A Leadership Experience

This past week, I had the privilege of watching a group of leadership program candidates graduate from their experience.  As a Board Member for a local trade association, I was there as this program is a Board sponsored program. 

There were some important lessons that I took away from this dinner, aside from the fact the dinner, was AWESOME!  All of these lessons are more “duh” moments when you sit back and think about it, however, they definitely served as reminders that you have to take the time to get  back to the basics from time to time as leader.

1. Leadership is a journey, not a destination
2. Each person has their individual spin they put on leadership
3. Have a dream; develop a plan; execute on your strategy
4. No two leaders execute in the same manner, nor are their experiences the same
5. Just because leadership styles are different, doesn’t mean one is more right than another
6. If you are learning in a homogeneous environment, you lose diversity in thought and experiences
7. Successful leaders are always networking and exchanging ideas
8. Leaders must be open to differing perspectives and allow results to happen as a consequence of execution
9. Leadership is not about the leader
10. Leaders must take the time to “smell the roses” and celebrate the success of their teams and organizations
11. Leaders need to be facilitators for growth and development, not managers of activities
12. Leaders don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, but they need to have vision and effective communication skills

These 2013 graduates of The Austin Contact Center Association Service Leadership Academy did a great job in their journey.  Several of the graduates are already on their way to successful adventures inside their organizations, but also outside of their organization.  I don’t think that they realize how much they taught this member of the audience.  I hope they do now.

Have a great week!

Where are you going, and why?

So, you are in transition, but are have you prepared yourself for your next big thing?  Maybe its not a “big” thing, maybe its just your thing.

With graduations occurring over the next couple of months, many students will be asked so what are you going to do now?  Many expect to be making 60K+ because that is a lifestyle they have become used to.  They have become used to their parents lifestyle, but they really don’t remember how their parents started off, in most cases.  What is worse, is that many students are entering a world of debt that they are not prepared for. 

There has been much written in blogs, journals, and other publications about the debt that new High School and College Graduates will be saddled with, however, when working adults transition in their lives, are they truly ready and prepared?  Debt is one aspect of transition.  The more important aspect of transition, in my opinion, is how prepared is a person ready for the challenges of their next role?  For some, it is a promotion.  For others, it is a demotion.  For others, it is a total career change.  What people forget is how their experiences in a prior role can translate into a new adventure.

Here is an example.  Working in a contact center is not a lifelong dream of most young people.  Most contact centers, however, are staffed with individuals that bring a unique “flavor” to their employer.  They may have sold insurance; be technically savvy; have a legal background; sales background, etc.  They may have coursework that range from very little to PhD’s, those that have college degrees, and others that have GED’s.  The main point is that they prepared themselves as a professional in some way that makes them valuable to their employer.

As a person embarks on their next challenge, they need to ask themselves some very simple questions, regardless of the industry they are in.

  • Why am I embarking on this challenge
  • What do I hope to gain from this experience
  • Who will mentor me
  • When will I know if I am successful
  • Where do I see myself in 6 months, a year, five years
  • How is this experience going to allow me to improve or increase the tools in my toolbox

Education is an investment in a persons future, however, education without experience often leads to frustration.  When new college graduates expect to be earning 60K+ directly out of school, they don’t realize the importance of experience.  Some are able to land high paying jobs directly out of school with very little experience, however, those are the exceptions.

Education and experience can come from many different places.  Be open to coaching, mentoring, constant development whenever it is offered to you.  This will allow you to become more well rounded as your career evolves.  Understand where you are at currently, know where you want to be, but most importantly know that your path is going to have a myriad of directional changes which will prepare you for the next fork in the road. 

Have a good week!

Bosses Day Thank You’s!

Today is Bosses Day!  While not a very important day (not a national holiday), it is a humbling day for bosses, in my opinion.  It is important for each leader, not boss, to remember where they came from and who our influences were as we increased our levels of responsibility. 

So, today, I want to recognize some of my Bosses with a short sentence or two on how they influenced me.

John Sprague – Taught me the importance of “WORK” and focus, and most importantly responsibility.
Jon Hobble – Taught me how to take a chance and “go for it”!  If I didn’t listen to Jon, I wouldn’t have taken my first plunge into leadership.
Rick Simmons – Taught me about the importance of being tenacious and driven in the workplace.
Roger Sedlacek – Made me first think about leadership, not management.  I still find myself asking the question, am I people leader, or a technical leader?
Lee Ervin – A mentor to me.  Taught me the importance of integrity in results.
Erica Mortenson – At the end of the day, all people will remember is a name and is your name associated with positive or negative thoughts.  Erica reported up to me but this conversation has resonated with me for years.
Angela Dossey – A mentor, and a friend.  Taught me how to be human at work and never forget where you came from.  Through Angela, I realized the importance of having fun at work and not to sweat the small stuff.  “Is it a hill worth dying on?
Sean Dickson – A mentor and fellow Jayhawk!  Taught me the importance of relationships from the aspect that I work in a small, but large industry, and everyone knows everyone. 
Terence Hayes – A mentor, and a friend.  Taught me the importance of humility in the workplace.  Success is not about the individual but about the team that worked together to achieve it.  Through Terence I really learned the difference between leadership and management.  Always inspect what is expected!
Shelia Dunlap – A friend, and a mentor.  Through Shelia I have started to recognize my potential as a leader.  Through Shelia, I have realized that credit is not as important as execution.  Take the time to inspire others to reach their potential.

There are many others that I have had the privilege to work with and for.  Remember, as a leader, each of us have an impact on those around us, both directly and indirectly.  Take the time each day to recognize the impact of your actions on others.

Have fun, work hard, enjoy life!  Happy Bosses Day!

The Problem in K-12 Education

The problem of K-12 education is something that is near and dear to me.  As a parent, as a member of the business community, and as the spouse of an educator, it is apparent to me that the problem in the classroom is what is allowed to occur outside of the classroom. 

It is not what is going on with students in their home life, but rather how the educational system is more concerned about data, scores, and labels.  As a result, school districts are focused more on standardized tests, rather than truly educating, teaching, and mentoring the next generation.

As I was growing up, you always heard of teachers speaking of the student teaching they had done, what their experiences were, and how they wanted to be teachers.  Today, there are more adults in the classroom and in administration that have never learned how to teach, and may not truly have the passion for teaching.  They are instructors as they are solely focused on test results. 

A teacher in my opinion, is an individual that truly has a passion for her students and can think out of the box to facilitate the learning process.  Teachers understand that true education is created when creativity is nurtured and when small successes are celebrated.  Teachers focus on the student as an individual learner, not as a part of the population in her class that did not pass the standardized test.

We need to get back to the basics in our requirements for teachers.  They need to understand what they are getting into when they agree to become a classroom teacher.  It is not an easy job, it is one of the most thankless jobs, but one that has more scrutiny in this country than most of our careers.  We should focus less on teacher accountability for test scores, and more on teacher responsibility in the classroom.  It is not an 8-3:30 job with summers off.  Teachers must, in my opinion, have coursework in how to educate and reach students, not just have a specific degree.  Instructors can be used in the business world, we need teachers, or rather educators in the classroom.

The way to improve K-12 education is to make it a requirement that our classroom teachers have actual documented teaching experience.  In other professions, we would not allow a surgeon to become licensed after only receiving an undergraduate degree in biology.  Or an attorney to become licensed because they have a liberal arts degree.  We should have the same expectation of for the teaching profession. 

Not every student is going to become an Nobel Prize winner, and not all students want to learn.  But at least create an environment where they are truly being educated rather than being labeled by their test scores.

There are a ton of highly qualified teachers with experience and passion for their students, unfortunately, in my opinion, they represent the minority in the profession.

That’s my rant for now…..

Teachable Moments

Everyday has its teachable moments, it is up to each person as an individual as to whether or not they choose to take advantage of those moments.

In education, it is expected that teachers and administrators are always providing those teachable moments for their students.  In the workplace it is expected that supervisors are always providing those teachable moments.  In sports, it is expected that coaches are providing those teachable moments.  Unfortunately, in all of these scenarios, those teachable moments do not always occur.

The question I pose is why are those teachable moments not acted upon.  There are a myriad of reasons as to why they don’t, in my opinion, but at the end of the day it comes down to WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

I have had the privilege of being associated with individuals that thought less about the WIIFM, and more about the impact of not taking advantage of a teachable moment.  As a student, in retrospect, I learned the importance of creating a baseline for future learning.  As a youth sports coach, I learned the importance of setting a high bar, and to focus on fundamentals.  As a rising leader, I learned the importance of controlling what I could control, and not put as much effort into negativity in the workplace.  The important aspect of teachable moments is for leaders to be open to these moments, either as a learner or as a teacher.

If you expect excellence from those around you, you need to demonstrate what excellence looks like.  Take the moments, personally and professionally to not expect A+ efforts, but give people insight as to what A+ effort looks like.  What’s in it for you?  A stronger organization, a better way forward, buy in to the vision, commitment.

I saw a great teachable moment by a group of law enforcement officers having lunch together.  Two younger officers were giggling and making comments about a very overweight officer from another department.  The older officer that was with them told them to knock it off and presumably that their behavior was inappropriate.  You could tell that the older officer was very direct as the giggling ceased immediately.  This example is where an experienced professional took advantage of a teachable moment, and hopefully the younger officers will remember their experiences.

Take advantage of teachable moments every chance they arise.  You never know when one of these moments will be life changing for you.  I have had several of these and each one of these A-ha moments has been more valuable than the last

Have a great week!