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.
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.
“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.
Remember the first time you did something you thought you couldn’t do? It was exhilarating! You were unstoppable. Look out world, there was a new Sheriff in town.
Only it wasn’t long before your badge was ripped off. Motivationally destitute, you’re wondering how you ended up in your own jail cell! There’s a new Sheriff in town, and he’s big and mean and ugly.
His name is:
- Physical Ability
There’s something you know you want to do– know you ought to do– but won’t. One or more of these limits are taunting you from outside the jail cell, swinging the keys they took from your belt.
The remarkable thing is that all of these things are tools. Each of the limits you’re under should contribute to your success! Instead, you’ve magnified their influence on your life and handed over your badge. You’ve allowed these limits– and yourself– to believe that they get a vote.
But you were elected by a majority of one: YOU!
Not only are you the Sheriff in town, you’re the Mayor, the Judge, and the Sanitation Worker. It’s time to pack up the trash you believe about your limits and haul it to the dump.
Turn these tools around and use them to accomplish your goals and dreams. Don’t allow limits to use you to accomplish your defeat and ho-hummery.
You might not control your job or other circumstances, but when it comes down to it your only limit is YOU. Who controls that?
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.
Recently, scientists confirmed the type of paint Picasso preferred. He used this same paint to become one of the most famous painters in history and secure his place as the most influential painter in the modern era. What was the secret sauce? Common house paint!
The lesson here isn’t hard to spot. Picasso took something ordinary and created extraordinary art. The same stuff I have a hard time keeping off my trim graces the walls of the world’s finest art galleries and museums!
Picasso isn’t alone. Everyday items become powerful tools in the right hands. We can all use the ordinary to create extraordinary work by realizing:
- Starving Your Talent is a Mistake: Sometimes, we are too timid to dive into developing a talent. We’re comfortable in our jobs, we’re set in our routines. We starve our natural talents. Before you quit your job and become a “starving artist,” find a way to responsibly explore your natural talents.
- Even Limited Resources Are Resources: I am often tempted to dismiss projects before they have a chance. “We don’t have the resources,” I whine. If Picasso can paint masterpieces with common house paint, you can craft a marketing campaign with free outlets like social media and word of mouth.
- Your Greatest Resource is YOU: The “secret sauce” to great success is a driven individual or team making it happen. Whether you have the materials you need or the support you covet is immaterial. Whether you have a contagious passion is paramount to success! If you believe in your project, you can believe in yourself. Invest in developing your talents so that you can confidently drive a team to succeed.
- Even Great Resources Can’t Guarantee Great Results: My father hit a home run. He had found an eBay auction for an emerging web server/hosting company who was offering unlimited reseller rights to their services. They had great tech support and offered top-notch service. There were only two problems: they hadn’t set a reserve and their marketing was terrible. Consequently, Dad scored unlimited reseller rights for $30 per month. The earning potential is unlimited! …for someone who knows how to run the thing. His unlimited-everything jackpot is being used to park his domains. If you don’t have the know-how to use great resources, they don’t amount to much.
- We Choose Our Own Means: Art historians have long thought that Picasso might have used common house paints. He used “inferior” resources on purpose! Apparently, he was among the first to begin doing so, creating a flat appearance that didn’t show brushstrokes. Picasso knew how to use the paints he chose. You must use the resources that fit best with your own purpose and your own talents.
Whether you’re an artist or a data analyst, you can produce amazing results, even with basic resources. As you develop your talents and demonstrate your ability, others will recognize and invest in your efforts.
One Question for the Comments: What resource challenge have you overcome with a creative solution?
Sometimes, people don’t want to tell us what they need. Maybe they’re embarrassed or afraid. Maybe they simply don’t know. Regardless of their reasons, most people let their needs go unspoken and, consequently, unmet.
As I meet with families at the end of a loved one’s life, there is often more baggage to unpack than our time together will allow. While I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist, I can generally sense when there’s something unresolved that may hinder a healthy grieving journey.
You can sense it, too. When a customer seeks your product or service, you know he or she doesn’t just need a widget or to enjoy your company. They have unspoken needs that drive them to seek you out.
Find these unspoken needs by:
- Building Trust: It takes more than expertise to bring down walls and barriers. Gain trust by genuine dedication to the best interests of your client, advocating for his or her needs, validating his or her feelings, and humanizing yourself. Follow through on your promises, make personal guarantees, and always be honest.
- Using Low-Risk Probes: I often start arrangement conferences with a general question: “What did Mom like to do with y’all when you were kids?” “What were Dad’s hobbies or passions?” “What’s the first memory of Mom that comes to mind?” These are low-risk questions or requests that not only help me get to know Mom or Dad but also can uncover regrets or injuries a family may need to deal with. You can use general, low-risk probing questions to begin conversations or exchanges that uncover unspoken needs.
- Speaking to the Experience: Unless you want your interaction and relationship with your clients to be short-lived, your conversation can’t focus merely on the short-term. By speaking to the broader experience rather than to the time-limited interactions you may have, you are promising the client that you’re in for the long-haul, interested in his or her long-term satisfaction. Additionally, a broader view of the experience will require that you step out of your role as salesperson and pull together the intangibles that make your service successful without necessarily including monetary gain.
- Letting Them Know It’s Ok to…: People sometimes require permission to grieve. I remember the first time I was bold enough to offer someone such permission. A thirty-something woman was seeing her father for the first time after his passing. Stiff-lipped, she refused to let a tear break the brim of her eyelids. In the past, I might simply have stood in the corner, silently waiting for the discomfort to pass. This time, though, I stepped forward, making myself available. “I told him I wouldn’t cry. I told him I’d be strong for the kids,” her voice quaked. “The kids aren’t here now. It’s just you and your Daddy. And it’s OK to cry.” She was waiting for permission, for validation. When a client reveals their needs, sometimes it’s all they need.
- Make Thoughtful Recommendations: Once you’ve uncovered the unspoken needs of your client, be brave enough to put yourself out there by making thoughtful recommendations and suggestions. You’re the expert…right? If you believe it, you should be confident enough to assess the needs of your client and make suggestions. What we’ve tried to do at our funeral firm is go from “Order Takers” to “CARE Takers”. Take your time, name the needs of your client, and act on them.
The last step is the most important; without meeting unspoken needs, uncovering them is useless. But when we meet the unspoken needs of our customers, guests, or clients, a deeper relationship is formed that goes beyond sales metrics. Seeking this kind of impact takes us back to our own unspoken need in the workplace: to connect our products or services with a need in the community and do work that matters.
In the comments: What keeps you from making thoughtful recommendations? Are you afraid to help your clients face their own fears?