Thing 1 and Thing 2

As a leader, it is important to look at Thanksgiving in a different light.  True leaders, in my opinion, have been blessed with a gift.  A gift that needs to continually give to others. 

I recently finished reading a book entitled The Weekly Conversation by Brian Souza.  As I read through this very engaging story, I realized that every moment is a coachable moment.  Too often we as leaders are looking for the “right time” to have a key discussion with a peer, team member, or even a manager we report to.  There is no right or wrong time to have that discussion.  There are only those discussions or conversations that do not occur because of the “what if”. 

I had a conversation with one of my sons (Thing 2 or T2) about his schoolwork.  He is consistently a very strong student and work hard.  He was telling me about one of his classes where they were having a group discussion and his thoughts on a topic were different than his classmates.  He said that he chose not to speak up.  At that point, it didn’t matter for me about the grade, but rather the “why” he chose not to share his perspective. 

As we discussed a little more, I wanted to share with him that regardless of a grade, in order to be successful in life, he needs to be willing to speak his mind and support his position with a solid argument.  At the same time, he needs to be willing to listen to others as well.  I have read some of what he has written for his classes, and it is solid.  This was my opportunity to impart some of my experience on him that communication is not one sided.  It needs to be an engagement of differing opinions, but a common understanding and respect for others perspectives.  Too often, conversations do not occur for precisely that last reason.

Now, my other son (Thing 1) will argue a point until the cows come home.  This too can be detrimental to open communication as no one wants a discussion to be monopolized.  He is very emphatic about his beliefs and will engage in a conversation on any topic with anyone at any time.  As I have observed him with his peer group from afar, he does actively listen, but will always try and persuade you to his position. 

Back to the book.  Having a conversation should be a natural occurrence.  Whether you are Thing 1 or Thing 2 in how you approach conversations, the key is that you are willing to engage in thoughtful dialogue as a leader.  Be open to others perspectives and be a consummate listener and learner.

Have a great week!

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My Humble Shoes

It is the time of year where I become very reflective about a lot of things.  It is a time to give thanks and to remember the sacrifices of others.  It is a time to give more of yourself for those around you. 

I have a pair of sneakers that I call my “Humble Shoes”.  They are a pair of white with black logos and lettering Avia’s.  These sneakers have holes in both sides of the toes from being the wrong width, and over a period of a couple of months the leather gave way.  These are very comfortable for me. 

I call them my Humble Shoes because I am not a wealthy person, but I can usually afford to buy myself a pair of sneakers without holes in them.  They are my Humble Shoes because they keep me grounded.

I thought about these shoes when I was on a recent business trip and as my bosses and I were at a business dinner with a prospective vendor, there was a table of 14 men and women having a dinner.  What was interesting about this group was the story that a member of the group told us as they were taking a picture of the table.  This group of 70 somethings were laughing, reminiscing, and enjoying each others company.  They men of the group were all part of the same company stationed overseas pre-Viet Nam, but post Korean Conflict.  The oldest of the group was a gentleman in a wheel chair, he was their commanding officer.  Each year, this group would get together, and as it was harder for the groups Commander to travel, they all decided to travel to him and his wife each year just to stay in touch.  Interestingly, the men and women of this group were actually 7 married couples that had been married for over 50 years each.  WOW!!

After being inspired by this group, I realized how much these men sacrificed over the years.  Some were more successful than others, but they valued the relationships they forged 50+ years ago.

My Humble Shoes keep me reminded that success comes only after sacrifice.  Comfort comes from years of being uncomfortable and learning from mistakes. 

At this time of year, I look around at how commercial the holiday season is.  I am a fan of the lights and music, don’t get me wrong, however, you have to remain grounded and remember that there are people around you that are struggling each day.  Some you would never expect have struggles.  Treat people with respect and dignity at all times.

My Humble Shoes keep me humble regardless of personal or professional success.  Like those Veterans who served our country and worked hard to be able to enjoy their lives with their spouses, remember those who struggle and persevere through adversity.

Life is not easy, stay humble.