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. 

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).  

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 Benefits of being Organized

Leadership, Organization

I posted recently 6 Ways to Stay Organized as a Leader.  This week I wanted to follow up with benefits of being organized and how it can actually produce great results.

Less stress. I want you to think about stress as if it’s weight that you carry and every time something stresses you, you add more weight to carry.  How much stress could you carry before you’re unable to walk, to move, to care for yourself and those around you, including your children?  Now think about everything you need to do, but you’re not tracking it except in your mind and every time you add something to your ‘to do list’ your eyesight becomes blurred.  The more you add, the less you see.  It would be hard to accomplish your tasks/lists without seeing.  So why not begin a path of being less stressed?

Being organized in not only the areas you work, but in your home can help you relieve that stress and when your stress is eliminated, good things begin to happen.   Creating an organization process, or ways to be organized can help you move forward in your agenda/goals.  Don’t let stress control you. 

Stress management is life management.  If you take control of your stress, your life will thank you for it. – Shereka Dunston

Time. Let’s say you have a huge list of things to do at work today.  You prioritize, you break down what’s needed to accomplish your list and you schedule time appropriately according to how long each task will take. Your plan is written down and you’re ready to go.  You have the vision now you have to put it into action.  You begin to cross off items on your list.  You then mark off the last thing on your list and guess what, you have 2 hours(example) before the work day is over.  YES!  You SAVED time!  Organizing your workload realistically can save you time depending on the projects/tasks you have to do. I mean, results will vary, but nonetheless, the better you plan the more time you can save.  Now the question is, what are you going to do with your extra time? Save time by being organized.  Plan well and maybe that minute organizing can save you an hour…or at least a few more minutes.  

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”  – Benjamin Franklin

Productivity.  When I organize my day and actually stick to it I get more things done.  That’s right!  Planning will open up the door to productivity.  When we create agendas for the day on what needs to be done we’re more likely to stick to it, thus doing more.  Time is lost when we spend it looking for things, getting distracted, not knowing what to do next and forgetting things you should have done.  We become reactive instead of proactive.  Be prepared so that things get done.  Planning provides the opportunity to maximize your potential and to prove to your leadership how hard of a worker you are. It paves the way for success. 

Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort. – Paul J. Meyer

Energy. There are many areas in our life that could be planned better.  The greatest thing about organizing one area is that it’s contagious and you’ll want to organize other areas.  I recently began planning my work week and I found it to be refreshing to know what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it.  It felt great.  I also began standing at work while at my desk instead of sitting.  This has motivated me to organize more at home as well.  I’m not really trying to micromanage every aspect of my life, but being organized makes everything better.  I feel energetic as if I’m in control.  I don’t feel stressed and I feel accomplished when I go to bed.  I love coffee!  Coffee gets me going, but when I’m on a roll of getting things done, I don’t even think about drinking coffee.  I get a natural boost of energy.  I have more energy and since I have more energy I control the day.  

Either you run the day or the day runs you. – Jim Rohn

Creativity. There are many ways to be creative and there are many ways that prevent creativity.  Being disorganized can be an element that prevents creativity.  Creativity takes time and if we don’t have time it is very difficult to spark ideas.  This is why being organized is important to our ability to be creative.  When we organize, we gain time which in turn gives us the opportunity to be creative.  Another reason we are less creative is that we get distracted by the objects around us.  Having a clear work space is like having a clear mind.  It gives you room to think, breathe and create fresh ideas.  Don’t let the clutter of objects, tasks and time be the preventing factor in your ability to create. 

Everyone has creativity in them. It’s just a matter of unlocking that creativity. – Christina Canters

5 Ways to Help You Lead in a New Environment

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization, Social, Tips, Tricks

It would be naive to think that one leadership or management strategy is going to work exactly the same from environment to environment.  It’s just not that easy.  Every organization, work center, company, and or course, the military will have different ways of operating.  After all, they all have different missions.

I am now working in my fifth work center in the last six years. I didn’t have a full spectrum of the mission or what I’d be doing.  I did have to put my learning cap on and embrace the change. A question that has come to mind lately is how do I lead in an environment that I am unfamiliar with?  After brainstorming with my mentor and close friend I have narrowed down some ways. Here are 5 ways to get your foot in the door into leading in a new environment.

Learn the mission!  You have to know what the overall mission is and you have to know your role in the mission.  Know your limits of responsibility and know your strengths and weaknesses given the new mission.  Everyone has a specific amount of responsibility over their area. Know where your role begins and ends. Ask yourself what you bring to the table? What are you good at and what do you need work at? You will need to self assess your strengths/weaknesses in this new environment. Play your strengths when you are able and learn when you are unfamiliar with the process or directions. Ask questions when you don’t know an answer or a process. It’s okay to ask other agencies how they fit in the mission. You need to see the big picture and not just the area around you. Knowing the mission and knowing your role will ultimately help move the mission forward.

Introductions! Aside from knowing the mission, you have to know the team you’re a part of. In order to work on a team you’ve got to know the team and the team has to know you. First impressions are very important, but we can never truly know someone by a simple greeting.  After personal introductions have been made, lay the foundation of your work ethic. Begin to show your work ethic. This is where people will truly get a sense of who you are. Lead with values, not authority.  Values provide a standard of positive behavior. Use them and add other values that instill a strong work ethic. Get to know how your team members operate. Seek what drives their performance.  Ask them questions about their passions, their family, their background.  Leading is ultimately about taking care of people.  One must know their teammates on a professional and personal level in order to be effective at taking care of them. After all, leadership is about taking care of people. Know your team!

Be proactive, not reactive!  Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do something.  Take initiative in your area.  Seek out and find what needs to be done or what could be done.  There is always someone who needs help.  Go ask them if you can help or if there is anything you can do to help.  If you know what needs to be done, do it.  If you don’t, then ask someone what you can do to contribute. This is why knowing the mission is important.  It will give you an idea on what needs to be done.  When you’re proactive you stay ahead of the game.  Doing so can often help save you and others time in the future. Being proactive means you’re prepared.  No one likes the feeling of being unprepared. Take initiative every chance you get!  It may lead to some great opportunities! Nothing is more satisfying to a supervisor than seeing a subordinate take charge.  This not only tells them you have a great work ethic, but that you are capable of leading. Be proactive!

Communicating clearly.  Communication is a very hard skill to master.  For someone to put thoughts or an idea into words, or better yet, action, it can be quite difficult if you don’t understand how each member of your team listens or learns.  To clearly get your objectives across to your team can be very delicate.   Make sure you take time to get the correct words down before you speak your objectives/tasks/ideas, etc. The precision of your communication can make or break the success of your team.  And always make sure that your team members know to ask questions if they don’t clearly understand the objective.  That is also another part of communication.  It’s a two way street.  Ensure you communicate clearly and ensure your team knows how to seek answers from you by asking. Listening and hearing are two different things.  Listening is an audible action, hearing what’s said is the process of information into a structured concept.  Communicate clearly so that your point is heard.

Be willing to learn!  A leader’s job isn’t to know all of the answers.  Leaders must show they are willing to learn from their team members.  Listening and learning from the members on the team builds trust.  When teams learn from each other it strengthens their ability to adapt to overcome challenges. It creates a teamwork environment.  When leaders and members of the team are open to learning from each other it also creates a culture of learning.  Learning is how we grow.  Show them that if you can, they can.  Learn together!

12 Things to Remember as a Leader

Leadership

Let’s face it, everyone will need to be led differently.  There isn’t a one size fits all approach to leadership.  At least, that’s what I believe.  I do believe that effective leaders will find ways that help them be more effective for the benefit of the team and their followers.  Will it always work?  It depends how much care, effort and work you put into it.  Some followers may be susceptible to the approach of their leader, some may not.  It’s okay, that’s why it’s important for leaders to improve a variety of skills and abilities.

Whatever you can do to make people, your team, do better, know better and be better then that is your job.  To inspire, to motivate, to coach, to mentor, whatever it takes.  It’s not just about evaluating their performance to progress the team, it’s also about seeking out their potential.  You’ve got to challenge them and grow them.  Don’t leave them where they are, take them to the next level of where they need to be.  Leadership is also a two way street.  There will be times when you step back and listen.  Receive the feedback. Listen to what your team needs to progress and how they feel.  Yes, emotions matter.  People have emotions and it’s important you understand them and not just know them. Understanding something and knowing something is two different things.  The better you understand their emotions the better you can lead them.

Use your team’s abilities and learn from them.  Learning is important for a leader.  A leader isn’t a leader because they know every answer.  It’s okay to not have the answer.  When your team sees that you’re honest about it, they’ll trust you.  They’ll see you as approachable.  Leaders must be approachable.  When you’re approachable, your team will come to you when they need help.  This in a way removes fear.  This is good.  This will assist you in accomplishing the goals of the team.  Every team needs a destination.  If there is no destination then there is no need to progress and the work you do would seem meaningless. Leadership implies we’re going somewhere.  It’s important that leaders know where to take the team.  

Lastly, leadership isn’t always focused on what seems to be the good stuff.  Leaders have to make the tough decisions. You have to hold people accountable.  People will make mistakes and that’s okay, it happens, but don’t let mistakes become the normal.  If you don’t hold people accountable, the work culture can be jeopardized and can work backwards from where you’re going.  Don’t forget, leadership is about people not processes.  Processes need to be managed.  People need to be lead.  Ret Admiral Grace Hopper once said, “You manage things, you lead people.”

Remember these things and that it won’t be easy.  Those who care to put the effort in to help people be better, know better and do better are often the leaders we need. Fill the need…

My First Deployment: A Joint Environment – 4 Leadership Lessons

Leadership

I was on vacation in Texas with my wife and daughter.  We were vising family, enjoying being away from our normal routine in Colorado.  My Superintendent calls and says, well, I have some bad news.  You’ve been hit with a deployment.

Nothing really bad about it, just wasn’t expecting to get tagged as I just got to the unit 6 months prior.  It happens, I’ve been tagged with less time on station before, but it got canceled. What do you do when you’re tasked to deploy? You begin to prepare and roll with the punches. 

Four months later I got on a plane and flew out of the US for the first time in my life.  Was I nervous?  Yes!  I wasn’t being tasked with a group of people.  I was alone and I didn’t know what to expect.  After almost missing my international flight, I was finally able to relax on a long 9 hour flight to Zurich and then another 9 hour flight to Muscat, Oman.  You see, this was no ordinary report to an Air Force base and begin your time. There was no base.  There were no dorms. There were no chow halls. There was the Embassy. I was tasked to work at a U.S. Embassy. I didn’t even know such a tasking existed.  No one ever talks about this sort of tasking.  It was going to be interesting.

This was a joint environment. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force.  I was around other branches actively for the first time in my career.  What do you do when you find yourself learning the culture of other branches? You become a sponge and start learning the best you can. Sadly, I just wasn’t up to par on how other branches operate.  I highly respect my brothers and sisters in arms from other branches, but I honestly don’t know much about the other branches.  I was not only about to learn a new position, but I was about to learn how to work with other services on a different level than the usual operations that I was accustomed to in the Air Force.

If you know me, I don’t take part in anything without trying to learn something about leadership.  Thus, after 20 hours of flying back home, reflecting and analyzing what I just did for the last six months I have narrowed down the lessons I’ve learned while working in a joint service environment.

Teamwork makes the dream work.  When you combine multiple cultures into one culture, things can get tough. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different terminology, different skills and everyone had different missions that contribute to the overall mission. We all had our own missions to do, but when someone needed the assistance from someone else, you had their attention. When you have the cooperation of others that agree on the same solution while striving for a shared/common goal, you get success.  I learned that when you need help to make progress, find out who the subject matter expert is on the team so they can bring their skills to the court.  You can’t win alone.  Use your team when necessary.  Leaders don’t lead because they know all of the answers, they lead knowing that diversity is a great team asset.  Teamwork is viable and valuable. If you can’t take another step, someone on your team will be able to help you take it.  Leaders utilize their team members effectively.

The right environment makes a difference.  I was the lowest ranking member in the office.  In fact, we only had three enlisted members in the office.  Everyone else was an officer.  As the new guy in the office learning not only about the job, but the people and their mission, I was a sponge taking in information on a level I’ve never known.  Given that it was a joint environment, the people around me helped me learn, at my pace, how they operated and how they contributed to the mission.  They didn’t get frustrated that I didn’t know certain processes or procedures, but they adjusted as needed to fit my learning needs.  They didn’t expect me to know everything.  They created an environment of progress and learning.  Adjusting to a new position was going to take a little time. Leaders are adaptable.  They are able to change approaches on a whim.  I am thankful for the officers who were patient with me as I learned about my job, learned about them and learned about the whole mission.  They helped me learn effectively and they taught me effectively. The environment, in a way, changed to fit my knowledge, but yet remained in a progressive state.  I believe if I entered a work environment that demanded instant knowledge, instant responses, instant right answers that I would have been overly stressed making the office a place I didn’t want to be in.  I’m thankful to learn the importance of culture in a joint level. An effective work culture contributes to the effectiveness of the office. The people can make that happen and it’s people that should make that happen. Leaders are adaptable and create environments fit for growth.

Communication is key for any team to function.  There were some days where everyone was in the office and some days where only a few remained in the office.  Communication goes a long way and without communication no team can function fluidly.  We had meetings Sunday morning and Thursday afternoon.  Sunday morning was a time to say, hey, here is what is going on this week.  Thursday was a time to reflect on what happened during the week as preparation for the next.  Although, at first, I really didn’t see the need for two meetings a week, but looking back, these meetings were very important. Even though, I had a small role in them, for the big picture, they were crucial. This was the time where we all came together in one room to talk through issues and how we were going to fix them. This wasn’t a time just for updates, but this was a time to communicate.  Communication was the driving force for this.  Everyone had their chance to speak and everyone had a chance to listen, learn, provide feedback, and provide ideas/suggestions.  Without this circle of communication, getting everyone on the same page would take a lot more effort and time.  I’ve been through many staff meetings and some seem like a waste of time, lack purpose and boring.  I began to look at these meetings as the chance to communicate. As everyone had their own agenda during the week and turned many pages, this time allowed everyone to sync up and get on the same page.  Communication was key in making this happen. Leaders communicate. 

You’ve got to have balance! When you’re away from your family during the holidays, it can take a hit on your spirit and your morale. The best thing about this deployment was that when we weren’t at work, we weren’t working. Haha. The people around me would always have something going on that allowed us to hang out, relax, and keep the morale up. Weather it was a camping trip, a hiking trip, a site seeing trip, or even just going out to eat, it was an important time to balance the week out.  Balance is very important even when you’re not deployed.  Although, I wasn’t around my family, we became like a family. We made sure there was a time for fun. It wasn’t forced, like “mandatory fun,” it was genuine fun.  I find that foreign in our culture sometimes. We try to force it with fun runs, BBQs, etc. Sometimes the best thing to do is provide the opportunity and those who want to show up can voluntarily show up.  Balance helped me stay positive and grateful.  I met awesome people and I’m grateful they provided the opportunity to have a little fun while being away from my family. Leaders provide balance. 

Reviving Core Values

Leadership, Organization

Every day I walk up a flight of stairs to my office where I work as NCOIC, Administration Management. On the first set of stairs, there are three steps that have one Air Force core value written on each of them.  Integrity, Service, Excellence. These core values are burned into the memory of every Airman since day one of basic training. They are meant to guide us. They are meant to be lived. They are meant to be a path of being better, doing better and knowing better. Yet, at times, we, members in the Air Force, undervalue and underutilize our core values. 

Values drive the behavior of any organization, not just the military. Values are set so that the people in the organization have a guiding light, a north star to show which direction to go when we’re lost and to remind us that although, people fail, our values cannot. Values will be rock solid. Values will never fail you. Values will always be there when you need them.

An organization that doesn’t have a set of values setting the behavior of the organization will often fail. It would be as if the organization is walking blindly. Our Air Force core values are easy to understand. Opportunities are birthed every day that allow us to perform our core values. Values are not meant to be used sparingly, they are meant to be used at every opportunity that arises. It’s how we create a culture of positive behavior. We can correlate a core value into almost every decision and every action and if we’re dedicated to actually living them, we’ll never be wrong. Though, we can fail as people and as a leader, it doesn’t mean values have failed you, it just means that you’ve failed at what you’re doing.  Ret. Gen Stanley McCrystal once said, “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”  The same goes for our core values.  Though, you, a person may fail, if your core values are the heart of your actions, you will not be a failure.  It just means you have to try again.

Sure, we hear them, read them and every Airman is given a coin that has them embedded in it, but are we using them to the fullest potential? Even more, are we, as a team and individuals using them at all? Is it even possible to live them constantly every day? I like to think that if we gave a little more effort into living our core values how awesome our leadership would be and how awesome our teams would be. Walking up the steps to my office while reading our core values challenges me to live them. Just like in any busy work culture, it’s easy to overlook our values. I’m guilty of it, I’m sure others are too. Will there be days that you just don’t feel like putting in the effort? Of course, but our core values even address that behavior. 

The Air Force provides a definition for each core value(can be found here), but is that the end all be all to the core values? No. They can mean different things to different people and can be elaborated on.  What do you think they mean?  It’s a question that we, as an entire organization sort of forgot about as we engage in our daily duties and I believe our core values need to be given the attention they deserve. Right? Our culture depends on it.  Lately, it seems we’ve lost sight of our values and that’s okay, we’re human, we forget things, we know life is busy. It’s never too late to revive them and use them to improve our culture. Our core values have unlimited value.

Above all else, values help us be and become better leaders. When we feel our teams slipping in character, judgement and performance, we should always look at our values.  They’ll keep us in line and keep us moving forward.  Values create a work environment fit to thrive and survive.  Here is my personal look at how I apply and see the Air Force core values. I hope over the next few days or weeks you consider writing your perspective on the core values.  Share your perspective with your team, use it as a topic of professional development.  Get to know your Airman’s perspective to see how they view them.

Integrity first –  It’s not just about doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s also about holding yourself accountable when no one is watching.   This also includes you holding your team members accountable.  It’s about carrying out your responsibilities accurately and effectively as possible. Show humility when you don’t have the answer. It’s okay to be wrong. Own your mistakes.  Be transparent in what you do. Keep true to yourself and be a person others can count on.  Integrity is about how the team is held together.  Make sure there are no kinks in your line that can jeopardize how the team holds on together. 

Service before self There will be days when you wake up and you just don’t feel like it.  We’ve all had those days and we will have more. What we do as Airman is bigger than ourselves.  It’s bigger than our personal desires.  Service before self is simple.  Your duties come first to include the service of leadership.  It’s about taking care of people as well. People are a part of the service so they must be taken care of so they can take care of the mission. Personal desires can always be put be aside to handle an issue/task/challenge at hand. This is not about you, it’s about the team.  When the team wins, you win.

Excellence in all we do –  My middle school coach used to say, “Go hard or go home.”  That was the standard.  Was it possible to give your full 100% every single football practice? No, but it wasn’t just about your physical ability. It was about your mentality, your heart, your attention, your dedication. It was more than running hard or hitting hard. It was the effort, the approach to the game. We must not only do our best, but whatever we do must be done with the results of great effort.  It’s hard to really measure effort, but people can always tell when you are giving less than what you are capable of giving. Whatever we’re working on, the end goal, must reflect excellence. Don’t commit to something unless you can give your absolute full attention and effort it deserves. One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite runners Steve Prefontaine. “To give any less than your best is to sacrifice a gift.” There is no time for slacking, half-assing, or procrastination.  If you’re going to do a job, do it right.  In the words of Deadpool, “Maximum effort.”

A 3 Pointer in Failure Readiness

Leadership, Life, Organization, TEDTalks

I don’t watch a lot of sports, nor do I play very many, but I am a very competitive person in just about everything.  Everyone knows that competitive people dislike losing.  I was never much of a basketball player, but I did play in middle school and a little in high school.  I remember playing in middle school and one particular game stood out more than the rest.  We were losing by 6 and we had .57 seconds on the clock before halftime.  Half a second!  It was our ball under our own basket.  The coach called a stack play and knowing we only had a split second, I refused to run the play.  There wasn’t time for it.  I took a risk.  As soon as the ball was in play a shot had to be made, if a shot could be taken.  I actually remember setting up for the play and then breaking to run to the 3-point line around the opposite side.  The person throwing the ball was telling me to get back, but I said, ”We don’t have time for a play, throw me the ball.”  I was wide open!  He threw me the ball and I shot the 3 pointer.  I made it, but we were still losing. 

If there is one thing that we dislike the most it would be failing.  We are anti-failure! We don’t want it to happen!  It doesn’t feel good and it can cost us time, money and resources. Though it doesn’t feel good, it’s bound to happen at some point.  We all experience failure.

Even though I made that shot, it wasn’t enough to tie or take the lead. What I felt was failure.  I remember sitting in the locker room and I was very upset that we were losing.  We weren’t winning and to come back seemed like it would need a miracle.  I was not happy and I began to think losing was inevitable.  As I look back, I now know that there is a way to fail the right way.  I may not have realized the in-depth look at failing, but I do now. Here are a few lessons I extracted from this memory that has helped me be ready for failure. 

Mindset; Be prepared – Burn it in your mind that failing is okay.  If you haven’t heard the TedTalk by Ret Gen Stanley McCrystal – Listen, Learn and then Lead, he makes the comment, “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.”  When you fail, it doesn’t make you a failure.  It’s what you do next that defines your success.  Have the right mindset that failing is okay and that it is a possibility.  Don’t focus on failing, but be ready to try again.  It’s not being negative, it’s being prepared for whatever may come.  I believe when you’re ready for anything, even failing, that you’re getting a head of the game.  Don’t be fooled by failing.  It’s not the end, it’s just the beginning of another try.

Learn; Take away something new – There is learning to do in failing.  Always see what there is to learn from failing.  Remember that failing is sort of like constructive criticism.  It’s a chance to reevaluate what you’re doing so that you can try again.  Learn what worked, what didn’t work and why it failed in the first place. Learn something out of failing!

It was halftime now and it was now the coach’s opportunity to teach us what we were possibly doing wrong.  We evaluated what we were doing, we created an improved plan to fix it and then we took the 2nd half as the time to execute it.  We created that execution plan by learning from what we did the first half. We learned!

Attitude; Don’t be negative – Attitude changes everything.  If you have a bad attitude, it brings you down and the team down.  No one likes a downer.  Be positive that you will succeed.  Failing at something is a road bump.  You can still keep going as long as you remain positive and dedicated.  Keep your spirits up.  Having a good attitude can be contagious.  It’s good to pass that along. Sir Winston said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”  Do not let failure control your emotions and certainly don’t let failure define who you are. Of course during any halftime, you’re not there to just create a new game plan, but you’re there to get re-motivated.  A time to push away the negatives and focus on the positives.  An attitude adjustment!

The half-time was a time to regain our composure and focus on turning the score around.  We went back out there and we played hard.  It was a close game and at the end, we ended up winning by 3 points.  I always look back at that game and think that if I had not made that shot would we have won? Remember the game is only over when you give up.

Lessons from a Boulder Street Performer

Leadership, Life, Social

Today, my cousin and I drove into Boulder to find a place to eat. We went down to Pearl St to see what wasn’t too packed. We walked up the strip and we saw a guy giving high 5s and hugs.

If you know Pearl St, it’s a very cultural diverse area. People are singing, asking for money, juggling, balancing acts, a bunch of sidewalk performers. Anyways, so we walk around and saw this guy and then we turned around and ate a pizza place near where we saw him.

We started to observe him a bit more to see more of what he was doing. If you view the tweet you will see him hug a guy in a red shirt. Also, there is a guy in a white bandanna that eventually turned around and walked back to him to take a hug from him.

He did this for about an hour, he would yell with enthusiasm every time someone engaged in a high five or hug. He was very enthusiastic! So after an hour, he then walked over and grab a guitar. He then started singing to people. Now, most performers here stay in one spot and usually expect people to draw to them. Of all the performers on the street, he is the only one that would go to people. He was very interactive. Some people would do a little dance, some people would literally wait for him to stop to take a picture and he’d give them a hug and high five.

Though I observed a stranger giving high fives and hugs, I observed a few other things…

One, from a business standpoint, if you’re selling a product you can’t expect people to run to you, you’ve got to establish a rapport with your target audience. This guy did that. My thought was he’s probably trying to get people to listen to him play and sing, but by spending an hour giving people high fives and hugs, he invested in them and took interest in them. People noticed and people gave him the time to listen. He didn’t shove his product down their throat, he took time to groom his audience and gave them something before asking for something(and he really didn’t need to ask, they gave without him asking). Build that rapport. 

Two, people skills are an overlooked subject in today’s business. Businesses want to hire people based off the knowledge they may have or received from experience or college. Knowledge may get the job done, but it may not keep you in business. This guy had a way of inspiring people that made people want to be around him. Strangers who in a short time invested in his product of compassion, love, and all around kindness. People skills are something that can be difficult to learn, you either have them or you don’t. This guy had incredible people skills. It was plain to see that he wasn’t there for him, he was there to give and people accepted it. Invest in people skills. 

Three, although many people were susceptible to his kindness there were a lot of people that weren’t and that’s when I realized how kindness has become such a foreign interaction. We automatically think, “What do you want from me?” After talking with him after we ate, we asked him why he did what he was doing. His response was, “I just like to make people happy. I’m not here to really make money. I want to make people happy with everything I do, high fives, hugs, singing.” Be kind, people need it and it doesn’t hurt if you need it too.

Four, he didn’t expect people to come to him, he went to them. He met them were they were. He gave, gave, and gave some more. Selflessness in such a simple way and he was making many people happy. Be a little more selfless. 

I was really inspired by this guy. Before giving him a hug and a high five, I told him, “You’ve gotta keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got a talent that people take for granted. Develop your craft and keep inspiring. Whatever your goals are, this is what will get you to them.” He spends a lot time making others happy, perhaps he just needs someone to show him a little encouragement. He gave his appreciation to us and we had to leave.

His name is Pir. He is basically on the verge of being homeless, but I doubt anyone ever could take away his happiness. He’s got goals to go to college soon and I hope he gets through it. He’s got great potential to be a great leader.  If I owned a company or a business I would hire him on the spot.  He’s the kind of people you want engaging with your customers.  If you’re in Boulder on Pearl St and a guy is giving free hugs and high fives, it’s probably Pir.  Give him a hug or a high five,  he deserves it!

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