Thursday, June 6, 2013
We often interact with people seeking success at the expense of others or wanting to win by making others fail. They do not look to see who was stepped on during their ascension to the top or what rules might have been broken along the way. If we are honest with ourselves, rather than looking at how someone does things we tend to focus more upon their results – often elevating individuals to super star status based on the future they may bring without considering the carnage they may leave behind due to their lack of compassion. While many successful individuals rise to the top due to their own abilities, what should we do when we find that a person behaved inappropriately during their ascension? Do we ignore the “ways” in order to enjoy the “means” or should we act intentionally to address the unintended consequences of inappropriate behavior? Too many individuals assume all the credit while assigning only the blame – take the rewards associated with accomplishment while giving all responsibility for action to others. The choice we make speaks volumes to our character and the values we express to others as we live our daily lives.
When addressing a behavior that seems to be inappropriate, look inwardly before striking out. Did YOU do
Discussing inappropriate behavior is confrontational and never easy regardless of the relationship you may have with an individual. Before speaking, think about observable warning signs or clues YOU may have missed during the time leading up to the indiscretion. Mentally detail the individual’s strengths AND weaknesses (nobody is either all good or all bad – we are a combination of characteristics that make us unique). What is it about the individual that puts him or her above all others? Does the person possess the ability to grow or has the individual gone as far as they are going to go with the talents they possess? Are you willing to suffer a short-term disappointment in order to cultivate a long-term success? A realistic evaluation as to whether the individual is ABLE to grow (rather than simply being willing to try) must be an integral part of confrontation. We cannot force a person to change – he or she must see the benefits of altered behavior as being more significant than the rewards doing nothing differently.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Great leaders tend to display a fierce resolve to do whatever is necessary to create positive and sustainable change without caring who receives credit for the results. Is this not in conflict with what we see as being great qualities in the people we measure by “traditional standards?” We often focus on results when determining greatness rather than the “process” used to accomplish them – seeing the end without looking into the leadership characteristics that were ultimately responsible for the achievement.
Ask most people who they feel are great leaders and Steven Jobs or Jack Welch – outspoken champions of change who accomplished visible things – are often the first mentioned. While these individuals may have been change agents that created cultural transformation regardless of the cost, they are not as effective as a humble leader able to foster “buy in” to process change such as a teacher you once had whom you still remember or a spiritual leader that truly helped transform your life. Max DePree, a great West Michigan leader, wrote that “Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.” In order to lead effectively, one must consistently demonstrate humility, honesty and integrity so that people want to follow (noting that “following” should never be done blindly – it MUST include independent thought, analysis and consciously directed efforts) rather than being forced to follow and comply.
Sustainable leadership is built on a base of humility – a foundation that finds satisfaction in the happiness of others and seeks rewards without requiring recognition. Humility is disciplined strength. Humble leaders are quick to give credit and slow to accept praise. While a
Honesty is living, speaking and acting with a truthful sincerity that is free from deceit or fraud. Communicating honestly means to speak plainly and pointedly – stating all facts and assumptions considered before a decision was made – so that people know what you are saying AND (perhaps more importantly) why you are saying it. Respect cannot be purchased from another NOR imposed as an expectation, it must be earned (often by actions as simple as stating one’s position so it can be clearly understood and acted upon). While we have the right to freely and openly express our beliefs (short of harming another), we ARE NOT given the right to be taken seriously in all that we say – unless we have earned it by consistently demonstrating a high level of integrity through our actions. Far too often we take ourselves more seriously than we should, assigning too much importance on what we do rather than paying attention to why (and how) we are doing it.
Integrity is the value one establishes when he or she adheres to moral and ethical principles as guiding factors in the decisions they make – when moral character and honesty is expressed within all their personal and business interactions. People respect individuals perceived as “having integrity,” trusting what they say and willingly following where they lead because they know “where they are coming from” in everything that is said or done. Nobody is perfect – we are all human, and humans make mistakes. The way we deal with those mistakes, however, will either insure our ascension within an organization or guarantee our fall. While leaders must provide a clear sense of direction, they must be honest in accepting the blame when efforts fail. An individual able to do so will have gained immense credibility within his or her organization – credibility that will translate exponentially into positive results. Rather than striving for acceptance and popularity, great leaders seek understanding of their thought processes and respect for their consistency.
While charismatic leaders may produce “quick fix” solutions with lower risks (cutting costs and making splashy, quick change usually saves money n the short term), sustained success is delivered through leaders providing stability, long-term growth, and coordinated group effort. Perhaps more of us should learn how to balance ego with humility – to put corporate and employee growth before our own – so that we might reap the rewards of organizational success. Humility, honesty and integrity are leadership characteristics we should all strive to achieve. We should never say one thing and do another in ANY relationship. While compromise may be necessary to achieve a consensus decision, NEVER compromise the honesty, integrity or values that make you the unique person that you are.
Friday, May 24, 2013
• Clarify the difference between efficient and effective communication. An e-mail may be efficient, but a conversation could more effectively resolve an issue without extended “replies and clarifications.” Effective employees make sure that every investment of time and/or energy has a direct and measurable impact on their organization’s ability to conduct business – for if it were not so, why would they be necessary? Effective relationships begin with a foundation of sharing – one of giving more than you would ever expect to take in order to receive more than you could ever dream possible.
• Avoid the misguided concept of being irreplaceable. No individual is irreplaceable BUT it should be our aspiration to become important. If an individual feels that nobody could EVER do what he or she does, that person has probably limited what he or she will ever be able to accomplish. Individuals who believe they are “critical” to another person OR an organization because of their limited and specialized role simply reinforce stagnation and the acceptance of the status quo.
• Quit believing you know all the answers. People who know to ask the right questions are much more valuable (and desirable) than those who try to give all the right answers. One must always be open to new ideas, techniques, and ways of doing things. We can truly contribute to a meaningful relationship ONLY after identifying the limitations of current processes, practices, systems and procedures by asking questions that identify and isolate deficiencies – then by taking intentional action in a manner that defines a new direction and establishes a better destination.
• ALWAYS give credit to others. Individuals who recognize and acknowledge the ideas and actions of others – rather than taking credit for thoughts that may not be their own – tend to rise more rapidly to the top and find more satisfaction in close relationships. Those taking credit for another’s ideas better like themselves a lot because they may find their once supportive friends will not be around to prop them up in the future. When credit is freely given (with accountability being assigned and accepted should mistakes occur), people learn from their mistakes (rather than being flogged for them). Ultimately, the individual initiating the thoughts and the person allowing their development will jointly own the benefits of another’s ideas allowed to grow and prosper.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
A successful business must establish an organizational mission and focus its resources towards the mission’s fulfillment. It must remain true to its mission regardless of the unrelated opportunities that might present themselves or the potentially negative consequences that might emerge while following the planned path. Successful organizations are usually “birthed” to fulfill a specific need that is not being adequately met by anyone else. They are “fed and sustained” by the organization’s ability to continue to meet the need – to improve on quality and functionality while minimizing cost. If an organization becomes complacent by neglecting to make innovate improvements, continually improve on product quality or fail to maintain competitive price points, competitors may (if the business is significant and profitable) take over by paying better attention to those details. Should an organization stray from its mission rather than focusing on its core competencies – chasing unrelated “business rabbits” down unplanned “rabbit holes” (regardless of the potential income opportunities) – growth will be deflected or delayed. Not surprisingly, business is a microcosm of life – which cannot be lived to its fullest without a mission (purpose) or goals (aspirations) clearly identified and established.
Some people claim they will never fail if they set the bar low in life. They feel that happiness can be found by avoiding disappointment – questioning why one would ever establish lofty goals that present the risk of failure (regardless of the potential reward should the goal be attained). These individuals drift through life without ever realizing all they could be because they are content with being only enough to get by. They look to grasp onto things easily attained rather than looking towards the heavens and reaching out to touch the stars. They take what is available rather than seeking that which could be but has not yet materialized. They choose to travel the highways in life – the roads that lead to a defined destination in the most expeditious and direct route possible – rather than seeking new opportunities or finding undiscovered treasures along the roads less travelled.
Successful individuals plan their futures based on both their current abilities AND their attainable skills and capabilities. They establish goals not easily accomplished as they move from their “present reality” to a state of “future possibility.” Rather than accepting “what is” as being “all that will ever be,” they seek opportunities not yet identified as their next resting place while they travel towards an ever-changing target upon a long and winding road. They find success in making a difference – a difference not only in their own life but also in the lives of those they touch along the way. While setting the bar high may create temporary delays as they travel life’s path, they learn from their failures so they will be avoided in the future – paving the road to success with the knowledge gained from overcoming bumps in the road. Successful individuals continually fill their lives with new beginnings rather than being content to live lives filled with predictable and identifiable “ends.”
Successful business needs to identify a purpose and clearly communicate its commitment to invest all available resources into the accomplishment of its mission. A business cannot attain its full measure of success without establishing expectations and measuring progress towards the accomplishment of “baby steps” along the way. Likewise, one cannot realize their full potential without establishing a reason to exist that encompasses more than living one day at a time – that defines a purpose, goals, expectations, outcomes and ways to measure progress. Rather than defining “success” ONLY as being the ultimate accomplishment of a task, thought or process, successful individuals take stock of their actions as the move TOWARDS (and beyond) their goals .
Monday, May 6, 2013
Some people dream of success – of being something or somewhere else – preferring to remain in the comfort of their sleep without investing the sweat equity or emotional capital needed to bring transformation. Others wake from their dreams and begin working to bring them to fruition – to put into action the thoughts that came to them while sleeping by taking intentional action to move them forward. We can lead, follow or get out of the way in life – but standing (without moving) often results in our being run down by seemingly undeterred forces then abandoned along side the road, left in the wake of those truly making a difference. Taking action – ANY action – provides us the opportunity to make a difference. When trying to make a difference, the only “wrong” decision is one not made – the only “inadequate” action is one not taken.
We can all make a difference in life – but not all of us will make the same difference. Some are working on becoming all they might become – having very little energy (or inclination) to make a difference in the life of another. They take one day at a time – living a life that seemingly offers more redundancy than reward, more sense of survival than source of stimulation. Others seem always to give back far more than they could ever receive – finding more joy in the journey than delight in the destination.
To make a difference you must BE different. When you begin to THINK differently, you will find yourself floating to the top as those around you rise to the surface rather than trying to swim against the current while ascending on your own. You will embrace change rather than fearing failure – seeking the possible rather than accepting the probable. Make a difference in others – the return on your investment will make a difference in you!
Friday, April 26, 2013
Looking back in an attempt to see how their lives had unfolded...
Looking ahead towards a future not yet defined.
Their aimless wanderings lay behind them…
Their paths weaving desperately through the wilderness…
Coming near then veering away - not ever quite merging into a single trail.
They find strange comfort within the hazy darkness of their individual pasts…
Gazing back at their towering peaks of accomplishment
Made greater when seen from the valleys of their despair…
Increasingly tired of their struggles within a thankless world…
They both sought paths that would lead towards truth…
Seeking an obscure road that might reveal a brighter future…
What makes us decide to do things differently – particularly if the things we are doing are providing a degree of satisfaction or a comfortable position in life? What makes us wander from familiar paths in search of unknown opportunities? Why do we seem always to seek what is "on the other side" rather than building upon what we are comfortable and familiar? Why do some seem content with what they are while others may never be satisfied with their lives? Often the way we look at what we have (and what we wish to acheive) is driven by the success that comes as a result of what we have done.
We all want success, but far too often success can breed arrogance - which can lead us towards complacency. If we ride a success beyond its effective lifespan, thinking “our way” is the only way, someone else will either assume our position (by improving upon what we do) OR force us to change (by revealing the shortcomings of our established approach). We must actively appraise the things we do – both in our work and our personal relationships – if we wish to remain relevant. We must continually analyze our strengths and weaknesses if we are to remain effective. If we wish to remain successful we must realize the only constant in life is change. We must occasionally stop what we are doing so we can start doing something else!
To initiate change one, three major issues must be addressed. First, as the wanderers realized, we must recognize what we have always done and acknowledging where we have come from THEN start doing something different if we expect altered results. We may serve our customers well but how can we better serve them? We may be content with the consistency of a current relationship but what can we do to improve it? Should we change for the sake of change or only to address a specific issue or item that needs to be altered? Whenever we recognize our goals have changed we must move away from our original path onto one that redirects our efforts or we will never be positioned to take advantage of our expanded perceptions.
While identifying what must be done to create meaningful change, paths (and methods) needing abandonment will inevitably be revealed. Can suspension be an effective punishment for someone missing too much time from work? Can an individual communicate effectively without embracing technology and learning how to “entertain” using Power Point? Should we expect an introvert to take the lead during a social encounter? If you have never reached for the sky - never attempted to stretch your horizons - how can you expect to rise above the clouds without intentionally taking a different path than you have travelled before? In order to travel upon a new road that leads to a different future we must stop doing the things we have always done (even if they may be temporarily effective) in order to realize different results.
One caution that few think of when seeking change, however is that we must avoid abandoning everything we used to do while travelling the road to new opportunities. We must identify and continue doing things that produce growth while we add new approaches that might provide a different reality. Everyone can gaze upwards to celebrate “peaks of accomplishment.” We far too often choose, however, to dwell within our “valleys of despair” as we look up to the seemingly insurmountable challenges that lie ahead of us - holding on to the comfort our darkness provides rather than opening our eyes to the bright light hidden just beyond the horizon. In order to realize meaningful change we should continue doing the things that brought us to our heights while we actively and intentionally discard those that brought us to our knees - find comfort in those things that may have formed us while we seek the fire that will temper us and make us stronger.
They turned slowly and deliberately…
Moving forward into the vast unknown that lay ahead…
Leaving behind the comfort they once knew…
Embarking deliberately upon a path that would change their lives forever…
An excerpt from “Life’s Path To The Promise of A Dream” by Dave Smith
Monday, April 22, 2013
In all that we do we should recognize that “The highest courage (we can exhibit) is daring to be ourselves in the face of adversity.” How many times do we take the easy path rather than choosing the “road less traveled?” How often do we seek the path of least resistance rather than taking a stand for what is right – for what we know to be true – regardless of the personal cost? Being true to yourself by openly expressing your ideals and honestly revealing your beliefs to others – regardless of what they may think about you – is not always the easiest route to take BUT it almost always returns the greatest rewards.
Accepting the axiom that “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing” is the foundation upon which ongoing and sustainable success should be built. Individuals attempting to portray perfection in whatever they do or say spend much more time avoiding what is wrong than they do striving to accomplish what is right. Trying to do all the things necessary to be an exemplary leader (partner or friend) rather than simply leading (or living) by example often places roadblocks along life’s path that are very difficult to avoid. True success is more a measure of who one is while nobody else is looking – by the substance of our dreams and aspirations – than it is a testament to those things that we do in public in order to receive accolades or recognition.
We need not look far to find other motivational messages. Some would include the following:
• “We cannot lower the mountain so we must elevate ourselves.” This is sage wisdom for an individual seeking to climb the ladder of success. We cannot expect mountains to become molehills on their own – we must rise to the top of every challenge, continuously moving forward even though we may fall temporarily back, as we aspire to reach the pinnacle if we are to succeed.
• “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Many people find satisfaction in bringing the hopes and dreams of others to fruition. Others find such satisfaction hollow – preferring to realize their own dreams. If one never attempts to accomplish their individual dreams, he or she will never fail or be disappointed. (Rarely will a person having insignificant goals or setting low standards for their own performance ever be happy with their accomplishments,) If we do not establish a target – formalize a dream – we will never truly taste the success of our individual accomplishments.
• Some people see things and say “Why?” I dream things and say “Why not?” Those who know me well recognize this truth as one of my personal drivers. NEVER accept things as they are – always seek what could be. Asking others “why” they are doing something (or why they are choosing to do it in one particular way) defaults your boundaries to the limits they set in response to your question. Asking “why not” expands these boundaries to the limits established within your own mind – stretching the probable into the possible.
• Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. Life is an ongoing series of events whose purpose is revealed only when we exhibit the courage to remain singularly strong in the face of adversity – when we make a conscious and intentional decision to do what is right rather than being concerned about avoiding what is wrong! We must always look ahead – take every step with purpose - as we keep our focus forward towards where we are going rather than focusing behind towards where we have been. Though one can never get lost if he or she does not know where they are going, they will never know if they have reached their destination until it has been purposefully (and publicly) expressed after being intentionally determined.