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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Nurturing Young Leaders

Nurse Tree

Welcome to the final Leadership Lesson from the Saguaro Cactus. I never expected this level of inspiration from a desert plant.

One of the things that I noticed about the young Saguaro cacti is that they sprout and grow in the shadow of another desert plant. They do not sprout and grow in the shadow of another Saguaro cactus.

I found that fascinating.

They are found in the shadow of what is called a “nurse tree” This is a larger, faster-growing tree that shelters a smaller, slower-growing tree or plant. The nurse tree can provide shade, shelter from wind, or protection from animals who would feed on the smaller plant.

In the Sonoran desert, Palo Verde, Ironwood or mesquite trees serve as nurse trees for young Saguaro cacti. As the Saguaro grows and becomes more acclimated to the desert sun, the older tree may die, leaving the Saguaro alone. In fact, as the Saguaro grows larger it may compete for resources with its nurse tree, and thus, hasten the death of the tree that protected and nurtured it. Consequently, young Saguaros are often seen near trees, but old Saguaros are not.

What does this have to do with leadership?

I am not sure it does.  In fact, I think it really has to do with the relationship between those that surround and, in many ways, nurture leaders and encourage leadership.

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Overlooking “Capability”  for “Like-ability” 

Capable - Likeable

One of the biggest problem that I see in many organizations is our willingness to overlook “capability” for “like-ability.”

What does that mean?

It means that many times we are more interested in whether or not our leader is “like-able” and less interested in whether or not they are actually capable of exhibiting and demonstrating leadership.  This can have tragic affects

This phenomenon is not as common in the commercial world.  The business world often cares much more about whether or not you can do the job than whether or not you can be a leader.  There is not often much thought given to how the rest of the employees “feel” about the boss or the leader.

Here is where we see leaders who have progressed through the ranks of an organization and have reached a leadership level through hard work, dedication and a proven track record of success.  They have been mentored by other leaders who have proven track records of success.  They sometimes just aren’t that like-able.  And they often don’t particularly care if they are liked.

To back that premise up, research shows that average Emotional Intelligence scores plummet higher up the corporate ladder beyond the supervisor level. The theory is that people get promoted based upon results, even if their people skills are lacking. As leadership coaches, folks like me are working desperately to change that. But the phenomenon remains.

And I suppose all of this begs a few questions:

  1. Would a leader rather be liked or trusted?
  2. Would a leader rather be popular or right?
  3. Would a leader rather be successful or loved?
  4. Is “like-ability” even something that a leader should be concerned about?

There are so many angles that this thought process could take.

What if . . .

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The Business of Ethics

MM - Ethics

I am sure there has been much written about ethics in leadership but I wanted to share some insights recently revealed to me.

I had a visit with some dear friends who have been in leadership positions and one is currently writing a book on “ethics in the university”. He is a retired professor and is a dear friend so, jokingly, I asked him if he had discovered any, to which there was a resounding NO.

The chats usually go with the state of our country then circles around to business models and ethics.

First, I’m not sure why we call it “business ethics”.

Is the place we learn business ethics, in business, or is it too late then?  Our conversation had me asking that question, “Where do we learn” ethics?

Well, I got the standard business answer we all should expect and the one you are thinking. We teach them in college and have training classes and seminars. Which isn’t bad, I might add!

As you may guess at this point in the conversation, I still had plenty of questions. So, one immediate question was; at what age do we start to teach ethics?

Where and when do “we” learn ethics?

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The Poser in Me

 

The Poser In Me - 1For the last year or so I have been facilitating a small study group with a hunger to understand not only leadership values but what has God called us to do. Out of that study there have been several revelations to the developmental phases of a young persons life. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to nurture our young into meaningful productive God fearing people.

But where do we fail them?

I believe one of the early stages of when we let them down is when we fail to “affirm” them. Now, many of you reading this will  not associate with that statement. However, when we look at the breakup of many families today one of the most telling statements heard is of how the kids are NOT valued. Do we allow boys to be boys, or girls to be girls? Certainly NOT! Neither gender can compete “honestly” in any competition. We  teach them from an early age that “misrepresenting the truth” is an OK (no winners, no losers) thing to do. The reality is there are winners and losers. Another reality is…some of those winners have turned into big losers while some of the losers have turned into some of the biggest and brightest stars we’ve seen.

Consider;  Susan Boyle, a Scottish singer who  appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. She finished second, but her amazing talent  captured the world’s attention.  Her 1999 rendition of “Cry Me a River”was watched over 100 million times!  Boyle even made 5 Million Pounds with the release of I Dreamed a Dream. How’s that for a Successful Loser

Boyle was Boyle and under pressure refused to change. She refused to be a poser!

What is a poser?

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