Leadership Starts at Home

Ask my son to do something. Ask my son if he wants to do something. Ask my son if he will do something for you. I can fairly accurately guess, his answer will be, ‘No.’ Not because he is rude obstinate or being rebellious. His answer is no because he is two and that is what two year olds do.

On the other hand, if I tell my son what I am going to do and then start doing it, he will trip over himself to come join me. He will perform his fastest run-waddle possible to get over to me. He will help me, do it for me, do a part of it, or somehow be in the midst of the action of whatever I am doing.

As a parent, I get the opportunity to learn how to parent a toddler who wants to do what I am doing, not what I want him to do. Which means I am learning how to lead him.

I get to learn how to lead him and show him the right things to do. The simple mundane tasks of cleaning up the living room at the end of the night. or not throwing his fork across the dinner table. Then there are the complex tasks of voicing my emotions and helping him voice his emotions. When he is ramped up and he is losing his mind because he is upstairs and he wants to be downstairs.

At this stage, leading my son is more about modeling the right thing to do. Leading him is an invitation to do the right thing more than it is about telling him or asking him to do the right thing.

As you work with your team, friends, and family, how are you modeling the right things to do? How are they modeling for you the right thing to do? What do you do to invite them into the right thing to do? How do you respond when they invite you into the right thing to do?

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Making Decisions in The Grey Area

Murder is wrong. Feeding the starving people of an impoverished nation is right. Spanking your child is much less a black and white issue.

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Children need appropriate discipline. But, is a spanking the right discipline for the child? Different children respond in very different ways to spanking. Some hardly notice a spanking. Whereas a spanking might bring another child's world to an end.

The job as parents is to make decision in the gray area. To decide based on the child if spanking is the right discipline.

Likewise, every leader, team, and organization has to make decisions in the gray area. Whether on which vendor to use or what policies to set in place. The ability of a person to make decisions in the gray areas relates to a their ability to lead. When the smallest of decisions paralyze a worker, their ability to work stops.

A leader can weigh the pros, cons, to make a decision with widespread impact. The leader makes those decisions with confidence when it is time.

How do you handle situations when they are in the gray area? How do you assess the right decision? What size of decisions paralyze you? Who helps you make decisions in the gray areas?

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What's in a book club?

The point of a book club is to read the book together and debrief thoughts, feelings, and ideas from the book. This is both a debrief as much as it is a collaboration. The groups’ members collaborate about the book and the book's story and information.

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When a book club does not need to read a book, is it still a book club anymore? Is it a club? What if the goal is for half the people in the group to read the book and the other half to not read the book? Then the group collaborates on the ideas of the book. Half the group unbiased by the book and the other half of the group biased from the perspective of the book.

Or what if the point of the book club is to hang out, make friends, drink wine, and talk about a book? Some people read the book, some people started but did not finish, and some people didn't read it at all.

How about the book club where it is two people talking on a stage or in a video or on a podcast. Nobody else has to read the book. Is this even still a book club?

Book clubs have a certain mutuality, participation, and collaboration to them. The final idea is more than the book's content. It is a meta about the book as content for consumption through conversation. Thus people are making content about content and selling it to make money. Someone could even then start a club around the content the debrief and collaborate over. Thus having a club about the book club.

How are you labeling your meetings, content, projects, products, work, and free time? Are you giving them the right labels? Is your free time actually used for work? Is that meeting you are leading actually a meeting or is it an educational session? Are you putting the right labels on your work? Are you communicating the correct expectations?

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Motivator

Motivation has as many applications as it has sources. Motivation to go to the gym for instance. It can come from the scale, an intervention about your diet coke addiction, or wanting to be a happy healthy individual for years to come.

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Motivation at work leads to the desired results for your supervisor and leadership. Work motivation comes from a variety of sources as well. Money, a promotion, excellence, or even the mission of your company are all good motivations. Making significant difference in the world can be an amazing motivator for many.

Your supervisor uses these motivators when they really need you to do something. They need something done and you are the person to do it. Your supervisor comes to you and pushes hard on the motivation button. They will quote the company’s mission and vision, offer you a raise, or promotion. Whatever your motivator is, they hit it, and hit it hard.

The major issue comes when your motivator is a negative motivator. Like the donkey motivated by a carrot on the stick, your supervisor or leadership come to you. They are not offering you more carrots, they have to motivate you by threatening to take the carrot away.

Good leaders try anything they can to motivate you. Good companies do anything they can to avoid negative motivators. And good employees never let it get that far. Good teammates get the task, project, or deliverable done because it is the right thing to do.

Motivated teammates are achieving results. Only in exceptional circumstances are they motivated an external motivator. Negative motivators are rarely used with good teammates, everyone has their bad days.

What motivates you? How do you stay motivated and deliver results even when you do not feel like it? How often does your supervisor use your motivators to motivate you? When was the last time your leadership used a positive motivator for you? When was the last time your leadership used a negative motivator for you?

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Intention

Every day I start with a very similar routine. I work out. I go to work. I make my coffee. I take care of the same tasks. Then I start with the variable week to week day to day and random odds and ends.

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My routine is consistent and regular. I need this routine because it starts me off in a productive consistent way. I check off some tasks that are easy. I knock off some low hanging fruit and it gives me some inertia for starting the day.

Every day I start my day in such a way I can propel myself to achieve more with the momentum to succeed and get more done. For me, starting my day with some easy tasks makes it easier to do the hard tasks later.

For other people, starting their day off with the hard tasks creates inertia. This inertia is enough to get things started.

No matter which flavor of starting your day you prefer, are you starting it with intention? Are you choosing how your day starts or are you letting your day control you? Are you taking control of what you can so you can be more effective in the things you do not control? How can you start your day in a more controlled manner?

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Tug of War

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When working on a team. Your team is your first priority when it comes to success. You should commit to them and likewise, they should commit to you. Your commitment to each other is what glues you together as a team. Working together creates the best opportunity for success. Working against each other or in silos is a recipe for disaster and most likely the failure of your whole team.

The next stage of an organization when it is too big to be one team is when a team runs into trouble. You are now many teams working in relationship with one another. Each team must play their role to their best. Each team member must play their role for the success of the team. The teams’ success leads to the organization’s success.

The squeeze comes in when members of teams aren’t helping members of other teams succeed. When someone is not on your team, it is easy to see them as a distraction. They are pulling you away from your tasks and focus. Invading your time. Slowing down progress to your mission. It will seem easier to work around them or without them instead of involving them in the process for the greatest success.

We need each other, even when we are on different teams. We are still working together to succeed. We cannot succeed unless we are willing to involve more people than our team. We are all working for the same org, vision, and mission. Bringing in more voices from outside yourself with give a better result. More than success, there is excellence.

You will know the difference. Your team will know the difference. Your organization will know the difference.

How do you react to people on other teams than your own? What do others think of you when working with you? How do you leverage your skills and abilities for the success of others? How do you work with other people to leverage their skills and abilities for the success of your team and organization?

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Art

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Think of your favorite painted piece of art.

The colors that stand out to you.

The focal point or subject of the painting.

The way the paint rises up in certain areas and seems almost seamless in other areas.

Even how the whole picture might inspire an emotional response.

Then also the canvas the painting is on. The medium. The wood the canvas is on. Even the quality of the canvas itself might. The canvas framing might be especially high quality. The canvas crafter might have been an especially skilled artisan.

Crafting The canvas to size for the artist to paint. Yet still, the canvas is never seen again. The artist receives credit for their painting. The wall or museum displays the painting to for admiration of the guests and visitors.

All the while, the few who might ever see the back of the painting see the wood and canvas used to hold the art. The beautiful artwork supported by quality craftsmanship of the canvas.

And yet still, you must spend time building canvases. The mundane tasks of your job and life needed to support you and yours. These tasks are the canvases we build our lives on. The quality with which we do these tasks will be the quality with which we will paint the tapestry of our lives.

How do you treat the mundane tasks of your life? How are you working to make these tasks more efficient, useful, and quality uses of your time? When do you think of how you can improve the mundane tasks so that you can spend less time doing a better job?

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Micro Regression

‘Micro-mobility’ is a newer concept or term I have become aware of. It is all about the last few miles of the journey in an urban environment.

Under the current precedent, you might live in Los Angeles and head to work. You walk to the nearest bus stop, take the bus to the bus stop nearest to your work, then you would walk to work from there.

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Riding the bus can only go so fast. But walking to and from the bus is not a fixed time cost. You can now rent an electric scooter, ride it from your home, and drop it off at the bus stop. Then again after you get off the bus, you can rent another electric scooter and ride it to work. You would then drop it at work and now you’ve reduced your walk time by a significant amount.

Then again, you might be a bit more like me and you live in a small enough town and your commute by car. I drive less than two miles to get from home to work. I could replace my whole commute could by an electric scooter.

The scooter looks like one of those scooters that were popular when I was a kid, a razor scooter. The bicycle option is completely a regression. When I was a kid, I had no other means of transportation into my twenties. According to people studying the wear and tear on cars. According to people looking for more effective modes of transportation. Scooters and bicycles are far and away the best choice when it comes to finishing our commutes.

It may feel like a regression, but it is more effective for a commuter to use shared modes of commuting. In this scenario, regressing is more of a return to the right tool for the job and less of a regression of maturity. The biggest thing holding someone back from using one of our old tools would be pride or familiarity.

The best reason to use one of our old tools is taking part in progress and efficiency of life. (And the electric scooters are a lot of fun!)

What holds you back from trying new things? How do you react when someone is trying to get you to try something you feel like you have grown beyond? How do you continue to grow, even when you need to reuse an old idea? How are you optimizing and making the mundane parts of your life more effective to accomplish your goals?

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Little Voices

You have seen the surveys around the internet, hotels, and restaurants. They want you to let them know how they did after that customer service phone call. They want to know whether they resolved your issue in a satisfactory way. My favorite, they will email you to find out how likely you are to recommend them to a friend.

Likewise, we have our own feedback forms. Whether we are watching the non-verbal cues of the people in the room or reading the comment section.

The loudest form of feedback in your life is that voice inside you. You can attribute the nonverbal cues of your audience to bad gas or disagreeable food.

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But the little voice inside you is still yelling. The voice is shouting at you. Filling you up with all the harshest criticisms of what you are doing and telling you, you are doing it wrong.

Sometimes that voice is healthy. When you are standing on the side of a cliff and that voice is yelling about backing away and danger. It is good to listen.

Most of the time, that voice is a loud noise trying to pull apart everything you are doing. There is also a choice with that voice. A choice to tell it to shut its pie-whole. After all, you are working and you have more work to do and people actually like the work you are doing. Not to mention, that voice is there to help make you better. Not stop you from doing what you love.

Do what you love. Do not let that voice stop you now.

How do you maintain a healthy amount of internal criticism? What do you do to silence the voice when it is hurtful more than helpful? What do you do to amplify the voice when you are losing touch with reality? Who helps you stay in touch with reality and not become too self deprecating or too arrogant?

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Developing Hunger

I am an easygoing and laid back person. When appropriate, I have a sense of urgency. I generally try to be intentional and use good judgement for when I have urgency or high standards. More often than not, this is a feature of my personality not a bug.

This becomes a bug when I cannot drive others to get tasks done and the tasks have no timeframe. It becomes a bug when I bring up things that are important to me. It is a bug when I think something needs to be addressed and there is no looming deadline.

My selfdefense mechanism thus far has been apathy. When I bring up an issue that is important to me, when it is not received and used, I shrug and let it go. I can only do so much. When I bring up an issue I care so much about, I have to work hard to let myself not get hurt when others don't care about it.

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I have to develop a hunger in others for the meat of the issue. I have to develop a devouring hunger in them to satiate the need before they die of starvation. Developing a hunger in others takes time. But long term, I will be more satisfied because I will be adding value to others and the group as a whole.

Developing a hunger in others to resolve an issue will help me be more fulfilled in my role, position, and relationship.

How do you find value in your role? When have you found the most value from what you do? When have you provided the most value to others? How do you seek out opportunities to add value to other people?

BONUS: How do you discern between urgent moments and non-urgent moments? How do you work to develop a sense of urgency in others when they normally would not be urgent? Do others think you are always urgent or never urgent? How can you better develop a healthy sense of urgency in yourself?

FEAR

I regularly struggle with fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of not knowing what to do. Fear of not belonging. Fear of rejection. Fear of loss. Fear of messing things up. Fear of letting others down. Fear of being ignored. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of doing it right, (much like Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight, he referred to a dog chasing a car, what would the dog do if it caught the car? What would I do if I actually succeeded?)

These are a few that popped into my mind in the minute or two I took to jot down ideas. When I start to fear, these fears overwhelm me. Then I start to shut down and I am filled with despair, self doubt, and worthlessness.

Not too long ago I heard Danielle Strickland give a talk and she discussed refusing despair. She suggested refusing despair. She suggests visualizing goals, working towards them, and refusing despair. When it works itself into my mind, heart, and soul?

Refuse it.

This deeply resonates with me because I know the feeling of despair all too well. I know how failure feels because of all the dead ideas I have. Thier epitaphs written in the graveyard of despair.

However, I now have a new tool to use. When fear and despair stop by for a social drink or two, I refuse them entry and instead make sure I keep hope in my house. I choose to hope for the best in my projects, ideas, and work.

I choose hope even though I will fail again.

I choose hope even after I forget, let fear and despair into my house, and need hope’s help to remove the bad actors.

I choose hope even when I am overwhelmed by anxiety and the enormity of the projects I have in front of me.

I choose hope because I know fear and despair will show up again and they are not where my story ends.

How do you handle fear and despair? What are some of your fears? How do you choose hope in the face of fear? What reminds you to choose hope? Who helps you choose hope? D

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Alignment

Our cars’ tires must be aligned. They need to be set in such a way that they follow each other when they make turns. The front wheels turn in exact parallel motion. At the same time, and the back wheels are exactly parallel following the front wheels.

When our tires are out of alignment, there is extra stress on the car. The body, axles, wheels, and associated systems around the tires. The tires wear down quicker because the wear on the tires is more and different than it should be. And the real punch in the gut is the gas efficiency of the car goes down. Gas costs go up. The engine is working harder against the tires, and the tires are working against each other.

When what you believe and what you spend your does not line up. It is the same as four tires being out of alignment and working against each other. The engine is working extra hard to try and keep the car moving forward. You are working extra hard to make progress in your life. You are less efficient because you are out of alignment.

Likewise, when what you do lines up with what you believe.

And what you think lines up with what you do.

And believe and how you feel about the world lines up with what you think, do, and believe. Your efficiency is maximized and your impact is expanded.

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They call it alignment for a car.

I call it centered for people.

Centered is when you are working on what you love. Nobody is afraid to come talk to you. Your emotions are exactly where they should be day to day and week to week.

Centered is when you are working on what you know is the right. Nobody is avoiding you because you are going to talk down to them and explain away their ideas.

Centered is when you are working on the project you believe in. Your friends want to come talk to you because they know you and they know what you stand for.

Centered is when you are doing what needs to be done. You can stop to talk to someone and make progress in a healthy way.

Do the people closest to you describe you as centered? Do you know what it would look like to be centered in your life? How can you be more centered? Who can help you see the blind spots in your own centeredness? Are you thoughts, beliefs, actions, and emotions all in alignment? Do you feel like you are working just as a hard and not making progress? What do you think, believe, do, and feel about your work? About your family? About your friends? What do these people think, believe, do, and feel about you?

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Letter Opener

The next time you get a piece of mail in an envelope. Put it up to some light, and look at the ends. One end is lighter than the other. It is empty.

There is nothing in it. The other end is full. Make sure you grab the empty end of the envelope.

Now tear the envelope open across the short and empty end you found. This is going to be a shallow rip across the end. You will likely only need to rip about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch off the envelope. And definitely I suggest ripping less than an inch.

Congratulations. You have now opened your mail more quickly, more succinctly, and more cleanly than any other method I have found. This is my preferred method of opening mail in envelopes. You did not need another tool to do so. And you don’t have a bunch of little rips and tears in the envelope.

I discovered this about five or six years ago and I have been opening my mail this way ever since. At times I might tap my mail on the table to make sure I get everything into the full end and give myself more space in the empty end. I tap them on the table much like you might do with a messy stack of papers to get them all in alignment.

Only once or twice have I ever ripped or torn the contents of an envelope and it was always in a non consequential way.

What other mundane tasks have you been doing for as long as you can remember? When was the last time you looked up another way to perform the mundane tasks in your life? Is there a better way to open a trash bag? When was the last time you discovered a new way to perform a mundane task? When was the last time you shared a novel way you perform mundane tasks?

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Fast Food

I have stopped eating at most fast food restaurants. Occasionally, once or twice a year I will in a moment of pure gluttony or desperation pick up some fast food, but otherwise? No.

(I recognize it is a bit of a privilege to be able to make this decision, and for that I am thankful.)

It is also a decision based on my values. Most simply it has to do with eating healthy. Equally importantly, it is out of frustration with the service. These poor people are working for a mega-corp for sub par wages in a job with little to no positive long term outlook.

And with their employer having no interest in their long term success. They have no interest in the joy of their customer. They are looking to make it through their shift, go home, and hopefully have made enough money to make it till the next time they get paid.

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I have been there and I totally get why they are that way. And likewise, I do not want to support the mega corp they work for. I want to support places that are genuinely interested in their most important customer...

Their employees.

For instance, when I worked at Starbucks (granted it has been a while) they seemed genuinely interested in my success and profitability beyond my time at Starbucks. Between stock options, retirement, healthcare, free pound of coffee every week, a generous discount on everything else, and a well outlined career path and transferring within the company to a place I might like to work longterm. They had enough opportunities for me to feel valued and likewise value my customer.

Because the company was so interested in taking care of me, I was very invested in taking care of my most important customer, the actual customer on the other side of the counter ordering drinks, pastries, and hot food. I was thrilled to take care of them because my company was thrilled to take care of me and it was a pleasure to work at Starbucks for years.

Who are you supporting? How are you giving your subordinates, friends, family, or direct customer relations more than an a transactional relationship? How are you adding value to other people’s lives? How are you engaging others for their benefit first?

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Serendipity

Making progress in life has plenty of serendipity in it.

It is hard to ignore the fact that MySpace was on the decline when Facebook was in the midst of their pseudo grassroots rollout to colleges. Hard to ignore Apple’s immense success following the release of the iPhone when the market was struggling to figure out what a smartphone was going to be and Apple released the simplest solution to the problem.

The rest of the time, you are left to make success on your own. Waiting for markets to be right means you might never go to market. Whereas finding the right first customer will always make a sale.

There are few guarantees in finding the right customer. You have to pick your customers and sell to them. Over and over again you sell to them. There will be many customers not buying before your first customer buys. Some of them will not be ready. Others will not understand. And yet, some will still just be afraid.

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But after your first customer buys, you will sell to your second customer some time later.

Then your third a little less time later.

Never will you have your third customer without your first two.

Likewise, your fourth is not without your third.

Your continuing to sell is what will lead to the right moment. You continued to be who you are until you found your right customer.

Who is your right customer? What does it look like for you to sell the way you are not the way you think you should be? How can you try more often to spread the word about your work?

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Progress

Progress.

I’m not one much for resolutions. I like the idea of themes and red threads to guide actions. I like the idea of having a lens for filtering decisions and taking actions. I like the idea of identifying the movement already going on in my and maximizing that movement to help me develop the changes I need to be a better person.

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The last theme I had was focus. I make these themes not as a short term decision but as a habit forming decision. I choose the theme based on what I need in my life and the movements I am already seeing in my life. I have felt myself fishtailing a bit as I have been traveling along. Whether I have been going too fast for road conditions or dodging too many obstacles I knew were coming. I have also felt myself making progress in some areas of life.

I know I am in a transition where ‘progress’ is the next step. Intentional, measured, regular, and focused progress. I’ve already started taking some steps. I’ll continue to take these steps and take more steps. This theme is starting now and will really pick up in the next few months.

Whether you’re choosing one resolution, a few resolutions, a theme, or nothing at all. Write it down somewhere you’ll see it every day. Make it your phone’s background. Make it your desktop background. Put a note on your dashboard you can’t miss.

Your change starts with you. Your change happens with one or two people who are going to help you stay accountable. Your change happens when you measure the progress and intentionally choose the difference.

I am who I am today because of the decisions I have already made. The habits I have today are what they are because I have needed them. My movement of late has been progress. I have been making progress and I can see places where I need to make more progress.

Who is going to help you? What change are you making? How will you measure the difference?

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