significance of being a student or mentee and not being receptive to the teaching that is being offered.

Why would anyone do that? Well, it’s simple. There are those among us who go into a learning situation believing they already have all the answers. They are convinced there is nothing new to learn.

Whether it comes from pride or futility, the idea that you might sit with a mentor and ignore the teaching is insanity!

servant leader

The Smartest Guy in the Room

Have you ever known anyone like that? You know, someone who insists they know it all. They act like and truly believe they are the smartest guy in the room.

These folks just want to sit in the class or in the program because the completion certificate somehow elevates them to the next level. The mindset that you can pass a course without being impacted by it is just plain crazy. What a waste of everyone’s time and talent.

The best leaders I have ever known knew what it was to be a follower first. Once you master the following, then you are qualified to become a leader. This is a key concept that fails many would-be managers.

My freshman year in the Texas A&M University  Corps of Cadets taught me that. The entire purpose of the freshman or ‘fish’ experience in the Corps was to engrain the idea that to be a leader, you must first know how to be a follower.

During that year I was introduced to many examples of ‘leadership’ handed out by the upperclassmen. As you can imagine, some were great. Others not so much. But even from the bad examples, I learned what not to do.

Power of Position

There are those in management who get wrapped up in the power of the position. By definition, every management box on an org chart has a delegated authority about it. Guys who think they know it all can be fooled by this.

The lure of the power of the position trips them up. Rather than seeking more knowledge and better practices to follow, they immerse themselves in the role without ever learning what it may mean to be a leader.

Following the Call

I encourage you to find mentorship. Once the opportunity is open, dive in wholeheartedly. Absorb everything you can from the one who offers to mentor and coach you.

Don’t expect old habits to get you to higher achievement.

In the early days of NASA, the standard for astronaut selections usually involved some high level of pilot experience; fighter pilot, test pilot, etc. While that was a good baseline from which to start, there were new things that had to be taught.

Even astronauts at NASA must learn new and creative new technologies, practices, and principles to survive.

The same is true for leaders of today. The world is moving quickly. Some call it “VUCA” which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Leaders trying to master such a blend of challenges simply must keep learning.

Through mentoring, you can find the resources you need to grow as a leader. Then and only then can you earn the title of manager and leader.

If you’d like to talk about ways you can be coached and mentored, click the button below. I’m offering a complimentary breakthrough session by zoom.

Here’s a recent comment by one of my clients.

I’m in the thick of leadership coaching with Doug and his insight and guidance are invaluable. Every time we talk, I leave with a new understanding, learning, or strategy to implement. Do this for yourself! ~Heather Plank

What is Trust Anyway?

You and I share many different things. As leaders, we share common needs, goals, and attributes. Depending on who you talk to, you and I score at different levels depending on the topic we choose to ask about. However, there is one key area frequently cited as a critical factor in determining whether a leader is effective or not. That factor is TRUST.

Business leaders don’t consciously go about their day specifically trying to build trust. This would be like having ‘building trust’ on your to-do list. Let’s see, go to the bank, check; wash the car, check; build trust, wait, what? No, that’s silly.

They will let their decisions and their actions impact the level of trust bestowed on them by others. Age-old wisdom says trust is earned. Children are taught at an early age. Leaders know it too.

A Manager’s Challenge

Anyone who has ever assumed management duties understands how critical trust can be in persuading a team to perform. The collective efforts of the team can be hurt if individuals on that team have doubts about the boss.

There is usually some kind of default mindset at work between employees and the employer. Workers often start out not trusting the boss. Sadly, too many bosses start out not trusting their teams either. It truly is a two-way street.

Experts found that trust, social connectivity, and a general sense of well-being are all intertwined. There are scientific studies revealing that two sections of the brain involved in sensing trust.

Based on perceptions of trust, the participants (in the study) reported positive interactions with the “close friend” to be more rewarding than interactions with a stranger—and were more likely to interact with this player. This illustrates our innate human desire to connect with others and create close-knit bonds even if these ties are based on blind trust or lead to [other bad outcomes].

Brain imaging of the participants showed that two specific brain regions were actively engaged when someone thought they were trusting a close friend. Increased activity of the ventral striatum and medial prefrontal cortex were correlated with positive social value signals when participants made decisions based on a belief they were playing with a good friend.

But science aside, what makes trust so hard to build? Think about all of your own experiences with friends, co-workers, bosses, and leaders. You likely watched three levels of interaction that factored into how deeply you felt you could trust the other person.

Technical Ability

In a work setting, the team leader must demonstrate a certain level of technical ability to begin earning trust from the team. New, first-time managers struggle with this because they might have been promoted in recognition of their skills in one area, but they lack comprehensive knowledge of the whole team’s scope of responsibility.

Lacking that technical knowledge, they are deemed incapable of performing as team lead, so trust is denied.

New bosses moved in from outside the department suffer this same kind of gap. Until they can prove they know their stuff, the team will be reluctant to give the trust that might be needed for respecting the ‘new guy’.

I once was a department head of a large administrative group supporting a $5 billion asset portfolio at a large regional bank. I had several teams reporting to me, responsible for 5 different lines of business. One day, while walking through the department, one of the administrators stopped me and asked a fairly technical question. I paused and began coaching him on the topic, explaining the process and the calculations he needed for the problem he presented. He seemed shocked. I asked why? He said, “I didn’t think the Big Dog would know this stuff.” To which I grinned and replied, “How’d you think I got to be the Big Dog?”

Cultural

The next level is what I will call cultural trust. After technical trust is established there is still a void at the cultural or corporate level. The key question here is whether you demonstrate consistent, reliable actions and behaviors.

No one can trust someone or something that acts inconsistently. Roger Ferguson, founder of ISI HR Consulting and creator of “Big Five Performance” talks about this corporate trust as whether a leader is known to be trustworthy, delivers as promised, and is generally known to be a person of character.

Being consistent in the way you act and interact creates a level of trust that grows with each passing day. As soon as you make a serious deviation from the pattern you start, trust takes a step backward. This is why it is so critical for leaders to be mindful of the direction they want to go, centered on core principles, and committed to consistent behavior as a leader.

Personal

This is the most intimate of trust levels. This is the deep, one-on-one trust. This kind of trust with individual employees has people thinking “I don’t care what others say, I know what I believe about this boss, and I am very good with it.” Further “I will follow them wherever they want me to go.”

Why would someone be willing to say that? Because the other two levels have been satisfied and now opportunities to deal personally with the person have proven to be reliable and solid. The pattern is there, the details are there, and, even more importantly, the experience is there.

Complexity

This is why trust cannot be won overnight. It has to be earned. All three levels have to be engaged. You cannot make it to the gold ribbon level of personal trust without first achieving the other two levels.

Think about personal relationships. These same three levels are at work. Anyone who starts dating someone runs the same sequence of steps trying to test for trust. When you are the person wanting to earn someone’s trust, you have to be faithful to build these stages, carefully and thoughtfully.

More relationships crater over breakdowns in trust at one of these three levels. Repeated disappointment is the reason for the eventual failure of any relationship.

We just don’t want to be around people we cannot trust. Certainly not for any meaningful reason.

Leadership Lessons

For team leaders and executives at all levels, I teach a program called Team Trust. In it, we explore ways that teams and their leaders can use a proven, reliable, and repeatable process to build trust, eliminate unneeded distractions, and improve performance.

There are core disciplines that can be deployed to improve team performance by building trust at all levels of the organization.

call a coach

Stuck Right Now? Here’s How to Get 3 Levels Beyond

Are you feeling stuck? It’s like walking in quicksand. You can’t make any forward progress.

We’ve all been there before. This feeling is a common event in most people’s lives. As the chapters of life unfold, there are moments when everything seems to just get stuck and you start to lose the vision of the way ahead. Some may think of this as drifting through life.

The future vision is missing, lost, or forgotten. You just want to make it through another day. You, my friend, need to know there is more waiting for you. Here are three steps to get past feeling stuck.

The Shift

First, you need to make a shift. There needs to be a disruptive force or series of events that can shake things up. Mostly this is a shift that needs to happen in your mind; the way you are thinking needs to change.

I see so many people every day who are stuck in their mindset. Their head is filled with negative, limiting thoughts. “I can’t do that”, “I am too weak”, “I don’t have that skill”, “I don’t know that subject”.

You may also need to shift the people who are around you, especially if they serve to enforce those negative thoughts. If you speak a limiting thought and they agree with you, they are not being any help. Find some new friends.

Start growing away from old, bad thoughts. Read new books, watch some TED talk videos, open your mind to new ideas. Get a refresh!

By engaging a shift mindset, you can begin to pull out of the muck where you are stuck.

The Lift

As the shift builds momentum, you will get a feeling of lift. Just like the wind passing over the wings of a bird or an airplane, there is lift. The whole body rises into flight.

Pressure and stress will ease. Old burdens will fall away and you will feel a growing energy.

Lift creates a move to new direction. You sense a freedom of thought, action, and purpose. You are renewed.

The Gift

As you rise above the old state of mind, you achieve a newness; a renewed sense of purpose. You get a fresh look at the world ahead. Empowered by the new energy you will become a gift to those around you.

As a manager and leader, your fresh view of things can become contagious. Your smile and energy will impact others. You can help them begin their own shift out of ‘stuckness’.

If you need help embarking on a life change like this, I’d be happy to explain my coaching programs. I’ve helped hundreds of seasoned professionals get unstuck.

Leaders Build Stepping Stones

What do you think of when someone says something about a stepping stone? The origin comes from placement of stones across a stream so that a pedestrian can walk across the flow of the water without getting wet.

Courtesy 123rf.com

Often the stones are placed by hikers trying to make a crossing in a river. The stones can be randomly placed or symmetrical.

I like to picture these stones when I think of key people who have been major influencers in my life. Likely, you too have had mentors or significant personalities that have played a role as a stepping stone in your life.

The Back Story

When someone stands up or stands in to provide support, they become a stepping stone. For me, I grew up the only child of a single Mom. My Father passed away when I was only 2 years old. Mom was determined to provide me with significant male role models to aid in my development as a man.

As a result, my stepping stones evolved thanks to the contributions of at least 6 of these caring and giving men. The time they spent teaching me things like baseball, golf, fishing, tennis, woodworking, and camping, taught me much more than the basics. Yes, I learned how to hit a fastball, bait a hook, fly a plane, light a good fire, and varnish a mahogany cabinet, but more importantly, I learned about hard work, seeking wisdom, and living by faith.

The other interesting aspect of this mentoring experience is that these men were not rock stars. They were neither Titans of business nor famous celebrity motivators like a Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell. They were regular guys who lived life day-by-day, attempting as best they could to do the right thing.

Ladies, I do not want to forget you. What I am saying here applies to women as well. I have known plenty of young ladies who likewise received counsel from a mentor. Everything I am suggesting about this principle applies to both genders.

If you have been blessed by someone, a stepping stone, I hope you now have a desire to mentor. You don’t have to achieve some big celebrity status or have a big footprint in the media. You can make a huge difference in some young person’s life.

Here are the basic parts of being a mentor (in no particular order).

1. Availability –  Just showing up is a good place to start. Whatever the strength or skill set, whatever the core values you possess, making yourself available is key to setting the stage and the environment for mentoring.

2. Trust –  Earning the trust of your mentee is so necessary in order to make the sharing work. It will not matter how wise or helpful your experience may be if the person does not trust you.

3. Reliability –  Once a trust expectation begins to develop, your reliability to engage and respond is critical. Nothing does a young heart more harm than an unmet promise. Promises like “I’ll be there at 3:00” then no-show.

4. Patience –  Young students will do dumb things. Roll with it. Yes, you can assert some form of discipline, but gauge your student and apply the firmness wisely.

5. Candor –  Being open to share who and what you are is important. That is the ultimate teaching tool. Mentoring is about giving the mentee someone to emulate. If they don’t know YOU, then the best is not coming out.

6. Honesty –  Don’t make stuff up. If your candidate asks something you don’t know, admit it. Guide the person in exploring together where and how to find the answer.

7. Giving –  Be able to give. This is not about money. It requires all of the attributes above. A giving, servant’s heart and open mind is what makes you a good mentor.

One last note. I believe mentoring is different from coaching. Coaches can be good mentors, but a mentor can be effective without the more stern and disciplined aspects of what a coach should be doing for you. Mentors have a special passion about their gift. The way they give to others and inspire those around them to grow, is the center of a great mentorship experience.

Accountable

The point is, there are very effective mentoring opportunities that do not require coaching skills. So do not hold back when a situation comes up where you could be a mentor to a young person. You, too, can be a stepping stone for someone’s greatness.

In closing, I will tell you it has been over 40 years since I last saw some of the men I mentioned above. Yet almost every day some small aspect of my life reminds me of something they taught me or showed me. Their work and their gifts became a part of my actual psyche and emotional intelligence. The stepping stones they laid in my life remain strong.

If you are wondering about leaving a legacy, become a mentor to those around you.

Hear the podcast associated with this article.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Tags: mentoring, management, leadership, mindset

The Surf is Up Before the Tsunami v2.0

success

 

There is an old Beach Boys song with this lyric. “The surf is up before the tsunami.”

SUrfer

It makes me think of a phenomenon I have seen time and again in business. After almost 20 years in commercial banking, I saw a lot of highs and lows with my business customers. Companies on a good, perhaps even great, growth track are sometimes headed for a big storm. I am not talking about the tide shift when the economic conditions go bad. No, I am talking about having the success of the company outpace the change within.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]When the company’s leadership fails to recognize and act upon the things that need to change to sustain growth and prosperity, the company may ultimately fail. I’ve named this condition “The Paradox of Success”.[/perfectpullquote]

All companies will go through various life cycle stages. As they mature from start-up to being a going concern, there are critical changes that the leadership and management must execute. These are things like capital investment in equipment or facilities, people, and process. The thrill of riding a wave of early success can obstruct your view of things to come.

A Sad Tale

I once knew a company owned by a very successful husband and wife team. Their little baby (the business) grew mightily. First, they dominated a local market. Then they branched into statewide operations. That too was very successful. It seemed they had a Midas touch for turning everything they touched into gold. Eventually, they went national with their service offerings. That’s when the trouble started.

At the local level, it was easy to keep the owner’s hands in all things. Even at the state level, it was more difficult to control but relatively easy to expand the support functions by adding a few key people, still keeping the owners involved in virtually every key decision required to run the show.

However, once they launched nationally, the business challenges grew exponentially.

  • There were state regulators with different requirements.
  • Remote operations were needed to expedite the timing of service deliveries.
  • Cash flows were more complex.
  • Worst of all, some of the key staff members who helped build the original business were just not capable of handling the diverse nature of all the new problems the national market created.
  • The business outgrew its team.

The Big So What

Sometimes the leadership team itself needs to grow or change. Founders often fail to see these things coming. Often with entrepreneurs, the business gets bigger than their own management ability. The wise founder will accept advice from consultants, coaches or investors and allow the reins of control to be handed to other, more qualified leadership.

A talent management friend likes to remind owners “If you want to grow your business from $5 million to $10 million, don’t hire more $5MM people to do it. Hire the guy who already operates with a $10MM mindset. Let them bring their system to you.”

It is this kind of change that is most difficult for entrepreneurs to recognize and adjust. Just because things are going well, be ready for the next growth spurt. Embrace the change that is needed, make plans, seek wise counsel, and deal with making the right change.

Question; Is your company on the brink of a growth cycle? Are you really ready for it?

coaching call

Leaders: Looking for Advice? Where Do You Go?

managing up the organization

Leaders are looking for advice. Business people often need it. New challenges and ever-changing priorities leave us looking for fresh ideas.

advice

Businesses operate at such a fast pace that owners and leaders are looking for advice wherever it is available. More often than not, you may reach toward the wrong resources. Un-tested advisors and questionable sources can send you down the wrong rabbit holes.

There are so many demands upon entrepreneurs and senior management of companies. Each organization is confronted with challenges and opportunities, both real and perceived. Without new ideas, it is tough to tackle all the obstacles and feel that substantial progress is being made.

It Is Lonely at the Top

From the owner’s seat, the need exists for comprehensive business ideas and growth strategies. Problem-solving solutions are valuable commodities. Couple these with the ever-present need for leadership development among senior executives and finding improved management skills, you have a serious thirst for new thoughts and ideas.

Top management regularly needs the creative inspiration to take the company to new heights. Cutting-edge executives (the very top and those about to take the mantle) need seasoned advice and inspiration.

The Go-To Ways We Find Answers

Here is where senior leaders and managers tend to go to get ideas, strategies, and help; in the order commonly used. The lower numbers represent the early choices. The higher numbers are where you should be reaching.

1. Hearsay and third hand – the “low lying fruit”, easy to find in abundance. Examples are comments heard at parties and networking functions, uninformed sources, friends of friends, high participation networkers, random research, and surveys.

2. Special Interests – narrows the expertise just a little more. These sources include websites containing educational material as a way to sell services, surveys, and their feedback.

3. People Selling Stuff – the Internet and social media is flooded with teaser offers to look like good information; vendors who distract you, using expressions like “funding to grow your business”, online marketing firms, Internet solicitors and sellers, website consulting

4. Internal Management – your own team should be reliable sources but can be risky at times. These are the people you work with, Mid-managers and supervisors, and Corporate leadership

5. Niche Experts and Consultants – moving up the chain further towards more reliable information: Trainers, Freelance consultants, niche solutions like banking, insurance benefits, human resources, etc. Then there are technology consulting firms and researchers.

In general, consultants are ranked lower on this scale for two reasons. First, the consulting field is over-crowded with sole practitioners who have lost jobs and cannot find work elsewhere.

Selecting a consultant is tricky business, not always much better than choices 1, 2 and 3 above. Plus, the better, more proven consultants quickly advance themselves to the higher ranking categories below; senior business advisors or outright gurus.

6. Educational Programs – better still might be dedicated educational platforms like speakers, seminars, panels at forums, workshops, trade conferences, webinars, and material published or broadcast in the media.

7. Books and Articles – sounds old school, but still valuable inspirations and information; books that withstand the test of time, articles excerpted for meetings, blog material posted online, self-published books by people with credible platforms, online articles and blogs, reputable authors already recognized as experts, and lastly cutting-edge books with original material (think Seth Grodin and Simon Sinek).

8. Advocacy Groups – these are everywhere. Some have long tenure, others not so much. Evaluate the reputation as you know it. Yet these can be rich resources for counsel and advice.

  • Business clubs
  • Chambers of commerce
  • People with whom you work in community and charity leadership roles
  • Boards of directors
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • SCORE
  • Small Business Development Center
  • Trade industry groups
  • Associations
  • Community alliances
  • Professional alliances
  • Consortiums of business
  • Cross-industry cooperative initiatives

9. Mentors – having a trusted advisor serving in a mentoring relationship can be a rich and rewarding experience for valuable ideas and wisdom. These are some of the better-known sources:

  • Peer advisory groups such as Vistage, Silver Fox Advisors
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Peer-to-peer CEO roundtables
  • Corporate heir apparent training or high potential programs
  • Programs such as Shark Tank, Fox Den, Ted Talks
  • Leadership programs

10. Senior Business Advisors – these are the professional service firms, including lawyers, accountants, marketing, public relations, quality management.

11. Major Business Gurus – top of the heap, proven thought leaders with wide, effective audiences who have used their advice and prospered. These experts have proven track records with many years in strategic advising, consulting or mentoring. The price point might be high, but the results are often 5x to 10x the investment.

Choose Wisely My Friend

With the field so full of choices, you must select wisely where you look for ideas, Then you must carefully decide which information to use for your next big decision.

Question: Where do you turn to look for inspiration and clear thinking about new ideas? 

coaching call

Author’s Note: Portions of this article were produced by permission from Hank Moore, a colleague of mine at Houston’s Silver Fox Advisors.

Hank Moore is that rare 1 out of 100,000 senior business advisors, a Big Picture strategist, with original, cutting-edge ideas for creating, implementing and sustaining corporate growth throughout every sector of the organization. His Business Tree™ is a trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business while mastering change.

Leadership Starts at Home

Fathers

If you are already in a leadership position or want to be in one, you should reflect why? Are there certain skills you demonstrate? Have you always been in leadership? Or do you know you have potential that others may not yet recognize?

Fathers

While our adult life and the effort to earn a reasonable wage both create opportunities to use leadership skills, there are core values that begin much earlier. Leadership begins at home.

Father’s Day

Sunday, June 17th will be Father’s Day. The tradition started roughly around 100 years ago, but its exact origins are disputed. Some historians believe it began as an American movement.

But there are two different accounts as to who invented it and the reason behind it. Some believe the holiday was founded in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908. A year and a half before, there was a mine explosion in a nearby town called Monongah. 360 men died, 200 of whom were fathers, who left behind widows and children.

A woman called Grace Golden Clayton was moved by this and went to visit her Pastor, Reverend Robert Thomas Webb. She suggested that there should be a special day dedicated to honoring fathers. Grace chose July 5, 1908, to celebrate the first Father’s Day, because it was the nearest date to her late father’s birthday.

Unfortunately, Grace’s Father’s Day was unsuccessful, as it was not promoted outside of the town, and more importantly, her town held a huge July 4, Independence Day festival which overshadowed her event.

Meanwhile, other historians believe a woman called Sonora Dodd from Washington invented the holiday instead. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day in 1910, Senora began to wonder why there wasn’t a day dedicated to fathers. Sonora and her siblings were raised by their father, following their mother’s death.

She wanted Father’s Day to be celebrated on June 5, her dad’s birthday, but the church felt they needed more time to prepare, so instead June 19 was chosen.

The United Kingdom’s celebration of Father’s Day is thought to have been inspired by the American version.

The Father Figure

Our experience with our Fathers influence who and what we become. If you were blessed with a Dad who was your first mentor, you are very fortunate. Life lessons, coping skills, hobbies, crafts, sports, and other life-long behaviors are nurtured by loving, caring Dads.

Sadly, too many of us suffer from relationships with Fathers that leave much to be desired. Perhaps even physical or emotional wounds were created that take years to overcome.

If you were in the first category, congratulations. Hopefully, the teaching and encouragement provided by your Father helped shape and mold the leadership values you use today.

However, if you count yourself in the second group, you have work to do. Throughout my career, I have encountered professionals who had the bad home life. Interestingly, they do one of two things. Either they perpetuate the brutish behaviors and emotional abuses with co-workers and employees or they turn 180 to run in an opposite direction, vowing never to be “that guy”.

The ones wanting to improve and grow beyond their bad start often make amazing leaders. Why? Because they are open and receptive to the things that can shape them into much better people. If your heart is open to that, good leadership frequently follows.

My Story

I never knew my Dad. He died before my second birthday. Fortunately, my Mother had the wisdom and foresight to know I would need mentoring from men. She worked diligently to build a small but dedicated network of men in our community who were willing to take me under their wing. Over the years I watched these men model what they told me.

Jack was my Scout Master. From ages 9 to 12, he was my rock. He was there for everything a young boy ever wanted to ask. Then there was George who taught me woodworking. But the lessons in the shop were not limited to just the tools and the wood. There were life lessons like don’t try something important when you are angry. Don’t use the wrong tool for the job, you’ll break the tool, ruin the material, or hurt yourself. Closer to high school Dan came along. He showed me his business. He taught me about inventory, cash flow, and sales. Those lessons were often discussed on the tennis court or wading in a stream, catching fish.

The collection of influence I received helped me to realize natural gifts and talents I could use while I learned other things. Leadership started at an early age and has grown ever since.

It Begins at Home

Regardless of your position in life right now, if you are a parent, you have a big responsibility. I’m not talking about the obvious care, feeding, and safety of your kids. Instead, I am talking about creating an environment for learning, growth, decision making, and creating in your kids their own sense of responsibility to others.

Setting a moral compass with strong core values of right and wrong, service to others, and love of something much greater than yourself; those are principles that build strong leaders. Our country and the world need the next generation of leaders prepared and ready when they become the “next one up”. You can start now building that legacy for yourself, your family, and the community around you. YOU can make a difference.

Here’s the One Topic Always Missing from Everyone’s Top 10 Leadership Lists

grace

Are you curious when you read a headline about leadership “Top 10”? I know I am.  There are certainly some great thoughts that get covered in the popular lists of success factors attributed to great leadership. Goodness knows we need good leadership.

Leadership attraction
Leadership attraction

Yet there is one topic that seldom gets mentioned in any Top 10 list of attributes for managers. I feel obligated to bring it up. What am I talking about?

It is GRACE; not a person or a thing. Rather, in my humble opinion, grace is a state of mind. We can’t earn it. Many feel they don’t deserve it. So, I believe that is why I have yet to find the topic of grace being spoken about in any of the management and leadership books I follow.

Maybe you first heard about grace from a Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. No, this will NOT be a Bible study article. I simply want to tell you about adding grace to several parts of your life. Perhaps it will be the missing ingredient you need to round out your leadership toolkit.

What is Grace?

Please allow me to explain my thoughts about grace, then we will apply them to your situation.

1. I said grace is a mindset. It lives halfway between our head and our heart. We can over-think it, thus killing the spirit of it. Or, we can over-give it, thus defying the logic of what we might need to be doing with it. It is a delicate balance of thought, logic, emotion, and self-worth.

2. It does include a dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness not just for a moment, then later to be revoked, but permanent. Wiped clean, wiped off, wiped out.

3. In modern terms, grace gives us the ‘break’ in ‘give me a break‘. It cuts you some slack. Grace soothes the hurt. Having grace takes away the sting. It is the essence of ‘let it go’. My eldest son suggested ‘breathe’.

There is so much more to grace, but I will leave it at this for now. So with these ideas in mind, how should you and I apply grace? I have several recommendations.

Where Does Grace Need to Be Applied?

Yourself

First and foremost, apply it to your own life. No one ever grades us harder than we grade ourselves. Grace allows you to add a curve to the grading. It gives you bonus points.

Giving yourself grace for the things that have not worked out helps to eliminate negative forces that can cripple your effort to move forward. When you look back in life, are you haunted by things not done? Do you lament decisions you made? Are there any serious regrets? Do you beat yourself up over relationships that went wrong or business deals that did not work out?

If you said YES to any of those, you, my friend, need some grace in your life. Decide when, where, and how you will give yourself some grace so that you can move forward without hurdles.

Your Team

Next, if you manage people, what grace do you give them? There are boundaries and standards that must be applied at work, but your co-workers are human. You need to extend some grace.

It is a certainty that someone somewhere in your circle will fall short of a goal. Once the required administration of the situation is complete, do you offer grace? You can demonstrate grace by establishing a work environment where the employee feels the slate is truly wiped clean once any offense is addressed.

Sidebar –  Yes, I know managers must deal with disciplinary matters that set up probationary periods. So there will be a cloud over the employee while that period is in force. While this is happening, will you treat all other aspects of the person’s work effort with grace?

Your Family

Family is the other area in your life where grace is vitally needed. Starting with your spouse (if married), then your children. Have these people committed some offense for which you have yet to forgive? Have you thought about giving them grace?

Being a leader requires the ability to give grace.

Here are 5 key questions about grace.

  1. When was the last time you visited the topic of grace?
  2. Have you received any grace lately?
  3. Do you owe yourself some grace?
  4. Who do you know that needs you to give them grace?
  5. Will you add grace to your leadership toolkit?

Think about your use of grace; at work, at home, and in your relationships. Are there ways you can share more grace?

Homeward Bound – Making the Shift from Work to Home

Homeward bound

Busy professionals face many similar challenges. Finding the elusive work-life balance is likely one of the biggest problems.

Homeward bound

You spend your days leading teams, making decisions, solving problems, and guiding the big work effort, but how do you make the transition going home? I’m talking about the change that happens as you leave the office or facility and walk through the door at home.

At home, you face a spouse, children, the pets and many other combinations of personal living arrangements. They may not care what kind of day YOU had. They had their own issues.

How do you avoid the kick-the-dog entry or worse yet, the lashing out to your life partner or kids? How can that be avoided?

I’m the guy who loves simple, but elegant solutions. Remember I speak a lot about finding common sense ideas to improve your leadership effectiveness.

Are you ready? Here is the most basic, yet powerful set of tools I can recommend to solve this homeward bound transition. This is how you get ready to walk in the door at home and be a better YOU.

The Answer

I’m going to give you 4 simple questions to ask yourself during the commute. Print them out, put them on a reminder note. Stick it on the visor of your car or on the flap of your briefcase or backpack.

Every day as you begin the trip home, ask yourself these 4 questions:

1.What did I learn today that’s going to be valuable?

2. What did I do well today?

3. What are the 3 greatest blessings in my life?

4. How can I be the best _________ (Mom, Dad, Spouse or friend) I’ve ever been, right here, tonight?

Make the Shift

To find and keep your sense of balance between work and life, you must allow yourself a shift. Few of us can make the change with a snap of our fingers.

While I coach on a whole-person basis, the reality is few of us live one perfectly harmonized existence between home and work. Somewhere there is a change we make. Sadly for some, the change may not be effective, so problems get created with the family.

They don’t deserve the tension and pressure you may be feeling. As a leader, you have to figure out your own way to decompress from the day.

Centering your attention on these 4 simple questions just might make a big difference that can save a marriage, or endear a family member.

I like to ask the question “do those you lead endure you or are you endearing?” Endure or endear? Wow. Think about that.