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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How to Choose a Coach? 

Don't pick someone you already know!

How to Chose a Coach

By now you may be beginning to see the value of having a leadership coach who will work with you and guide you along the journey of life. But, how do you choose a coach? What are the criteria that you should consider?

Unfortunately, selecting the right leadership coach is often a decision that is made based on a flawed set of criteria.

Let me just say quickly, in this article, I am going to be dealing with non-technical criteria. Certifications, degrees, and experiences are all technical criteria when it comes to what may make a good coach. I want to focus today on less technical selection criteria.

So, what is the selection criteria?

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Where Do Leaders Go For Help?

Even leaders need it!

Where Does A Leaders Go For Help?

Even leaders need help. Or, maybe I should say, “Especially leaders need help.” I am not sure if that is the right way to say that grammatically, but I think you get my point.

I have been doing leadership coaching, working with non-profit boards, and doing one-on-one coaching for many years. Several years ago I founded Leadership Voices, a collaborative site for all kinds of leaders. Over the last few years, we have grown this community from nothing to more than 2500 “followers.”

Resting on current achievements has never been a part of my operating procedures. And recently I began to feel a real need to reach out to get some help and advice. But, just where does a leader go for help? That is the question facing me and probably many of you as well. Who can I turn to for help and advice on what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right?

So, here is what I did.

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Older and Wiser

I am one of these. Am I the other also?

Older & Wiser

I remember when my father-in-law was still alive. His name was John. But he was known to us as “Grandaddy”. He was a great man. He was a patient man. He was a successful man. And he was a smart man. No. Better yet, he was a wise man.

Only recently have I had the opportunity to live anywhere close to where my own actual father lives. And yet, we have lived close to my father-in- law for many years, so I have often gone to my father-in-law with questions that a young husband or a young father would normally take to his own father. John was older. John was wiser. — I think those two things just might go hand-in-hand.

And then this happened. I noticed several years ago that some younger men were starting to come to me for advice from time to time. Some of them just wanted to bounce their ideas off of someone. It sort of just began happening over time. I didn’t seek it out. It just started occurring. That was a bit of a troubling realization!
Then it hit me. They were looking to ME for advice. They were looking to ME for wisdom. How did that happen? I don’t feel qualified. And I don’t feel worthy. Am I getting old? Am I getting wiser?

Then, I had a thought. I wonder how Grandaddy must have felt when I used to go to him for advice?

What is the Leadership Lesson from this reminiscing?

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Play Your Loser Card

Play Your Loser Card First - No Graphics

It would be a mistake to assume that you will only get great leadership insights from folks who are much older than you. Sometimes they come from your peers. And sometimes they come from a peer who is as young as you are at the time.

Such has been the case in my life. I have been blessed to have great influences in my life. This is especially true in my early adult years. Like most, those years coincided with my college career. It was there that I met Daren. And it was there that Daren taught me a great leadership lesson.

“Play your loser card.”

Here is the context of that leadership lesson.

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Five Fundamentals for Young Leaders

5 Fundamentals for Young Leaders

It is graduation season. In fact, I attended a graduation celebration today for some very impressive young women who are graduating from high school.  And it is Summer Intern season where I work. So, youth and optimism are in the air.

I thought I might take this opportunity to offer up some advice for those making the transition from high school to college, college to career, and ultimately, child to adult.

As a young professional just starting out, you may think you can’t lead because of your youth or short tenure within your new company. I am going to invite you to reconsider that thought.

In fact, youth and short tenure can be assets. Young professionals may not bring years of experience to a company, but they bring optimism, enthusiasm, energy, exuberance, a set of new ideas, and experience with new technologies that others in the company may not have. They also bring a fresh perspective — a new look at old problems.

As a young professional, you can still be a leader even though you may not have yet achieved a position of power. In fact, if you exercise your leadership skills as a young professional, your road to a more desirable position can be much shorter.

Consider if you will these five fundamental things you can do to cultivate and exercise your leadership skills without having positional power:

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