Are you planting trees, or feeling the pull of gravity?

Tree

 

When is the best time to plant a tree?  Twenty years ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Now!

– Proverb

I know where I need to be and what I should be doing, but the motivation, sometimes, is not here.  The work to be done is daunting and includes the not so fun stuff. Holding people accountable, making a decision that is not popular and the rare occasion in which I realize I am wrong and need to regroup (lol).

How do I get the tree planted today? One step at a time. Movement overcomes the pull of   gravity from the tasks. Like Nike says, “Just Do It”!

My writing has fallen off (gravity), my exercise has all but ceased (gravity), but today is the day to plant the tree. Today is the day I find my flow of movement.

“Someone sits in the shade of a tree today, because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

 

My question today is; Are you planting trees or are you just sitting in the shade? What are you doing?

No matter what this job is, you must decide to do it well.

MLK.monument1-460x260

“No matter what this job is, you must decide to do it well. Do it so well that the living, the dead, or the unborn (Yes) can’t do it better. (Yeah) If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Raphael painted pictures; sweep streets like Michelangelo carved marble; sweep streets like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper (All right), who swept his job well.” (Oh yes)If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, Be a shrub in the valley (Well)—but be The best shrub on the side of the hill.” –Dr. Martin Luther King

Although this excerpt was not a part of the “I have a dream” speech fifty years ago, it does ring true for leadership and remembering the insight of Dr. King.

I was told of a waste water worker in my city this past week, who has done his job for over 25 years. The director over this division spent a day with this man and had to tell me of his experience. He said this inspirational man stopped to thank God, several times throughout the day, for allowing him the opportunity to serve his family through his work. He thanked God while he was holding a suction hose picking up clogs of solid waste. The story goes on to say this man has done this for most, if not his entire career. He is also known as the best waste water worker in our city, possibly anywhere.  His enthusiasm is contagious, his knowledge and expertise is admirable, and his heart is inspiring.

Sometimes we lose focus on our purpose in life. We separate our personal life from our work life, like the two have no connection. How can we be the best at our career craft, without being the best at home? I guess the question could be refined to; what is the underpinning for your pursuit to be the best? Is it self-satisfaction? Is it in the service of others? and if so, then who are you trying to serve?

I’m as guilty as anyone at competing at work and switching gears at home to just “be”. This is the struggle I’m working on, being the best I can be in “life” rather than at a career. I am trying to focus my service on a higher calling that will collaterally serve all of my life and those who share it with me, be it home, work or those I will never meet, like the waste water worker, whom I’ve not met, (yet).

This post is a stray from my normal ranting. But it’s a step… for me.

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Are you aware of…. you?

What do you see?

Authentic leadership evasively hides, getting harder and harder to find everyday.  So many so-called leaders just manage day-to-day expecting great results to fall into their laps.  If you “lead” in any fashion you need to evaluate your interaction and influence. You alone possess the power to make people feel worth while in their jobs. Even if you do not have direct oversight, your daily interaction will exert influence in your co-workers.

Awareness of your presence and impact is necessary. (me)

Can you change processes or procedures that have become so integrated in the daily grind they are never evaluated? It becomes easy and somewhat habitual to go to work and do the same thing over and over. Read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business You will discover we are controlled by our daily habits and environment. Small changes reinforce huge shifts in our lives and the lives of our co-workers and friends.

Next question, what have you done recently to improve your professional abilities? Are you really done learning your job?  A true professional practices and works to get better at their craft every day. Just like the center on a football team (American NFL) who will snap the ball over and over and over again each and every day; you too should consider perfecting the small skills that make you a professional. Take a class, attend a seminar, read a book, teach a class, or just practice. No one knows it all or performs flawlessly without practice.

The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.
(Vince Lombardi)

The only way to get better is to objectively look at your performance and seek outside evaluation for how you’re doing.  We use 360 degree surveys that are unfiltered, raw unloading of the department’s observations as they see them.  These evaluations are truly anonymous and sometimes brutal in content. Really good stuff. The results then can be categorized to look for trends and even be used to personally self-evaluate how you are perceived. CAUTION: Use these with care. Learn how to take raw feedback..

If you are not passionate about your work, read the book Turning Pro and evaluate your path.  If you are just in a rut, look for ways to break the habits around you that are pulling you down. If you are passionate, then look for ways to communicate that passion to those around you so that they understand. Everyone hears the message differently thus personalities abound with diverse opinions.  Craft your passion into a message that is personal to each one of your co-workers.  Talk their language and see if your passion is contagious.

Change is not as difficult as we all think. It is as easy as changing simple mundane habits and embracing our passion. Also remember to be personal with those around you as the message you speak may be in a foreign tongue if not delivered in their native personality.

Parting Shot: Be vain, look into the mirror often enough to know how others see you.

Good People make Good Leaders

Leading people means that they give you something very valuable, their trust in you to take them somewhere. Why would you give your trust to a “bad” person?  Why would you follow someone who you didn’t believe cared for you?  Well, there are a couple of reasons I can think of; 1. you need a paycheck, 2. you are stuck and are just waiting to jump ship to another job.  Both scenarios are of organizations that are most likely not productive or unhealthy.  With this bit of knowledge of followership, don’t we have the secrets to being a great leader? Be Good!!!

Your legacy in an organization starts on day one and builds to be your leadership potential.  If your potential is low, take an objective look back over your legacy in the eyes of your potential followers.  Would you admit that you may not be well liked, but think that doesn’t matter because you know the job better that others?

Followers will only follow rules to their stated limits. Followers that are inspired by a leader will always exceed expectations.  (Me and some old Himalayan Shaman)

I am proposing a new promotional process for our mid-level leadership. I want to interview and investigate past performance rather than a written test and assessment center evaluation. This has caused some consternation, and I understand why. There is a high probability that the process could end up as a “good ol boy” system. There is also a possibility I can change the culture to one that understands that a legacy is worth more in leadership than a good test day.  For the proposed process to work, I would have to build validation into our everyday culture that takes away the fears that our mid-level leaders can’t perform the job.  I’m hoping I have them exceeding expectations on a regular basis.

Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast, (Peter Drucker, and then everyone else in the business world)

If the organization can grasp the idea of a culture that fosters growth in each other as much as the organization as a whole, leadership will be abundant. Good leaders emerge from the good follower that passes it on to those around him. You don’t have to be an anointed leader to care for those around you. Caring for and fostering the team is where the informal leaders garner a following. It then becomes a small step to the position of leader because people are used to following you already.

Aways be paying it forward.

The Secrets of the Gods? (leadership isn’t one of them)

I always thought if I read and became the master of all the tenants of leadership, I would be a good leader of an organization.  Sounds reasonable to me right?  Maybe,….  not.

I had an awakening a short while ago and started to understand something about leadership. I came to the realization that a great organization is not guided by a good leader, as much as it is by the culture that is “curated” by the leader.  I know it has been written in every book, blog and billboard that culture eat’s strategy for breakfast. However, what about all those leadership skills and the library of books, presentations I’ve listened to that tells me how to be?  Well, that’s the focus for me a short while back.

A good leader must be proficient in all the ways of leadership; Drucker, Bennis, Collins, Maxwell, etc.. but the reality is they aren’t telling us anything new. Leadership philosophy goes back to the beginning of time and is really reflected in Greek Mythology with Prometheus, father of mankind, who was hated by Zeus because of Prometheus’s foresight. There are many examples if you accurately define “leadership”.  Rallying troops, building a community, spearheading a project with a groundswell of followers and on and on.

What is leadership? “The action of leading a group of people or organization”?
lead·er·ship
[lee-der-ship]
noun
1.
the position or function of a leader,  a person who guides or directs a group: He managed
to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms:
 administration,management, directorship, control, governorship,stewardship, hegemony.
2.
ability to lead: As early as sixth grade she displayed remarkable leadership potential.
Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence,command, effectiveness; sway, clout.
The definition of leadership is best defined by his followers (me and probably some butterfly sage)

I get it, and so do you, but it’s not that easy to figure out why some “leaders” are more successful than others. Some have a style that is conducive to a product or process that may not work in a different organization trying the same approach. You still need to be very familiar with and proficient in the leadership styles and doctrines because they all come into play for great leaders. Leadership will emerge in every organization, unfortunately it will emerge in the presence of the organizational leader (so anointed) and rise to undermine or redirect the flow to their vision if they are not lead as well.  This means you will need to bring many leadership skills to bear in the crusade to building an organization that will embrace a direction.  All of the leadership skills that are documented can be learned and practiced, but until you can orchestrate them all in a symphony that is worth listening to, they are just what to “do” rather than how to “be”.  (Those who have read this blog before know the “how to be rather than how to do” mantra.)

How is this accomplished?

  1. Great leaders have passion. Enthusiasm must show, and BS will be seen from a mile away.
  2. Great leaders have vision. You must be able to explicitly see the goal.
  3. Great leaders are good story tellers. Communicating the vision must be engaging and rememberable. (read up on storytelling as a leadership skill)
  4. Great leaders propagate the species. Teach leadership, grow leaders in your organization, and plant the seeds of your vision as you do.  (this is the big secret)

All this to say, It’s about creating a culture that embraces your philosophies and insights and takes them in a common direction. A great leader can be obscure and really unknown  if he/she has the ability to plant the seeds of a vision with the leaders that will naturally emerge in an organization. Build the culture with empowering the right people, drafting the right policies, and being cognizant of the environment that will naturally impact both. The most valuable leadership skill of all, is taking care of the human processes.

How to do, is how to be..

Follow Me

Shaping an organization starts with a long look in the mirror. No matter how much I want everyone to embrace an idea or philosophy, it takes inspiration for people to move to action. This inspiration will only come from the one they see and respect as a leader. If you,  the leader, actually walks the walk then the example will be validated that your actions back up your vision. If you walk the walk with passion, your vision will take flight with purpose. When a group rallies around a purpose and can see the inspiration to action from a passionate leader, you cannot fail.

Leadership is a gift, given by those who follow, General Mark Welsh

Reinforcement of your vision will be necessary as well. Just because you give an impassioned speech to the troops doesn’t mean a week later they will remember what you said. Even when your walking the walk, don’t expect those around you to maintain the same enthusiasm without a dose of motivation on a regular basis. One thing to avoid in this tactic is motivation without any sight of movement. If your ideas aren’t getting traction, the followers will lose faith that what your selling is nothing more than just that, an idea. When traction occurs, highlight the action with more motivation. Don’t let the movement stall without an adjustment to create more traction.

Give credit where credit is due, with those followers that actually make it happen. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was, it matters who put legs under it and birth the idea into action. Followers live for accomplishing goals inline with their purpose. Connect these two and you begin designing a culture. Followers want to accomplish more to take them down the road towards the destination of purpose.

There is a lot more to building a culture that embraces challenges that some fear as change. It all starts with who their leader is and what he/she looks like to the masses. An organization can sniff out insincerity a mile away. You cannot fake your passion and example of leadership. You can try it. Once.

We all make mistakes along the way. How you handle the mistakes will also define who you are in their eyes. Be humble, honest and open about your actions. If you stumble, make sure it’s with grace. Never compromise your ethics. Stand up in front of the group and own any failures or mistakes that come from honest effort. Mistakes and failures can actually reinforce your respect as a leader depending on how you handle them. Honesty maintains trust in that others see who you profess to be, the leader. We are not always right, but we try.

 I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas Edison

Parting shot;  Leadership is how to be, not how to do… Frances Hesselbein