Letting Some Things Be …

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People and Sunsets - Carl Rogers

People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be.

When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.”

I don’t try to control a sunset.

I watch with awe as it unfolds.

                                   ~ Carl R. Rogers

 

I spend a fair amount of time every day dealing with change in one way or another.  Those of us who believe in the power of  transformational change and transformational leadership emphasis change, because we know that is what brings our better selves into focus and our better futures into reality.

Change is a given in life, whether you welcome it with open arms or cling desperately to a past (which may only exist in your mind).   Change is hard, but worth the pain.  Change is refreshing and gives us energy to do great things.

Of course, not everyone shares these warm and fuzzy feelings about change.

Change is good … You go first.”  

Scott Adams via Dilbert

Some of us automatically look for what could or should change in things.  We are never quietly accepting of what is, because we are always focusing on what could be.  We see ourselves as the great movers of people, organizations, and society.  If it weren’t for us, goodness … we might just sit around and take pleasure in what we already have, such as …

The process that does what it should do adequately …

The system that delivers what it promises without too many glitches…

The colleague who does their job competently, without sharing our dream of being the “World Class Whatever” …

The sunset that takes our breath away and does not ask a penny in return …

Mindfulness includes the idea that sometimes we just become aware of the moment.  We focus on what is, not on what might be or should be, but on what is before us.  The ability to just enjoy a moment or a person has been dented by our modern society … Our sometimes manic emphasis on speed, achievement, and growth has value, but it comes at a cost.

No argument here that some things need desperately to change.  Open your browser or morning paper (depending on your bent) and you will see ample opportunity to improve who we are and how we are.   Sometimes we are impelled to act: 

When things or situations endanger life, liberty, or property, it is time to act . . . 

When your own dissatisfactions affect your ability to get through your day, it is time to act . . .  

When you want a thing so much that you are willing and eager to engage in positive change to achieve that thing, it is time to act . . .

… But sometimes it is time to just sit on the back patio and watch the day come to a gloriously beautiful end.

Forcing myself to take time to just let it be in the Heartland ….

John

Three Simple Leadership Lessons The Hard Way …

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Excitement“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Enthusiasm creates energy and excitement … all great words that happen to start with “E”.  

I remember once when I was leading a group on a path of development and I had high hopes that we could accomplish great things.  Most of the folks in this group were intelligent and thoughtful people who were very interested in doing a good job.  I was a young and energetic leader, with a solid grounding in leadership theories and practice.

So I pulled out all the stops as they say and dove into the Mother of All Training Programs.   Over the course of six months or so, our entire team  …

Listened to lectures, watched videos, and attended seminars . . . Took long contemplative walks and short energetic jogs (mind and body) … Completed not one, but two ROPES courses (team-building) . . . Created scenarios and simulations to prepare us for all manner of possibilities . . . Practiced and debriefed countless situations based on those scenarios … Indulged our creativity with art and song, and even staged a talent show … Analyzed and strategized to create a great vision, mission, and values statement . . . Reviewed, rewrote, and revised policies, procedures, and marketing messages . . . Read great works by famous authors from the past and pondered their meaning for us today . . . Went out to eat together to celebrate personal milestones and group achievements . . . Learned to line dance as a team (team-building) . . .  Had faithful weekly team meetings to share concerns and announce news …

I was doing all the things that I had been told good leaders do to create cohesion, connection, and synergy (love this word Smile)

A bustling time … we were riding the wind and I was exhilarated throughout.  Since I was the One In Charge (OIC), I felt it my duty to lead from the front and became a veritable whirlwind of frenetic energy (redundant?).   I was a sight to see in those days.  I experienced it all as great fun … and I sensed we were becoming a great team in the process.

Until the day, my two most trusted senior team members approached me with a message . . .

“John, you are wearing us out.  We want to do a good job and everyone has the utmost respect for you, but we are overwhelmed by all the activity.   Our daily work is 24/7 in a stressful environment.  We need a respite.”

Yes, that is a direct quote, because those words were burned into my then still young and enthusiastic leadership mind.  Being a reflective type, I immediately went into seclusion for a time to consider this new information.   I had to understand how people who I cared deeply about and was showering with my wisdom, enthusiasm, and energy, could not simply accept and be completely thankful that I was doing so. 

Cutting to the chase, I realized that:

I had failed to understand that my obsession is not another’s obsession …

Sometimes less is more …

Leadership is not just about creating and driving toward goals, but also about taking care of those you serve.

Now, I will take credit for developing two young leaders to the point where they were able to honestly and appropriately approach a somewhat intimidating boss and respectfully kick his butt.

I could mark this off to youthful leadership enthusiasm, but the truth is that I was just swept up by my own ego and desire for achievement and recognition.  Nothing to do with age, but everything to do with not taking the time to reflect on the larger issues … too busy sharing my technical knowledge and creating hoopla.

These were painful, but very useful leadership lessons.   In my enthusiasm, I had failed to consider the needs of others and made some assumptions about their motivation and our work environment that were simply wrong.

Thoughtful Collage“Enthusiasm is a good engine, but it needs intelligence for a driver.”

The Proverb Zone

Thinking about how I can continue to inject intelligence into my service in the Heartland ….

John

 

“Make Way” …


This phrase rings in my ears from decades ago … and it is not a pleasant memory.

As a young Army officer, I remember being very uncomfortable when a group of us officers and “noncoms” would enter a mess hall during a basic training cycle.  Someone would loudly announce our presence by yelling “Make Way“.  Recruits, often showing the rigor of becoming soldiers in a compressed and arduous process, would flatten themselves against the wall, as we lordly creatures would make our way to the front of the line.

This did not feel like leadership to me.  This felt like entitlement.

Others would explain to me that our time was valuable, since we were leading the training effort and things like this allow us to continue to do so in a military and effective way.

Reality … we just didn’t want to wait in line.  Leadership fail …

As I continued in my reserve officer military career, I chose to follow other advice, the original source of which has been lost.  The only specific statement I remember is “Leaders eat last“, which has been mentioned by many others over the years as good leadership behavior.   It just felt right to take care of the needs of the people in my unit and then satisfy my own needs.

While I claim no great distinction or accomplishments for my military service, I believe that I had a positive relationship with those I served and I know that they were exemplary in responding to my direction and supporting our missions.  We respected each other and I believe my willingness to not indulge in special privileges due to my rank or title contributed to our positive interactions.

Serving others means clearly understanding and behaving with the idea that leadership is not an attribute for special treatment, but involves helping others accomplish their tasks and grow in their abilities.  The Harvard Business Review has a good post which highlights another spin on this idea of leading by serving, exemplified by George Washington, one of our country’s early leaders.  In part, Washington led not through accepting or insisting on special privileges, but by simply sharing the discomforts of those you lead.  Click the link below to read more:

Great Leadership Isn’t About You – John Michel – Harvard Business Review

 

The Secret 10th Anniversary EditionThe leadership point in all this …. your primary role is to serve others.

I will be talking more about leadership as service to others next month, as I participate in the launch of “The Secret:  What Great Leaders Know and Do” (Tenth Anniversary edition) by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. This is an easy and enjoyable read, which contains real-life examples of how to put others first and win.  We do not have to endure Valley Forge in order to put others first.

If you just can’t wait, click The Secret Sample Chapter for a taste of what is coming.    

 

Looking forward to the coming launch in the Heartland ….

John

Doors Open and Close …


… for a reason.Closing Doors 

Sometimes you need to open the door and walk through into your future …

Sometimes you need to close the door, so you can focus your energy and attention on what remains …

In our professional and personal lives, we have many options.  Some are good ones and some are not.  We are called to make decisions about what to pursue, what to continue, and into what to put our energy and passion.  Sometimes we have adequate information to do so and sometimes we do not.  

The decision is still there to be made … and avoiding the decision is a decision in itself.  You will focus on something … the least useful choice is to focus your energy on not deciding.

Sometimes you just need to follow Kenny’s advice and choose one of two basic options:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run.”

The Gambler lyrics by Kenny Rogers.

As usual, the trick is you accurately decide what to do, so you make the right decision about that door.  Doors do not always come with convenient and easily decipherable labels.  Moreover, even when they do, the labels may or may not be very accurate or helpful.  More on that later.

Staring at a doorframe with slightly tilted head and slightly puzzled look on face in the Heartland ….

John

Some Important Rules About Relationships …


Helping OthersSome observations about relationships …

In the best marriages, someone wins and someone loses …

In the best collaborations, someone gives and someone takes …

In the best partnerships, someone is weak and someone is strong …

 

Successful people understand that relationships are not always equal.  One person gives more than the other, one person has strengths that the other lacks, somebody has to be front at any given time, while another trails behind.  This is simply the way things work.

However, successful people also clearly realize one more important thing about all this:

At any given time, you can be the “Strong One” or the “Other One … and this will always change over time.

Instead of assuming that whatever role you enjoy at the moment is your permanent status, internalize the reality that positions, roles, and contributions can and do change.  Shift happens, as they say … healthy personal and business relationships are fluid in terms of power and roles.   “You complete me” is more than just a cute tag line from an entertaining little film … it’s a description of a solid relationship.

Good leaders are good followers … it’s all in knowing which to do when … 

Besides, always being the one in front is exhausting.

Taking a turn when it makes sense and letting others when that makes sense in the Heartland ….

John

 

 

Image:  Morguefile.com