My Mount Rushmore of Mentors

The Top Few Who Have Really Influenced Me

I had a text message this morning from a man who has been way more influential in my life than he even knows. We had not been in touch for a while due to his move from TX to LA and because of my crazy schedule for the last few months. He was checking in with me to make sure that the lack of communication was not due to some unidentified or unresolved issue between us. Nothing can be farther from the truth!

In the short text response back to him to let him know I am still alive, I told him that he is on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of guys who have had a major impact on my life. The real Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota is the epitome of public acknowledgment of greatness.

Mount Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of four of the United States greatest presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Can you name anyone else who deserves to be on that mountainside? Wait, don’t do that. That is not what this article is about. It is about the four guys who have had a significant impact on my life and my leadership development.

My Mount Rushmore

I want to share with you just who these guys are. But I want to allow them some anonymity out of respect for their time and privacy. Here they are:

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It’s Not “Who’s your Daddy?”

It is “Who’s your Uncle?"

My business travels have taken me far and wide. They have taken me around the world several times over. And I have had the incredible opportunity to observe and interact with many different cultures. One of the interesting aspects of the culture of India is the use of the word, “Uncle.”

Modern vernacular has given us the pejorative question, “Who’s your daddy?”  According to Wikipedia, it is a slang expression that means: “takes the form of a rhetorical question. It is commonly used as a boastful claim of dominance over the intended listener. It is also sometimes used as a derogatory claim of sexual dominance of a man over a woman or another man.” All in all, it is not the most uplifting thing that you can say.

What does this have to do with Indian culture?

Indian culture uses the term “Uncle” in quite the opposite sense. Rather than be a derogatory term as we see here in the U.S., the term “Uncle” is used as a way of showing respect for those that are older or more mature than we are. I was shocked to be referred to in that way on my first trip to India several years ago. I had the great pleasure to meet a family involved in ministry and missionary work. They were locals and were indigenous to that region of India. There were a husband and wife. They had extended family as well. We all went to lunch together on a Sunday afternoon. One of the young adults that I enjoyed dining with was 20-something female, who upon meeting me for the first time referred to me thereafter as “Uncle.” Rest assured, I am not her biological uncle. However, once I understood that it was a term of true endearment and respect, I did get a very warm feeling from being called “Uncle.”

People of India recognize and address those who are older with a familial term as a way of showing respect. It also indicates that they are open to the influence that the “Uncle” may have on their life.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

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Leadership Lessons from T-Ball

At least from a Papa’s Perspective

Leadership Lessons from T-Ball

I have remarked many times before that you cannot predict from whence inspiration will come. Such is the case today as I reflect on my youngest grandchild’s recent first year of Junior T-Ball.

We are not baseball fans by nature. I am much more of an ice hockey fan than a baseball fan. But, thanks to some very dear and patient friends, I learned the game of baseball almost 15 years ago. Nowadays, I thoroughly enjoy the game.

The fact that Jr. T-Ball bears little resemblance to real baseball is not the subject for today. Rather, it is to consider the leadership lessons (and really, life lessons) from watching our grandson’s first season.

Observations and an Application to Leadership

T-Ball can be a little scary. — Most of the little ones were a little scared to be out there on the field by themselves. Mom or Dad was always welcome to stand alongside the player. Shoot, the little player could actually ask anyone to stand not the field with them to help them feel more comfortable out there. I was drafted several times by my grandson to stand with them as they played the field. But, you know what, we were able to share great times together. And guess who taught him to say “Hey battah, battah, battah!” while he hunched over trying to be as ready as he could?

Leadership can be a little scary at times as well. We just may need to reach out and draft someone to come stand beside us from time to time. Not only will it be a comfort to us, we can also learn some things while they are standing by our side if we are open to a little ad hoc mentoring.

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The Truly Humble Don’t Know It

Or, if they do, they are too humble to mention it!

The Truly Humble Don’t Know It

Last week was a blur. I spent the entire week in New Orleans at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) Summit & Salute.

According to their website, “WBENC’s Summit engages participants in a two-day program filled with a focus on the future of various industries, business networking, and development opportunities. The Salute follows the Summit and is a festive evening that highlights America’s Top Corporations for Women Business Enterprises for 2016.

An otherwise typical awards dinner took on special interest to me and to my colleagues when one of our peers was recognized for a life of leadership to various organizations. One of our colleagues had a friend who posted a great description of the award winner. She called her an “iconic and humblest of all souls.” Wow! what a description! Wouldn’t you like to have that said of you?

And the winner is . . . 

The winner of the award was my friend and colleague, Susan Stentz. Susan has spent much of her career supporting women and minority business enterprises. She is a “go to” person on our team. She is a wealth of experience and insight. I, personally, call her on the phone often to answer questions and get her feedback on thoughts and ideas that I have. Everyone on our team recognizes her leadership in this vital area of commercial dealings with potential suppliers.

What is the Leadership Lesson from this?

I think it is simply this. The greatest leaders are great without losing their humility in the process.

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Leadership Lesson from the Flu

A Flu Shot Would Have Helped!

Leadership Lesson from the Flu

Influenza-B. The was the emphatic word from the nurse at the after-hours clinic last Monday. That certainly explained why I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. And one of the first questions that she asked me as I walked in was, “Have you had your flu shot?”

Her question bothered e a little. She didn’t ask if I had “A” flu shot. She asked did you have “YOUR” flu shot. She personalized it. She made me take ownership of something that I didn’t actually own nor had I taken advantage of receiving the many times it is offered to employees where I work and many other places for those of us of a certain age and stage of life. But, I had not taken MY flu shot.

Perhaps I should have taken MY flu shot. All of the real medical evidence seems to indicate that if it doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it will at least lessen the duration and magnitude of the symptoms. Unfortunately, I like so many, chose to believe otherwise about the efficacy of the annual flu shot.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

The key to learning a leadership lesson from this is to understand what the flu vaccine is, or was.

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Leadership Focus: A Reminder

What sitting in a recent training session reminded me about my leadership focus.

leadership-focus

I have said many times, and I repeat again right now. You never know from where your inspiration for writing will come. For me, over the last two Sunday afternoons, it has come from some Discipleship Training that was hosted by a church near where I live.

The training was for them and for their people. But I got a chance to sit in and observe. I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to the topic. So, I was not expecting to really “learn” anything. Boy, was I wrong!

What did I learn? And how was I wrong?

Truthfully, I didn’t really learn anything radically new or different. Instead, I was able to view the topic of leadership development in much the same way that the presenter was able to view the topic of discipleship. 

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Coaching

What is it?

coaching

One of the great things about being involved in leadership development and coaching is the opportunity to be constantly learning and developing your own skills in these areas. They say that you teach that which you need to learn the most. Although I don’t subscribe to that theory, there is a thread running through it that resonates within me because of the learning that often goes along with the teaching.

If you’re like most of us, you have probably noticed the buzz word “Coaching” being thrown around a lot in the corporate world. I am a leadership and life coach. But what does it actually mean? Sometimes when dealing with abstract concepts it is easier to define it by describing what it is not.

Coaching is not leading. — Leadership Voices, LLC is all about leadership and about the many ways that leadership is defined and employed. And great leaders will often provide guidelines and advice on how to succeed in certain areas. Typically they will be seeking to help you reach a certain goal, or they wish to rally you and your colleagues to reach this shared goal. Great leaders will often also be great coaches; however, it is still important to understand the differences in the conversations with them.

Coaching is not mentoring. — If you’ve ever been a coach or have been coached, and the conversation has steered towards advice on technical or job specific concepts, then you aren’t being coached – you are being mentored.

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Developing Young Leaders

This works for any NEW leaders also!

developing-young-leaders

I have been on a bit of a “Leadership Development” track lately. That is especially true as it relates to young leaders. Training the next generation of leaders in your organization may be the most important thing you do as a leader. It has been said, and I agree, that the goal of leaders is  not to create more followers but to create more leaders. Now, we can debate what that single most important thing is. But, I think that we can all agree that training the next generation of leaders is certainly in the top three!

With that in mind, let’s get right to it 

Here are the things that I feel we need to be doing to keep producing new leaders. This list is not exhaustive. But I firmly believe that if we take these seven ideas to heart and begin to employ them in our relationships with young leaders, then great things will happen.

Train Young Leaders to Respect Authority – To effectively be in authority you must first learn to be under authority. They are “young leaders”. There are certainly some “gray leaders” around who have the scars and the experience to guide these young leaders. And these young leaders must learn to respect those in authority over them.

Play to the Strength of Young Leaders – These young leaders have immediately identifiable talents, skills, and abilities. Play to them and allow the young leader to experience success early and often in their developmental process.

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Be A Mentor

Are you a mentor to other leaders?

be-a-mentor

In a recent article, I tackled the need for leaders to be “teachable.” And we certainly must be. But leaders must also be teaching — or, in my words, leaders must be a mentor.

Your followers today are the future leaders of tomorrow. As leaders, we have an obligation to those who will come behind us, or in other words, our future to train and mentor tomorrow’s leaders today. The pace of change today is so swift that we must mentor and coach our young leaders through these times. “Trial by fire” may just not be an option in our organizations.

How do we develop and keep the best young leaders? 

The answer is to use a formal or even an informal mentoring program. By using an effective mentoring program, you and I can help develop today’s leadership talent and potential into tomorrow’s proven and tested leaders. Organizations that leverage the leadership and experience of senior staff can develop, maintain, and retain the talent that they may already have in-house. 

What are some things to consider as a leadership mentor?

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Go To The Source

A Lesson from the Sandbox

Go to the Source

There is still so much more to say about the leadership lessons that I learned while playing in the sandbox recently with my youngest grandson.

As you may recall, we were playing in the sandbox in the backyard and he was trying to fill up a little red duck water pitcher.  A few days ago we discussed the need to shake things up in order to increase the capacity of our leadership abilities. Much as I shook that little pitcher and gave it a little shake to let the sand settle, we need to shake up our routine a little in order to accomplish more.

Now let’s look at my second observation in a little more detail.

Go to the source

Although my little grandson had access to all the sand in the sandbox, he always wanted to use the sand that I was accumulating in whatever container I was using at any given moment. He was surrounded by sand. But, “Papa’s sand was the best sand” as far as he was concerned. And really, why collect or gather your own sand when you can ask for the old Tupperware container that Papa has and pour that sand into your sandwheel spinning contraption.

What is the leadership lesson?

Go to the “source” whenever possible. Last weekend, I was the source of the “good sand” in my little grandson’s world. He could have dug up a bunch of sand on his own. But, why do that when there is plenty of sand available in Papa’s container? And what’s more, I was happy to share it with him. If you have access to the source of whatever you need, utilize it and maximize it. Then, you can use your finite energy and resources on accumulating the harder stuff of life.

What is the “Source?”

I could take a very theological approach to the question, “What is the source?” However, I will leave that to others. Instead, I want to take a more practical approach. Here is how I want to define “source” today.

The source is anyone who has a wealth of experiences that you do not yet have.

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