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Year: 2021

One Thing We Have in Common

One Thing We Have in Common

When I was a teenager, I was going to my first job interview, and my Daddy told me not to be afraid to speak up because “Everybody puts their pants on the same way – one leg a time.” He said that people, no matter their age or status, are just people. We all have a lot in common. Respect others’ opinions, stand by yours, but never forget that relationships are all that matter. I landed the job back then, but the world feels very different now.   

Don’t Have

Things we don’t have in common have taken center stage these days. There is no reason to share evidence of this because unless you have been totally off the grid for the last five years, you know the “I’m right, so you’re wrong” mindset is very much alive. If I shared a current example, I’m 100% confident that somebody would feel offended. I may have already offended someone by my “Puts on their pants” quote, and I respect that person (with a nod to my Dad).   

Whew! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest – here is my observation for today. There is one thing we all have in common. Whether you’re in the Silent Generation, a Baby Boomer, Generation X, Millennial,  Generation Z, or in grade school or kindergarten, everyone experiences constant change and struggles with the wave of emotions that follow a change event. 

Strangely enough, the idea to write this article and share this blinding glimpse of the obvious was triggered by the photo here sent to me by my friend Jay Gill, Vice President, Communications & Economic Development at Carroll EMC in Carrollton, Georgia. It shows Jay, a Gen Xer, reading my book “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” in a photo shared with kids, parents, grandparents, and teachers in the area. The picture was part of the social media campaign for Reading Across America in the Carrollton, Georgia City School System. The campaign was a challenge for folks in Carroll County to drop everything at 8:30 am each day that week and read for 15 minutes – to share a common experience.

Do Have

“Roll Up Your Sleeves” is a parable about understanding the distinction between change and transition.  The book’s premise is that every person experiences three phases of emotions when a change event happens: Resisting, Exploring, and Committing, and you can intentionally make it through these phases in a productive way. The first step is to understand that these emotions are common to all humans. The second is to identify your style and realize which phase of emotions you are currently experiencing. There are ten ideas in the book. One suggestion is to talk with another person about where you are in your transition. This uncommon but straightforward action will help both of you roll up your sleeves and take the next step to living and leading well again. You’ll also find illustrations and other tools to help you open up a space for that conversation to happen naturally.  

Journal Entry: Understanding how to manage change is a needed skill for anyone at any age or position in life. “Roll Up Your Sleeves” might be good for a family so parents can learn how to stay connected with their children. A couple with a challenge may find common ground , or a business team could engage in a crucial conversation about ways to have a more productive transition into their next normal by talking about the concepts in this book. You might be amazed at what a 15-minute read or chat might do for everyone because transition is one thing we all have in common in our leadership and life.

“Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind and speak truth.” From Roll Up Your Sleeves – Leading and Living in a World of Constant Change

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” The Bible in the book of Philippians 4:6-7

Free Offer: On the book website, you can take a 2-minute quiz to identify your Change Management style. You’ll receive a personal report with practical principles to help you manage the stress of change and suggestions on ways to support and encourage those you care about to get through the challenges of change in a healthy way. Visit Roll Up Your Sleeves website HERE to learn more. 

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal. 

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Deciding It’s Time Again

Deciding It’s Time Again

Uncertainty about the future or unhappiness about the present is the reason to plan, not an excuse for inaction.

It’s hard think long-term when the bullets are flying around your head is a favorite quote by an old Army Ranger and paratrooper friend of mine.  It obvious  he was good at his job  because he is still alive to share great quotes like this. He told me that when he jumped out of perfectly good planes there were often bullets flying around him as he glided, he into a battlefield and landed. When he hit the field, he had mission and plan, a good one that he had spent hours and even days putting together way before he strapped on his parachute. But the mission never changed , but planned list of tasks usually changed. as he also fond of says, plans change when you meet the enemy face-to-face, if they don’t, you never get the chance to tell your crazy stories.  

Two Enemies We Face

These days it feels like we’re face-to-face an enemy, not ones that shoot bullets, but ones that can create great fear. Actually, there are  two enemies. One is outside, beyond our control, real things like; Covid,  political unrest, economic upheaval, and just the craziness in the  world. The other enemy is inside and feels like being a batter facing a super-fast pitcher in baseball game. After two good swings and two misses you want to step away from the plate, find a pinch hitter, call a time-out or pray for a thunderstorm to stop this game . If you read my book Roll-Up Your Sleeves, you may recall that these reactions are the natural transition emotions that we all  experience when change hits and we start miss our secure past. We innately move through these reactions effectively if we have a vision of a home run or  just a base hit to focus . However, if we wait to long to step back in the batter box, we lose momentum,  inertia sets in and our vision can fade quickly . Then deadliest internal enemy of them all show up apathy. When we are in a place where inaction is the norm it’s impossible to think or reason yourself back on track. Often all it takes is deciding to complete one task, like knocking the dirt of your cleats and stepping back up to the plate with a vision your next task clearly in mind. The simpler the task the better.    

“A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task are the hope of the world.”

Old But New Again

Around the year 2000, I began designing programs to help people managing personal transitions and make a plan to move toward their best place in the world. The things I did were simple. I put together a small simple workbook I used with my coaching clients called The Leadership and Life Planning Workbook.  This Workbook was based on several planning principles; one of them is the first line of this article,  “Uncertainty about the future, or unhappiness about the prebook sent is the reason to plan, not an excuse for inaction.”

In 2007 that workbook became the framework for my first book Design a Life that Works, which is not a simple book and because of that has a limited audience. So, I decided to revive that simple workbook, which is now called  Design a Life that Works Workbook for people who want to face their enemy’s and get back in the game of living and leading by taking a simple step or two.  

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

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The Elephant in the Zoom

Almost 75 percent of employees in the United States, and close to a third in the Asia–Pacific region, reported symptoms of burnout. All nations reported rising levels of pandemic fatigue. Worldwide – organization wide – employees are tired. McKinsey Quarterly Report January 2021

Recently I was facilitating some virtual leadership conversations with three groups of high potential managers who worked in different organizations. All the groups had an engaging conversation about the McKinsey report quote, which they tagged the elephant in the Zoom.  

Workplace Boundaries

“Covid has taken workplace boundaries away” turned out to be the common thread of our group discussions. Here are a few statements I heard from them:

  • Technology has pushed us to bring work into our personal space.
  • No safe place – I can’t close my office door in this virtual world.
  • I live with continuous interruptions and an expectation for an immediate response.
  • I’m working more hours than when I was going into the office.
  • It feels like you are “on call,” even on weekends. My manager sends 6:00 AM emails on Saturday and Sundays.
  • I feel pressure to be on high alert about what to say, how to say it, all the time.

The Elephant

Another recurring theme was that most of their executive bosses seemed clueless about all of this. No one was talking or asking about this “no boundary” situation people are working in, which was making a difficult time even more depressing. It was interesting to hear that most of the leaders they reported to had not altered their management approach or production expectations to recognize the ever-shifting events over the past eleven months. Not all, but  a majority of their bosses were micromanaging them more now than before the pandemic.  Not only were these group of mid-level managers tired, but they were also afraid to admit they were tired. The silent treatment or “get over it and get it done,” was a common response they experienced if they were brave enough to request some accommodations to support the boundaryless environment they struggled in every day.

Problem or Predicament

Effective leaders have to be able to discern if the situation is a problem or a predicament. A problem can be solved and put away. A predicament can’t be solved, it can only be minimized, managed or avoided. This group realized that this elephant situation is a predicament and the only thing they could do was come up with a way to better manage themselves and stop hoping their managers would change.

Choose Your Attitude

“The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always be choices to make. Every day, every hour, you are offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom. ― Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

Walk Beside the Elephant

Two weeks ago, I was required to have health examination for a new life insurance policy . The exam was outsourced to an independent clinic located in a shopping center. If you’ve ever been to one of these lab centers, you know that it is rare to find a lot of positive people there. Certainly not those in the waiting room waiting to get stuck with a needle and all-to-often the staff doesn’t seem that happy to be there either.  But 14 days ago, my experience was totally different, because of nurse Jessica, a middle-aged lady who walked with in the exam room holding the standard packet of syringes and corked test tubes, wearing  a big smile.  I said, “You sure look happy today,” and she said, “Oh I sure am. I just couldn’t wait to get back here to drawing blood again!” I looked at her funny, then she explained that six weeks ago management had unexpectantly moved her out of her nurse role in this clinic and put her in an administrative area of the company. No discussion, no explanation.  One day her boss walked in and told her she had to make this move and she did. She didn’t like the tasks she doing each day and certainly didn’t care much for her task master manager. But she said, “I wasn’t gonna let him get to me, I decided to keep in my mind on knowing I would soon be back doing the one thing I love, working with patients and drawing blood.” She went on, “Deciding to focus on the one thing I loved got me through those weeks of pressure and feeling undervalued.” Nurse Jessica knew that the  best way to get through a discouraging predicament, is not to concentrate on changing  another person’s attitude, but to focus on the only attitude you can change – your own. .

Journal Entry. Are you tired? Are you afraid to talk about being tired with your manager or others in your life? I certainly hope not. But if you are, or even if you are not, I like to offer a simple action to help you be prepared for the predicaments that will come your way. First, fill in this blank, “I just can’t wait to get back to doing_______.” In the blank list one or two life-giving actions that always give you energy when you do them. Now, intentionally build in time the next three week to do those things and keep a record when you do. Both Victor and Jessica reminded us that we can decide to either walk beside our elephant or struggle against it. Which strategy will you choose as you move along the path to success in your leadership in life?

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

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Fence Post Mentors

“I’m just a turtle on a fence post. And if you ever see a turtle sitting on the fence post, you know it had a lot of help getting up there.”

Sunday, January 17, was the official International Mentoring Day. It happens the same day every year.  I hope you aren’t as surprised as I am to learn about this day, which is a keen reminder that none of us get to where we are alone. Learning about this day made me think about those larger-than-life advisors in my life who took time to share a bit of themselves and nudged me up and along so I could get a view of a better direction.  

“If I have seen further, it is because of standing on the shoulders of giants.” –  Sir Isaac Newton

No Shoulders to Stand On

Last week I began a new coaching assignment with a very talented and well-educated manager, a man in his late thirties struggling to move up in his organization. Within minutes into our initial conversation, it was apparent why we were talking when he confessed, “I don’t have any mentors now, and I can’t think of any in my past.” Now, this may not have been entirely true, but when I heard him say this, I thought of the advice of someone I interviewed this past June. His name is Price Hightower.

Price is a successful businessman and strong community leader who gives full credit for his success to mentors in his life. When I spoke with Price on my podcast, he offered several insights to help anyone who feels their leadership or life is on hold or headed in the wrong direction. Price also shared some wisdom for anyone who wants to become a better mentor. You read his favorite mentoring quotes in the first line of this article. Following are three mentorship ideas he shared with me, in his own words:

Three Ideas   

Cut and Paste –”I might seek out a person who is good at raising a family and maybe their kids are ten years older than mine so that I can learn the way that they have raised successful kids. But that person may or may not run a business life that I want to emulate. I might find another mentor who has a great business career, but maybe his family life does not run as well. So, I sort of use a cut-and-paste mentality as I have chosen my mentors.”

Slow Down and Look – “Actively pursue friendships with those who are younger and offer guidance to them. I am too busy and need to slow down enough to accept opportunities to pour into people, as my mentors have poured into me. Often the best way to get through a tough spot in your life is to help someone else get through their tough spot. Everyone has both pain and dreams. You can see this if you stop and take a look in their eyes.”

Be Transparent“The number one thing a mentor taught me by example – he was transparent with me. And he taught me that it’s okay to be transparent with other men, and probably the greatest gift a man can give to another man is the gift of transparency and just open, honest communication without trying to guard your ego.”

Seeking to learn from a mentor or becoming a better mentor begins and ends with the courage to be transparent by showing confidence in the person you are helping and having the humility to get your own goals out of your way. As Steven Spielberg said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but allowing them to create themselves.”

Journal Entry:

I’ve never seen a turtle on a fence post.  I doubt that you have either, but we all get the metaphor. So, who are your fence post mentors? Why not send her or him a note or make a call to thank them before the end of this first month of 2021? If you don’t have a mentor or want to get better at being a mentor, is one of Price’s ideas worth considering to help you help others leadership and life?

To hear the Price Hightower Small-time Leaders podcast about “Mentoring,” which includes his story about “God does not waste pain,” CLICK HERE.  

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

 

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Planting a Strategy

Planting a Strategy

I have helped a few non-profit organizations develop plans over the years. The ones that minister to homeless people, Gospel Rescue Missions, have been my favorites for over a decade. In December 2020, I  was asked to write an article about strategic planning for a national association of these missions, who rescue people to recover from addictions to find a new life in Christ. Over time,  I adapted my traditional planning approach to fit the needs of these purpose-driven places, which deal with more uncertainties,  struggle with more complex “friendly” competitors, and have fewer resources than any real business out there.

I haven’t written much about my approach to non-profit planning, but that needs to change. Non-profits have learned some lessons we all need to know. Nowadays, almost every business is struggling with unyielding insecurity, vague new entrants, and fewer resources; I thought this might be a good time to share a  few ideas from the article with you.      

Strategic Planning is called the art of the general. The premise is to set up a sequence of moves that capitalizes on your strengths and exploit your competitor’s weaknesses so that you win, and they lose in a competitive marketplace. Building a numbers-driven pressuring to win accountability culture is the goal. For decades, this blood-on-the-field military mindset has been the language in organizational strategy development, but with limited success. 

A McKinsey Quarterly survey of nearly 800 executives reported that only 45% of respondents were satisfied with the strategic-planning process. Only 23% indicated that major strategic decisions were made within its confines.

Strategic Planting™, which I call “the art of the gardener,” is grounded in the assumption that an organization’s only competition is itself. The goal is to grow a culture that educates and empowers staff to take informed risks and invent a new future by looking inside and capitalize on their unique internal factors.    

Strategic Planters focus 100% of their energy and resources on culture building. They ignore “competition,” except to learn from competitors’ mistakes. Creating a healthy life-giving culture with emotionally engaged responsibility is the aim. When a CEO  and their team purposefully invest in a growing environment where people know “for sure” that they have the freedom to take risks. When also resourced to invent a future that has never existed, employees gladly take responsibility. Performance improves intrinsically – instead of being manipulated to meet some accountable number. Doing Strategic Planting takes time and hard work, but it is a mind-shift worth considering.

The goal of strategic planning is to improve performance and win. The Goal of Strategic Planting™ is to grow a culture that inspires people to improve Performance and have fun doing it. Winning is a by-product.  

Journal Entry: If these ideas intrigues you, here are three conversation points to have with your team as you to contemplate the benefits of planting a strategy:

  1. Talk about what makes a healthy organization healthy.
  2. Discuss how your organization’s purpose serves humanity
  3. Brainstorm the characteristics of a life-giving culture.

If you would like to see a copy of my article “Planting a Strategy, An organic approach to growing a healthy organization,” just send an email, and we will be happy to forward the article link when it is published. 

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal.

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