Keep Perspective

Each year Beloit College publishes its Class of XXXX mindset list.  This list is a compilation of the perspectives that each incoming freshman class has.  It is a very intriguing look at how the world we live in has changed over the preceding 18 years.

This morning I had an interesting conversation with my wife on the way to work.  She teaches 7th grade science and raised a very interesting perspective to me.  This years sixth and seventh graders have not known a world where global terrorism has not been a concern.  They don’t know about the events leading up to the attacks of 9/11.  The world we live in has changed so much over the past 12 years.

Think about your work.  Are you able to keep perspective of the events going on around you?  It is difficult to do.  Most times, even as professionals, we are so focused on making the decision, we forget about all of the events leading up to the current situation.  We think that every experience we have is one that no one else has been through before.  That simply isn’t the case.  We forget that experience is the catalyst for innovation.  Understanding that every situation is a result of a series of decisions and events that brought us to the here and now is very important. 

Keeping perspective on ones mindset allows teams to grow, products to be launched, and businesses to grow and expand.  Think about it for a moment.  Could Benjamin Franklin have developed a cellular telephone?  No chance!  Remember, experience is the catalyst for innovation.  Without Franklin’s discovery of electricity, experiences leading to the development of the cellular phone would not have been possible.  For Franklin and his contemporaries, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that some could be walking down the street in Boston, and speaking to someone in Philadelphia or London.  A series of discoveries, experiences, and innovation led to the world we know today.

My boys may not know or understand that when I grew up, there were essentially 3 networks on TV and everyone watched the 6:00 local news, and then the 7:00 national news.  Pong was a cool video game.  Red Dawn was a real concern.  The thought of my beloved Red Sox winning a World Series was a pipe dream, let alone two World Series in three years.  Automatic windows on a car were a luxury.  Going to an Apple store, meant work at the orchard.

Their perspective is that they have communication available at the speed of thought.  Apps are a way of life.  Terrorism is not limited to countries that we just read about. 

Keep perspective of how you got to where you are.  Take time to be self reflective and know that you can change your course if you so choose.  Every morning the sun rises and new beginnings are born.  Take calculated risks and blaze your trail.  Easier said than done, but we crawled before we walked, and walked before we were able to run, and ran before we were able to soar.  Take the first step today.

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I’m GREAT, Doesn’t EVERYONE else know it?

A healthy ego is essential for success in the workplace.  You need to be confident in your own skills, abilities, and experiences as you progress through your career.  That’s a no-brainer.  But, what happens when your employer decides that your skills, abilities, and experiences should be shared elsewhere.  What you are left with is your past, and it becomes vitally important that you impart your SAE to a potentially new employer.  You know you are GREAT!  Everyone else should know it and come knocking down your door, right?

Uh…  Not so much. 

In the workforce these days, there are many, many bright and talented individuals that have skills, abilities, and experiences that are not readily seen.  Thus preparing for your next chapter as a job hunter becomes mission critical.

A couple of ideas that I would like to share, most of which are considered “DUH” ideas, but nonetheless, are share worthy.

  • Keep your eyes wide open while currently employed.  New employers/hiring managers have ego’s too.  They love the idea of “stealing” talent from another organization, however, are not as boastful if they find a “stray”.
  • Research – Social media offers insights into organizations and leaders that 30 years ago were not as easily attained.  Know who you are interviewing with and what that person focuses on.  Understand and use jargon that are hot in your industry now.
  • Plan your behavioral responses, based upon how you utilized your skills and abilities in situations you have been faced with.  How did these contribute as successes and failures to your overall experience for the position.
  • Share openly during the interview, but not too openly.  You don’t want to be perceived as condescending, individualistic, or hard to get a long with during the interview.  Be able to share what you learned as a result of the situation you provided as an example.  Negative situations are the best sharing opportunities as they demonstrate your ability to grow personally and professionally.

Remember, you need to be able to sell yourself forward, not reside in your past.  The person interviewing you may not be able to connect the dots with your diverse experiences, and it is up to you to connect those dots for them.  People that don’t know me, for instance, are quite surprised when I say that I was a History major in college.  Dot connecting has become common place for me.

You are GREAT!  Plan for where you want to be, not for where you are.  Network, network, network!  Doors will open, and you will be able to walk through them!  Good Luck!!

Have a great week!

Blogging…Not Blah Blah Blah

Communication is an evolutionary process.  It began as grunts, groans, and pictures drawn in caves, but has evolved into what we see today.  Plastered on billboards, on our phones, on television, in print, everywhere our senses are, there is some form of communication.  Blogging, is a form of communication as well.  Regardless of the medium, communication must be meaningful for the receiver.

I have recently been reading different blogs posted in a variety of different communities, and one thing has struck me.  If the message is not meaningful for the reader, it will not be read. 

Like any form of communication, there is a sender and a receiver.  The sender, must anticipate what their receivers are wanting to see and hear.  However, the sender does not always know and understand their audience.  They assume that the audience is listening, until their perception of their audience goes silent.  When do they go silent?  When all they hear is blah, blah, blah. 

Why do people blog?  For some it is an agenda they are attempting to further; or a product they are talking up; or a service they are selling.  There are a myriad of excellent writers in the blog world, and I know I have only read a handful of their work. Their work inspires my to continue writing with passion and conviction.  I enjoy reading about personal experiences that writers blog about.  I enjoy reading about how people have turned adversity into success, and now are able to provide better for themselves and their families. 

For me, blogging is more therapeutic. It allows me an opportunity to get thoughts out of my head and clears my mind when I have a busy schedule. It is good to know that every now and then, there are tidbits of advice, or information that a reader of my blog can glean. My intent is not to preach, but rather do a defrag of my mind (to put into more technical terms).

Take the time this week to read some one’s blog and provide feedback on what they are writing about.  There will be blogs that you will read that are inspirational, and there will be others that you as the receiver of communication will hear…blah, blah, blah.

Have a great start to the week, and as always, if you have comments, please post them.  I will respond and I do appreciate you taking the time to read my ramblings.

Listen to be heard

I was watching an excerpt of an interview with Lebron James recently where he spoke about losing last years NBA finals was the worst experience of his career.  He said that experience he was able to turn into a positive situation by ensuring he grew from that experience.
Are athletes the only ones who can draw strength from setbacks and have those negative situations become catalysts for positive future outcomes?  It can be argued that each of us as individuals and as leaders can turn negative situations into positives, we just need to listen and understand how those situations came to be. 

It is easy for leaders to want to “tell”, but the best leaders allow their teams to “experience”.  It is our leadership responsibility to guide people through developing their own experiences, so they can be stronger performers and leaders in the future.

As in the case of an athlete, a coach can preach to a multi million dollar athlete all day, however, it is not until the inexperienced player becomes a seasoned and mature veteran that they really understand and respect the coaching they received early in their careers.  This is why many young, but talented players never are able to win a championship, and why many talented young professionals never reach their full potential. 

Spend more time over the course of the next week listening to your teams, and less time directing.  Hear what they have to say, and they will begin to hear more of what you have to say.  Listen to be heard.

Allowing for experiences is a process.  Allow the process to naturally occur, within a pre-defined framework of established feedback opportunities.  That feedback should be equally provided and needs to allow for a free flow of ideas based upon the experiences obtained since the last feedback opportunity.  Remember, to listen in order to be heard.

Have a great week…

Everything Grows…

Everything grows when it rains.

In nature, in order for things to grow, there must be rain.  As I drove past a field that had been scorched a year ago during a wild fire, there is a lush green field now.  As a leader, we are always challenged to take negative situations and turn them into a positive.  If we find ourselves in situations where we have been burned, we need to look for the opportunity to grow again.

Rain can take many forms.  Rain in this discussion is centered more about the decisions we make in the workplace.  All of us at one time or another have made a poor or ill advised decision in the workplace.  It happens to everyone.  We find ourselves in situations that we often aren’t thinking clearly, and as a result, end up in a place that we didn’t intend to be.

Do you have a reliable weather forecaster, a professional mentor that can guide you through your individual rainstorms?  These mentors are in the places that you least expect them to be and usually the person that you least expect them to be.  Your weather forecaster is someone that you trust to evaluate situations after the fact, and assist you in growing and maturing to not have another negative experience.  They are there to equip you to weather the daily storms that each person encounters.
When looking at rainy periods, it is important for you to understand how the rain developed.  Most of the time it was not El Nino or La Nina, but a series of events that led to a personal setback.  How you weather the storm will determine how sunny the future will be.  At this time, it is critical to spend a few minutes with your weather forecaster, look at the maps (how the situation came from point A to point B) to understand how the series of decisions led to the outcome that occurred.  The growing piece is gaining an understanding of how to avoid bad decisions and make better decisions in the future. 

I had the privilege to attend a panel discussion of senior leaders this week who spoke of having a mentor.  Mentors who would shoot straight with them and encourage them as they developed in their careers.  These mentors are your weather forecasters, the have been there, done that, and earned a t-shirt for the efforts.  Listen to what your forecasters have to say and they will guide you through the juggernaut that is your professional career.  You will have many forecasters throughout your life.  If you tune them out, you will continue to be bitter and scorched, you will never grow.  However, if you reflect on the feedback given to you, and incorporate the feedback to your particular situation, your decisions will be stronger and more decisive as you become more experienced. 

Pay it forward.  Become a forecaster for others and look for opportunities to share your experiences with those who are a little green so that they are able to grow and mature.

In my career, to quote a James Taylor song, “I’ve seen Fire and I’ve seen Rain.  I’ve seen Sunny days that I thought would never end.”  Rain is not always bad, and sun is not always good.  The sunny days always follow the rainy days.  Use those sunny days to grow and mature and I guarantee you will have more sun than rain.  Trust your forecaster to guide you.  Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.

Have a great weekend!

Be the Difference!

What if?

In Garth Brooks song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” he says, “Tell that someone that you love, just what your thinking of, if tomorrow never comes.”

This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently, both personally and professionally.

What if your business plans had to take an unexpected turn?
What if people that you expected to see each day, were no longer there?
What if skills you took for granted today, did not exist tomorrow?

Is the future of those around you secure?  Have you made sure that those that need to have the answers, actually have them?

I know I have asked a lot of questions, however, are you setting your legacy up properly?

I had the privilege of having a phenomenal leader work with me several years ago who made sure her legacy was a positive one.  She worked hard for her team on a daily basis.  I asked her one time why she put so much effort into what she did.  She replied that at the end of the day, it did not matter what she personally accomplished, but rather that when someone uttered her name many years in the future, that there would be positive thoughts associated with her name.  I can say that all who came in contact with her had both personal and professional respect for her.

Recently there have been several people who I knew personally and professionally that have passed away.  I regret that I did not get to know them better than what I did, because they truly left a positive legacy associated with their name.

As a leader, how are you going to be remembered?  Are your employees going to remember you as someone you genuinely cared about them, or someone that was more focused on achieving a number?  Make sure you have proper lines of communication in place to so that your organization can continue in your absence, or the absence of others.

Take time tonight, tomorrow, this week, next week, and as often as you can and tell people around you that you truly care about them.  I guarantee that it will have as much an uplifting effect on you, as it will on others.