One of my favorite things to do is watch failure happen. That doesn’t sound very leader-like, does it? I’m not saying I like to trip toddlers or give team members impossible assignments. But how we handle failure is an immediate barometer of our leadership.
Great! One of your employees has started a blog. Now what?
When I started blogging, a former employer freaked out. I would leak all of our secrets! I’d say something that reflected poorly on the company! I’d spill the beans on something highly confidential! Continue reading What to Do with Blogging Employees
As I prepare for an opportunity this week, I came across Peter Shallard’s ebook Seek & Destroy: How to Identify Entrepreneurial Obstacles and Overcome Them. Bam! An action book for all of us crazy enough to think we can do it on our own.
Peter Shallard is a psychologist who’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs reach the next level. His tagline is great– The Shrink for Entrepreneurs. But his book (and blog) is a great read for anyone who needs help pushing past a fear or perceived obstacle.
In the opening sections of his book, Shallard shares his unique path to the present. He reveals a deep desire to help entrepreneurs that endures through this free ebook and an offer for a free personal assessment. Of the ten roadblocks, at least three really spoke to me. In the book, Pete shows you how to get over:
- Fear of Success
- The Plateau
- Fear of Starting
- The Roller Coaster
- That Knot in Your Gut
- The Blame Game
I love Pete’s writing style. I’ve paraphrased his ten roadblocks, but the book is written in plain English that’s easy to “get” on the first read and is extremely relatable. Through each section, we get the benefit of a psychologist’s experience– both with science and with clients! Bonus: Pete’s own business experience makes him uniquely qualified to speak from a place at once clinical and real-world.
Pete doesn’t pull any punches in this book; his practical advice isn’t softened up by an “it’s-not-that-bad” attitude. Once again, this book is available fo’ free. It’s a short, easy read. Curl up on your own couch and let the Shrink for Entrepreneurs help you unpack what’s got you stuck.
Get the book on Pete’s website.
My home state: Arkansas. It makes my heart bleed blue and white to see Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club dropping the ball so hard. If they would let me, I’d lead a workshop for any supervisors and/or managers at any Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club for free.
Looks like we’re in a bumper crop of morons. It’s not a very nice thought, but it’s one that rages in my mind far too often. Especially when I’m in the middle of a store noticing a massive retail leadership failure.
I just returned from Wal-Mart with two bottles of bleach and a box of lightbulbs. As I approached the front of the store to break my shortest-actual-shopping-trip record, my heart filled with dread. Lines and lines of piled-high baskets. Drawn like so many moths to the blue lights over three checkout stations. Continue reading The Retail Leadership Vaccuum
You’ve been cheated or taken advantage of. Someone– a boss, a coworker, a friend– took advantage of your trust. You made an agreement with someone and got screwed.
Get over it.
I’m not being mean here; I’m not just talking to you, either. I’m talking to myself.
For weeks I’ve been bitter, fuming over a broken agreement. What’s worse, the agreement was just between myself and someone I thought I could trust! The details weren’t outlined in a contract or announced to coworkers. I got screwed and nobody knows it.
When we’re wronged, there’s a yearning for some semblance of justice. We don’t want to get over it! We ache for validation. We beg God to smite the wrongdoer. We (read: I) want to see this “karma” thing take its toll.
Even now, I’d love to use my fledgling platform to articulate how badly I was wronged and who did it! But if I (read: we) allow these people to control my thoughts in such a way, I’m really doing wrong by myself.
Sinatra said: “The greatest revenge is massive success.” It’s true! In order to get there, we’ve got to take responsibility for our feelings. We’ve got to turn the focus from our transgressors to ourselves.
5 Steps to Get Over It:
- Reflect: So this seems a little cheesy, right. But time to grieve what we lost (even if it was just a delusion to begin with) is important. A period of reflection will allow you to examine the reality of what happened. In order to get over it, we’ve got to figure out what “it” really is or was in the first place.
- Recharge: This doesn’t have to take place in a secluded cabin in the woods. Whatever makes you feel alive, do that. Resist the urge to climb in a bed with a gallon of ice cream. That’s never a good place.
- Release: Some people require real, actual, tangible closure. If you need to approach the person who wronged you and express forgiveness, do that. But don’t make it about telling the world what that person did wrong. In my situation, I’m going to privately release and forgive my transgressor and work through the bitterness.
- Resolve: Decide in your heart to be better than your missed opportunity. Don’t make it an “I’ll show him!” Show yourself what you’re capable of. Dream big and get after it.
- Re-Get Over It: Couldn’t find a good re- word for this. But get over it! Whether you’re a teenager or a keenager (read: really old), you’ve only got so long to live. You’ve got even less time to be out there doing crazy dream-building stuff. Don’t allow someone else to make that time about them.
You’ve been lied to or done wrong in the past and it will probably happen again. “Get over it” is probably not a sympathetic or empathetic response. But it’s vital for your long-term success.
The quicker you can put a situation (and sometimes a person) in the rearview mirror, the better.
These days, it’s tempting to think that everything new has been done before. In fact, re-purposing old habits or practices or even picking up new ones at trade conferences is acceptable and encouraged. But (or so) when you’ve got a great original idea, how infuriating is it to see it ripped off?
Not long ago I was driving down a road near the funeral home where I work. That’s odd, I thought, I didn’t think we took out a billboard ad. But plastered up on a billboard was an ad we post each year in local publication: a lighthouse, a message about trusting professionals, and a funeral home log…
Wait a minute! “Second-Rate Funeral Home”?! (Of course, I changed the name of our competitor…to be fair.) Rather than our logo, there was a competitor’s name on our ad next to our funeral home.
Imitation and competitor rip-offs are nothing new. While it’s infuriating that our competitor is trying to tap into our brand, the ad company that created the campaign for us could really care less who buys the ads. Even in my volunteer work and writing, I sometimes see my own ideas being put to use. When these ideas are used to make progress or by a team member of mine, it’s no big deal. But when the competition starts benefiting from it…
I’ve learned to stop worrying. Not because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (which is sometimes true) or some flowery nicety like that. Rather, because it means:
- We’re Doing Something Right: Not only is our own strategy working, it threatens our largest competitor. While we spend virtually nothing on local advertising, our competitor has rented multiple billboards and run several ineffective mailing campaigns just to keep a marginal share of the market. The continued dominance of our business despite this gauntlet-throwing almost literally in our back yard is encouraging and affirming.
- We Lead the Pack: Our ideas are imitated constantly. Really, it isn’t hard. Funeral Directors who did not last at our establishment attempt to replicate our practices wherever they go! The challenge comes in that unique advantage that no one can teach: each member of our team puts his or her heart into the work we are doing. When families end up at other funeral homes, they are unimpressed, going through the motions of an acceptable service experience. But just attending a service in our funeral home shows them that services– that the people— here are extraordinary.
- Our Competition is Failing to Innovate: Innovators don’t imitate. They might improve on existing practices or mold an idea to their needs, but they don’t blindly copy the industry norm– or their competitors. Businesses who fail to innovate stagnate. The most popular lie/misconception about our industry is that it’s recession-proof. The fact is that these businesses might continue to scrape out operating expenses, but their costs will rise and their prices will shrink as they grow increasingly desperate to compete.
There are some great ideas out there on leadership, service, and building value. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t incorporate those into your business, organization, or personal life. But fit those innovations or trends to the needs of your business and allow them to fuel authentic, home-grown innovation.
If you’re riding someone else’s coat-tails, you only pick up what he drops. And if she’s a work-horse like most innovators, the droppings are pretty…well, you get the picture.
Were you expecting an Expectation, Part 2? Joke’s on you. Or me, since I felt led to explain the title-joke.
Here’s the deal: expectations are sometimes healthy. We expect certain things: good service for a fair price, excellent service for a little more; an honest effort and decent grades from our kids; respect and teamwork from our coworkers.
Certain expectations, though, destroy opportunities.
I have used the example of Jesus’s Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem to illustrate the danger of expectations. It wasn’t wrong for the people of Jerusalem to get their hopes up. In their excitement, though, they missed the whole point.
People on both sides of the Messiah argument knew what Jesus was “supposed” to do. They crammed him into their “Messiah,” “Prophet,” and/or “Heretic” boxes. The high priests and elders weighed and judged him, the young Jewish politicians clamored for a mighty deliverer from their earthly oppressors.
But he disappointed them all.
Even Pontius Pilate, one of my favorite New Testament characters, failed the test of Expectation. Believing he had the perfect solution, that perhaps he would save Jesus, Pilate put a no-brainer decision to the people expecting a rational answer. Who should go free: the notorious murderer or wandering miracle man?
But they disappointed him.
Opportunities are destroyed when we expect:
- Who He or She Should Be: It’s OK to expect a certain level of performance out of team members and friends. But when we try to fundamentally alter someone’s personality or trade out their strengths or hammer down their weaknesses, we’re wasting both parties’ time. Disappointment awaits! Get to know your team or group of friend’s strengths and play to those. You never know when your organization’s next visionary leader is sitting right in front of you. And you never will if you stifle her talents and shoot down her dreams.
- What They Will Say: Too often we try to get our way or fulfill our own expectations by manipulating others. We manufacture buy-in through one means or another. Sometimes we’re so confident of our influence that we resort to the madness of wholly-democratic decision-making. When it comes to your vision, you’ve got to create genuine buy-in, and it must come from you. When it’s time to do the right– not the popular– thing, you’ve got to get the people behind the decision, not hitch the outcome to a coin-toss.
Shocked, the disciples fled a crowd that had days earlier swept Jesus into town in a raucous parade. Incredulous, Pilate washed his hands and turned over an innocent man.
In both cases, it was the arrogance of certainty that turned expectation into a deadly disease. Jesus must be this or that. The masses must punish a heinous criminal.
Don’t allow that same spirit to come over your encounters with new team members or friends. Humble your heart with the knowledge that there is still much to learn.
Don’t shackle greatness with your lousy expectations.
Pessimistic? Maybe. But there are a lot of things I see happening in businesses (and lives!) that absolutely shred the future. And not in an 80’s hair-band guitar-solo way.
When I worked in food service, I worked with a lot of twenty-somethings who made terrible decisions at least twice a day. I’m guilty of my own mistakes, for sure, but I’ve seen a lot. As a developing leader, I’ve noticed that similarly terrible decisions are dressed up as progress in businesses all over the place!
Here’s a roadmap to totally derailing your future:
- Feed Your Bad Habits: In your personal life, this looks like some sort of addiction. Maybe it’s an addiction to alcohol or controlled substances. Maybe it’s an addiction to self (that’s mine) or recognition. In your business, this looks like rewarding poor performance or bad behavior. It looks like keeping a team member around for all the wrong reasons.
- Starve Your Talents: Sure, spend your time developing where you’re weak. These are “areas of opportunity,” right? Your greatest opportunity lies in developing your talents into strengths. (Hint: Ignore the sarcasm. Find your strengths.) In your business, you might believe that you’re only as strong as your weakest link. In the process, your strongest or most promising “links” are being ignored– and possibly leaving the chain!
- Work Harder!: You’ve encountered resistance. You’re behind on your sales forecast. Just put your head down, put your shoulder into it, and work harder! Drive your team harder to perform! Don’t stop and think or research your obstacles. Don’t evaluate your own performance. Just do more of what you’ve been doing. You’ll drive harder, faster, and longer toward that pit you’re headed to.
- Make Mo’ Money!: “What’s the main purpose of our business?” The training manager was talking to 20 or more new managers at a Wendy’s corporate center. “To make money!” Business is all about profit, right? Cut corners. Delay pay raises. Make those numbers. Personally, this may look like making decisions based on money alone. Higher-paying jobs might lure you into discontentment or make you into a scape-goat. But it’s a raise! It’s a promotion! Make mo’ money!
Losing the future is not an inevitable course. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to get on the wrong road, though. Each of these steps (or missteps) find their beginnings in not-half-bad advice. Just remember: it only takes one bad railroad tie to derail a train.
In our part of the country, “religious difference” means Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal. Once in a while, though, our funeral home has the privilege of serving Hindu or Buddhist families. Sometimes, this is uncomfortable for me; can you imagine how uncomfortable such an unfamiliar experience must be for these families?
I had no idea what I was doing as I sought to guide this family through planning their ceremonies. To be honest, they were unsure of what they were doing. With so much uncertainty, I was more that a little intimidated.
As I reflect on the process, I have developed a five-step process to dealing with any kind of uncertainty:
- Find a Point of Contact: About halfway through the service, I realized my point of contact was unfamiliar with Buddhist customs, so I sought out the Buddhist monk who would lead the ceremony. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak English. Finally, I listened for a family member who spoke English well enough to navigate complex issues and was familiar with the family needs.
- Understand Their Need(s): Until this point, I probably knew more about rocket science than Buddhist funeral customs. We had served a Buddhist family not long before, but everything was totally different this time. Once I had found a point of contact, I listened for every detail of the ceremony, seeking not just to know their needs but to understand the ceremony each part supported.
- Know Your Need(s): After I understood the family’s needs, I sat down and made a list of everything I would need: facilities, materials, props, help, time. I listed out what I didn’t know, I listed out attitudes that I needed to change to genuinely serve this family, and I listed out the details of the ceremony I needed to pay special attention to. By making lists, I was able to break a complex ceremony into small, easier-to-accomplish task groups and goals.
- Connect Your Resources with Their Needs: A lot of repurposing went on with our materials and props. Having identified what I needed, I put these things in place and waited to see how the family would arrange what I had set out. We dedicated a space for their use, matched tablecloths as closely as we could, and adjusted our staff and facilities to the family’s needs.
- Be Flexible: Toward the end of the ceremony, everything changed. Nearing wit’s end after a three-day crash course on Buddhist funeral rites, it would have been easy to lose my grip on calm! But a few minor adjustments in our plans (even at the last minute) were easy to pull off and enabled a critical process to take place right when it needed to. A cool head and quick feet are acquired traits, but essential!
I can’t tell you how many situations could fit into this progression. Whether it means overcoming language or culture barriers, moving a project into uncharted territory, or evaluating your personal leadership journey, you must be courageous and refuse to let challenges become obstacles.
When an uncertain or uncomfortable beginning evolves into a rewarding experience, you’ve done more than provide great service– you’ve captured the heart of a new friend.