#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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Elvis and Leadership…too many “Yes” men

This is a repost of August 16, 2011…as an Elvis fan, this is my leadership thought on this special anniversary day.

Today is a special day…it comes around every year and thousands of people, dare I say

millions of people around the world celebrate, mourn and grieve this day. For on August 16, 1977, a voice was silenced…one that had change lives of people close to him and lives of those he never knew. For it was on this day, August 16, 1977, in a hospital in Memphis, TN that…I had my tonsils removed. Oh yeah, also in a Memphis hospital across town from where I was, Elvis Presley died (the story would have been better if I would have been in the same hospital).

Although my family and I moved out of Memphis a few months after Elvis died, he has been my all-time favorite performer. With YouTube, I can go back and relive concert moments from the early days and then the last few years. I can watch how he was able to have an audience literally hang on every move he made and every word he sang.

I remember as a kid meeting Ray Walker, the bassist of “The Jordanaires” who spent years as Elvis’ back-up group. My legs shook as I introduced myself to someone I knew who had spent a lot of time singing with my musical hero. According to those who knew him and accounts of his life, Elvis was a larger than life individual. But does fame equal leadership?

Elvis surrounded himself with a tight circle of friends and Army buddies…the so-called Memphis Mafia. They worked for him but mainly, according to the great two-volume biography of Elvis by Peter Guralnick, these guys were there to say “yes” to Elvis. Now before I come across as throwing stones, I probably would have said “yes” as well. When someone pays for your stuff, gives you a bunch of stuff and basically bankrolls your life, bucking the goose that’s laying the golden eggs isn’t a normal thing to do. But this post isn’t about the followers, it’s about the leader.

Leaders have to surround themselves with people who will be willing to be authentic, truthful and real, even if it means going against the leader. Plus, having people constantly agree with you can’t be right…one person can’t be that right about everything. In addition, there is no challenge with everyone just saying “Oh, that’s so great”. Leaders have ideas and they innovate, but those ideas and innovations need to be kicked around and put through a ringer of possible “what if’s.” It certainly doesn’t mean the idea is bad (it might mean the idea is bad), but that the team the leader surrounds themselves with is a team trusted enough to give their opinion. So when it is time to say “Yes” to the leader, it is done with full confidence and buy-in from the team.

Back to Elvis. I would love to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with one of the famed Memphis Mafia. I could ask questions all day of George Klein, Joe Esposito and Jerry Schilling…men who shared some of the most intimate moments with Elvis. As I have heard them say before, “Elvis had a way…he could convince you to do about anything.” Hopefully, leaders will learn that convincing people to do something isn’t the goal, but instead offering influence that makes the “yes” really count.

Now GO Lead!

(Leadership 1K is a journal into the mission of leaders and leadership. To receive daily updates through email or RSS feeds, click on the links in the right corner)

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#924 – Asking for Feedback Helps to Re-Launch a Vision

One of the sports I love watching my son play is baseball.  I know that the NFL is the most popular American sport and that the NBA has a huge international appeal, but baseball…baseball is America’s National Pastime.  Watching baseball games is one of those memories that takes me back to my childhood with my grandfather.  In the early days of cable, we would watch the Chicago Cubs in the afternoon and the Atlanta Braves in the evening.  Non-stop baseball and I loved it.  It was a love of a game that I hoped…really hoped my son would love as well.

So with that, watching him play throughout the spring and summer was a great lesson for him and a reminder for me.  This season, he moved from coach pitch to real baseball…players pitching and hitters standing there with their knees shaking, acclimating themselves to understanding that a baseball may be heading in the direction of their head 🙂  But after those early nerves were put aside and a few games were under their belt, the team settled in.  One of the things I love about baseball is the ability to learn as the game goes on.  Every time a player steps into the batters box, they either succeed by getting a hit or advancing a runner, or they fail by striking out, grounding out or flying out.  But each time a batter leaves their turn to hit, they have an opportunity to learn from either their success or failure.  The next time they get up, there is a chance to have learned from their previous experience and succeed.  Baseball provides immediate feedback and players can choose to learn from it.

Receiving feedback from an organization’s stakeholders gives the leader the opportunity to re-set and re-launch a vision.  It’s possible that when a leader unveils a new approach and direction, that the initial implementation falls felt.  Visions can and should be grand, but they need to be real.  Asking for and receiving feedback shows an openness by the leader to adjust his or her own plan for the betterment of the team.  Just like a hitter makes changes every time they get up to hit, a leader can and should make changes based on the environment and the feedback.

One of the pleasures in watching little league baseball this year was how these young kids improved throughout the year.  Learning how to hit and make adjustments was a great learning tool for these young ballplayers.  Learning how to lead, receive feedback and re-launch a vision is a constant learning opportunity for leaders.

Now GO Lead!

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#925 – Leaders Prepare for Good Luck

It is hard not to be amazed by the tremendous athletic ability of Olympic athletes.  From swimming to gymnastics to track and field, the sheer superiority of these individuals is something to behold.  With the summer and winter Olympics alternating every two years, we, as viewers are ones to be inspired by their great talent.

Many times, the one who is favored to win a gold medal has a slip or falls short in some way.  When that happens, the “good luck gods” fall onto another competitor.  They find themselves in the right time at the right place.  They are fortunate to have enough good luck assist them in getting over the finish line first.

Bit is it really luck if you have prepared to win.  No matter the odds against an athlete, I can’t imagine anyone going into the Olympics not believing in a chance to win.  Maybe they are underdogs…maybe no one would give them a chance to out run or out swim  the favorite, but when you are an elite, world-class athlete, you have to believe you can win.

It’s one of the reasons you prepare as hard as you do.  If there is an opportunity to win and be on top, you have to put yourself in a position to advance and take the lead.  It’s the same with leaders.  Leaders have to prepare and be ready for what may happen next.

Best selling author Jim Collins refers to luck in his book “Great by Choice.”  The reality is that luck can only take you so far.  However, if you have prepared yourself, a leader may be able to take that “luck” and move in a positive direction because of it.  Leaders have a responsibility to lead and part of that is preparing yourself as a leader and preparing your organization.  You may not always know what is ahead, but if you have diligently planned and prepared, when “luck” comes to your way, you can reach for the gold.

Now GO Lead!

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#926 – Leaders Stick the Landing

It was sixteen years ago when we all watched that vault…you remember the vault that catapulted the Magnificent Seven into Olympic Champion lore.  Kerri Strugs had just fallen on her first attempt.  In fact, it was the third fall in a row for the American team and they needed this one.  However, there was one major problem.  Strugs had just hurt her ankle and could hardly walk.  It was going to take a near perfect vault for this team to win the gold.  If you ever needed someone to stick the landing, this was the moment.

As we know, Strugs lands basically on one foot, sticks the landing and the U.S. team wins gold.  When people rise to the occasion, others can be motivated.  When leaders rise even higher, people can become inspired.

Leadership requires multiple gifts and talents all being used at different and often, simultaneous times.There is vision casting, relationship building, management coaching, execution planning and all-around, “the buck stops with me” daily moments.  However, there are times when an organization needs the leader to reach down deep and produce something huge.  They need the leader to stick the landing in the biggest way.

So what does it take to do something bigger and better than all the rest?

1. Focus – When I watch the athletes who participate in the Olympics, an absolute amazement comes over me.  Watching their eyes focus on the goal they have trained for and believed in so long is a testament to the focus for these great competitors.  Leaders have an innate competitiveness about them and a focus that drives results.

2. Relentless Pursuit – If you have a focus of what you want to do and where you want to go, pursuing those goals in an endless and relentless manner separates those who can rise to a new level of leadership and those who are mediocre.  Great leaders will pursue goals in a relentless way to advance the mission of the organization.

3.  Execution – Once the focus is in place and the desire to achieve is revealed, then it’s time to go down the runway and stick the landing.  Execution makes the focus and relentless pursuit worth every minute.

Leadership can be tiring, exhausting and age-increasing.  But it can more importantly be motivating and inspiring.  Kerri Strugs nailed her vault…the Magnificent Seven won their gold…now the Fab Five have brought back gold once again.  Thanks for showing all of us how to achieve greatness and stick the landing.

Now GO Lead!

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#927 – Asking for Feedback Let’s You Correct the Vision

Have you ever you knew you were right?! I mean 100%, completely and totally correct!!! Maybe it was the time when you knew the directions to the party. You had no doubt in your mind that “this” was the right way to go. You remembered driving past the location at one point in life so there was no need to ask for directions ahead of time. And even though the party began forty-five minutes ago, you still believe this is the right way. Eventually, and by some miracle, you end up at the right place. Unfortunately, the “fashionably late” time frame ended an hour earlier. If you had just asked for some directions or listened to the person sitting in the passenger seat (you are welcome ladies;), you could have changed directions and arrived close to on time.

Leaders ask for feedback so they can share the vision, but also receive input to correct the vision if that’s needed.

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#928 – Asking for Feedback is an Opportunity to Share Vision

I’ve always heard that one of a leader’s main responsibilities is to be a vision-caster.  Someone who can share a larger dream than what is currently being sought after.  A vision bigger than anything anyone has worked on before.  Casting vision…priority number 1.

But when you are a leader that is seeking feedback from those who work alongside of you, asking for feedback allows the leader to share the vision on an ongoing basis.  Leaders are constantly thinking, constantly dreaming and constantly looking for new opportunities to advance their organization and their people.  By seeking regular feedback, the leader is giving insight to those who will help make the vision come true.  While the leader is asking for feedback about the future direction in which he or she will lead, “buy-in” is being created every time someone has the chance to provide suggestions and improvements.

Leaders know that casting a vision is something that is big and always needed.  Leaders asking for feedback as the vision is being cast, will have a bigger advantage than those who go it alone.  that advantage: PEOPLE!!

Now GO Lead!

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