Communication Deterioration

I have to be honest, I don’t like talking on the phone. I don’t! At all!

9 times out of 10, I won’t answer when it rings (unless it’s my wife; always answer your wife). This is horrible, I know. What if I miss something important? Eh, they can text me.

I know, I know. This is cold and impersonal. How can someone, who wants to be an influential catalyst in the lives of others, not see that this distaste for phone conversation is counterproductive.

In fact, am I deteriorating relationships? Instead of building a tribe, am I alienating the voices that can be my greatest allies?

It’s time to break the habit. This is my habit, my problem, but if you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably yours too.

Somewhere along the line, we decided that actually answering the call was inconvenient. “Oh, I’m too busy to talk to that person right now.” Our battle cry is always, “I’m too busy!”

What the person calling hears is, “I’m not really important.”

Sorry, it had to be said.

So, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll commit to these 3 steps, and I hope you will too.

Step 1: Answer every phone call. It’s okay if you let the occasional call go to voicemail. Don’t stop in the middle of a meeting to answer that call from your Mom. She’ll understand. Better, yet, why are you taking your phone into meetings anyway? (personal pet peeve).

Step 2: Return calls as soon as possible. So, a friend wants to talk to you about the bad day they had. Call them back… tell them to meet you for coffee and connect face-to-face. Not only does this get you off the phone, it shows your friend that you care about them enough to build a relationship.

Step 3: Always remember Step 3. You can’t influence people you don’t talk to. Eventually the relationship will disappear. All great leaders influence the people around them. How far do you want your influence to reach?

We live in a society where we can touch the lives of unlimited masses. Social media is worldwide and our voices can be heard on any number of computers, smartphones, or tablets.

Let’s start by inspiring those people we trust to give our phone numbers too. Let’s show them how important they truly are. Can you imagine the impact you can have when people believe you care about them?

I don’t like talking on the phone. I do like feeling needed and significant. It’s just a three-step program, right? Welcome to day 1 reconnecting with your greatest allies.

How do you feel about phone calls? How can answering a phone call help build your influence? Share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Good or Bad, You’re Gonna Miss

Golf. A good walk spoiled? Depends on the company you keep.

I had the pleasure of hitting the links with three great men recently. I was not up to their talent or level of play, but had a good time on my “walk.”

All three were excellent golfers, and I was paired with possibly the most seasoned of them, a former Division I collegiate golfer. I was looking forward to getting some pointers from him to help solve my horrible slice.

Five hours after teeing up our first shot, I received that unexpected nugget of wisdom that summed up my pursuit of being a great leader, and ultimately a great father.

His drive on the 18th, a 338-yard par four, pulled to the left just a bit. His approach shot, however, was amazing, placing the ball within 15 feet of the pin! Of course, this would be expected from a golfer with his talent.

Then, he said one of the more profound things I could have predicted. “There are bad misses, and there are good misses. That was a good miss.”

Let that sink in…

You don’t have to know a thing about golf to consider the weight of those words and the influence they could have on your life.

As a leader, at work and/or at home, I challenge you to consider the approach shots you’re taking. Understand that they won’t always go your way. You’re going to miss.

Are you professional enough to move past the bad misses and learn from them? Or will you give up and stop engaging and moving forward?

Do you capitalize on the good misses? Do you take a good look at what went right when everything felt so wrong?

What are you learning from your misses? You have to take a shot before you know the outcome. You’re going to miss.

The secret is… the more shots you take, eventually you’re going to make it. You’re going to persevere and win. This is true in life, in leadership, in anything you do.

What do you think about the statement, “there are bad misses, and there are good misses?” I’d love to know your thoughts.

Tell me about one of your “good misses.” What did you learn from it? Share your comments below!

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The Secret to Being a Great Family Leader

It’s been established that a great leader’s most cherished reward is in the success of his team. More importantly, a great leader’s triumph will carry on in the lives of those he mentored. We call this legacy.

Would you agree legacy is worth fighting for? I’d argue that only a fierce competitor willing to battle for his or her family can build a genuine legacy of leadership.

Unfortunately, in our society, we don’t often witness men and women fighting for their family. It is a unique experience to see someone leading their family with the same intensity and focus that they lead an organization or a work team.

Can a leader be called great if they’re not willing to intentionally lead at home? Not as a tyrant, or a dictator, but with the same devotion and desire as they do in the workplace.

We uncovered the secret to being a great leader while raising the stakes in my last post. I now challenge you to peel back another layer to discover what sets apart great family leaders.

Great family leaders…

  • …build great homes. Not a brick and mortar structure, but a place of safety and love.
  • …are servant leaders. Servitude is modeled and everyone contributes to the family.
  • …mentor and encourage the children (sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, etc. and their friends). Spend time with the children; you’d be amazed how they absorb knowledge, skills, character, and integrity when it’s visible to them.
  • …find teachable moments in the sensitivity of failure.

The measure of a person’s leadership is often misplaced. We look to see what accomplishments and awards they are presented in the workplace, instead of looking to see what legacy they are building in the home. When will we fight for our families the way we fight for a title? If we focused on leadership in the home, how much easier would leadership in the workplace be?

How would you answer the last questions? Do you agree/disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The Secret to Being A Great Leader

Most leaders are competitors. At least that’s the common perception.

Competitors want to be the best. When ratings, rankings, awards, and/or trophies are at stake, no less than excellence will do. Devotion to winning is unyielding. But, let’s be honest, what is there after the awards and accolades have been won?

Some leaders will declare their victory and proudly refer to their name on an outdated plaque. They’ll never move forward, never have the drive to say, “next!?”

So, what separates a great leader from just another competitor?

Great leaders are infinitely competitive. Their walls, filled with plaques, never quench their thirst to win. They are constantly learning and acquiring new skills and knowledge to outmaneuver any obstacles in their path.

Here’s the real game changer, the secret to increasing your winnings and raising the stakes. Great leaders…

  • …build great teams. They recognize that it takes a dynamic and diverse team of talent to propel them into first place.
  • …are servant leaders. They meet the needs of their team by taking necessary action. They’re not afraid to roll up their sleeves and work beside a team member.
  • …don’t do the work for their team. When they roll up those sleeves, they mentor and encourage passing on knowledge and skills.
  • …find teachable moments in the sensitivity of failure.

A great leader’s most cherished award is in the success of his team. Long after removal from the platform of accomplishment, his triumph will carry on in the lives of those he mentored.

What are some characteristics of great leaders in your life? What will you change to become a great leader? Share your comments below.

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Parenting Worth Celebrating Once a Year?

Save the date! Mark your calendars now.

We are approximately one year away from acknowledging our appreciation for Fathers once again. 11 months for our Mothers.

I enjoyed “my day” yesterday. My children make me so unbelievably happy when they’re not driving me nuts. Nevertheless, that’s parenthood. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Here’s a thought: Shouldn’t we, as parents, be living a life worthy of celebrating every day? Couldn’t we model the type of leadership in our homes that is respected and replicated by our children?

It’s ridiculous to expect a verbal display of daily appreciation and praise, but we can certainly create a parenting life worthy of more frequent fanfare. I’ve decided on three ways to do this as a father:

  1. Be authentic. Do what I say I’m going to do. Children have an incredible memory and will remember the time you said you’d take them to get ice cream and never did.
  2. Be transparent. My children don’t need a macho, bulletproof dad. They need to recognize that I am human. I can apologize for my mistakes as easily as I can breathe belief and optimism into their lives. It’s ironic, when you show your children your humanity, you become Superman (macho and bulletproof).
  3. Most importantly, constantly tell them I love them and I’m happy to be their Daddy! This one takes authenticity and transparency.

I challenge you to live a life worth celebrating daily. It’s contagious. One day your grandchildren will thank you for it.

Add to my list! What are some behaviors you’ll choose to model as a parent? Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

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Dream BIG, Kid!

Ever notice when a kid has a clear, straight path in front of them, they run!? Fast as they can as if they have been given clearance on an airport runway to take off for flight. There is never a thought that some obstacle may fall into their path. They run with reckless, carefree abandon. The joy they experience in that freedom, while gaining speed, lingers even after they encounter the end of their track.

“WOW! Did you see how fast I can run!?” They will joyously exclaim their personal victory for all to hear.

Children set no limits on themselves during this brief moment of spontaneous sprinting. They are intensely focused on achieving the greatness they have created in their minds. Their imagination allows them to take flight and they soar through the clouds of possibility.

As surrounding witnesses, adults and parents, we encourage their dream of reaching immeasurable speed. We share in their joy and reassure them that they are amazing, and yes, in fact, we have never seen anyone run so incredibly fast! Our smiles are genuine and hearts are lightened as we are reminded of the innocence and remarkable belief that children are filled with.

We encourage our children that they can do anything, be anything, they want. We declare that if they can dream it, they can do it.

“Of course you can be an astronaut and fly to the moon!”

“Yes, you’re a beautiful dancer. I know you can be a dancer when you grow up!”

“You want to be a spy!? You can be the greatest spy in the world!”

Then, we parents, the adults that our children believe with blind faith, make liars out of ourselves. We kill the dreams and the imagination of our youth. We guide our children into what we know as reality. However, whose reality do we determine is best for them? Our own?

“It takes a lot of hard work to become an astronaut, little Johnny. Why don’t you think about something more realistic?” This is the reality of the parent who would not work hard himself or herself to achieve the goal of being an astronaut.

“You really can’t make any money being a dancer. Why don’t you do something you can use in the real world?” This is the reality of the parent whose value and sense of accomplishment is found in dollar signs, not self-worth.

“Spy? You cannot be a spy! You need to go to college and get a ‘real’ job.” This is the reality of the parent who once had their dreams erased because they too were not realistic.

When did we lose sight of that clear path to dream and to run, and cross over into the world of so-called reality? Who instructed us to define reality as need to stop imagining greatness for ourselves? Suddenly, we begin to notice the obstacles to our right and left as we run down that clear path. We lose focus. We no longer take flight and soar through the clouds of possibility.

Encourage your children to dream big by refocusing on and passionately pursuing yours. Write your dreams on paper. It is when you write them out that they become goals, and goals are achievable. Your window of opportunity to become an astronaut may have passed; however, your ability to become wildly successful has not. What do you dream now?

Perhaps you have a heart to help people in need and desire to start a non-profit company. On the other hand, maybe you want to write a great novel and make a bestseller list. Your dream may have changed from the time you were a child, but dreams still come true.

The runway is before you. Do not look to the right or left for obstacles that may fall in you path, but remain intensely focused. With childlike enthusiasm, take the first step, build momentum, and experience the freedom of achieving your dreams.

Share your thoughts and leave a comment… What do you dream now? What are your goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

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Rigid Flexibility

In work and at home, there are tasks, events, and dates that we should never bend. For example, when an important deadline is mandated to prepare for a Board Meeting, it is imperative that the deadline be met. On the other hand, more importantly, when an anniversary is to be celebrated, you do not forget and then excuse yourself saying to your spouse, “we’ll have another one next year.”  On the contrary, there are those occasions that you can take or leave without recourse. If you are unable to attend a company party or a social event, there are typically no ill feelings so long as it was properly declined.

Then, there are the times when you must be rigidly flexible. Oxymorons are great, aren’t they? Before we dive into what it means to be rigidly flexible, let’s dissect each word.

The definitions associated with rigid are very no-nonsense. When you take a rigid approach, you carry out the task strictly. There are no allowances or exceptions. Rigid is unwilling to change. Rigid does not allow for change, period!

Flexible, is the polar opposite. When you are flexible, you are able to change or be changed according to the circumstances. Flexibility is influenced easily depending on the environment and does allow for change.

How is it possible that these two words, completely opposite in definition, can work together? Consider two examples from my professional and personal life to illustrate the importance of being rigidly flexible.

I have a particular strength that allows me to turn thought into action. I am a very ambitious person and believe in rallying the talents in others to accomplish goals. Because of my, “let’s do it now” attitude and optimism, I know that I need to ensure I am in alignment with the strategic goals and vision of our organization. Therefore, it is important that I build relationships with the most influential decision makers and leadership in our organization.

I have made it a point to schedule a reoccurring monthly lunch with some of the top leadership of my organization. It is an opportunity for me to share ideas and gain support from these individuals. Additionally, these individuals can provide critical resources to make my ideas happen. The most important ingredient in these lunch meetings is the fact that they are rigidly flexible.  We have them on our calendars, scheduled for a specific date and time each month, however, we are flexible enough to move and change if necessary. The date and time are not important, the fact that we meet is.

Consider another example. This one should hit close to home.

When is the last time you had a date with your spouse? Not a quick bite to eat because the kids are at a friend’s house, but an honest to goodness, connecting with your spouse, no distractions, no need to be home before 10 o’clock because you’re focused on each other date?

You don’t remember? Maybe a year ago? Before the kids were born? Even worse, before you were married? It has been way too long!

Remaining connected with your spouse is paramount to preserving your marriage. Date nights, without children, are great ways to keep that connection. In our fast-paced society, I have witnessed too many marriages that believe texting and, sadly, Facebook are acceptable methods of communication. Wow, now that is romance.

Simply put, make date nights a priority, where rigid flexibility is must. Whether you choose once a week or once a month, schedule a date with your spouse and make it happen. If something comes up that takes precedence, go out the next night. On the other hand, be creative; instead of going out at night to dinner go to brunch.

Rigid flexibility is about relationship building. It’s about ensuring you put priority on the people who matter in your life. By following this principle, you will build not only momentum in your life, but begin to create influence in the lives of others.

What are some examples of rigid flexibility that you can share? How might using this principle create momentum in you life?

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Thinking Inside the Family

We often believe that smart business practices are to be left to business. We study best practices and apply them at the office or work environment, and then lose sight of these methods once we have shifted gears to our home life. However, if we applied many of those same principles we focus on during the workday to our family lives, wouldn’t it make sense that we would find success at home as well?

In my last post, “Thinking Inside the Box,” I argued that many organizations have lost sight of the key fundamentals that once defined their existence. The challenge was made of our organizations to regain clarity and re-focus on the basics. That same challenge now extends to your family!

Have you ever identified the non-negotiables in your family? Think about that for a second.

Is there a clearly defined culture in your home? Or, are you hoping that life at home will take care of itself? How long would your business survive if you left it to chance without a clearly defined plan?

The foundation of your family is established in three defining areas. It is not by accident that these are the same three areas that are key to your organizations culture.

  1. Purpose. What does your family stand for? Some families find purpose in being charitable and mission minded. Other families may have great devotion to education and ensuring that each generation is grounded in scholarship. Whatever your purpose, be intentional about communicating it to your spouse and children regularly.
  2. Passion. Are you enthusiastic about your family? Do you pursue your family purpose with excitement? Love your family! Be selfless in your actions and encouraging with your words.
  3. Focus. Is your family concentrated and unified? When you communicate your purpose and share your passion with your family, your focus becomes clear. Sharpen your focus, and you will eliminate uncertainties and doubt. Transparency strengthens families.

Are you up to the challenge? Do something many families no longer do. Clear the kitchen table of the junk mail and unfolded laundry, sit down together, and talk. Clearly define your purpose and pursue it with passionate focus.

Leave a comment and share your commitment to lead your family.

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Thinking Inside the Box

Stop thinking outside the box!

Did you ever identify “the box” in the first place? What if you’re thinking outside the wrong box?

Let’s lift the lid and take a look inside for a second. Your organization should have identified the contents long ago, and by the looks of things, we’ll need to brush off some dust and get reacquainted with what was once so neatly packed inside.

At one time, a lot of excitement, hope, and optimism were stored in your organization’s box and the lid was open for everyone to see. As time went by, its contents were gradually lost sight of, and eventually, they may have been forgotten all together. It looks like you may have thought outside its confines a little too often.

Inside your box should be your non-negotiables that define your organization. The foundation of your culture can be found in three key places:

  1. Purpose. Why does your organization exist and what is its intended outcome? Without a purpose, your organization is destined for burnout. Keep your purpose in front of you at all times.
  2. Passion. With purpose comes passion. Are you still intensely enthusiastic about your organization? Remaining enthusiastic and optimistic fuels success.
  3. Focus. Is your organization concentrated and unified? By clearly identifying your purpose, and sharing your passion, focus is much easier. Are your non-negotiables sharply defined or are the edges a little blurry?

No matter how large your organization, from the one person entrepreneurial venture to the fortune 500 company, getting back to the basics and regaining clarity are often necessary.

How do you define your organization? What additional items are in you box?

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Success and Sacrifices

Too many families are placed on the altar of sacrifice so that we can seek professional success. We believe that performance at the highest level has a cost, and that perception devalues our families. As we seek to be great leaders in the workplace, we make excuses for the lack of quantity time we spend leading our spouses and our children.

The true measure of person’s leadership can be found in how they lead their family. It is impossible to be the very best leader you can be if you’re struggling to positively influence and guide your home. Leadership does not have an on/off switch. Inconsistency is not a characteristic of a great leader; therefore as a leader, you can’t leave your leadership at the door when you leave work.

The same leadership principles that apply in your career should and do apply at home. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Are you being intentional? When you’re home are you intentionally spending time with your spouse and children?
  • Similarly, are you present? Do you turn your smart phone off and leave work at work, or do you continuously check your email and text messages because you believe the world will stop and all the progress of industry and society will fail without you. The reality is, your family will fail without you.
  • Are you innovative? Outside of the business place, this is called imagination. Do you play with your children? When’s the last time you took a pirate adventure with your son or sat in the floor with a dozen stuffed animals listening to the instruction of your daughter “teach?”

For many, this last question is too late. There is no more playtime. Children have grown and all those years have been lost. For others, let this be a wakeup call that your children need your leadership and influence.

Do you settle for a half-life or are you ensuring that it is balanced and full? Has your family become victim to achieving success?

It is impossible to create a family legacy if you don’t lead your family.

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