#917 – The Unknown Keeps Leaders in the Lines

Coloring…always fun and somewhat peaceful from time to time.  I like when my family goes to a fear of the unknownrestaurant and the tablecloth becomes a big canvas where we can draw, play tic-tac-toe and color all over the place.  There are no lines…there are no rules (other than keep the crayons out of the pasta) and there is no right or wrong.  It’s just a free time to create with no boundaries.

In most organizations, there is a structure made up of processes that direct the ongoing operations.  Those processes have been thought through and  re-written until they suit the environment of that organization.  I would believe that in many cases, those processes allow for good productivity and encourage growth.  For the whole of the organization, that structure can be good.  But should the leader stay inside those structural lines.

I will forever believe that the growth and health of an organization will be limited by the imagination of the leader.  If his creative side is colored in black and white, the box will be too small to ever see any real growth.  Certainly, leaders should have others around them that can be more left brain than they may be.  I’m not suggesting that all things creative come from the leader, but I am suggesting that not fearing the unknown is a leadership characteristic that may unleash additional imaginative ideas throughout the organization.

Leaders work hard to get where they are.  It may be a lifetime of climbing the ladder that gets them there.  In fact, some of the reasons the leader may now be the leader is because of risks they took to get there.  Fearing the unknown will draw thick “coloring” lines around the leader and will squelch an environment of good risk taking.

So when the lines start to be drawn, take a step back.  Go out to eat and find a big table with a big paper table cloth and start to draw and color.  Even if the crayons get in the pasta, you’ll start to feel “leadership free” again.

No GO Lead!

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#918 – Leaders Color Outside of the Lines

Do you remember as a kid learning to color?  A coloring book would be given to you and some fantastic Crayola crayons coloringand off you go.  You would work diligently to try and match the right shade of green to go with the right shade of brown so the grass and the trunks of the trees would look believable.  Painstakingly and slowly you take time gently moving the crayon along the edges of the lines so as to not cross over.  The right shades of color are one thing, but staying inside the line is a must.

Logically, I understand that teaching structure and  order is a good thing.  Organizations must have a flow to them that provides a precise mechanism for decision making, along with accountability.  But I wonder if, as leaders, we have too often stayed inside the lines to make it easier, especially for us.

When I refer to “coloring inside the lines” or staying within the organizational structure, I’m not implying anything wrong.  I am however, stating that when leaders continuously go along with a template (coloring page), it is too easy to stick with the pattern versus branching out into the white space that exists.  Is there anything wrong with playing it safe, with being within the framework of the lines?  Of course not.  But a leader’s job is to set the course and provide a vision. So the question one should ask is, “Does the vision always have to stay within the lines?”

Having the leadership courage to venture outside of the lines certainly has risks associated with it.  It can become comfortable to reach a leadership position and stay there (that’s being inside the lines).  Over the next three posts, we will take a look at three reasons why leaders play it safe and color inside the lines:

  1. Fear of the Unknown
  2. Fear of Change
  3. Fear of Failure

Coloring is always fun, but leading with creativity and inspiration…always better!

Now GO Lead!

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#919 – Leaders Notice the Little Things

It doesn’t have to be much, but have you ever noticed that a small compliment can go a long way.  Someone makeslittle things a change in their appearance and you notice..there is better organization and you notice…a new introduction is made and you remember their name and something special about them or their family.  If you are listing “important” leadership attributes, one of the biggest areas to focus on begins with things that are small.

People are busy and are getting busier every day.  It may even feel like it is a chore just to say hello to people when you first walk into the office.  But leaders know they set the tone.  Leaders know that recognizing the little things isn’t little at all…it’s HUGE.  Human beings have an innate desire to be appreciated and complimented.  Not everyone enjoys the spotlight or aspires to be out in front, however a small note, a little encouragement and a tiny bit of recognition may lead to a deeper commitment.

So take time out of each and every day to notice something new and different about someone.  Offer that awareness to them as a small gift and encourage those to pay it forward to others.  Who knows, a little bit of encouragement may produce a BIG result.

Now GO Lead!

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#920 – Leaders Look at Different Perspectives

Is there only one way to look at things? If you are following the 2012 Presidential Election you are sure to notice, or at least see all of the ads that talk about different views.  You’ll hear candidates say they understand how you feel…they know what it’s like to be you (I’m not sure that is true:).

The Art of Photography is one area in which I wish I had an differentiating eye.  How some have the ability to see “a shot” and to be able to capture the various angles of the light, the facial expressions of a subject or the curvature of an object.  Those who have the “photo gene” have been blessed with the ability to see something that others cannot.  They have the gift to see a different perspective.

When I refer to perspective as a gift, I truly mean it.  Be able to recognize there is more than one way, more than one opinion and many times, more than one solution is a trait not always associated with great leadership.  However, leaders who practice “one direction leadership” will only ever go…one way.

In her classic book “Team of Rivals, Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin write of Abraham Lincoln’s ability to recognize the strength that comes from receiving and hearing different view points.  Lincoln chose men for his cabinet that he had run against for the Republican nomination as well as prominent Democrats.  Some leaders may be insecure around those who have various opinions, especially when those opinions are from strong willed leaders.  However, Lincoln knew this was a time in the history of the United States when the country deserved strong leaders.  By seeking other perspectives, Lincoln gave the country arguably the highest quality Presidential leadership during the country’s greatest crisis

High performing leaders are those who surround themselves with people who are also very qualified in their areas of expertise.  The leaders job, then  is to listen, value the input of others and really try and see things from as many different points of view as possible.  Gaining perspective on the scope of issues and the depth of solutions gives the leader, and his team, a greater opportunity for growth and long term results.


Now GO Lead!





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#921 – Leadership and Six-Pack Abs – Neither Comes Easy

I thought this was going to be a great gift. Maybe even the greatest gift a son has ever given to his father. I had seen this on television while eating chips and dip a thought, “This is it! People can eat their favorite junk food while also getting an awesome workout.”. In theory, the perfect world.

So I quickly picked up the phone, dialed the 1-800 number and placed the order. The Ab Energizer as it was called was designed for people on the go. The multi-tasker who barely has time to eat, workout and take are of everything else that life throws at you. The Ab Energizer came as a belt that you placed around your waist that would deliver electrical shocks to your abdomen. I should have known there might be a problem when I opened the conductive gel bottle (red flag). Placing anything on your body that attracts electricity should cause one to pause, so I did. I paused long enough to call my sister in and ask her to try this “awesome new gift out”.

She applied the gel to her stomach (I encouraged her to put more on for better results) and then we got ready to turn on the Ab Energizer. I started at the “low” power level but when she said she couldn’t feel anything, I turned it up. After she hopped around for a bit and yelled “Turn it off!”, I did so (reluctantly). I then put on the conductive gel, fastened the belt and turned on the power…to high.

I should have just licked my finger and stuck it into a wall socket. My abs did not get a workout, but my stomach got shocked incessantly until I could get my hands back on the control and turn it off. Once I could breathe again, I took off the belt, put it back in the box, wrapped it for my dad and proudly presented him with the gift.

We all know the reality. Nothing comes quick. Not getting into shape, not losing weight and not leadership. There are no quick ways to being a great leader. There are the typical teases that we all like. Books and magazines that offer leadership tips like the Golf magazine offers tips for getting rid of your slice. And although we read them and use those suggestions, growing your leadership into shape takes time. If there was a leadership energizer that could shock us into great Teddy Roosevelt like leadership, we all would have purchased it a long time ago. Leadership is work and it can be hard. But just like a 6-pack of great magazine like abs, the results of leadership sweat are worth it.

Now GO lead!

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#922 – Instead of Complaining, Leaders show Gratitude

I cannot even begin to try and count the number of times I was told to be thankful as a child.  Saying “thank you” became a much taught subject and forgetting to let someone know we appreciated their gift or kind word, was met with an “evil eye” from my parents.  Writing thank you notes became ingrained in me early on which is something I still practice today.  What I always realized with saying “thank you” or showing gratitude was how that made me feel.  It didn’t take long and is quite brief, but the message of appreciation is much larger.

Negativity in an organization creates an atmosphere that can be unrelenting and miserable.  I’m surprised when I have entered  a new group and spoke to employees about the environment and found out that they can’t remember anyone in leadership telling them “thank you.”  We all wish the next contract or pay raise would change our lives financially, however, just a word or two of gratitude may change the perception of those who work with and for you.

Find out about those who make your organization run…let them know you notice the work they are doing and tell them so.  You may be surprised the deep level of investment this will show and the positive return that will come back.

Now GO Lead!

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#923 – Leaders Don’t Complain

As I write this post, I hear the rain coming down.  It’s been raining all night and may rain all day.  That means my morning commute will probably being slower.  When I run into the office, I will probably get wet.  Once I get into the office, I will probably have water all over my briefcase which means ALL OF THE WORK I did over the weekend will be wet.  My computer will probably be wet…ugghh the day is already a waste and I haven’t even left my house yet.

How often do you run into people who are constantly and continuously complaining.  Jon Gordon, in his book “The No Complaining Zone” refers to these people as “chronic complainers.  It’s never warm enough…cold enough…nice enough…good enough.  There is always something that is being complained about.  You probably have encounters with chronic complainers all of the time.  After awhile, these folks can wear you down.  In fact, you may decide to avoid a conversation altogether or even may take the long way around the office to prevent an unnecessary  complaint session.

Chronic complainers cast a huge shadow over a work environment.  They prevent positive action from taking place because whenever something good happens, the “chronics” can always find something negative.  Leaders lead people out of these moments and work to turn the negatives into positives.  Leaders realize they have a population of people who are more than likely positive about the direction of the organization.  However, leaders also know that “one bad apple” can completely ruin the whole barrel.  Over the next several posts, we will take a look at the impact of chronic complainers and the importance of leadership when negativity can be around.

So, I’m out the door and in the rain…the fantastic and much needed rain.  I’m very thankful I won’t melt:)

Now GO Lead!

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