Tag Archives: Legacy

Lead Like a Sherpa

Lead

In my second of three posts about Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, I examine the organization’s central tag: “Lead”. This amazing program touched the lives of over 9,500 young people last year across the world.

At this year’s Training Institute, I heard an approach to leadership that I hadn’t before. It came during a sort of train-the-trainer session on how to prepare adults to facilitate groups of young people. Don’t stop reading! You’d be surprised how applicable it is to the professional world.

Lead Like a Sherpa
Image courtesy Frank Kovalchek, CC

“When you’re leading these groups, you’ve got to be part chaperone and part Sherpa.” Sherpa? What in the world is a Sherpa? That comes later, she says.

The first part I understand: whether you’ve got a group of 8-10 teenagers or 100 employees, a leader has to keep an eye on his or her charges. After all, someone has to enforce the rules and answer the policy questions. Somebody’s got to be the chaperone.

When it comes to being a good chaperone, you’ve got to LEAD: Listen to your team, Empathize to build relationships, Activate their strengths and passions, and Direct them toward proper and powerful outlets for their talents or frustrations.

But what was that other word? Sherpas are Himalayans renowned for their mountaineering. Often, these skillful locals will guide expeditions of even the most experienced climbers. They carry packs and equipment and know the safest paths to the summit.

Leaders act as chaperones, that’s true. But their most important title is Sherpa. It’s our job to guide these emerging leaders through the safe passages, warning them where the footing is unsure, and guiding them safely to the summit.

We can’t climb the mountain passes for these emerging leaders. We can only show them the way, making sure they take advantage of the lessons of the past and catch a vision for the future.

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Empower

Last weekend, I attended the Training Institute for Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. This amazing program touched the lives of over 9,500 young people last year across the world. These next three weeks will focus on HOBY’s tagline and insights from the Training Institute.

It’s the job of leaders to raise up more leaders. But we can’t do that without stepping out of the way and empowering others.

Photo courtesy  Frederic Bisson , CC
Photo courtesy Frederic Bisson , CC

When we empower, we give power.

You can’t empower someone by patronizing them. It takes giving real, tangible power to others! This can be difficult if you started or built a company or program. But truly empowering others means endorsing them– and then letting them take the reins.

When we empower, we make powerful.

Remember that feeling you got the first time someone really believed in you. It happens every time you truly empower another individual. When we raise up leaders, we give them practical experience handling power in the appropriate fashion. In so doing, we’re creating powerful influencers unafraid to empower others. We’re lending them our influence and what power we wield– and it will be returned with interest.

When we empower, then, we multiply power.

Hogging all the power, making all the decisions, and running the show means your influence will only go to the end of your reach. By raising up new leaders, we extend the reach of our influence and magnify the message we’re spreading. By empowering young leaders to take the reins and, in turn, empower others, we’re multiplying power.

It’s difficult, but I’m learning to turn over the reins and share influence. As I do, I’m beginning to truly realize that leadership is a two-way street. We have so much to learn from those we lead! We benefit so greatly from those we empower.

You can connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn!

I’m Dying (and You Are, Too)

Not your typical pump-me-up motivational line? Death is hardly a popular topic, even among those with strong religious beliefs. Once in a while, though, it hits us square in the face.

MedicalForms
Photo Credit: ThirteenOfClubs Flickr User, CC

I’ve been dealing with a weird medical thing for about 8 months. At first the doctors thought it was a fungal infection of some kind (how’s your breakfast?), but it just won’t respond to anti-fungal meds. This past week, my doctor took a biopsy.

“Well, it could be [insert doctorese], which is no big deal. It could be just a weird fungal thing. I’m also going to have it tested for Lymphoma. It’s a long shot, but some forms get away from us.”

“Ok,” I responded almost with a shrug. He’s the doctor. The way he said Lymphoma, though, led me to Google it. And all of a sudden I could be fighting a nasty blood cancer.

Before I wax too dramatic, I don’t have a diagnosis yet. The biopsy will take a while. But I don’t need to have cancer to know that I’m dying. All of us are.

In my time as a Funeral Director, I saw children who didn’t get their first breath and centenarians take their last. There’s not a rule on when we’re born or when we’ll die.

We read about people all the time who decided to live their last year or two really big. I won’t offer you a six-step program to do that, I’ll just ask you one question: Why wait?

The biopsy could come back looking really ugly with some form of prognosis. But whether it does or not, I refuse to wait any more to live life big.

I want to build a legacy every day. I want to leave an impression on a LOT of people. I want to raise kids who do the same. And I refuse to wait “until I’m dying” to do any of it.

Let’s quit ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. Let’s straighten our backs, look Death in the face and say “Challenge Accepted.” Let’s not treat it like a stalking predator but like a constant reminder to do it now.

I’m not telling you to sell all of your possessions and move to the islands. I’m telling you to do that thing you know you ought to do. I’m telling you to give and serve and love and live…before you die.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

Leaders Open Doors

A radically simple leadership approach to lift people, profits, and performance. The subtitle says it all! Bill Treasurer delivers a very short, very simple treatise on leadership: Leaders Open Doors.

Leaders Open Doors

One thing I want to make perfectly clear is that I don’t get paid for anything I write here. Bill’s book impacted me in a way that I want to share with you. More than a book review, let this post serve as an impact statement.

Leaders Open Doors is 91 pages, counting the acknowledgments. It’s so short I read it in one sitting. For me, Bill breaks leadership into three duh-worthy characteristics.

Leadership is Simple

That’s a bit condescending, right? For some of us, learning about leadership is a lifelong undertaking. Some people, like Bill, have advanced degrees in the art and science of leadership! When I’m trying to be extra impressive, I cobble together big words so y’all know I’m sophisticated.

But Bill boils leadership down to its purpose: creating opportunities for others. The message is dead-simple and spelled out in big letters on the cover: Leaders Open Doors

Leadership is Inclusive

This is a characteristic that I often don’t think about. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that we’ve moved beyond having to worry about race or gender diversity.

In Leaders Open Doors, Bill brings out some points about including “others” in your team’s leadership and making the effort to invest in these individuals. Every year, dozens of race or gender inequality stories flash across our TV screens. Bill’s treatment of “other” inclusion in our organizations is rich stuff.

Especially for a white male born and raised in the South. Inclusive open-door leadership is a challenge for me because I’m not often faced with the reality of being an “other”. Bill pointed out this area of growth opportunity for me in a way that was gentle but powerful.

Leadership is Personal

Not only does Bill give excellent examples from his professional experience, he relates personal periods of growth and what it took to get there. In this way, he is modeling open-door leadership by opening the door to his heart.

Too often we try to compartmentalize our relationships: these are church friends, these are hunting buddies, and these are work acquaintances. How professional we are, keeping work relationships neat and tidy!

The fact is, you work with some incredible people. It’s time to get to know them and to let them get to know you. Deepening these relationships leads inevitably to much more meaningful work.

Leaders Open Doors

I’m so grateful to Bill Treasurer for writing this book. He cut straight to the heart with his personal call to simplify our understanding of leadership. I’m also grateful to Dan Rockwell (The Leadership Freak) for introducing me to Bill’s work.

Leaders Open Doors is so much more than I’ve listed here. Throughout, Bill poses questions to help you focus on how you can open doors for others wherever you are.

Something I love about Bill’s book is that it lives out his message: all of the profits from the book are donated to help open doors for children with disabilities. Additionally, Bill shares experiences and anecdotes from his professional network throughout.

That’s what most impacts me about this book; even in its writing, Bill is trying to open the door for you and me to learn and grow as leaders.

Get the book here; I don’t earn affiliate fees or anything like that. I just honestly believe it will change the way you view your call to leadership.

You can connect with me on Twitter and Google+!

The Shackles of Expectation

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.

Photo Courtesy Peter Eckersley, CC
Photo Courtesy Peter Eckersley, CC

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.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

4 Ways to Lose the Future

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.

Image courtesy DieselDemon, CC
Image courtesy DieselDemon, CC

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

Building Your Castle

Few kings in olden days built more than one castle. Frontier forts and military encampments aside, most lords or nobles made building a castle more of a life’s work.

Today, a medieval castle rises in Northwest Arkansas. Outside of that, though, I can’t think of anyone else actually building a castle. But Myles Montplaisir recently got me thinking about the concept as a metaphor for a life’s work.

Michael Hyatt discusses building a home base from which to extend your platform. Building a home base (for your platform) and building your castle (your life’s work) include many similarities. Let’s examine more deeply the castle metaphor.

A castle needs:

  1. An Architect: Simply put, your Castle needs you. You have the vision. You have the drive. You have to make it happen. But Architects don’t just wake up one day, gather their tools, and start building Castles. They have to acquire skills and experience, sometimes working under someone else on a different Castle. An Architect spends time tweaking his style and design before setting out to build his or her masterpiece.
  2. A Site: This might be approximated as a Platform. Michael Hyatt discusses building Platforms at length. Your Site must be carefully selected, but you can’t wait forever for the perfect conditions to present themselves. In short, a site should be prepared over time, establishing the right foundations with solid character and the trust of your circle of friends and greater community. After all, a Castle cannot survive without the means to support itself. Prepare the ground for your Castle by building relationships and cultivating the means to sustain your work.
  3. A Plan: Can you imagine going to work on a construction project with no blueprint? Can you imagine leading troops into battle with no plan? Take your time, consider the needs of your Castle and those who depend upon it, and plan accordingly. Don’t forget to draw your plan in pencil! If you’re not able to make adjustments as you go, your rigid plan will build a cold and inhospitable Castle.
  4. Materials: While your Site is the platform you build your Castle on, the Materials are those things with which you must actually build your life’s work (i.e.: Your Castle). These may include tangibles or intangibles or (more likely) both. You may need physical space to operate out of, you may need a community of contributors or a partnership of professionals, or you may simply need the attention of those you are seeking to impact. Gather these Materials over time to ensure a lasting supply. You wouldn’t want to find out you don’t have what you need when you’re halfway done building!
  5. Builders: You can dream the dream and even, under some circumstances, draw the Plan by yourself, but you could never build a Castle alone. Even if you could, it would take someone to pick up where you left off; a one-man building team would take more than a lifetime to get the job done! These Builders may be friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. They may be Architects-in-Training who you can develop, Architects-Emeritus who can develop you, Architects who regret never finishing their own Castles…every one of them will have his/her own story and motivation. It’s up to you to make this a gratifying experience for each one.
  6. A Crown: A life’s work is never finished. It may have several “Crowning Achievements” along the way, but it has no end. That said, your Castle must have a Crown that acknowledges its arrival and establishment. But the Crown is for the Castle, not the King. This is something I have to remind myself constantly. Because I sometimes suffer from an addiction to self, I often get in the way of my projects or achievements. These aren’t the Middle Ages, folks. There are no serfs, and the servants in today’s leadership culture are often those who sit on the throne! Serve the needs of your constituents– serve the needs of your Castle– and you will find a crown of righteousness for yourself after all.

Myles talks about “King/Queening” your Castle. At the completion of a medieval castle or even some modern buildings, the project is said to have been “crowned”. Until it’s finished, the Castle may seem like a pile of stones or a far-off fantasy. But as the Castle’s Crowning approaches, people will flock to its cause for shelter or a better future or greater opportunities.

A well-built Castle will stand the test of time. People will marvel at how it was built with only “primitive tools”, how something that took so long to realize could have survived the threat of invasion or poverty. To be sure, the skeletons of abandoned Castles lie strewn across the world. But a Castle Crowned, a life’s work pursued, is well worth the toil.