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Posts Tagged ‘attitude’

Putting Things in Perspective

December 19, 2011 15 comments

Leadership

I’ve spent the past three weeks sleep-deprived and perpetually behind in just about every area of my life. My routines have been shredded, my energy sapped, my patience eroded, and my disciplines decimated. My home office is a mess, I can’t seem to get into a groove at work, and I haven’t written a new blog post in weeks.

You know how that makes me feel?

Just fine.

Why? Because on Sunday evening, November 27th, my wife gave birth to our third child—a healthy baby girl we named Elena Grace. You might think by #3 this would become old hat. Not even a little. This tiny miracle overwhelmed Sarah and I just as much as her older brother and sister did when they arrived.

We experienced anew that dizzying transformation that occurs when you see your baby born and hold that fragile new life in your arms. In an instant, football games, parking spots, and what you have planned for lunch become meaningless. How much money you make, what kind of car you drive and whomever you’re trying to impress all fade into futility. In that moment, what’s truly valuable becomes pristinely clear.

Perspective has a way of changing how you see things.

So, despite drowning in diapers and snatching naps when we can get them, Sarah and I wouldn’t trade one second from the past few weeks. We’ve so enjoyed getting to know little Lena and watching Luke and Lucy welcome her into their confidence. It hasn’t been neat or easy, but we’ve been able to put first things first—to care for a newborn while helping Sarah recover—all thanks to the great company I work for and the support of our family and friends.

Thanks for all your well wishes—I look forward to the stories Lena is bound to inspire…

Where could you use a bigger perspective today?

When is Good Enough Truly Good Enough?

October 21, 2011 4 comments

leadership

The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing. – Eugène Delacroix

I’ve been giving the label “Good Enough” a hard time for the past few days on this blog. And rightly so, for in any grand endeavor it’s the silent temptress, wooing us to abandon the greatness to which we aspire.

But the harsh words I have for “Good Enough” only apply to the things that truly matter. As I said in my original postPick the things that matter to you, and refuse to settle. As Danilo Vargas and Jeff Brandt brought up, there are plenty of circumstances where Good Enough is, indeed, good enough. If you never settled for anything—in any area of your life—you’d never accomplish anything.

The ability to discern the difference between what’s essential and what’s negotiable is a mark of a great leader.

So how do you know when Good Enough is truly good enough—and when it’s just a cop-out? Here are a few questions I ask myself to help discern the difference:

  • Is this my main effort or a secondary/supporting effort? Don’t compromise on your main effort. If it’s not your main effort, don’t major in the minors, wasting resources on things that won’t ultimately deliver results.
  • Am I in the initial rounds of an iterative process? If yes, then speed is of the essence. Striving for perfection too early in the process can hamstring creativity and collaboration.
  • Is this a functional, go/no-go task where improvement won’t add significant value? If yes, find something else to obsess over.
  • Have I passed the point of diminishing returns? If so, you’re definitely in “Good Enough” territory.
  • Am I pursuing perfection for myself or pursuing excellence? Gut check time. Is this about you and your needs or the goal you’re going after?

Settling for Good Enough and falling into paralyzing perfectionism may seem at opposite ends of a spectrum, but in reality, they result in the same effect. They keep you from accomplishing your purpose. So hold fast to what really matters and be flexible with everything else!

How do you decide what’s essential and what’s negotiable?

The Snare of “Good Enough”

October 19, 2011 12 comments

leadershipThe start of anything is exciting. Could be a new project, a new job or a new relationship. It doesn’t matter—everything is fresh, hopes are high, vision is crystal clear.

Likewise, accomplishing something great is exciting. Exceeding expectations, beating the odds, going somewhere no one else has gone. The pride, the satisfaction and the enjoyment of hard-won success.

Between the Starting and the Finishing, however, there’s a whole lot of Middle, and it is rarely—if ever—exciting. The Middle is littered with pitfalls such as Leaking Vision, Plan Fixation and Mismanaged Fear. One of the sneakiest snares is the ever so enticing, Good Enough.

Good Enough is hard to fight. After all, if it’s good enough, who’s going to require more of you? Sure, you had bigger aspirations and a larger vision, but, hey, this is good enough. Besides, other things in your life are bound to suffer if you continue, so why don’t you just stop at good enough?

The only problem with Good Enough is that it rarely is.

For that reason alone, pick the things that matter to you, and refuse to settle. Don’t compromise, blink or give any ground. Be alert to any comfort along the way that might delay or prevent you from achieving your vision.

Name any exceptional leader from any sector of society—George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela—none of them ever settled for Good Enough.

Neither should you.

Where are you settling today?

The Servant Dictator

September 26, 2011 8 comments
servant leader

Cincinnatus

600 years before the Roman Empire ruled from the moors of Britain to the sands of Egypt, it’s predecessor, the Roman Republic, was almost destroyed. In 458 B.C. The neighboring Aequians attacked Rome—and the army sent to defend the fledgling city-state quickly found itself surrounded.

The city panicked. The Senate decided to appoint a strong leader with absolute power—a dictator—for a 6-month term. They chose Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus—a disgraced, bankrupted ex-politician who was forced to work his own farm west of the city.

Cincinnatus accepted the dictatorship and sprang into action. In a single day he raised, outfitted, and organized an army consisting of every able-bodied man in the city. He marched the army out of the city, rescued the besieged Romans, and defeated the Aequians at the Battle of Mons Algidus. Then, after returning to Rome in triumph, he did the most unexpected thing.

He resigned as dictator and returned to his farm.

Think of all Cincinnatus could have done with absolute power. Exacting revenge on his opponents in the Senate. Advancing this political agendas and causes. Regaining his social and economic status. But Cincinnatus saw his position as a service, not an opportunity.

All too often Servant Leadership is associated with being meek, democratic, or soft. Cincinnatus, the Servant Dictator, the reluctant—but ruthless—warrior, shatters all such notions. Servant Leadership is deeper than a style or approach—it’s a belief, a different way of looking at the whole concept of authority.

What does “servant leadership” mean to you?

Failing Forward

January 18, 2011 7 comments

Failing LeadershipSomehow, somewhere, I will fail today as a leader.

You need to hear that. I need to hear that. We all fall short of perfection as leaders. One of the things that sets exceptional leaders apart from all the rest is how they manage their failures.

The important question isn’t “will I fail?” The important question is:

How will I respond when I fail?

Will I deny it?
Will I gloss over it or downplay it’s significance?
Will I make excuses, blaming someone or something else?
Will I make hollow promises about “the next time”?
Will I let it crush my self-confidence?
Will I give up or give in?

or…

Will I admit my mistake and accept responsibility?
Will I allow myself to feel sick to my stomach?
Will I apologize to those who deserve it?
Will I correct it and work to prevent a repeat failure?
Will I choose to trust myself and others?
Will I keep leading, keep serving?

The answer to that question – How will I respond when I fail? – truly reveals the kind of leader I am. The place where I’m failing is the place I’m learning, growing, and improving as a leader.

How are you at failing forward as a leader?

When Are You At Your Best?

October 28, 2010 4 comments

Leading YourselfLeading yourself well sets you up to lead others well. Part of leading yourself is knowing when and where you’re at your best. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you plan weeks in advance or wait til the last minute? Are you inspired by nature or energized by the city?

Here’s a list of 10 things I know bring out the best in me. Do I need all ten to be my best? Not necessarily. But if I go too long without any of these my performance starts to tank.

1. Shower & Shave. I get more great ideas in the shower than in any other place on earth. I don’t know why and I don’t care – it just works. And not shaving makes me feel lazy – unless I’m in the wild, then it makes me feel manly.

2. Time Outside. I develop cabin fever quickly. Rain, snow or sunshine it doesn’t matter – I’ve got to get out of the house or office frequently or my mind starts to cave in on itself.

3. Exercise. The pain, the endorphins, the sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel more alive, active and alert throughout the day.

4. Good Food. Irregular or unhealthy eating (usually due to traveling) cause me to lose focus and energy. I find that when I eat well, I lead well.

5. Water. Cold and clear, it’s by far my favorite drink (lucky me). I get headaches and lose clarity when I’m dehydrated. When I drink enough, I also eat less (but I do go to the bathroom more!).

6. Sleep. Not too much, not too little. For me, 6-8 hours is optimum. More than that and I start to drag throughout the day. Less than that and I get irritable and my decision-making is impaired.

7. Play. I’m serious about having fun. I don’t schedule play, I let it into everything. Fun makes everything better. Ideas, relationships, solutions, meetings, workshops, learning – they’re all enhanced by fun.

8. Time alone. I’m an introvert in an extroverted job. I’m also married to an amazing, extroverted woman. I schedule – and defend – my time alone to recharge. If I don’t, I’m no use to my family, my colleagues or my clients.

9. Tidy workspace. This I have to work at. I’m not a naturally organized individual, but I know how much a visually de-cluttered space improves the quality and efficiency of my work.

10. Tidy Mind. Ideas and thoughts stream through my mind at broadband speeds all the time. I must have a system to record everything – get it out of my head – so I can fully focus on what I’m doing at any given moment. My current system uses Things, Evernote, and a Moleskine journal.

What about you? When are you at your best?

I See You

July 27, 2010 11 comments

Leader's VisionSawubona!

This is how the Zulu greet one another. It literally means, “I see you.” And, yes, they were saying it long before the Na’vi of James Cameron’s Avatar were saying it. Last week I offered 3 ways to connect with others. Number two was “Seeing People.” I’d like to dig into that a little deeper with the help of our African friends.

Sawubona isn’t just about seeing you physically; it’s about giving the gift of acknowledgment and recognition to your very existence. The response to Sawubona is Ngikhona, which means, “I am here.” The concept behind these simple words is that before you saw me, I didn’t exist – by seeing me, you bring me into being. It stems from the African worldview of Ubuntu (literally: I am because you are) which maintains that individuals need other people to ultimately be fulfilled.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Unbuntu as the essence of being human. He goes on to say that a person with Ubuntu is “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

We cannot lead what we cannot see. How many people do we interact with – or just plain walk by – everyday that we don’t take time to really see? Are we in some small way denying their  existence when we rush by them? I don’t know; but I do know how powerful it is when someone deliberately pays attention to me. So be generous with your time and attention today. As the Zulu say, Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – a person is a person because of people.

Who are you going to take the time to really see today?

photo credit Dr Cullen