I am in and out of many businesses and the one characteristic all high performing organizations have is good people. You can feel it in the atmosphere. There is a certain way the employees interact with one another and hold themselves. There is a sense of confidence but not arrogance. If you are a guest, you are treated that way and random people will interact with you to make sure you are being taken care of. It’s one of those things you clearly notice about the work environment when it is not present which sadly is usually the case.
Month: June 2012
When you opt to assume a leadership role you need to put yourself out there. Like it or not, you job requires ongoing personal and professional development under the gaze of various levels of public scrutiny. Most people shy away from the spotlight but leaders don’t have that choice. You need become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The good news is that courage is often rewarded in life. It’s probably why you have your leadership role in the first place.
When I used to work for Gallup many years ago they had a great saying, “you can’t put in what God left out.” Many of us spend far too much effort trying to be what we are not instead of focusing on what makes us truly special. We all have natural weaknesses and strengths. Some people are great at details while others seem to effortlessly grasp the big picture. Some people are great thinking on their feet where others thrive using a more methodical approach. There are a few of us with the physical ability to be a professional athlete while others are better at reporting and analyzing the events taking place on the field. The list goes on and on. Of course all of this happens on a continuum, but I believe each and every one of us has gifts and talents that separate us from the pack (if only we are paying attention).
As a New York Yankee fan, I must admit to not being all that excited about the movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt when it came out. The story is about the exploits of Billy Beane as General Manager of The Oakland A’s when he literally transformed his approach to running a baseball team. When it got nominated for an Academy Award I thought maybe I should see it one day, but didn’t rush out to but it. I finally saw it last week and was blown away. I guess at this point I should pretty much trust anything Aaron Sorkin is involved with. Not only is the movie well written, directed, and acted, it also has many important lessons that are applicable to my work with business leaders. It was almost as if they had a leadership/management expert on the writing team. I’d like to highlight the following takeaways:
Most people don’t like change. They tend to prefer what they know to what they don’t know. There is always an element of fear when you are dealing with uncertainty. For some reason, our first reaction is that we will end up losing something and/or being worse off. Our defensive mechanisms kick-in and we resist “the new order of things.”
I remember when they asked Jerry Seinfeld why he would turn down $5m an episode and leave one of the top rated shows in TV history and he said he wanted to go out on top. He also said he wanted to get a life and that work had become all consuming. At the time I couldn’t quite understand his decision but now I respect it. Too many people stay on past their prime whether its entertainment personalities, public officials, business leaders, etc. There comes a point for each of us where the value we are adding begins to diminish and it’s time to reinvent ourselves and do something different and/or focus on other priorities.
There are many things in life beyond our ability to control. All you have to do is read, watch or listen to the news and you will get exposed to a litany of troubling issues confronting the world. In addition, even our local media regularly highlights things that are broken in our communities. It can feel a bit overwhelming at times. The key is not to get too upset or distracted by what you cannot control. There are four areas where we can realistically and proactively make a difference: political involvement, volunteering for a nonprofit, business leadership, and your home life.
Since Father’ Day is right around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to share some of what I have learned from my dad. Every boy’s first role model is his father. You believe him to be a man of Olympian strength, Einstein-like intellect and the quintessential self-reliant individual as portrayed by Ralph Waldo Emerson. There was nothing he couldn’t fix or problem he couldn’t solve. I remember watching many cowboy movies as a kid and always assuming my dad would have made the better protagonist.
As we get older we learn that our dad is human like everyone else and if you are smart you eventually relieve him of the pressures of sitting up on a pedestal. However, many of the lessons we learn from our parents end up lasting a lifetime. My dad taught me the following:
We all get in our way sometimes and leaders are no different. Just because we know we shouldn’t do something doesn’t always mean we won’t do it. However, not all mistakes are created equal. There are fifteen things a leader should strive never to do:
Every survey you read about work/career satisfaction is depressing. I can’t believe that so many people go to a job every day that they don’t like and/or are doing work they find uninspiring. Why would someone choose to live that way? I’ve never quite understood the whole idea of simply working until you retire. As people have to work for longer periods of time due to lack of pensions and/or other financial resources this means that individuals will be unhappier for longer periods of time with their chosen profession.
Most people live their lives reactively rather than proactively. Instead of controlling their time and schedule they let events control them. If you always choose to just make it up as you go along, don’t be surprised if you are often disappointed with the outcomes you are getting. Create some basic structure to your daily life and you will actually end up feeling liberated to do more of what you want to do because you will have more time to do it in.
There is a dark side to our competitive nature as individuals that often begrudges the success of others. I’m not sure why this and there are probably many psychological and neurological explanations. What I do know is that individual success is good for a community. In business this means more people get hired, employees have steady and stable incomes, more vendors get paid, tax revenues go up, charitable giving increases,and more discretionary dollars are spent on other things. The good news with entrepreneuers is that most of the fruits of their success stays local. We should root for as many people to be successful as possible.
It was about two years ago when a friend bet me I couldn’t do 365 daily blogs. I have no doubt his intentions were well meaning and pure. Today, I have accomplished that goal (even more if you count the “song of the weekend” and other themed blogs). When I first started it felt like a daunting task. I couldn’t imagine I would have enough write about or have the time to get it done in my busy schedule. It also would require more consistent discipline than I am used to. My tendency is to be more of a free spirit and I don’t like to get boxed in by self imposed obligations. However, I have surprised myself and found that I actually like the daily routine of writing this blog. In many ways it has been therapeutic and good for my soul.
In my line of work, I am constantly on the lookout for life lessons and what leads to happiness and success. Fortunately, I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people who provide me with excellent fodder for my learning. While most of my time is spent on the business leadership front, I do get a larger picture view at times. I have never believed in compartmentalizing important life issues and prefer to take a multidimensional approach to my work since there are no one dimensional human beings. Over the years I found that how you answer the following 12 questions will have a big impact on your overall quality of life:
I would have to say that I tend to be an impatient person (although I’m working on it). I’m sure everyone who knows me wouldn’t argue with this point. I prefer taking action to waiting. Once I make up my mind about something, I just want to move forward and make progress. In addition, I get frustrated with others who don’t operate with the same sense of urgency that I do. It literally boggles my mind how slow and uninspired many people seem on a daily basis. However, with time and some maturity, I’ve begun to realize that the problem isn’t always them and maybe sometimes it’s me.