Be intentional about influencing others; be intentional about how you influence others.
Transformational leadership happens when lives are changed from the inside out. It's based on character and conviction. If we are transformed as leaders, we won't be able to keep from influencing our world!
Editorial-How To Talk Like A Leader
One of my pet peeves is small talk. Many times it becomes meaningless chatter; conversation filler, and as an editor, I weed out meaningless fillers. My disdain for fillers could be why I abhor small talk, or I could abhor small talk due to my professional quirks. Either way, the whole experience is like nails on a chalk board for me, and this is how it could negatively affect your business.
Most small talk is forced on us by being in a situation that places us in close proximity to another person. It that case, to say something-anything-is the polite thing to do. Polite and it helps ease the tension. But what if you actively engage in small talk, knowing what you are doing, and have a choice-and chance-to do otherwise? Here is an example of a typical greeting.
Me-Hey, Bob! How are you?
You- Good. How are you?
Me-Doing great. How's the family?
You-Oh, they are all doing fine. And yours?
Me-Fine. Fine. Doing fine. How's the job going?
You-The job's going great. Busy, but I can't complain. Yours?
Me-Oh, yeah. The same.
And on and on the meaningless conversation goes. You may even get around to talking about the weather, the fight on tv last night or the upcoming playoffs. You can talk about multiple topics without really saying anything.
No specifics, just generic, pre-programmed questions and answers that fill time, but do not provide an opportunity to learn very much in the process. By learning little, we avoid connecting. In the business world it plays out the same but as a leader, it is our job to connect, not just fill time with chatter or empty promises.
If you say a product will be delivered on a certain date, do it. There will be occasional obstacles that perhaps delay that ship date, but it should be a rare occurrence, not the norm. If you are consistently missing deadlines, it is an issue that warrants concern and finding a resolution for. Your word becomes your reputation.
If you say you have an open door policy but refuse to hear your employee when he has a complaint or concern, it's small talk and empty promises.
If you expect the managers under your leadership to be positive and motivating, use the same language (both spoken and body-wise). To demand that they lead in a different way than you are modeling is just empty, meaningless words.
We need to do better when it comes to saying what we mean and meaning what we say. There is a time and place for small talk, but it should not be a way of life. On the business, political, or spiritual platform, authenticity matters. When you are on the job, so to speak, lead in a way that shows your words matter. When you are in social situations, continue to put weight to your words and avoid empty, meaningless conversation. If you say, "I'll call you later", "Let's stay in touch", or "We need to get together sometime", do it. If you don't mean to, find another way to end the conversation. It's not a social standard to say things you don't mean.
Well, let me re-phrase that. It should not be a social standard for a leader to say things they don't mean. People will have a hard time respecting you, trusting your leadership, and finding you worthy of following if you aren't authentic.
The next time you are tempted to begin a conversation with "How's it going?", try getting a little more specific. "I haven't seen you in a while, what's been going on?" and then really listen to their response. When the conversation is over, don't give in to the temptation to say, "We need to stay in touch" or "I'll call you sometime", unless you mean it.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters, and keep that conversation going. As a leader, live your life as a conversation, not in small talkese. In other words, connect with people and be authentic enough to keep that connection open-in words and in deeds.
Editorial-It's Dead, Let it Go
"We all hate to fail, hate to give up, hate to give in. We love the challenge of life and want to keep on until whatever we are trying to win has been overcome, vanquished, beaten, won. But sometimes it just ain't going to happen. Learn how to philosophically shrug and walk away with your pride in tact and dignity high." ~From the book The Rules of Life by Richard Templar
Stubborn. Tenacious. Hard headed. There are many words to describe that one characteristic we have that keeps us holding on to something that we should let go of. It could be an idea that looks oh, so good on paper but we can't quite seem to make it materialize. Or there is that one relationship that no matter how hard we work on it, we can't make it work. Or that career we want so much that just isn't happening, but instead of admitting it's a no-go, we keep banging our proverbial head against the wall, convincing ourselves that all we need to do is find that sweet spot and it will work.
I don't like to be the bearer of bad news but I am a realist, and here are the facts. We want things in life. Sometimes we want things or people or ideas more than we want our next breath, so we are willing to do anything to have that desire come into fruition. We try, try harder, and keep trying, because after all, hard work can accomplish pretty much anything. And cue the bad news.....no matter how hard you try, some things will never happen.
Some relationships aren't meant to be. Some career choices aren't suited for us. Some ideas aren't in our best interest. Call it fate. Call it a higher power. Call it life. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, some things never work out. Ask the barren woman that has tried everything to conceive a child and her arms are still empty. Ask the divorcee how she got there, and listen as she shares (through tears) the many ways she tried to save her marriage. Ask the 30-something young executive about his health, which in spite of exercising and eating clean, he is battling cancer.
Sometimes we can not alter circumstances or people to fit our desires. When it's not working, let it go. Begging, pleading, holding on so tightly that our knuckles turn white is not attractive. Shrug it off, walk away, and hold your head up. It's not the end of the world. It's the end of a dream of yours and it's time to bury it and walk away. And when you do, don't go back. Not to verify for the hundredth time that it's dead, not to dream and hash out the "what might have been's", not to figure out what went wrong. Leave it there, walk on, and don't look back.
How do you know when it's time to let go? You will find that yet another attempt has not created the desired result. You will become depressed and keep asking why things just aren't working. You will remain heartsick that you can't find the answer to a never-ending question. You'll know alright. And when you're ready to face that fact, you'll find that letting go isn't as painful as hanging on.
Editorial- Don't Wish For It
You've said it a time or two. I know you have. I wish-see how easy it is to say?-I had a dime for every time I heard those words uttered in my office. My response has always been some form of the now famous cliché, "Don't wish for it, work for it."
If you wish for something, or even just say those words, your perception is that the goal you want to achieve is in the hands of fate and impossible for you to accomplish on your own. But is any goal you aspire to reach really too much of a dream that hard work couldn't bring it into reality? There's only one way to find out.
You can sit around and daydream and/or talk about getting healthier, growing your business, thickening your portfolio, giving back to the community, but all you really accomplish in daydreaming and talking is nothing. That's right. Even extended planning can paralyze good intentions. The more you think and talk and daydream about something, the less likely you are to begin working on it. It's called procrastination and we are all pretty accomplished at doing it.
We don't know what to do, or how to start, or we may not see the many steps involved from beginning to end so we sit and wait until the vision becomes clear, but here's the thing...it never will. Life isn't that cable television series you can binge watch from beginning to end. The ugly truth about life is that we don't have the ending tied up neatly and presented to us when we begin a project. We just have to begin and hope, and plan and prepare for the best.
Plan for the project. Do you want to get healthier? Make a plan. Determine to drink more water, get more sleep, cut back on junk food...anything that counts as a step to you becoming healthier, put it on paper and plan to do it.
Prepare for the project. If you want to drink more water, get a 30 ounce tumbler and know that if you fill it twice during the day, you will have consumed your 60 ounces of water. If you want to add more protein into your diet, buy convenience packages of tuna or pack a peanut butter sandwich on multi-grain bread to eat during the day. If you have what you need at hand, meeting your goal becomes doable.
For those that believe in a higher power, pray. You can also meditate and envision yourself accomplishing your goal.
It's time to put those plans on paper, prepare for the many steps involved in the journey to success, and release the outcome to a power bigger than yourself. Fate is not always your friend, but I wish you could see how empowered you are already to accomplish all that you hope for, but even more so when you add intention and purpose to your will power.
Don't wish for it. Plan for it. Prepare for it. Pray and meditate for it. And then just do it.
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Editorial- The One Thing Leaders Should Never Do
It's about to get real here because something is happening among some of the best leaders in our community that should not be taking place. It is something we see witnessed on the world stage through media-either on television, social media, podcasts, vlogs, or blogs. It is something no leader of class or integrity should ever do. It is something I have personally heard some of the most influential pastors, business leaders and political leaders do and it leaves me a little disappointed. It is not just a slip up, it is intentional and premeditated.
Leaders (speaking here of upper management and world-wide)are men and women like the best of us. They have frustrations, personal problems, management challenges...they get hungry and thirsty and even need to empty their bladder just like you and I. They are not gods, by any means. They may struggle in some personal areas while exemplifying the most incredible of leadership capabilities, or may really struggle in leadership yet maintain an impeccable character. And yet, the public criticism they endure-especially in the technical world we live in-is cruel and judgmental to an unprecedented proportion. You would expect to hear certain people in certain situations condemn leaders when they don't quite measure up to the status quo. However, that still does not make the public airing of frustration (by leadership)-in other words, venting-anything other than elementary or entry-level execution of said frustration. It screams inexperience. Especially when a leader that has a major following in any facet of the word- and may have an element of influence-is the one speaking poorly against men and women of influence.
One area that is consistently subjected to venting and public criticism is the office of president. When I hear a leader criticize our nation's presidential team-especially when that venting is obviously based on biased opinions-I wonder what happened to supporting each other, reasoning one-on-one, praying for each other, or even following the commandment of Mom-if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
See, people have ideas and ideals and not every leader will embrace our set completely. That's not a bad thing. After all, diversity is part of our great country. But don't embrace diversity on one hand yet use a public platform to speak against our nation's top leader when he doesn't perform to your specifications on the other.
Can we as leaders start coming together more and agree to disagree and find common ground instead of speaking against each other? After all, the people we lead are watching and following us. If we don't set that example of "coming together" in word and deed, how can we expect them to? Words often conflict with actions and they know it. They see it. They don't need to know our personal opinion about the president, or any other top leader for that matter. They need to know that even if we don't agree with the leader, instead of setting up a power-point presentation of what we disagree with, that we will still respect the position and authority of that leadership office. If that goes against personal convictions, can we just keep silent? The negativity is not going to produce anything positive, which is the biggest reason for this editorial.
We have enough back-biting, negative, divisiveness in our country. It's time for leaders of integrity to step up and refuse to join in. No leader worth his position of influence should ever publically criticize our nation's top leadership. Keep it positive. Keep it classy. Be a leader that celebrates and exemplifies peace, unity and diversity. As the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world. Be part of the answer, not part of the problem.
Editorial- How Can I Move Beyond Regrets?
My clients know that I am predictable about interweaving song lyrics into our sessions and I have a reason for that. I believe music is universal and speaks of experiences we all journey through. Music is also something that is felt on a deeper level. It is spiritual and can penetrate and heal those inner struggles when human interaction fails.
So when the subject of regret comes up, I immediate hear Duran Duran's mellow lyrics and whining guitars as they proclaim: I won't cry for yesterday, there's an ordinary world, somehow I have to find, And as I try to make my way, to the ordinary world, I will learn to survive.
There are two categories of regrets we experience: mistakes made and missed opportunities. In other words, things we did that we shouldn't have, and things we didn't do that we should have. But the consequence is the same. There is guilt. There is frustration. There is the heavy weight of carrying around the twins named could-have's, and should-have's. So how do you escape that debilitating-and sometimes-paralyzing sinking sand?
First, realize that you made the best decision at the time based on the information you had on hand. (Unless, of course, you ignored your intuition and all common sense. If that was the case, self correction is the only remedy) Now that you have journeyed through that particular instance, you may act and react differently next time.
Second, you are entitled to make mistakes. It happens. Give yourself permission to misread and misjudge an occasional opportunity. But remember, the first occurrence is a mistake. The second is a choice.
Third and most important is this. Regrets hurt and hold us back because we stay stuck in those feelings of could-have, should-have. Embrace the mistake, grieve for the error in judgement, and then pick up and move on. The worst thing you can do is to park in your regret and never move beyond that point in your journey.
Embedded in Duran Duran's song is another line that is crucial advice in overcoming any momentary set back in our professional or personal life: Where is my friend when I need you most? Having a strong support network in place-even if it is just one really, good friend or coach-helps when we need to verbally work through regret. Sometimes hearing that it's ok to move on and that you have not failed, but learned, helps. It helps a lot.
In the event you can't find that friend and/or your coach is unavailable, you always have music. Find your song and move in its flow, allowing it to heal the brokenness so that you can emerge a better version of you. If you can do that, you have nothing to regret.
Editorial- Service is an Attitude
Long, long ago, (well, this actually happened a few days ago) in a land far, far away, (literally a few miles from the house) there worked a manager that failed on many levels when a customer, (that would be me) entered her restaurant to correct an order that had been incorrectly given in the drive-thru.
So the story goes that after soccer practice one evening, my son was hungry and, remembering a certain popular commercial that had aired recently, asked if he could try the latest, greatest new menu item. (I will protect the identity of the restaurant and the staff involved) After waiting almost 15 minutes in the drive thru line, we checked our bag before leaving the parking lot and realized we had received the wrong items. Not wanting to sit in that line for another 15 minutes, I decided to walk in and hopefully retrieve the correct order in just a minute or two.
After telling the counter associate about the mistake, the manager appeared and asked what we ordered. I told her and she asked a second time, feigning confusion as if I had just spoken in a foreign language. I pointed to the menu board above the cash registers and read it word per word off the board. (This was error #1) She sighed loudly, stated we would have to wait a few minutes, and walked out to the parking lot. By this time, I was becoming very intimate with my watch as I began timing the following events. She spent four minutes in the parking lot before coming back in. As she stopped at the small sink behind the counter to wash her hands, she motioned for one of the employees that were responsible for assembling the orders to come to her. She then talked in hushed tones and he kept looking at my son and I as we sat, waiting. (This was error #2) She then disappeared to a back room and I did not see her again for another five minutes. Are you counting? That is nine minutes total so far, and our order has not been corrected. (This was error #3) At the twelve minute mark, I walked up to the counter and asked if the manager had forgotten our order. (This was error #4) Within three minutes, another employee appeared and presented us with a bag that turned out to be the corrected order. That was fifteen minutes in drive thru, fifteen minutes waiting inside for the order to be corrected.
Let's review the errors made. #1-Intimidating, talking down to or demeaning your customer because you are upset is not only poor communication skills, it is poor customer service.
#2-Talking about customers to your employees-the very ones you are to motivate and be an example for-shows poor management skills, poor people skills, poor decision making, and poor customer service.
#3-As I waited for our order to be made correctly, I watched orders steadily being made for in-house and drive thru customers without a priority placed on our order. Owning a mistake is part of good customer service. Punishing your customer for pointing out a mistake made by one of your employees is immature, poor customer service and poor leadership.
#4-Good communication between the manager and myself was a total fail. There was no apology, there was no priority placed on making the wrong right, there was no indication that there was appreciation for our time and money being invested in her restaurant. When we did receive the corrected order, it was put on the counter without as much as a "Sorry for the wait", "Here you go, have a nice evening" or "Get out of here." No communication at all.
I relay this story to encourage managers that place a high value on customers and customer service. When it's done right, people remember just as they will when it's done wrong. The way you make your customer feel means as much to them as the product you deliver. It also serves to show that leadership is more than good customer service. It means modeling ethical, moral and positive actions to your employees. It means dealing with conflict without inviting the gang-mentality of pulling as many to your side as possible. And listen. When you pit your employee against your paying customer? That sets a precedence of poor customer service from that moment on.
I do not hold grudges against this restaurant and as this unfolded, I knew a blog post would be forthcoming. You learn as much by watching others fail miserably as you do by listening to the pro's and experts. And that brings me to my final point.
Be a life-long student. Stay alert to opportunities to learn from others. Even when those bad things happen, purpose to take away something positive from the experience, even if it's nothing more than knowing what you won't do in the future. That is when you will experience the "happily ever after" in your own story.