Monthly Archives: May 2013

Quote for May 30th

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

Henry David Thoreau 

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When You Are Grateful Do You Show It?

Thank you noteThis past weekend was Memorial Day here in the US which is a time for our country to stop and say thank you to all of our military, past and present.  It’s a wonderful way of acknowledging the gift of service these men and women give to the rest of us.  We also have many other, less formal, days of recognition throughout the year like boss’s day, admin assistant day, grandparent’s day, etc.  Why limit our thanks to a handful of days a year?

This past Saturday my son’s scout troop place small flags on the graves of veterans in two of the local cemeteries under the direction of a gentleman from the American Legion.  As the boys finished up he thanked them for their help in recognizing our veterans.  Before we left my son went over to him and thanked him for his service to our country.  The look of surprise and appreciation in his eyes was worth the moment it took to nudge my son into action.  To have a teenager go out of his way to say thanks obviously meant a lot to him.  This happened during a time when, as a country, we go out of our way to say thank you to the military members.  It reminded me that sometimes the small gestures mean more than grand events.

As leaders we should be looking for ways to appreciate the people around us.  Saying thanks for a good job, thanking someone for their extra effort, congratulations on a project well executed, complimenting someone on a good idea, recognizing that a person stepped up to solve a problem, the list is endless.  Often our organizations have formal methods for rewarding and recognizing people.  While these are great and needed, the simple human contact of personally looking someone in the eye and saying “Thank You” means more to them.  I still have a hand written thank you note a senior manager wrote to me after a project I worked on over 15 years ago.  It made me feel good to receive that acknowledgement of my contribution.

Studies show that people will do the things that are recognized.  If all we notice and comment on in our daily interactions are mistakes, problems, and challenges then we will get more mistakes, problems and challenges.  If we spend time recognizing the often quiet work well done, problems solved without help, challenges met then we will get more work well done, problems solved and challenges met.  We get what we focus on most.  This is also the time for a personal touch, not an electronic one.  If possible thank the person face-to-face.  It doesn’t have to be in front of a group or a big production, just stop focus on them and share your appreciation.  If you are dealing with people who work remotely from you, make the phone call and only discuss your appreciation.

Also, make sure to do this as close to the time the event occurred as you can.  This amplifies the meaning of the thanks.  It is possible that you will not learn of it for a while, that’s okay as long as you jump on the chance to recognize the behavior.  You can say “I just heard about what you did … Thank you.”  It will still carry enormous power.

Simple acts of gratitude will earn loyalty from your team.  They will know that you appreciate them and they will respond in kind.  Take the time to recognize the good in your team.  As well, look for ways to say thanks to your boss and your peers.  All of us could use a kind word, and the further up the ladder you go the less often you hear them.  Go first and show your gratitude.

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Leadership Quote for My 23rd

I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving: to help people, to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.
Denise Morrison

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Are You Ready to Lead?

Business woman leading a teamYou believe you have leadership potential, and people tell you that you can do anything you want.  So why does it seem like you haven’t gotten the opportunity to prove your stuff?  Surely it must be that the company is missing the boat on what you have to offer.  Maybe that’s true, or maybe they are waiting for you to develop your leadership skills and show your initiative.

Years ago, I was sick and tired of doing the same thing year after year and not moving up.  I finally realized that I needed to make things happen.  Regularly we received notification of promotions and it dawned on me that the majority of people being promoted had an MBA or were working on one.  Obviously this was something that my company valued in their managers.  So I applied for acceptance to an evening MBA program.  Once I got in and started taking classes it seemed like the senior leadership at my facility took my desire to move up more seriously.  They started working on backfilling my position and gave me an opportunity to move into another functional area.  My career took off from there.  It just took me taking the first step.

A key characteristic of leaders is that they take initiative.  Showing your willingness to go beyond what you are learning on the job and working on your personal development is a great first step.  It doesn’t mean you have to go back to school for an advanced degree.  It means paying attention to what your organization values in leaders and developing those skills and abilities.  Find a mentor who can help you navigate the murky waters of management and leadership.  Ask what can you do to improve your skills, what do you need to do to move up?  You may get an answer that says “You need experience before you can become a manager.”  Still ask what skills make good managers so that you will be prepared when the time comes.

As you move from individual contributor to manager you will be dealing with people issues as much, if not more than technical issues.  These are often referred to as soft skills.  These can be developed at any age and at any level in an organization.    There is no real substitute for experience; dealing with people is not straight forward with simple, single answers.  It takes skill and knowledge to understand how to handle different challenging situations which is often only gained by being in the middle of those situations.  As you improve your ability to work well with others you will likely become an informal leader within your work group.  That gets noticed.

If you step up and go the extra mile on developing yourself people will notice and your time may come sooner than you were told or sooner than you expected.  It starts with you – take the time to find out what you can do to advance and get started.  This is not a case where “good things come to those who wait”.  If you wait you are letting others determine your career path instead of creating the career you desire.  To follow your own path you need to get moving.  Step up, get ready and then you will lead.

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Quote for May 21st

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
Helen Keller 

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Interesting Articles for May

Reading 2Here are some of the inspiring articles I have read in the past month.  I hope you enjoy them as well.

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Leadership Quote for May 16th

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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5 O'ClockThis is the key to time management – to see the value of every moment.
Menachem Mendel Schneerson

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Celebrate Different Ideas

Team CelebrationOdds are that the people on your team have very different ideas and opinions of various topics.  If so, celebrate it!  This is a key to having a high performing team.  When everyone thinks exactly the same way there are no new ideas and innovation fades away.  The challenge is to find ways to keep the conflict of opinions from becoming negative or destructive.

Here are five strategies to help you celebrate the differences:

  1. Be Open.  Keep an open mind and listen to their point of view.
  2. Show Respect.  Remember that they have a right to their opinion as do you.  Respect each other.
  3. Value Them.  Tell them that you value their ideas and opinions, particularly when you disagree.
  4. Seek Commonality.  Look for areas of agreement, even in the midst of differences.  They will exist.
  5. Be Thankful.  Thank teammates who are willing to disagree and look for new ideas or options.

If you follow these five strategies you are showing those around you that you value them as individuals with individual ideas and opinions.  Giving them the freedom to express opposing thoughts will open doors to higher levels of creativity, trust and performance in any team.  As well, if you are the team leader or boss your creditability increases because you include the team in the process.  People will be more likely to admire and support you if you include them and their ideas.

Recently I had a conversation with someone whose thoughts were basically the exact opposite of mine.  I’m comfortable with my take on the situation and he is highly committed to his position.  In reality the topic does not affect our ability to collaborate, but if we couldn’t reach some level of understanding it would be out there as a possible sore spot.  We both shared our thoughts and why we felt that way.  At the end I told him that I admired his commitment to his position.

Be willing to listen to other’s ideas and opinions with an open mind.  Take in their thoughts and then share your position without judging theirs.  Keep it to facts and your feelings or opinions.  This allows room for their position to be heard.  Once the information is out there you can look for ways to reach some form of agreement so you can move forward.  It maybe you agree to adopt their position, they agree to adopt yours, you find a new option that works for both, or you agree to disagree.  All of these are viable solutions and keep the lines of communication open.  As well you are celebrating the differing experiences, ideas and opinions within the team.

How do you celebrate different ideas with your team?

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Are You Learning?

Businessman sleeping at the presentationThis past weekend I attended an amazing seminar where there were several speakers.  I learned a lot from each one of them.  In all honesty there was one who really did not resonate with me at all.  He had great content but his delivery left me kind of cold, his style was not mine at all.  This on top of a conversation about can we learn from people we don’t respect rally got me thinking about how much information we can learn from people we don’t like.

As leaders it is important to keep learning about your organization, your industry, your customers and how to be a better leader.  This may mean taking the time to learn from people who are not in your current circle of friends and colleagues.  In fact, I would challenge you to take the time to learn from people you don’t like or are unsure if you would like.

Why learn from people who you don’t like or respect?  First they will have a very different view of the world which will broaden your view.  You may not ever agree with their ideas or opinions and that’s okay.  However, if you take the time to listen and understand their perspective it will give you information about how others see things and you might find new nuggets of information that help you move forward.  Additionally, by looking at things from a different perspective you may uncover new solutions or ideas on how to make your products better or more valuable to your customers.  Lastly, you may discover new uses or customers for your products or services.

If you only learn from people who are like you or who hold similar ideas and values you are missing out on new aspects of the world.  The wonderful thing about the current times is how small the world has become through technology.  Having the ability to connect and relate to others is now at our fingertips.  To make the most of these connections it is imperative that we take the time to listen to others and hopefully find common ground.  This allows us to develop deeper connections with others.  In a leadership role you will have many occasions where you will work with someone you really don’t like and yet you must find a way to work with them.  Learning to connect and find that common ground is a key to being successful.  This skill can be developed by looking around you and finding ways to learn from everyone who crosses your path.

You can learn from anyone and everyone.  It may be that you learn what not to do or how not to act.  It may be that you learn a new way of doing things or new behaviors.  Or it may be that you learn to see the world in new ways through new eyes.  All of these are valuable lessons and may come from people you like and respect or from people that are distasteful to you.  Any way you look at it, learning is the key to growth.  As leader make learning a part of your day, each and every day.

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