Leaders are not dealers in hope

Leadership

One of my Twitter followers shared a quote the other day by Napoleon Bonaparte that says,  “Leaders are dealers in hope.” It even had a nice picture with it.  I thought quite a bit on that quote and I have to respectfully disagree.  Leaders are actually not dealers in hope at all. 

Hope can be defined as wishful thinking.  A feeling or an expectation of a desired outcome.  Though the idea sounds good, it can be quite dangerous to give someone hope when there is no data to back it up.  It can also be a hinderance when you hope someone gets something done and then they don’t do it. 

Hope involves too many what ifs.  You wouldn’t lead your team with what ifs, would you?  I wouldn’t. 

Risk is similar to hope.  It’s an uncertainty, but risk can typically be measured.  Hope is not measurable. 

As I was reading The Culture Engine by S. Chris Edmonds, I came across a few quotes that I felt are powerful. 

“Hope is not a sustainable strategy.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

We can’t create a strategy with hope as our driving fuel.  We don’t have the time, resources, or manpower to take chances on such outcomes.  Putting your strategy on hope is foolish and a gamble.  Leaders do not gamble outcomes nor do they gamble their team’s future.  People are too valuable for wishful thinking or planning. 

“Make the goal expectations specific, measurable and trackable.” – S. Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

Leaders do, however deal with goal expectations that are specific, measurable and trackable for the positive growth of their team, organization and culture.  Don’t give your team a false sense of outcomes.  We need to give them clear visions(goals).  If you gave someone hope and that hope didn’t play out like you expected, what would that do to the trust they have in you?  Give people visions(goals) that are reachable and realistic in order to help them be better, do better and know better.  At least that way, if things fail, the path is trackable to know where things went wrong. 

The Risk of Leading

Leadership

Failing the mission.  Team disfunction.  Loss of resources, time, money, and people.  These are all outcomes when leading.  It’s scary to step into the role of a leader.  Once you have decided to care for others the people and the mission become your responsibility.  It’s terrifying knowing that the decisions you make could hinder the mission or the people around you.  And if everything does go south, all fingers could point to you.

There is risk in leading, but that’s what makes a leader a leader.  They understand things may not always work out and that the outcome is never guaranteed.  Leaders take on the risk in order to achieve success, but they make decisions using their knowledge and experienced combined with the team’s knowledge and experience to make wise decisions.  Leveraging the power of the team is necessary to reduce the risk.  Leaders do this constantly and consistently. 

Bottom line, it’s going to be scary.  It’s going to be challenging and it’s going to be tough.  There is no avoiding it.   The greatest part about risk is that when it works right everybody wins!  Innovation requires risk and without leaders pushing the boundaries of the line between failure and success innovation will not occur.  

There is purpose to why we spend so much time developing our leadership abilities.  The more prepared we are the higher chance we have at succeeding.  The approach to risk always has the same liabilities, but the action to challenge it gets easier every time you take risk.  It’ll never feel perfect or guaranteed, but the fear, the uncertainty goes away because you know it has to happen.  People need to grow and the mission needs to be accomplished.  We can’t halt everything just because we have to face a decision with risk.

Keep in mind risk will come in many forms, but don’t approach it alone.  Use your team, the mission and the values that guide the culture to overcome it.  

5 Ways You’re Failing as a Leader

Leadership

We all know a bad leader from a good one.  It’s like a superpower.  We just know.  How well a leader leads can sometimes hinder the culture of the organization and or performance of the team. 

How often do we call out what leaders are doing wrong?  How do we know what to look for?  It’s tough to identify every detail leaders do wrong, but there are some more common than others.  

As a leader you have to evaluate how you’re leading.  The more trust the team has the stronger the team is.  If you were to fall, you would want someone there to pick you up, right?  If you reach your hand out, would your team be there to lift you up? A successful team works together and you are a part of that team.  Here are what I feel are five ways you could be failing as a leader.

You devalue your team members.  Every team is diverse to some capacity.  Each person brings a set of skills and experience to the table.  A bad leader overlooks talent and experience and undervalues their team members.  Teams are not things.  They are people.  You can’t see people as objects.  They hold a different value.  They are the life force of any organization.  Never underestimate the power of your team.  Diversity is a great team asset.  Teams work best when they are used to the best of their abilities.  A great leader values  the abilities of their team members.

It’s your way and only your way.  This aligns with the value of the team.  Plain and simple, not every decision has to be made from you nor does every idea have to generate from you.  Part of a leader’s job is to grow others into leading.  You can’t do that when you’re the only person making decisions or providing ideas.  You have to allow others to contribute as well.  If you don’t use your team you will end up losing your team. A great leader provides the opportunity for others to contribute. 

You don’t listen. Communication is a two way street.  Your team members may have great ideas and solutions.  Sometimes the best solutions come from those around you, but you’ve got to listen.  Listening is crucial to interacting with your team.  Someone may be having a bad day and it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them bounce back.  Listening isn’t just an audible action, it’s also a visionary action.  Body language, moods and performance can be seen and interpreted.  You’ve got to listen to what others are saying even when they’re not actually saying it.  Leaders listen. 

You’re looking out for yourself above others.  Nothing disconnects a leader more as to when they’re only looking out for their self.  Being a leader is putting others first.  Leaders give team members the glory and the recognition.  Your team won’t succeed if you only look after yourself.  Leaders look out and help their team rise to success.

You don’t lead by example. One the most powerful ways to lead is to lead by example.  If you enforce a standard for the team, but you’re not following it, then it just shows that you are above the standard and them.  Just like a child mimicking their parent, a team will mimic their leader.  What you do, they will do.  What you tolerate becomes the normal.  If you have bad habits, they will adopt them because that’s the culture you have allowed to take over.  Before you expect others to act the set standards be sure that you are doing so as well.  Leaders lead by example.

Lead the culture, change the culture.

Leadership

Everything we do contributes to the culture around us.  In other words, our actions play a crucial role in ‘what we look like.’  Many organizations build culture around their desired results, but forget to identify how to do it. 

Our culture isn’t just created by what we’d like our results to be. It’s created by how we act on the way to the finish line. What we do between point A and point B will create what we look like. 

Our culture is what we look like.  What we allow to happen and what we tolerate paints the picture of our culture.  Think of your culture like a reputation.  Whatever your reputation is will be a mirror image of your culture.  It’s how others see you. 

Teams must identify what they want their culture to be.  If you want to be a hard charging, inspiring, high performance organization you must create how you’d achieve that.  How you behave can be done by choosing the correct values that correlate to the outcome you want.  Each organization will have to collectively decide on the values they want to represent that best fits their desired culture. 

When you lead with values and act on the values the culture is changed.  It’s not an overnight process, but through time and holding each other accountable the culture will change.  It’s a team effort.  Leading by example is still the most powerful way to lead.  Everyone will need to lead by example, but the desired culture will need to be invested in by the top leaders and managers.  They must take the first step.  If they don’t lead by example no one else will follow the path and the culture will not grow. 

It’s crucial for leaders to lead the change.  It’s one thing to create what you want the culture to look like, but it’s another to act it out.  Action is key!  Leaders must take action and show others ‘how’ to do it.  You, as a leader can help transform any culture if you lay the path for what you want to change and then taking the first step to make it happen.  The more you model the desired culture, the more your culture becomes what you intend it to be.  Lead the culture(actions), change the culture(actions).  

Minimalism: As a Military Member

Minimalism

As a military member, you are by default a nomad.  You’re going to move more times than you really want to.  Change is good and it’s important to grow professionally in our careers.  Each place we move to I dread the unpacking.  So much stuff!  In our most recent move, July 2016, we still have boxes packed!  Which means nothing in those boxes we’ve needed in the last 11 months.  

Sure, there may be some sentimental items in there, but for the most part I’m sure the ‘things’ in there we can afford to throw away or donate.  Every now and then I’ll rumble through trying to find something tiny like my tie clip.  I was attending a formal event recently and couldn’t find my tie clip.  Could I have done without it?  Yes.  I knew where it was, though so I went digging.  The point is the things we think we need are some things we’ll never use. 

Image how much easier moving would be if you owned less than you actually purposefully needed.  We spent four years at our first assignment.  In those four years we still had boxes packed.  At least three.  During the Summer of 2014 my wife and I took time off work to finally get to the last few boxes unpacked.  That morning I made a comment on Facebook, “Now that our last box is unpacked watch us get a new assignment.”  Later that day I got an email with notification of a new assignment.  Go figure.  It was now time to move again.  The crazy thing is we could have kept the box packed because for four years in one spot we never needed it opened, which means we could have got rid of everything in them, but instead we insisted on ‘thinking’ we ‘have’ to keep things.  Perhaps we have the mentality that if we bought it we need to keep it as long as we can.  It might be the case in some instances, but not all. 

Think of all the uniforms you have as a military member.  Your utility set, your services set and your physical training set.  That’s 12 sets of clothes given to you once you start basic training.  I never owned 12 shirts at one time in my life.  And now I have that plus my normal civilian clothes.  Over the years I’ve replaced old uniforms and bought new ones.  I recently donated all of my older uniforms that were serviceable for reuse.  The others I threw away.  My closet got smaller.  I did the same with the few civilian clothes I had.  I now only have 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of blue jeans, 2 pairs of cargo pants(my favorite) and 6 shirts, all black.  Other than furniture I will be able to fit everything I own in my trunk. 

Just a few days ago I saw a moving truck down the street.  The next day I saw a curb full of things that I guess the family didn’t need or want to take with them.  It was a lot of stuff.  We did the same during our first move back on 2014.  We left a curbside full of random things that we just didn’t need or wanted to take to our new home.  

I’ve come to realize that all that stuff that we think we need is not really necessary after all.  It’s okay to live with less especially when you know you’re going to be moving again.  For any military member out there, if you dread the move, think about minimalism as a way to make moving simple.  I am certain our next move will be a piece of cake.  

As a challenge for your next move, if you can’t fit everything that you essentially need in one vehicle, then perhaps you really don’t need it.  I know for a fact that for my next move I’ll be able to fit everything I need in the trunk of my Toyota Corolla and that is quite refreshing to know.  

Leading Millennials

Leadership

I’m a millennial and all of the stereotypes you hear about us being entitled, selfish, lazy, uninspired is quite well, I guess you could say “doesn’t apply to all.” Maybe it does apply to some millennials.  Maybe even most, but could it apply to other generations?  Yes, it could. 

I believe millennials want to see purpose in what they’re being told to do.  They want to remove the “do more with less” mentality.  Why is it always more with less?  Why can’t it be do what’s possible with what you have?

Do millennials question what they do?  I believe so.  I certainly do, but it’s not to avoid doing it.  It’s to question why it’s done this way when perhaps another way could be better.  Easier.  More resourceful.  I mean, isn’t that what innovation is about?  After all, didn’t that mentality birth the technology boom?  

My work ethic is found on the same values of many previous generations.  I believe in working hard for the things I want and deserve.  I believe in contributing.  The world doesn’t owe me anything.  I owe it.  Why?  Because we were never born to work individually.  We were born to thrive as a team and with that, my attitude, my purpose is to help others be better, do better and know better.  Life isn’t about me.  It happens because of me and selfishness is not a normal operation of our hearts.  It’s created and cultured from people who think of only themselves first.  A toxic way to live.  My children will learn to put others first even when others’ desire is to take, take, take.  When my eulogy is read I will not be known as the dude that only thought about himself above others.  What a horrible way to be remembered, but yet, there are those who choose to live that way. 

What does this have to do with millennials?  Perhaps we’ve been trying to contain them into a society that doesn’t want change.  A culture content with how things are.  Perhaps the millennials have it right and the rest of the world has it wrong.  We’ve evolved this far.  Why stop here?  Millennials are the future leaders.  Regardless if you think they feel entitled, you have to lead them.  YOU have to be selfless and help develop them to be successful when they do transition into leading.  When they question things, educate them.  When they have ideas, listen to them.  When they challenge the status quo, learn from a viewpoint that isn’t yours.  Use their perspective and strengths to mold them into leaders.

So we have some, maybe most, that really do want bean bags in the office and free stuff, but their capability is no different than any other generation.  I’m not trying to justify those that really do act selfishly and feel entitled, but there are some us that don’t act in ‘that’ way. 

Leadership is universal.  It applies to every generation and no matter what a generation is like, leadership could be the answer to moving them forward.  So lead well. 

5 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization

Ask any person walking with a cell phone who Steve Jobs is and they’ll tell you.  They wait in line for hours to buy the next IPhone.  They hear smartphone and IPhone is the image that comes to mind.  Steve Jobs left the world with a product that is now a part of every day life.  

Most people are aware of his innovative approach to technology, business and how he made people better.  I find Steve Jobs to be one of those most influential, inspiring and innovative people in this generation.  I have listened to Steve Job’s Crazy Ones speech at least 500 times.  It gives me purpose.  It inspires me.  It opens possibilities that we are all better than we allow ourselves to be.  

As a leadership enthusiast, I want to point out some of my favorite quotes from Jobs that have inspired me to be a better leader.  We need to understand that Steve wasn’t just a brilliant innovator, but he was also a leader.  

“What leadership is is having a vision and being able to articulate that so that the people around you can understand it.” – Steve Jobs

If anyone is going to make that first step into leading, they MUST have vision.  Leaders must know where they’re taking their team.  Leading people implies we are going somewhere.  Leading implies we have a goal/objective to accomplish.  Leaders must create a vision to accomplish that goal.  Call it a plan, a path, an idea, but communicate it in such a way that your team can see what you see.  Communicate that vision clearly, concise and easy enough for their followers/team to understand. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to understand.  When we understand things, we get the full spectrum of what it is we’re about to do.  Thus, a leader must paint a vision so that their team can see it too.  

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” – Steve Jobs

Leaders invest in people.  That’s what they do naturally.  They make people better.  Steve Jobs nails it.  A leader’s job isn’t to be easy on people, it’s to make them better.  If we’re going to invest in people, let’s make it count for them.  A leader must be honest with their team.  If a team member needs a wake up call, hold them accountable to the values and standards that are set in place.  It’s a leader’s job to coach, mentor and guide their team members to not only be better, but do better and know better.  Don’t forget that a leader focuses on people.  They are in a way, our soul purpose for being a leader.  We don’t just want to make them better, but also want to make them leaders.  

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs

Leaders want to know that what they’re doing is working.  They want to know that their leadership is effective.  They want to know that their vision is being carried out and that progress is being made.  There is only one way to check how you and your team is doing and that’s by stopping to assess where the team is and how they have been performing.  You can’t look forward to see that, you must look behind you to see how far the team has gone.  Looking back provides an opportunity to grow from your experience, the failure, the perseverance, the challenges you’ve faced and so on. It’s important that we look back to connect the dots, but don’t forget that more dots need to be made.  Don’t focus too much on the past, but look to the future.  Leading is about where we’re going, but we must learn and progress from where we’ve been.  

“Be a yardstick of quality.  Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

Think from the follower’s perspective.  Followers want amazing leaders leading them. Leaders must be that quality that followers are looking for.  I’ll say this in the nicest way, but followers don’t need a half-ass leader.  They need someone who is of the utmost quality.  The quality of the leaders depends on the follower’s development, progress and effectiveness.  Leaders will always have a high standards of excellence for their team and their work environment.  A leader cares about how things are done.  They expect high quality results.  They expect high quality performance.  As a follower, be selective on who you follow.  Who you follow is not only important for the objectives and goals, but also important for the followers.  A leader will raise the bar for the benefit of their followers. They see your potential and will ensure that you are growing to meet it. 

“Innovation distinguishes between and leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs 

This may be one of those most recognized quotes from Steve Jobs.  Some people have yet to understand the correlation between innovation and leadership, but it’s quite simple.  Innovation isn’t just an action, but being innovative is seeing outside the box.  Like innovators, leaders also see outside the box. Leadership and innovation are actions of a decision to not accept the normality of how people and products are grown. Leaders see around corners in ways that others don’t see.  They are strategic, they are creative, they are risk takers and they certainly don’t fear failure. It’s very important for leaders to see things in ways other people don’t.  A leader isn’t a leader because they have all the answers; a leader is a leader because if they don’t know an answer, they find or create their own solution to any challenge or issue. 

Develop your Team

Leadership

If you could strategically pick people to create the ultimate team would the people on your team now make the cut?  If they would, why would they?  If not, why wouldn’t they?  If they could do the same, would you be on the team?

Teams are the life blood of organizations.  They provide results, growth and function.  We often don’t assess the team as if it’s a one person with many different abilities. We identify a team as a group of individuals with many talents.  Most people on the team will play to their strengths.  It’s natural that we step forward when we are familiar with something that we know.  Our weaknesses on the other hand often go unplayed and undeveloped.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “A team is strong as its weakest link.”  Another way to look at it is one person’s weakness becomes the team’s weakness.  

Sometimes people don’t know what their weaknesses are.  It takes feedback from others to point them out.  How well do you provide feedback as a team?  Have you sat collectively as a team and talked about your weaknesses? If not, why not?  Every team needs to have a 360 degree view of what they’re capable of being. 

The only way to grow as a team is to learn as a team and develop as a team.  Sure, it does take individual parts to move and do so, but above all, if you’re going to be a team then develop as a team.  Growing together strengthens the team.  One of the hardest things to do is take a diverse group of people and work together in one direction.  A successful team crosses the finish line together.  Win or lose. 

As a leader, what are you doing to help develop the team?  Are you providing feedback when necessary?  Are you not only improving weaknesses, but identifying potential?  Leadership is essential to the progression of any team.  Without even saying it most people know the leader on their team.  Are you that leader?  If so, what are you doing to help develop your team?  It would be awesome to be able to strategically pick your ultimate team, but you don’t need to in order to have a great team.  You can create the ultimate team by investing in your current team’s development!

Letting go of ‘Might Use”

Minimalism
Today, I went through five boxes of things that I “might use.”  As I was going through the boxes I would put things aside with the justification of, “I actually might use this.”  After a few minutes I would pick them up again and put them back down.  I did this about four times.  When I was throwing out my last trash bag I picked up the “actually might use” items and put them in the trash bag.  I was done debating.

One of my “actually might use” stacks were my songwriting notebooks that I’ve had for about 12 years.  I’ve written a lot of songs in them, but they were just sitting in a box.  What did I need them for?  Nostalgia?

I made a decision that “might use” wasn’t enough for me to hold onto anything.  It wasn’t enough to change my happiness with or without.  Thus, everything was thrown into the trash.  The best part?  I feel great about it and have no regret not keeping anything.

I was able to flatten five boxes and fill up four 30 gallon trash bags for the trash.  I will never have to think about all that stuff again.  It’s gone.  And guess what?  My happiness remains even though I let go of “might use.”

You’re valuable, your things are not.

Minimalism

I found myself looking around telling myself how I wanted this, I wanted that.  I liked the idea of ‘having’ everything I looked at.  I could have bought a few items today and I decided not to.  Not because I wouldn’t use them, but because I knew I didn’t need them and I knew they weren’t going to provide any value to my life.  My happiness wouldn’t change from having them. 

Consumerism consumes us in ways that overshadows the reality of what we’re doing.  What we’re doing is buying and buying not because of necessity or purpose, but because it’s what we’ve been taught to do.  

Our possessions become a part of us.  The things we have identify the type of people we are.  We put a monetary value in what we have and try to place that value on ourself.  You may have a brand new Corvette and that one object in your eyes puts a number on your life.  I’m worth this.  I’m worth that.  

We’ve all heard the saying, “To feel like a million dollars.”  I’ve never had a million dollars nor will I probably ever own that much money at one time.  Most of the world will never know that feeling so how do we begin to compare a price with feeling?  Are millionaires even happy?  

This rich and famous culture changes our perception on how we should live and feel.  We want what they have because they ‘look’ happy.  Media portrays people in the ‘good light’ and we rarely see inside the actual feelings of the rich and famous.  Social media provides many filters in the lives of people.  We can filter our life to look how we want others to see it, but behind the cell phone and behind the computer how do you really feel?  Is that happiness because of the items in your house or because you have made a decision to be happy with who you are and not what you have or don’t have?

I’m reminded of the quote from Jim Cary that I heard from Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things. 

“I wish everyone could experience being rich and famous so they could realize it’s not the answer.” 

What is your goal when buying new things?  Do you buy things just because you can and have they money to do it?  Do you replace the old item with the new item?  Do you find true non-monetary value in the items you buy?  Do they make you happy?  Do they increase YOUR value because of the price tag?  

You’re valuable, your things are not.  Your things serve a purpose, but things were never created to specifically provide happiness.  They’re created to fill a need.  A use.  A tool.  A resource.  I love coffee, but just because I like the taste or how it gives me a boost doesn’t mean that if I never had it again I’d be unhappy.  I’m valuable because of who I am, not what I have.  You’re valuable because of who you are, not what you have.  Though, there are some unique items that do become a part of us and do impact who we are, not every item provides us with that type of worth.  Know what does and what doesn’t.