Saturday, July 27, 2013

If at First You Don't Succeed

Goals should be things that are a stretch.  They should be things that aren't easy to achieve.  If you are truly setting goals (and not benchmarks) you will sometimes fail to hit the mark.  Take, for example, the 31-Day Blog Challenge I participated in this month.  Add in the most teaching and program days at work I have had in a while, designing a new program that has to be presented to and approved by my equivalent of the C-Suite, getting a cold from constantly going back and forth between 107 degree F heat index and 70 degree F air conditioning, and top it off with my first trip to the ER with my 21 month old son because of a fall (official diagnosis and treatment: a small bruise and a popsicle).  Needless to say, I have failed my 31-Day Blog Challenge.  And I failed it in front of all of you.

So, we are making this a teaching moment on goal setting and resilience.  I will continue blogging through the end of the month AND I will redo the challenge on my own in August.  It is still a huge stretch for me but the amount of things I have learned this month have better equipped me to meet the challenge.

What was the last goal you failed to achieve (publicly or privately)?  Will you join me in trying again with your new wisdom behind you?  Let's do it!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Little Good News

I figured out why I am so excited about the Royal Baby Boy. There is an old Anne Murray Song - A Little Good News that says it perfectly and is my song for the day. 

I rolled out this morning
Kids had the mornin' news show on
Bryant Gumbel was talkin' 'bout the fighting in Lebanon
Some senator was squawkin' 'bout the bad economy
It's gonna get worse you see, we need a change in policy

There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band
One more sad story's one more than I can stand
Just once how I'd like to see the headline say
"Not much to print today, can't find nothin' bad to say", because

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town
Nobody OD'ed, nobody burned a single buildin' down
Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain
We sure could use a little good news today

I'll come home this evenin'
I'll bet that the news will be the same
Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane
How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a county fair
And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care
Whoa, tell me

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today
And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play
And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA
We sure could use a little good news today

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town
Nobody OD'ed, nobody burned a single buildin' down

Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain
We sure could use a little good news today 

Though dated is hauntingly applicable in today's world. Even if you are not a fan of the British Monarchy or babies in general, join me in celebrating that, just for a moment, all over the world, the news agencies put a happy story up front. Congratulations to Will and Kate!

Monday, July 15, 2013


There will never be a perfect time, sometimes you just have to make a move. 

For what?  Honestly, it doesn't matter. We are constantly saying I will do that when I have more money, I will apply for that job when I have more experience, I will volunteer when I have more time, etc. 

There will never be a perfect time. 

If you spend your life waiting for "when" you will miss some amazing opportunities. 

Does that mean you should take a fantasy vacation on your credit cards or apply for an executive chef position if you have never even been able to make toast?  Of course not. 

It means you need to break your big goal down into small goals and make one move today that will get you closer.  Start  putting $25 a paycheck in a savings account for that vacation. Pick a new recipe to try for dinner. Read a book, a magazine, or a blog in an area that interests you. Research volunteer opportunities you can do with your child or in the time you have after your child goes to sleep. Walk around the block after lunch or dinner. Just one move to get just one step closer. 

What will you do today instead of waiting?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why Starting at the Bottom is the Best

I learned something the other day watching my 20 month old son learning how to climb a small rock climbing wall.  There is a reason it is good to start at the bottom - you have less room to fall and it is so much easier to get back up when you do.

The same can be said about the business world.  I hear people talking about younger generations in the workforce "wanting to run the organization their first week."  Suffice it to say, they simply feel like their skills are not being fully utilized, but that is for another article.

This article is for people of any age starting a new career.  Appreciate the fact that you get to learn from the ground up.  Just like a child playing on a rock climbing wall, you are going to slip every now and then.  In the business world, it is called "failing forward" and it is a legitimate form of adult learning.  In fact, on-the-job experience is actually the most effective way for adults to learn.

Experiment with new ways of doing things but don't forget to watch how others navigate the path as well.  That way you are actually choosing rather than just following or rebelling.

Test your footing before you move on to the next step.  If you're not stable where you are you can't climb higher and if you slip back you lose the progress you've already made.

Look three or four steps ahead as you plan your way.  Don't just think about where you are now.  Copying policies and procedures may not be the most exciting job in the world, but if you're going to change them you have to read them sometime.  Why not start now.

Look at your career as an adventure.  Don't get caught up in what you think you should be doing.  Follow your dreams and your passion.  Things will not always be sunshine and roses and resilience is easier when you are fully committed.

Never stop reaching.  Once you've climbed the wall you planned look for another wall to challenge you.

So get your footing on the trainer wall and then you can expand to greater things.  You will have the confidence that only experience can bring and you will climb quicker than you would if you started with the a mountain first.

What is the next wall you want to climb?  How can you gain experience in a safe learning environment first?

Photo Credits: Girl on Wall - Caroline Knox; Man With a View - Heather Ellis.  Thank you to Caroline Knox and Justin Snead for the great pictures!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Business of Leadership Development is Not Easy

There are many books, courses, blogs, and podcasts out there that can help you become a better leader. So why aren't we a world of master leaders?  Simply, because the business of leadership development is not easy.  

When I took a developmental rotation from my position as an attorney to my position in as a leadership development professional I had many people tell me that I had sabotaged my career.  To this day, I am constantly asked if I am having fun or when I am going to go back to my "real" job.  In other words someone with a law degree is only at their highest and best use if they are doing legal analysis.  

I would like to point out two things...

First, the work I do on a daily basis as a leadership development professional is harder than any legal analysis I have ever done.  Legal analysis goes something like this.  You have a rule, you have a set of facts, you apply the rule to the set of facts and determine whether the facts are within the rule or not.  An acceptable answer is "It could go either way" because humans write laws and humans are constantly searching for and finding the loopholes.  (See Will Your Leadership Put Your Organization on the Front Page of the Washington Post for more of my thoughts on this perpetual cycle.)  In my position, if there was a hole in the law I would get to try to figure out how to close the loophole and then do it all over again when someone found a hole in that.  The cycle is a challenge for a few years and then it gets repetitive and frustrating.  Leadership development, on the other hand, is a constant challenge to find what drives people, what will help people develop, where the organization is and needs to go, etc.  Because the people I am working with always change, the process always changes.  The challenge is constant and increasing in this economy.

Second, in a recent Pew Survey, only 18% of those surveyed agreed that lawyers contribute "a lot" to society's well being.  Ouch.  The military, teachers, medical doctors, scientists, and engineers led the list.  When I look back on my role as a lawyer, I cannot honestly say that I contributed "a lot" to society's well being.  Yes, I filled a basic reactive need to keep the bureaucratic and legal system running.  But mostly, I enable a lot of lawyers to bill their clients extreme amounts of money (often more than they would have paid in taxes) to avoid paying taxes.  As a leadership development professional, I have unlimited bounds to contribute "a lot" to society's well being.  Much of the work I do helps the people I work with (and myself!) become not just a better leader but a better person.  Emotional intelligence and all those "soft skills" are not manipulative tools to get people to do what you want them to - they are ways of treating other people with the dignity and respect they deserve - in the workplace and outside of it.

So why is the business of leadership development so hard?  Here are just a few of the challenges I see in the field.

1.  Leaders are not self-aware.  Emerging leaders are often those most interested in leadership development (and usually have the least access to it).  They are eager to learn new things, relatively untainted by the existing culture, and cognizant of the fact that there are things they can learn.  Senior leaders and executives often approach leadership training as something they need to investigate for their employees.  Some of the people I respect the most as leaders are the first ones to tell me what they learned from a program that they didn't know.  Leadership development is a lifetime process.  Anyone who thinks they are "finished" probably needs the training most of all.

2.  The constant focus on training return-on-investment does not factor in the investment made by the participant to apply the concepts.  Leadership development professionals are often asked to show their return on investment.  This is difficult because for every hour in class a participant needs to spend 7-10 hours actively applying the concepts, reflecting on the results, and adjusting their course.  Quite frankly, very few people do this.  Even more frankly, if the participant is not willing to invest this time, it is probably not worth it to send them to any training.  Leadership development professionals do not have a magic wand to make people better leaders after they sit in a room answering e-mails on their blackberry for a few hours.  All leadership development professionals teach processes that must be applied to create change.

3.  Leaders really want people who will do what they say and not question their decisions or methods.  I recently spoke with a person who asked their executive about the "optics" of a decision the executive was pushing and the executive told the person that was the executive's job to worry about not the employees.  I put this behavior in the category of career derailer for any leader and serious worry for an executive.  Not only does this behavior instantly decrease employee engagement but "optics" and "ethics" particularly should be every person's concern.  That is how organizations stay out of trouble.  If you do not reward critical questioning from your employees, or worse, actively stifle it like this executive did, you are certainly headed for trouble.  While listening and developing others are constantly taught, if a leader does not truly value the skills, his or her actions will defeat any training provided.

4.  Leaders think leadership training is what "their people" need.  In addition to the self-awareness piece mentioned above, there is a modeling problem here.  If you are not attending training along side your "people" you are exhibiting that it is important only for lesser leaders.  No one wants to be viewed as a lesser leader so they fear the implication of being seen at leadership training.  There is also a common culture developed when an entire organization or team hears the same training.  They develop language to talk about conflicts and decisions that focuses on the process and ideas not the people.  If the executive is not aware, they can defeat all the work a team is trying to do by violating the common culture even if it is unintentional.

5.  Training funding gets cut first from budgets.  This is a fact.  It is often tied to the return on investment question, but there is also that "it is fun" or "soft stuff" stigma attached.  Organizations struggling financially or ethically should hunker down and increase leadership training, because true leaders and a sustainable pool of leadership talent are the only things that can turn the organization around.

6.  Technical experts think their expertise makes them experts in leadership.  I have an expertise in a type of tax law.  But if you ask me about criminal law, most of my knowledge will come from Law and Order reruns.  In past jobs I have worked with brilliant scientists whose worked changed the world as we know it and yet they needed my help to put together a budget.  Technical expertise in one area does not make you an expert in other areas.  For most areas we commonly accept this as a given.  For some reason, we feel that being a technical expert will make a person a good leader of other technical experts and expect them to just pick it up.  We need to recognize leadership as a discipline and skill and give people training in it before we throw them to the wolves.  (And those technical experts who have competed with co-workers for a leadership position and then had to work with the non-selected applicants afterwards know that "wolves" is not an exaggeration.)

7.  Lack of respect for the discipline.  All of these things have led to a true lack of respect for the discipline even though the number of books on the topic should be a clear indicator of the sincere need for it.  As should every scandal in the news that is traced back to poor leadership.   

So the next time you meet a leadership development professional, ask them questions.  Ask them lots and lots of questions (we love those).  Because in asking questions you are opening yourself up to learning.  It is a first step, granted, but you can't take the second step until you take the first.  

Are You Ready for Leadership Development

From Dan Rockwell @Leadershipfreak (well actually from his wife via his blog)..."People who already know can't be taught."  The whole blog piece is hilarious but I wanted to focus a bit on the serious side of the message.

Let's start with the big question I hear so often.  "Are leaders made or taught?"  My opinion is that some people have an innate understanding of leadership concepts in the way that some people have an innate understand of how to throw a baseball or play a guitar.  It is easier for them to learn and master but they still have to practice if they want to make it to the big time.  For the rest of the world, there are thousands of models, books, courses, blogs, podcasts, etc. (if not millions by now) to help them learn what the others seem to innately know.  But it is like going to a piano lesson, if you don't go home after the lesson and practice, you might as well not go at all.

In other words, true leaders master their craft through a lifetime of learning, practice, and reflection.

The next question I hear repeatedly is "There are so many books, models, and classes out there, where do I start?"  This is where self-awareness and reflection come in.

How do you learn best?  Reading or hearing?  If by reading, pick up a book.  If by hearing, pick out an audiobook or attend a class.

The most important thing, however, is to reflect on WHY you picked that method, what you learned, how you tried to incorporate it, what worked/what didn't, and what you will try next time.  I recommend using a daily leadership journal for this.

Now you have to pick a model or process that fits your values, style, and process.  If you make a huge jump to something that doesn't make sense to you or fit with your style it will never last (just like working out).  Pick something that fits you.

The hardest part of all leadership, however, is self-awareness.  If you hear a best practice in a class and automatically say "I already do that" it is time to check yourself.  I have spent five years studying leadership and I hear new things daily.  I also catch myself doing something against everything I know daily.  We are human.  Part of the learning process is recognizing when you are operating at your best and when you are not because no one operates at their best every moment of every day.

If you think you don't need leadership training you probably have a very low realization of how others view you.  I have met people that I do not think need leadership training and they are the first people to tell me what they learned from a presentation and how they will incorporate it.  Reading books and going to lectures will not in and of itself make you a better leader.  For every hour you spend reading or  in training you should spend 7-10 hours practicing, incorporating, and reflecting on the process.  If you are not doing this, you will not get a return on your investment in the training.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 12 of the Blogging Challenge

When I signed up for the 31 Day Blogging Challenge my main objective was to train myself to write every day.  I found so much more.  The challenge leader has provided daily support, encouragement, and tips that I look forward to reading every morning.  The challenge also includes reading and commenting on other participant's blogs.  I have found some wonderful bloggers and am thoroughly enjoying sharing this process with them.

I think sometimes when we take on a challenge we may anticipate some of what we will gain, but often, we learn so much more than we ever expected.  If we can keep that in mind as we begin challenges maybe it will push us a little harder?

Twelve days into the challenge, I have already topped my previous high monthly views.  For those bloggers who have posts with views in the millions, the activity on my blog may not be earth shattering.    For me, it is truly inspiring.

If you have a blog or want to start one, I recommend signing up for the next challenge.  If you do, let me know so I can cheer you on!

Thursday, July 11, 2013


How can one small word strike fear in the hearts of many.  I applied for a independent contractor position teaching yesterday and received an e-mailed rejection today.  At first that little gremlin that lives in my head said "See, I told you so!"

But seriously, it is just an e-mail.  From someone who probably knows nothing about me because 10,000 other people probably applied for the same one job.  (Shhh, that is the story I am telling myself tonight.)

Mia Hamm said "Failure happens all the time.  It happens every day in practice.  What makes you better is how you react to it."

So once I got through the disappointment and the rationalization, I realized how quickly they both passed.  Why, because then I got to the point where I realized I had put myself out there for something I was interested in and now had a contact.  So I wrote another e-mail (one I hope will be answered) about what skills I could enhance to be competitive for future openings.  Who better to tell me that than the person who has to go through all those applications.  (I may be okay with it but I am still sticking to that 10,000 number.)

Then something amazing happened, it occurred to me that while I am looking for a part-time job to supplement my income, I can really find out what are the types of jobs and key skills that are necessary for the next job search I make.  The big one.  After my detail to the best job a person could ever have is over.  That little paradigm shift made me actually look forward to applying for jobs and interviewing people who are posting jobs like those I want to be ready for in a few years.

All that because I stepped outside of my comfort zone last night, applied for something I have been thinking about applying for for a couple of years now, and received a very polite and prompt rejection e-mail.

What paradigm shifts have you had that turned something you originally feared and often avoided action because of that fear into something you looked forward to?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happiness is Something We Create

Country music fans will recognize the title of this post as a line from Sugarland's "Something More."  (If you don't recognize it, it is definitely worth a download.)  What I love about the song is that it is about finding and following your passion.  Living up to everything there is in store for you.  But not in a "fate" type of way, but in a proactive - create your own happiness type of way.  

Another song I love for this is "Firework" by Katy Perry.  It challenges you to open the door to the perfect road.  

These are just two of the songs I regularly listen to in the morning to get ready for the day.  Consider it a pre-game ritual.  

Does music boost your spirit and energy level?  What songs do you listen to to get you inspired?  Do you make it a routine?

Something More by Sugarland
Firework by Katy Perry

Monday, hard to wake up
Fill my coffee cup, I'm out the door
Yeah, the freeway's standing still today
It's gonna make me late, and thats for sure
I'm running out of gas and out of time
Never gonna make it there by nine

There's gotta be something more
Gotta be more than this
I need a little less hard time
I need a little more bliss

I'm gonna take my chances
Taking a chance I might
Find what I'm looking for
There's gotta be something more

Five years and there's no doubt
That I'm burnt out, I've had enough
So now boss man, here's my two weeks
I'll make it short and sweet, so listen up
I could work my life away, but why?
I got things to do before I die

[Repeat Chorus]

Some believe in destiny, and some believe in fate
I believe that happiness is something we create
You best believe that I'm not gonna wait
'Cause there's gotta be something more

I get home 7:30 the house is dirty, but it can wait
Yeah, 'cause right now I need some downtime
To drink some red wine and celebrate
Armageddon could be knocking at my door
But I ain't gonna answer that's for sure.
There's gotta be something!

[Repeat Chorus]
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams, but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth

Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe you're reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it's time, you'll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh, oh, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Do You Do With Customer Service Feedback?

I received this e-mail from in the mail about one simple act - way to go Henry!

My name is Henry.

As you may not know, after considerable expense of my time and money and at some cost to the peace in our home, I planted over a thousand flowers at Washington DC's Dupont Circle Metro North Station. Metro ordered me to stop. If I stop, the flowers could die before they bloom.

I was stunned and saddened that I would face “arrest, fines and imprisonment” if I continued to tend to the thousand flowers I planted at the Dupont Circle Metro North Station.

Out of the goodness of my heart, last Fall I planted over 100 bulbs in the very same neglected garden squares. Months later they bloomed, sharing their joy and beauty with fellow Metro Riders.
This Spring I returned. I weeded and two trash bags were filled with more than 300 discarded cigarette butts, shards of glass, wads of gum, tree branches and assorted fast food restaurant garbage.
But Metro doesn't want me there citing various concerns. To help avoid legal concerns, I even offered to sign a waiver to hold Metro harmless. I am willing to work with Metro to explore long term solutions to making the Dupont North Station entrance more attractive.

During this time when our country faces numerous challenges, it does not makes sense to discourage and delay the creation of something beautiful. The world is not as bad as it is often portrayed in the news. This is an opportunity for all of us to make something beautiful.
I hope you will sign my petition. Thank you.

Did Henry follow the proper procedures, probably not.  I honestly don't know what they are or how Henry would have found out what they were if he wanted.  Is there a WMATA policy, procedure, or rule being violated?  Probably.  But can we look deeper at what is going on here for just a minute and try to look for a WIN-WIN solution?

First, WMATA needs to understand that one of its customers is giving it serious feedback.  And it is not just about aesthetics.  Check out the two trash bags of debris he removed.  If WMATA has someone whose job is to keep the area clean that is obviously not being done.  What is more likely is that there is a position for that but it has not been filled due to budget cutbucks.  

Second, WMATA needs to consider the public image of letting all the work and flowers die.  Henry's proactive act probably did cheer up thousands of visitors every day.  Given the mechanical issues WMATA faces, wouldn't it be better if your customers smile before getting to the station and finding a loaded platform with people pushing you this way and that?

Third, Henry's actions are sustainable and repeatable.  Why not use Henry as a poster boy (sorry Henry) for creating community gardens around all the metro stations.  The metro stations already are recognized as community centers, community gardens are a popular trend to give city folks an area to tend, adopt-a-highways in the late 80's started the trend by getting active groups to clean up highways for free, and it would be a huge (positive) PR move for an organization that struggles with constant negative customer feedback.  

I challenge the leadership at WMATA to seek to understand what this customer is telling it and work to find a WIN-WIN solution that is sustainable and repeatable to firmly establish the metro stations as community centers and allow the local communities to take responsibility for keeping it clean and pleasant.  

Let's hear it for Metro's New Adopt-A-Station Community Garden Partnership!  (WMATA, feel free to change the name if you don't like it, just please run with it and put Henry as a committee lead to help other gardens blossom!)

In the meantime, if you want to sign Henry's Petition, Click Here.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

One Simple Act Ten-Day Ripple Challenge

"Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day, someone might do the same for you."  Princess Diana

A few months ago I wrote about how One Simple Act can create a ripple around you and effect people you may never know.  The responsibility that comes with this knowledge is to try to make those acts positive, proactive, and uplifting.

Under the premise that acting as a group we can create more positive change than we could alone, I encourage you to take the One Simple Act Ten-Day Ripple Challenge.

Each day, tweet and/or facebook post your simple act with the hastag #onesimpleactripple.  The tweets will scroll on this blog for everyone to see.  Share the challenge with your friends and family and see what collective change we can make in the next ten days.

Join me in this moving endeavor.  Comment below on how you feel when you complete your daily challenge.  Not enough of a challenge for you?  See how many positive things you can rack up over the next ten days?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Night

Every Monday morning that old 80's song "Manic Monday" runs through my head - even when it is a good Monday.  Why?  The same reason that Friday night is exciting even if you stay at home and go to bed early.  Because we've created a cycle where Monday's are bad and Fridays are fun.

Call it the beauty of a four-day weekend or all the positive proactive thinking I've been doing lately, but I am ready to buck the trend.  Mondays are the days you get to start over.  It is like New Year's Day every week!  Which of course makes every Sunday night like New Year's Eve.  So as you finish up your laundry and get ready for the week, think about what resolutions you will make this week.  Don't get overwhelmed trying to change everything at once.  Pick one thing you are willing to commit to for a whole week.  Here are a few ideas to try if you need a little inspiration...

  1. Read a professional journal for 20 minutes each day.
  2. Mediate for 20 minutes each day.
  3. Write in a journal every night.
  4. Take a walk at lunch every day.
  5. Eat a salad for at least one meal each day.
  6. Spend 1 hour each evening doing something with your children that they want to do.
  7. Tell one person each day how they make a positive difference in your life.
  8. Buy the person behind you at Starbucks his or her coffee.
  9. Take your lunch to work every day.
  10. Spend 20 minutes each day planning your day and identifying two high-priority items you want to accomplish each day and celebrate the completion of each item at night.
These are just ideas - what will you do this week?  Let us know and follow up with how it goes!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kids These Days

My cousin's 14-year old daughter, Lizzi, is spending time with me this summer and we are having a blast.  My son Jackson loves his "ZZ" and I am loving having her here.  We visited Nando's because that is where One Direction eats and I was feeling so "with it."  (Yes, I know, just typing with it in quotes makes me old.)  But then today I really started feeling my age.  She found a toy shop I had never been in and it was the cutest place ever.  Of course Jackson loved it because it had train tables (score five minutes of sitting down in peace and quiet!).  When she had looked all around the store she sat with Jackson and I looked around.  I felt 14 myself when I found Shrinky Dinks.  You know, those plastic things you color and then bake, they shrink down and get thicker?  I loved these when I was younger.  I got so excited I grabbed some and took them back and said "Do you like Shrinky Dinks?"  "What are Shrinky Dinks?"  Ouch.  That's okay, I am being proactive now, right?  We are soooo buying the Shrinky Dinks.  She indulges me.

When we get home we video chat with my cousin who has three more teenagers at home (and on video).  Lizzi tells her mom we bought Shrinky Dinks.  She gets appropriately excited and then you hear three voices in the background, "What are Shrinky Dinks?"  My cousin tells me we are showing our age.  Not a problem, proactive positive leader that I am.  We are making Shrinky Dinks.  We spend about an hour coloring and then put the first batch in the over.  "THAT IS SOOOO COOOL!"  Lizzi is a fan!  Score one for the old people.

After Jackson goes to sleep we finish watching the good-but-not-appropriate-for-a-toddler Hansel and Gretel we started while he was napping this afternoon.  I mention at the end that they definitely left it open for a sequel.  She wonders aloud how since the story of Hansel and Gretel ends with them killing the witch.  I point out that Buffy the Vampire Slayer went 8 years after she killed the first vampire.  "Who's Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"  I channel my inner Cathy - AAAACCCK!  I explain to her that we will now be watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix.  We choose the first episode (easily found because it is the first thing in my instant queue) and she says this was done in 1997?  (Side note, how is the first Buffy episode 16 years old already?)

So we're sitting here watching Buffy argue for the first time with Giles about how she is retired and I am writing about this fun experience.  Between Nando's and Shrinky Dinks we have both learned something from each other this summer.  (I now know why the One Direction guys eat there - the food is awesome.)  But we wouldn't have had these experiences if we hadn't opened up to each other and been willing to learn.  I don't know if she will ever love Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as I do, but it doesn't matter so much.  I am honored that she watched an episode with me.

How often in the workplace do we assume something based on a person's age?  They are so far from cool I can't be seen with them?  They have body art and piercings, I can't be seen with them?  When really, if we just give someone a chance, we might find a new favorite restaurant, hobby, or tv show?  Next time you start to write someone off, challenge yourself to learn something new.  You'll be doing both of you a favor.

What have you learned unexpectedly from someone in another generation?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Be Proactive

I mentioned yesterday that I taught Franklin Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Signature program this week.

I love the concept of shifting your paradigm and behavior to get different results.  After all, Albert Einstein said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Covey's first habit is "Be Proactive" and the underlying assumption is that "I am free to choose and am responsible for my choices."  Obviously, this idea of choice has been on my mind a lot lately.

When we get stuck in a constant reactive pattern, we feel like a victim of our circumstances.  And let's face it, no one wants to follow a victim.

So how do we make the shift to proactive leader?  We choose to.  For those out there saying "you don't understand, in my job I have no authority to be proactive."  Actually, I do understand (as I sit here writing this on a furlough day).  And while I understand that there are circumstances where it seems impossible to be proactive, I still believe we are all making choices whether we acknowledge them or not.

The question then becomes, how will you choose to be in any situation?  If your job is so consistently reactive, how can you plan your actions ahead of time?  Think of a military troop practicing possible battle scenarios or a professional sports team practicing defensive plays.

If you've decided to choose to be proactive (and you are still with me) you may be wondering "Where do I start?".  Covey has a great model that separates the Circle of Concern from the Circle of Influence, but I will break it down even further - focus on that which you can control.

Write down a list of reactive situations you've encountered in the last month.  How could you have planned ahead and been ready for them?  What other scenarios could arise and what is your plan for them?  What can you put in place now to be prepared?  Look for alternatives and options rather than focusing on one plan.

For example, my days consistently seem to be hijacked by conversations and/or projects I hadn't anticipated, preventing me from finishing what was on my list for the day.  My CHOICE is to now plan half-days so that I have time to work on things that come up and my long-term projects.

Will you choose to be proactive today?  This week?  This month?  How?

For more information on Franklin Covey's 7 Habits for Highly Effective People check out the book:


Thursday, July 4, 2013

When Are We at Our Best?

I spent the first three days of the week teaching Franklin Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Signature Program) for the first time.  As with any content, I swear I learned from the class.  I had an amazing group of senior leaders and it was one of those experiences that you wish you could meet with that group of people over and over in a think tank because you just know the world would be a better place if you did.

As they all go back to their lives and jobs, I am still struck by one particular point in the class when we simply asked the question..."I am at my best when..."  I even saved the flip chart paper with the answers we came up with.  This is not my independent work, but the work of some brilliant leaders I had the honor of teaching.  I dare to say, there isn't a work environment in the world that wouldn't benefit from these qualities.

  1. I have a sense of pride and accomplishment in our work.
  2. I am healthy.
  3. I am busy but not stressed.
  4. I am happy.
  5. I feel whole and centered.
  6. I am rested.
  7. I am relaxed.
  8. I am fed.
  9. I enjoy what we're doing.
  10. I am loved unconditionally.
  11. I have time to gather my thoughts and think things through.
  12. I am confident in what we're doing.
  13. I am inspired.
  14. I have a good challenge.
  15. I know what is expected of me.

What would you add to the list?  How many exist in your daily job?  How many do you actively try to create for yourself, your team members, and your employees?  Which one will you focus on bringing to life for yourself and those around you next week?  Seriously, let's do it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 3

There are times in life when goals don't seem achievable. Like tonight. I am exhausted. It has been an emotionally draining week. The thought of writing a blog post tonight is a little daunting. But I committed to this challenge. What to do?  And then I realized the purpose of the challenge is not to be brilliant every day but rather to develop a habit that will further my writing goals. So in a sense, just posting is an accomplishment, especially when it isn't easy. 

How do you push yourself to go just a little further?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Half-Time Huddle

As part of the 31-day blogging challenge I am participating in during July, we are asked to comment on other participants' blogs.  Which means, I am reading the blogs of people I might never have found.  Today I chose to read Lisa Friedt's A Pocket Full of Rocks.  I loved what she said in her post today about not taking yourself too seriously and being able to laugh at yourself (read the post if you need a good laugh!).  But what struck panic in me was when she said that we are now in the second half of the year.  Yes, I know, it is simple math.  I just hadn't done the math yet.

So here we are on July 2, 2013.  How did that happen?  Seriously, how????

As years go, this has been a positive one.  I love my chosen career even if my current job doesn't have the security I would prefer.  I work with caring and amazing people who are weathering the uncertainty better than I am (and more than I give them credit for).  We focus daily on learning.  I have the most beautiful gift in my son who teaches me new things every day and makes me laugh (and laughs even though I am really not that funny).  I have rewarding volunteer positions with people who want to make the world better for others.  I have friends I can talk to when I am happy or sad and not be judged.  And I still have the two most important people in the world to me who teach me daily what it means to be an honest person who never stops growing and learning.

So why the panic at a date on a calendar?

Truth be told, I have realized for a while that this year would be a turning point in my life (as it has proven to be).  I feel an intense pressure to get "my ducks in order" and be able to support my family solely through my own business by the end of the year.  And that scares me to death.  Not because I don't think I am smart enough or talented enough.  Because there is a secret little part of me who loves the security of a regular paycheck.  However, as you may have read, even that security has been challenged this year.

So, though unplanned, this blogging challenge along with a full teaching schedule in July has become my half-time huddle.  I will assess what I have learned in the first half of the year, make some adjustments going forward, and give myself a pep talk that Rudy would be proud to recite.

What have you learned the first half of the year?  What adjustments will you make?  What is the pep talk you really need to hear right now?  Why are you waiting for someone else to say it to you?  Who's ready for the second half?

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Leadership Challenge Workshop

Last week I attended four days of training to become a Level I Trained Facilitator for the Leadership Challenge Workshop based on the work of James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.  I had the pleasure of being instructed by Dick Heller of Full Extension Leadership, a Level III Certified Master.  I am looking forward to obtaining my Level II Certified Facilitator training later this summer.

As part of the training we took a 360 assessment, the Leadership Practice Inventory.  I am generally suspicious of 360 assessments because the person chooses to whom he or she sends the ratings request. If a person is not serious about the assessment, they will pick people who will rank them "high" and explain away any rankings that don't fit with their story of themselves.  I personally sent ratings request to people I work with in a volunteer capacity, people I work with directly at work, and my "customers" at work.  The LPI does not rank how well you do something, it ranks how "frequently" you do something (on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being highest).  My scores were about half that of my other raters, but I noticed they had the same pattern so my assumption of our definition of "usually" probably differs.  What was far more interesting (and worth putting myself out there) was the individual responses from my raters.  I received rather low scores from different raters for two areas in which I actually ranked myself higher - Sets a personal example of what she expects of others and Is clear about her philosophy of leadership.  What I learned between these scores is that people see what I show them.  As a frequent blogger on leadership, I kind of laughed that people thought I only occasionally was clear about my philosophy - either they don't read my blog or they don't think I am consistent in my philosophy.  I'm guessing they don't read my blog...probably because I haven't specifically invited them to.  Probably because I'm always trying to make sure that I don't ram my ideas and side business down my friends and co-workers throats.  So I am going to try to make more of an effort to share my blog and to share my ideas with those who might be interested.  As for that person who rarely sees me set a personal example of what I expect from others.  (And no, I did not try to figure out who it was - it really doesn't matter.)  I need to make sure that I show everyone I work with that I am an example.  There are lots more questions to analyze and think about and then I look forward to retaking the assessment in a year.  I want to make sure that I work to improve the things that are important to me (because a leadership writer should be very clear to all about her leadership philosophy) and I am excited at the opportunity this 360 instrument presents.

What are your experiences with LPI or other 360 assessments?  What do you think are the keys for honest feedback?  Do they really provide you with something you can't get by asking for feedback?

More about the Leadership Challenge Workshop itself later.

On a side note, I am participating in a 31-day blogging challenge through  Wish me luck!