I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Lessons from the Railroad

Effective leadership is fashioned through activities, which chisel away excess material revealing the masterpiece within. One summer I learned a lot about leadership working with troubled and troubling teens constructing a rail system for a local historical society in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What I learned about leadership resulted from specific steps executed in the construction of the track. The project revealed three distinct lessons regarding leadership. The result of the investment made in the project and the people was an increased capacity to exercise effective leadership skills.

This article will detail the first in a series of three lessons learned during the construction of a small-scale, full-sized rail system for a local historical society. In subsequent installments, the second and third lessons will be shared. Each lesson stands alone; however, the three lessons combine to produce a compound effect. Personal application of each lesson is suggested to aid the reader in maximizing the transferability of the applied concept.

Lesson #1: To shape individual leadership skills requires varying amounts of tension.

The first observation on arrival to the site was

Details Matter

Leadership Lessons from Disney World

Details-Matter

She was wiping off the trash can. Not only did she clean the outside of the trash can, she was actually cleaning the inside lip and edges of the opening where you throw the trash as you walk by the can.

Many companies care about the cleanliness of their environment. But very few take it to the level that you see at one of the Disney parks in Orlando, Florida. After all, no one really sees the inside edge of a trash can. And although you may not see it, your hands are very likely to encounter the edges of the openings to the trash cans. And Disney does NOT want your memories and experiences after you leave Disney to be sticky, stinky, and gross. That is why someone wipes down and cleans both the seen and the unseen areas of a trash can.

So, what is the leadership lesson from this observation?

The leadership lesson is

Big Ideas

Leadership Lessons from Disney World

Big Ideas

Great leaders have BIG ideas. Not every one of them is necessarily big. But some of them must be.

Consider these words and the idea that they represent.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

Those are the words of Walt Disney himself. He made that statement on the What Is Disneyland television program on October 27, 1954. In those words, Walt Disney expressed the incredible power of even a small idea. The idea was a cartoon mouse that would ultimately propel Walt and his brother Roy into the place where they could do, and would do, incredible things.

“He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels.”

Walt Disney wrote an essay in 1948 essay entitled, What Mickey Means to Me. In that essay, he recounts the “lowest ebb” and the “disaster” and describes it as an intellectual property theft of two things. One was the theft of his earlier and successful cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. And the other was most of the Disney artists that worked with him early in his career.

But focus on the idea that popped out of his mind.

Knowing Your Place

When Leaders Act Differently Than We Expect

Knowing Your Place

It was the last night of my stay at the very luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Apparently someone had alerted the General Manager that I would be leaving very early the following morning. So, he came to my dinner table in the dining room to introduce himself and to say “Thank you” for my extended stay It had been a 3 and a half week stay at his hotel. It was soon after our brief discussion ended that I saw an extraordinary example of true servant leadership.

A woman was struggling with a large balloon bouquet and a suitcase. In addition to the most senior person in the hotel, there were several other general staff in the very near vicinity. They probably saw her as well. And then he did it.

Emotionally Adept Leaders

The Case for EI is the Case for EA

Emotionally Adept Leaders

To make a case for one of them is to also make the case for the other. Because to truly grasp Emotional Intelligence (EI) and not put it into practice in every area of life would be to deny by your actions that you really “get it” when it-comes to the topic of EI.

I am in the process of writing a book on the topic of what it means to take Emotional Intelligence beyond just “knowing” and onto the important steps of incorporating that knowledge into our daily lives. In other words, becoming emotionally “adept” and not just full of knowledge that is never applied to how we live our lives. I am terming this, becoming “Emotionally Adept” and it is part of the overall process of becoming an “Emotionally Adept Leader.”

However, before I continue and expand on what it is to be emotionally adept, I should probably set the background for those not familiar with EI or reset the background for those that are familiar.

High-level Summary of EI.

By now, many of you have read the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. So, just what is emotional intelligence? The quick answer is to say that there are four components of emotional intelligence that best define it. The first two are about yourself, while the remaining two are concerning others or those around you.

Self- consciousness (Being aware of one’s own emotions) 

Knowing yourself and being conscious of your emotions is the first component of emotional intelligence. Becoming aware of

Nice Guys Finish Last

The Lost Art of Calendar Discipline

Nice Guys Finish Last

Maybe nice guys don’t finish “last.” But they often finish “late.” What do I mean when I say that?

One of the most glaring leadership issues that I observe on an all too frequent basis is a lack of calendar disciple. Calendar discipline is the internal discipline to make sure that as much as in me lies, to start a meeting on time and to finish a meeting on time. To be transparent here, this is a personal pet peeve and a Quixotic quest to always be punctual in starting and ending my meetings. I learned many years ago that although you can be too late for a meeting or an event, you cannot usually be too early.

This discipline is especially important when we are scheduled in back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings. As soon as I start or end a meeting late, I begin a chain of events that will have a negative impact on people that are not even aware of it yet. And that chain reaction may cause them to then miss their committed time for their meetings and events that have nothing to do with my meetings and events.

A colleague of mine from many years ago had a little maxim that he quoted about his daily work habits. He said:

“Each day I have two goals. The first is to get to work on time. The second is to go home on time. And just because I fail at the first goal, it does not mean that I need to fail at the second.”

It was meant in humor, but there is a ring of truth to it that we can apply to getting ourselves back on schedule.

Why does this seem to happen?

This thing tends to happen because as leaders we try to be too nice. I realize that this article may seem to be a contradiction to my most recent article. But bear with me.

Real Leaders Care

Are you compassionate?

Real Leaders Care

There is a story that is told of an old lady who came to the post office frequently to buy stamps. And that story presents us with a leadership trait that we would all do well to develop.

It seems as though she was a fragile and frail senior citizen. She showed up one day during the busy Christmas season and queued up in the line to buy stamps. Unfortunately, the line wound its way around the inside of the post office and spilled out onto the sidewalk outside.

A concerned customer behind her said as he pointed to a stamp machine built into the far wall, “Ma’am, you must be getting very tired. Did you know there’s a stamp machine over there in the lobby?”

“Why yes, thank you, dear,” the elderly lady replied, “but I’ll just wait here a little while longer. It’s nearly my turn now.”

The good Samaritan became almost insistent. “But, it’d be so much easier for you to avoid this long line if you’d buy your stamps from the machine.”

The kind old woman patted him on the arm, and answered, “Oh I know that, sweetie but that machine on the wall would never ask me how my grandchildren are doing.”

There it was. Did you get it? Did you see the leadership trait that is so important for us to exhibit?

What is the leadership trait?

It is this.

Behind Every Great Man

No One Does It Alone

Behind Every Great Man

One of the greatest leaders of all of history is Moses of Biblical fame. Moses is considered a great leader because of the mighty deliverance of God’s people from the bondage and slavery of Egypt.

It is not my normal habit to use too many Biblical illustrations in my writing. But today is Mother’s Day and today I am reminded of Moses and of his mother. Do you recall her name? Don’t go look it up. Try to remember it. Do you give up? The mother of Moses was Jochebed.

The name “Jochebed” translates or implies, “glory of Jehovah” or, “Jehovah (is her or our) glory.” Therefore, you could make the case, based upon this name of the mother of Moses, that the announcement of Jehovah, as the name of God, was not made for the first time when God revealed Himself under that title to Moses in the burning bush. Rather, Jochebed’s name revealed what God himself would later reveal to Moses out in the desert.

What is the leadership lesson on this Mother’s Day?

It is this.