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!


A Sense of Purpose

Today’s topic is one that is discussed frequently as a leadership topic, providing a sense of purpose.  I take credit for this not in my workplace, but in the work that my two son’s began this weekend. 

Allow me to table set for a moment.  First of all, they are both A students in high school.  One has been accepted to his dream college on early admission, but is keeping his options open as before he fully commits as he has a desire to play baseball at the collegiate level.  My other son is a sophomore who is definitely coming into his own personality and is very focused in his own right.  They are both focused on being successful in school, but at times it seems they are satisfied with doing enough to stay ahead of their peers.

They began assisting a family friend this weekend on a new business venture that they are assisting him with market research on.  What a better source on how social media is influencing people than with a couple of teenagers.  A great idea for my friend, plus it provide some valuable work experience that allows them not to come home covered in hamburger grease.  A win-win in my book.

Here is the leadership lesson.  They came home fired up and motivated to do well (after a 9AM meeting on a Saturday morning), not just because there was money involved, but they were talking about all the potential they saw and wanted to become part of a greater purpose.  They understood the value of what they were doing and the impact it would have on our friends business.

In our own workplace, are including in our day to day activities a way to integrate a sense of purpose into our culture?  While there are may be a variety of roles and responsibilities in our environments, are we taking the time to make sure that our teams and organizations understand the value of each persons contribution to the “why” we are in business.

I am fortunate, I get to share a story of contribution and success with the rest of the organization I work for in the morning.  Daily my team shares encouragement and stories of success with each other.  As a result, the team has a shared sense of purpose and value.  They support and encourage each other and motivate our leadership to want to do more for them on a daily basis.  At the end of the day, having the shared purpose, creates a shared vision of what success looks like, and we work on it daily.

Take a few minutes this week to recognize those you work with.  Tell stories, because you want to, not because you have to.  They will be much more meaningful to the recipient than if you are going through the motions and simply checking a box.

Have a great week!


What is passion?

The word is used most frequently when one talks of love, or hate.  One definition would say that it is the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm. 

Can you have passion in the workplace?  Most HR professionals would encourage love in the workplace to not occur, however, I would argue that in order for businesses to thrive and grow, you need to have passion.  You need to have a love of what you are doing, just not love those in the workplace as HR would frown upon that.

As a leader, it must be understood that passion for doing the job right got you to where you are today.  Does that same passion or love still exist for you in the job. 

Teachers are a great example of a profession where there are many passionate teachers when they land their first classroom position.  For some, distractions and political agendas replace a love and passion for educating young minds, with a passionate hate for coming to work.  Even the most passionate and energetic educator succumbs to the negativity at some point.  It is those teachers who are able to keep perspective about why they are in the profession that are able to make careers out of the classroom.

Office politics frequently will breed complacency and stifle the innovation and passion of individuals.  Perseverance and vision stimulates the love for the job and allows for positions to develop into careers.  It is important for individuals who lead others to always demonstrate PMA – Positive Mental Attitude.  By doing so as a leader you are rising above the politics and providing vision. 

I am passionate about the work I do.  I wake up each day excited about what the day holds.  I have a vision about how to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.  I understand that politics exist in the workplace, but I also understand that if I don’t have a better solution, it is not a hill worth dying on.  Battles must be selective, because once you have become war weary, your passion for the job, turns to a passion for survival.

Some questions to think about…

Is your current position a job or a career?
Why are you in your current position?
Where are you going?
Does your organizations values align with your values?
Would you do your current job if there was no monetary incentive?

If you can answer the last question, the money question, with a “YES”, I would argue that you have passion for your position.  I love what I do and understand that what I do adds value to others. 

I haven’t written a post in almost 2 months, and I realize that I love writing, but it hadn’t become a passion for me…yet. 

Take some time to look introspectively and create a positive direction for yourself, if you are feeling less than satisfied with where you are.

Have a great week!

Get Fired Up!

When you get up each day are you Fired Up?  Do you bring that same passion to the workplace?

Jon Gordon wrote in his book “Soup”, that the reason that Grandma’s soup tasted better than anything purchased or canned is because of the extra ingredient that Grandma always put in, “Love”.  Grandma’s soup had purpose and she wanted to make sure that each ladle of her soup was just as good as the ladle before.

In organizations large and small, each leader has their own special ingredient to add to the organization, but at the end of the day it is the love, passion, and vision for achieving results which is a leaders special ingredient.  What happens when plans go awry?  Are leaders willing to mix others ideas into their own organizational soup to change for the better?  Are their obstacles to success that the leader is not seeing that are causing performance shortfalls?

There are leaders in every organization who are considered subject matter experts.  Those experts have demonstrated job knowledge and have experiences that others in the organization may not have.  It is important that leaders recognize these SME’s.  Also within organizations are individuals with perspectives and experiences that may lend insight to project and organizational growth.  These individuals should never be discounted.  It is the careful mixing of perspectives and experiences with documented expertise (ingredients) that make the organization as a whole special.

It is important for leaders to take time out of each day to learn of these different perspectives within the organization.  In doing so, the organization becomes stronger.  How does the organization become stronger?  Employees at all levels believe they are connected to decision makers.  By having that connection, the individual does not want to disappoint someone that they feel a connection with.  They feel their perspectives are truly being heard.  The caveat here, leaders must be genuine about their connection building and individuals who have shared with you, also should be followed up with.

If the “Soup” within your organization is not how it should be, as a leader at any level take the time over the next week to reconnect with your team, department, organization.  Start small, but be genuine about this and make sure you understand what has made your organization so appealing to others.  Stir in your passion for excellence and your love for what you do and you will see improvements in areas that you had not seen before.

Ignite the passion in others that you have within yourself for success!

Are you reaching your Nemo?

Are you reaching your Nemo?  You are probably trying to figure out what I am speaking about when I say your “Nemo”.

I have had the privilege of working with many very talented individuals in the past.  One such individual made a comment one day about organizations that followed a “Nemo Principle”. 

He related to me about the part of the 2003 Disney Movie, Finding Nemo, when Nemo and the other fish were stuck in the net.  All the fish caught in the net were all trying to save themselves by swimming any way they could within the net.  When Nemo suggested that they all start swimming the same direction, the fishing net could not contain the hundreds of fish working in unison for a common goal, freedom.  Eventually, as the fish worked together to reverse the direction of the fishing net.  This resulted in  the net breaking and allowed the fish were to swim free, much to the dismay of the local fishermen. 

What is the organizational lesson here?  When organizations share a common vision, and have aligned goals, that success is inevitable, even against unimaginable odds.

Organizational failure occurs when divisions, departments, and teams are focused on their own survival that they forget about the greater direction of the organization.  When this occurs, the results can be catastrophic for the business. 

The movie, “Finding Nemo” produced a myriad of underlying leadership lessons, many of which you can read about on the internet.  Leaders need to not only have a vision, but also make sure that their vision is in line with organizational goals.  Most importantly, leaders must communicate.  Not every detail needs to be communicated, but enough to motivate and inspire others to follow your vision.

Start working today on reaching your “Nemo”. 

Have a great Monday!

Is the Tail wagging the Dog?

Is the tail wagging the dog?  Interesting thought, but what does this mean?

In the workplace, it is important for leaders to be engaged with what motivates their teams.  Leaders are frequently encouraged to have focus groups with their employees, engage them on an interpersonal level, and ensure that your employees have buy in to the corporate vision. 

In my mind, the most important aspect is that the corporation have vision and that there is a top down understanding of what the values are of organization.  A really good example of this I watched on an episode of Undercover Boss.  Each meeting from the corporate level down to the newest franchise started off meetings with reviewing the mission, vision, and values.  That was eye-opening for me.  In organizations that I have worked in people have expressed concern about an understanding of what the mission, vision, and values were, and how they applied to the work they did.  Because there lacked a clear understanding, people at varying levels of the organization made decisions based upon what their interpretation was of the mission, vision, and values.  Thus, the tail started to wag the dog.

If you have ever seen a really excited dog, their tails are moving all over the place seemingly directing the dog.  Eventually the dog starts chasing the tail, and loses total control of their original mission.

Organizations do the same thing.  Things to remember though.  Employee engagement and recognition is paramount to the success of all organizations from small business to large international corporations.  Make decisions and changes that are more incremental and build upon each other, rather ones that create a “shock and awe” effect, although, sometimes “shock and awe” are inevitable because of the changes.

Most importantly, focus on the culture of the organization.  If the right culture is established, alignment of the mission, vision, and values throughout the organization is virtually guaranteed.  I have found that sub-cultures can be created within the department and divisional levels, but ultimately must be those sub-cultures have to align themselves with organization as whole.

Think about your current position.  Does your organization have a tail wagging the dog mentality?  If so, once those are in place, they are like a flea infestation and could take months and years to completely reverse.

Chart your course beginning today, both personally and professionally.  Regain focus and purpose and have a hostile takeover of your life and your organization!