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Alicia Blain

Entries tagged with “Success Magazine”.


I was reading the February edition of Success Magazine and an article written by Beth Douglass Silcox titled “Perception is everything: As a salesperson, your social skills can open doors – or slam them shut” caught my interest As  you can tell by the title, the article centered around selling techniques.  As I reading the advice that the sales gurus were sharing, I realized that a lot of the advice was relevant to leaders.

According to one of the sales experts, Gary Hankins,  author of  “The Power of the Pitch“  perception is reality and the difference between a successful salesperson & a mediocre one is that the successful ones know how to control another person’s perception & understands the value of building relationships & social behavior.  That made me wonder how many leaders truly sees themselves as their employees do?

When working with leaders & their teams, I see this disconnect time & time again.  The leader always thinks the team sees him/her in one way when they actually see him/her in a very different way.  The team’s perception is usually not as flattering as the leader’s perception of him or herself.  The article is full of great advice that I think leaders can apply just as much as salespeople.  I would actually add that in today’s world, leaders are salespeople, too, because they need to constantly influence others – stakeholders, clients, bosses & employees – to get the work done.  The more we show the love, the more successful we will be.  I’ve heard leaders actually say they don’t have time to show the love.  They are too busy getting the work done.  Well, as the article shows, the more you show the love, the more people will want to work with you and actually, the easier it will be for you to get the work done.

So, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day today, and we show the love to our spouses, parents, children & all the special people in our lives, let’s remember to show the love to the people we spend a lot of time with everyday: our employees.  Here are some great ideas gleaned from the Success Magazine article that I think leaders can apply immediately to show their appreciation of their staff;

  • Foster relationships with your team by giving rather than receiving
  • Take an interest in WHO your employees are & not just WHAT they do or can do for you
  • Listen empathetically to what your employees say
  • Put your social ego aside & be natural with your employees
  • Lighten Up! Bring a little fun & humor into your relationship with them
  • Ask them questions & enjoy the dialogue
  • Focus on building a relationship with each employee rather than just “managing” them

The more we, as leaders, can connect with our team,  the more we can show them the love, the more we help them succeed and consequently, the more they will help us succeed.  In the end, that’s a beautiful legacy for a leader.

So what about it?  Ready to show the love to your team?  Today, Valentine’s Day is a good day to start.

Happy Valentine’s Day , everybody!

    Isn’t that a great question?  Well I didn’t think of it myself.  I heard it from one of today’s leadership gurus – Mr. John C. Maxwell.  I was in my car Saturday morning heading off to attend a workshop & as I do when I’m in my car, I slipped in an educational CD.  Driving is a great time for me  to absorb information because I am ususally by myself & can give the person talking on the CD my full attention.  It also helps me focus on something other than the horrific traffic that seems to plague South Florida 24/7.

    This particular CD was from one of my favorite monthly series. It was the December edition of Success Magazine’s wonderful complimentary ( yes, it’s free!) CD hosted by its publisher, Darren Hardy.  I’ve raved about Success Magazine & their CDs before so I’ll refrain from gushing again.  In every one of their CDs, there’s a segment with John C. Maxwell where he shares his leadership insights. In December’s CD, Mr. Maxwell was talking about how important it was for people to start or initiate something in order to be successful. He then went on to explain all the reasons why it was important to get going on something. The first place he recommended we start was with ourselves. According to him, starting with yourself gives you experience, confidence, integrity and influence.

    It was when he was describing how starting helps you gain experience that he caught my attention with the analogy of leaders being either travel agents or tour guides.  What a great analogy.  I perked up right away.  Basically, Mr. Maxwell explained that travel agents typically send you places they’ve never been themselves.  They arm you with brochures and maps and other information to get you ready for your trip. But tour guides do something else.  They take you by the hand & show you where they’ve been.  That enriches your experience because they have the inside track & can share little known secrets about the location you are visiting that makes it special.

    The concept of being a travel agent vs. a tour guide leader resonated with me because of what I see happening in corporate America these days as it relates to our newest entrants, the Millennials.  I think many leaders would say that they are trying to be the tour guide for this new generation of workers but that Millennials are refusing to listen to the advice they, as leaders, have garnered from years of corporate experience.  It is true that the many years of working for a corporation is certainly valuable and leaders should be tour guides by all means.  But what happens if, as a tour guide, you haven’t visited a particular destination in years?

    Although you may still know your way around & are still familiar with the old landmarks, etc., there may be new things that have sprung up in that location that you don’t know or aren’t familiar with – new restaurants, new neighborhoods, etc.   For tour guides to be effective & relevant to their customers, they need to stay current with what’s going on in the destinations they are experts in.  If not , they run the risk of becoming more like travel agents as time passes.  So it would appear that a pre-requisite for someone to continue being a relevant tour guide would be for them to keep up to date with the destinations & the clients they serve, to be frequent travelers themselves so they don’t lose touch with the latest trends & happenings in the destinations for which they provide tour services.

    The same applies to leadership.  Although those of us with years of corporate management experience can be great tour guides, we can only be so if we stay relevant to the employees we are leading today and not just those that we led yesterday.  Many things have taken place in the young lives of Millennials that make them very unfamiliar to us as employees & as people.  They grew up very differently than most of us did & that impacts how they perceive work, the world & those around them.  If we don’t understand & accept this unfamilarity, we won’t be very good tour guides because just like the destination tour guides,  our skills & knowledge will become outdated. That puts us at a disadvantage and could make us irrelevant to our ”customer base”, the Millennials.

    On the other hand, if we let them,  Millennials can be our  tour guides into the world of work in the 21st Century.  I’ve said many times that the future will look more like what Millennials are used to than what we are used to as current corporate leaders. That means we need to get to know them better, figure them out, live in their world & harness the goldmine that is waiting to be found.  If we are  not careful, our status as tour guides can quickly downgrade to that of a travel agent.  That would not be a good thing at this critical juncture.  Millennials need our guidance & direction.  We just need to provide it in ways that are meaningful to them and not just to us.

    In my C.A.R.E. Sytem of Leadership,  I show leaders how to maintain their tour guide status in these changing times so that they are not downgraded to travel agent.  I show them how to shadow Millennials to see how they think & work, how to break down silos by bringing Millennials from different teams to collaborate together, how to leverage Millennials’ social media & tech savviness for strategic advantage.   I show leaders how to get comfortable being uncomfortable and experimenting with new techniques & practices.  As leaders, it is imperative that we make adjustments to our way of leading & thinking to stay relevant to the workforce of the 21st Century.

    So what about you?  What are you doing today to maintain your tour guide status?  Are you at risk of becoming a travel agent?

    Last week I was at a client site for a meeting.  My client was running a bit late and her assistant asked me to wait in one of several conference rooms on the floor.  As I was busy getting ready for the meeting, taking out my laptop, connecting it to the projector, etc,  I became aware of a booming voice.  At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it but after a while, I couldn’t help but listen to what it was saying.  Now in most corporate conference rooms I’ve been in, you can sometimes hear what’s going on in the next room especially if people are laughing or applauding or like in this case, when someone has a particular voice pitch that carries through the walls.  As I focused on the voice, I could see through the glass mirror of the conference room that there was a meeting being held in the conference room adjacent to mine & that the door had been left opened.  That explained why I could clearly hear the booming voice.

    With nothing to do but wait for my client, I began to pay attention to what the booming voice was saying.  Within 5 minutes, I was appalled at what I heard.  The booming voice was on a tirade.  He was clearly disappointed with the 10 people who were in the conference room and was letting them know it. But it was how he was doing it that disturbed me.  He was using inappropriate language, was banging his fist on the table & using such words to describe the team as “morons”, “useless”, “unreliable”, “lazy”!  All in one paragraph.  You could tell that he was working himself into a full blown rage and as he was doing that I had a front row seat to watch what the reaction of his team was. It wasn’t pretty.

    You could see disgust written on all their faces. Most of them had their heads bowed & were looking down at their hands, or at the table. They were so uncomfortable that it was palpable.  Finally, one of the meeting attendees looked up & saw me across the hall & rolled his eyes.  I smiled at him in support.  I took the opportunity that I had his attention & gestured to him that perhaps he should close the door.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate for that man to display that type of behavior to his team for the whole world to hear. Interestingly, the young man looked back at me and shook his head no. His face was almost defiant. I realized by his reaction that he wanted people to hear the tirade.  My guess is that he wanted someone in a position of authority to hear & see this man’s behavior & hopefully do something about it. Before I knew it, the booming voice was dismissing the team & saying ” Get outta here. I’m disgusted with all of you”.  That’s an exact quote.

    As people shuffled out in silence, the young man who had caught my attention made an “L” shape with his forefinger & thumb & put it on his forehead signifying that he felt the booming voice was a loser. A couple of his teammates nearby saw him do it & started giggling as they passed by & I could see one of them mouthing the words “What a jerk” as the others continued to giggle.  The booming voice stayed in the conference room answering his cell phone & I could hear him berating whoever was on the other line. This man clearly was a jerk.

    Just then my client walks in & closes the door.  As she is closing it, she can hear the booming voice talking loud & using offensive language.  With the door closed, she rolls her eyes & says ” there goes Steve again ranting & raving about something. He’s such a brilliant man but he’s not a real people person & he can’t seem to get good people to stay in his team”.  “I wonder why??” I said to myself.  I learned from my client that Steve, the booming voice, was the Vice President of Marketing & had close ties to the CEO & had been with the company almost 20 years.

    That explained a lot.  Unfortunately, as far as I was concerned, his team was doomed.  Being buddies with the CEO was job security – it was one of the 4 poor leadership trends I’ve blogged about that is so prevalent in corporate. My client explained that the booming voice was constantly badgering the Human Resources group about the lack of good talent they were getting.  Instead of recognizing that he was the problem, it was easier for the booming voice to blame it on HR & the talent pool.  Very sad.

    As I witnessed this horrible but not uncommon example of leadership, I remember an interview I heard in my January edition of Success Magazine’s complimentary CD.  In the CD, Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine was interviewing Shawn Achor, author of the book titled “The Happiness Advantage“ .  In the interview, Shawn explained to Darren how important it was for people & especially leaders to have & disseminate a positive outlook on their teams.  He went over 7 practical and what I think are actionable steps that we can all take at work and at home to reap the benefits of happiness.  You see, Shawn’s extensive research has shown that happiness fuels success, not the other way around.  Most of us think that when we succeed at something, we’ll be happy.  Well, that’s not what the research shows & I know that my own hands-on experience leading teams backs up what Shawn’s research shows.

    In over 25 years of leading teams, I have seen a direct correlation between people’s happiness  & effectiveness & how I’ve treated them as a leader.  To be totally honest & transparent, there have been times in my career where I have exhibited behavior similar to the booming voice although never quite that bad.  The result of that negative & inappropriate behavior was more of the same – more of what I didn’t want.  As I changed my behavior & realized that staying positive in a bad situation produced ideas & solutions rather than resentment & disengagement, I was able to get the results I wanted & more importantly, I was able to quantify that success against the failure that had been displayed with my less than positive reaction. Even more importantly than all of that, I realized that my team was more upbeat, more engaged & creative. They also stayed with me for years & my retention rate was pretty high compared to my fellow peers.

    As leaders, it is critical for us to know how our actions & behaviors affect our team.  Negativity & bullying only get you high turnover, a very unhappy team & subpar solutions. In my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, one of the key components I stress is the R for Reshape.  We need to constantly be reshaping & re-evaluating our leadership style & principles to ensure we don’t fall into bad habits that are hard to break.  Even though no team member likes being approached from a negative perspective, it is particularly difficult & offensive to our younger workers who have come from a very supportive network of teachers & parents.  While other generations might tolerate it, Gen Yers find it difficult to do so.  As you saw from the reaction of the young man who caught my attention, he wanted the inappropriate behavior of his boss to be on display.  I’m sure his hope was that it would not be tolerated.

    As this new year begins to unfold, let us all keep in mind that there is an advantage to be positive and happy.  Although the day to day may sometimes challenge that philosophy, it is up to us as leaders to embrace it & share it with our team.  Igniting happiness & positivity in your team will get you to reap the rewards & success you are looking for. The opposite just labels you a loser & a jerk.

    So what about you? Have you used happiness to your advantage lately?

    She inspires us because despite physical challenges, Ashley Fiolek, a 19 year old Millennial woman lives her passion everyday.  As usual, the first Success Magazine edition of 2011 is full of great informational and motivational articles.  One of the articles that particularly resonated with me is the one written by Alice Daniel in the Your Personal Best column.  The name of the article is “Off the Beaten Track“.

    It spotlights a young woman who happens to be deaf but yet manages to be a two-time Womens Motocross champion.  I have to admit that I was not familiar with the sport of motocross but from the article I now understand it a bit better.  Basically it’s a race,  where dirt bikes  speed down a beaten track with very sharp corners.  Apparently, the sport is known for its distinctive sounds as engines roar and bikers zoom past other bikers.  But Ashley Fiolek has proven that assumption to be wrong since she can’t hear those distinctive sounds. The article goes on to explain how Ashley’s family first discovered she was deaf and how from a very young age she never let that stop her from communicating and living her life.  In fact, Ashley believes that her inability to hear all the loud sounds on the racetrack contribute to her success.  Instead of getting distracted, she “feels” the vibrations of the bike and that tells her what she needs to do.

    Ashley has gone on to win various championships and she was the first woman motocross racer to be signed to the Honda Red Bull Racing team.  Awesome, isn’t?  What I like about this story aside from it’s very inspirational message are 2 things:

    First, it shows the strong family ties that Millennials have with their parents.  From an early age, Ashley’s father, a former amateur racer, put her on a motocross and she started competing at age 7.  When her parents discovered that Ashley was deaf, they moved to Florida so she could attend teh Florida School for the Deaf & Blind.  In 9th grade, they began to home school her so she could be more active in the motocross circuit.  Her mom is always close by and helps her with whatever she needs.  Millennial parents go out of their way to ensure their children have the best experience and advantages they can possibly have.

    Second, the story shows the possibilities that Millennials have.  They are fearless.  They have the support of parents that encourage them to fulfill their dreams and are there to help them do that.  Millennials are creative.  Look at how Ashley has turned her passion into a strong brand by being the first woman to be hired by a motocross racing team.  Imagine how she will inspire other young women to follow their dreams and more importantly, to go into the sport if that is their desire.  Finally, it shows how giving Millennials are.  In addition to racing, Ashley is very involved in speaking to young audiences that are deaf and, like most Millennials, is actively involved in charities.

    Ashley shows the characteristics in most Millennials: optimistic, fearless, bright, creative & giving.  When harnessed correctly, those characteristics are powerful & are a huge benefit to any organization.  But first, you have to know it’s there and you have to know how to tap it.  Sadly, many organizations are not doing that because instead they focus on what Millennials DON’T do instead of shifting the mindset & seeing what they CAN do if only that talent gets tapped. 

    As 2011 begins, let Ashley inspire us all to see the possibilities and not let our personal challenges hold us back.  For those leaders that have Millennials in their teams, take a step back and really get to see and get to know your young workforce.  They have a lot to offer and, like Ashley, they can be groundbreakers if given the right opportunity & direction.  Be the one to open the door to that possibility.   It will be a game changer  and a win-win for everyone.

    By now you all know that I am a huge fan of Success Magazine.  It’s one of the few magazines that I continue to get as a hardcopy.  One of the reasons I do that is because I love the free Success CD that accompanies every edition.  I take the CD and listen to it when I’m driving.

    I’ve been a little busy these last few months and sort of fell behind on my Success CDs.  Yesterday, I just finished listening to September’s CD.  Like I said… I’m a little behind.  I was totally captivated by an interview that Darren Hardy, the Publisher of Success Magazine had with 3 amazing Millennials.  I was so captivated that I had to stop the car & listen to the interview.  It was very moving.  Darren was interviewing the founders of a non-profit organization called “The Invisible Children“.  The founders were 3 Millennials.  Their names: Jason Russell, the mastermind that started the whole project, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey.  These 3 young men in 2003 were barely in their early 20′s with Laren Poole being the youngest at 19.  They decided to take a “road trip” to Africa that started them on a journey that would change their lives and so many others in a positive way.

    You see, they got stranded in Northern Uganda and came across an unsettling reality:  children were being kidnapped every night from their homes and forced to be child soldiers by a rebel army in the area.  To avoid this fate,  children would walk barefoot every night, night after night to the centers of the cities to avoid being kidnapped by these rebels.  These 3 young American Millennials were shocked by this and felt compelled to document it on video.  That started their journey to not only raise awareness but raise money and enact legislation to help these young children in Northern Uganda.

    I wish you could listen to this captivating CD.  I wasn’t able to find it on the Success Magazine website but I found the next best things. One was an article written by Sally Deneen in January of 2009 titled: “Making a Difference – Invisible Children“  .  There’s also a great video in Success Magazine’s Video Library called “Invisible Children“.  It’s a great short video and well worth the time to watch.

    As you will see by reading & watching the video, these 3 young men started a movement.  They reached out to young Millennials just like them and showed them what was happening in Northern Uganda and what they wanted to do to change it.  These 3 young men wanted to rebuild the schools in war torn Uganda to give the children a fighting chance.  And their Millennial peers across the US heard the call and put their collective support behind them.  Since 2003, these 3 Millennials have gone from embarking on a youthful adventure on another continent  to starting a non-profit organization that has raised millions for their cause AND just this past May, they were influential in passing a bill in the House of Representatives called the LRA Disarmament & Uganda Recovery Act.

    Not too shabby, wouldn’t you say?  In the video that’s on the Success Magazine site, I love what Jolly Okot,  Country Director in Uganda says about who is raising the money for this effort.  She says ” It’s young people like you who are raising the money… not the big people”.  I love that quote.  It’s the young, not the big people.

    As I listened to the CD in my car, I felt such pride for this generation.  They have such a powerful way of using their collective strength for good.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much more innovative and productive corporations could be today if they just tapped a small piece of the talent that their Millennial employees have and are dying to deploy.  I also worried that so many corporations would ultimately lose out on the best talent because they are failing to see it, to tap it, to inspire it and grow it NOW.  Millennials are not afraid to go elsewhere & usually it’s to start their own companies or in this case, their own non-profits.

    Darren asked these 3 amazing Millennials to give organizations advice on how to tap the Millennials that worked for them.  They gave some wonderful advice that I want to share with you because it goes to the heart of what leaders need to do to engage & retain the Millennials.  I don’t remember which of the 3 Millennials said it but he mentioned the Triple Bottom Line. To engage Millennials,   corporations need to focus on Profits, People & the Planet.  Too often, corporations just focus on the first and almost to the detriment of the last two.

    Other advice:  

    1. For leaders to swallow the fear.  Let the Millennials go where they think they should go.  I couldn’t agree more.  At first, I was afraid to trust the Millennials because their approach was different than mine.  But I slowly discovered that by blending their unique insights with my experience created a win-win situation and sparked creativity and innovation in ways that would have never been discovered if I had not chosen to let go of the fear & just experiment.
    2. Show  Millennials how they affect the Mission statement.  Connect the dots for them.  This is so true.  Most leaders never spend time with their staff showing them directly how they affect the business.  That’s why most employees have no clue of the strategic direction their company is taking & how they contribute to it or not.  Every year, after we completed the IT Strategic Plan, I would convene my team & share the plan with them & how it fit within the bigger corporate plan.  Then I would individually show them how each one of their projects contributed to the IT plan & the bigger plan.  This was illuminating not only for the Millennials but for all the generations that made up my team.  There’s nothing more rewarding than to see how you affect the bigger picture.
    3. Value the impossible.  I love that.  I think that is sorely missing from most corporations today.  We just play the safe bet. We stay only in the realm of what we think is possible.  That’s a recipe for mediocrity.  These 3 Millennials at such an early age understand that there is value in trying what has not been done.  Experiment & try the impossible.
    4. Take on a cause.  Millennials are hard wired for it and they look to their leaders to be part of a cause.  Pick one and get them involved.  You will see amazing results & your “cool factor” will go up as well.

    So if you are spending a lot of time complaining about the Millennials in your team and how lazy & ineffective they are,  maybe it’s just because they are not inspired to do anything better.  Because when they are inspired, look out!  The sky’s the limit.  Just look at what these young men have accomplished in a short time. 

    So what you?  What are you doing to inspire engagement & involvement & innovation in the Millennials in your team?

    I’m not a big TV fan but every Sunday, I turn it on to watch Undercover Boss on CBS.  I like watching how executives who are so removed from the trenches get “aha” moments by experiencing corporate life through interaction with their employees.  By now, you know I’m a huge fan of Success Magazine and in the November issue, they showcased White Castle in Emma Johnson’s article titled “Chain Reaction: White Castle’s Davide Rife is intent on having happy employees…“.  ( Check back if the November edition is not yet online when you read this.)

    If you watch Undercover Boss you know that David Rife appeared on a recent episode of the show.  What typically happens is that the boss that goes undercover will go back to Headquarters and make improvements or changes to the operations or corporate policies as a result of his in-the-trenches experience.  In David Rife’s case,  his 10 day stint visiting various White House facilities reminded him how removed he had become from the day-to-day.  In the article, he admitted that “some of those challenges our people face were not as fresh or as high a priority”  as they probably had been in the past.  Wow?  What a breakthrough!  As a result of his undercover experience, David went back and made some changes. 

    One of the things I liked best that he did was to initiate a “Leaders of Tomorrow” program.  It’s a mentorship that identifies young employees & shows them how their first job at White Castle can translate into a career if they so desire.  As the title of the article says White Castle is committed to having happy employees because they know that it will in turn make for happy customers. I liked that they focused on a starting a mentoring program with their Gen Yers to help them plot a career path & explain the “whys” of how things got done. That is so important for Gen Yers to see & understand.

    The Leaders of Tomorrow program would have never been created if David Rife didn’t challenge his leadership comfort zone & put himself in the trenches.  In my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership Program one of the key ingredients that I teach under the “C” for Connect segment is to initiate a Shadowing program.  This is where the team leader - whether it’s a manager, a VP or C-Suite executive – follows a process where he or she takes time out of their schedule to do what David Rife did:  work among the staff.  Although my Shadow program is done overtly and in plain sight, the results are often the same as in Undercover Boss.

    Either undercover or in plain sight, the truth is there’s nothing that shows you more about the inner dynamics of your team than working along side them for a period of time.  That period of time doesn’t have to be extensive.  It can be just an hour a week.  What happens most of the time is that you wind up increasing the time you shadow because of what it uncovers.  It’s an eye opening  experience and often leads to change.  Positive and productive change.  If you did it correctly, it will also  increase your leadership “mojo” for lack of a better word.  By spending time with your team, especially the Millennials, you give them valuable access to you.  They observe you in their turf not yours.  They get priceless time with you, to ask you questions, to share their ideas, to show you how they work on a daily basis.

    When you take the time to shadow, you will discover what David Rife did which is that you had lost touch with what it’s like to work in the front lines.  A lot has changed since many of us were in the front lines and in today’s hectic workplace you can’t ever assume you have a pulse on what is going on in your team without experiencing the challenges they face everyday.

    Shadowing allows you to put in action what the Success Magazine article recommends which is: Focus on the front line, stay open to improvement and foster employee growth.  If we do that as leaders, we are on our way to making a dent in the corporate malaise that has enveloped many organization today.

    So how about it?  Are you going to take a page from Undercover Boss and spend time in the trenches?  It may be the single most rewarding and enlightening decision you make this year.  It certainly can’t hurt…

    What better place to read about failure than Success Magazine.  Those that have become successful in life know very well that it took many failures and overcoming the fear of failure before  they succeeded.  In the October edition of Success Magazine, reporter Pauline Estrem challenges us to embrace the prospect of failure in her article titled “Why Failure is Good for Success“.  It’s a great article and I highly recommend it because we need to be reminded often that it’s okay to take risks, that it’s okay to be afraid and it’s okay to fail.  That’s especially true in corporate America.

    People are scared to rock the boat at work.  Consumers are not spending because of fear their companies will lay them off. Corporations are fearful to invest a dime on anything that doesn’t keep the lights on.  It’s a vicious circle.  Last week  we were told that the recession was over but from where I sit, that’s far from true.  It may be over on paper, but the feelings and actions of people and corporations say otherwise. 

    When we turn on the financial news these days we hear a lot of talk about how investors are exhibiting a “flight to safety” attitude in their investment decisions.  This means they are bypassing risk and higher returns for stability and safety.  The same thing is happening in many organizations not only in the US but globally.  There is a flight to safety where the main focus for everyone - from the leadership to the staff levels –  is the tried and true. Not much focus on risking failure by trying something new.

    But I would argue that this is exactly the time for leaders to be daring and adopt a go-for-failure mindset.  Empower your team to try new things, to work on a risky project.  Not only will that boost the deflated morale that is prevalent among workers today but it will get people thinking creatively.  It doesn’t have to be a monumental or expensive endeavor.  Many experiments that lead to great ideas start small and get tested along the way to see if they will pass muster.

    The next time a staff member says “Hey, I had an idea about…” or “Do you think it’s possible for us to …”  rein in your instinct to fly to safety and instead say “Tell me more” or “Sounds interesting and worth looking into”.  Better yet, in case your staff is afraid to bring up a new idea or suggest something why don’t you do it?  Start a conversation with them.  Bring it up in your team blog or next meeting?  But start.

    Now is not the time to be complacent.  Those that don’t take risks fall behind.  If you fail, what was the lesson you learned?  Celebrate the lesson and apply it to the next idea.  

    In the Success Magazine article, there is a great quote from Ralph Heath, author of  “Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big“.   He says “Failure & defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there”. 

    In today’s flight to safety mindset, it’s not just the conservative corporate cultures that are shying away from taking chances.  It’s the prevailing pattern.  Break the pattern.  Be the leader that breaks through fear and “safety” and reap the benefits of a Go-for-Failure mindset.  You might just start something really cool in your team and in your organization.

    Another great article that appeared in the September issue of Success Magazine was one written by Sandra Bienkowski called “Giving Back:How Giving to Others Enriches You in Return“.  In the article, Sandra interviews Harvey McKinnon who is recognized as North America’s leading fundraising expert.  Harvey talks about some scientific studies that show that when people give to others it makes them feel better.  The article is a wonderful reminder of how giving to others benefits the giver more than it does the receiver.

    Although the article focuses on giving from a fundraising and volunteering perspective, I thought of how it also applies to our role as leaders in our organizations.  Giving our time, our support and our wisdom to members of our team is a wonderful way to helping them grow and reach their potential.  Too often we hide behind our spreadsheets, powerpoint slides and financial reports and don’t interact with our teams in an authentic way.   But as Harvey McKinnon says  “Giving back enables us to reach our potential”.  By taking time out of our busy work schedules to connect with others in our team we can not only see their potential but we push ourselves to reach our own.

    I have had many great accomplishments and have been proud of many of the things I have done in my long corporate career.  But none of them come close to the pride and sense of achievement I have felt when I have connected with my team members, seen their potential and assisted them in reaching that potential.  Seeing them reach a milestone they thought they could not reach was better than any raise I could have gotten.  It’s a wonderful feeling and makes you feel energized and alive.   I could never have felt that way by staying removed, in my office, behind my laptop and stack of reports.  The connection you make with your team, the giving of your time and energy to help them grow are what leadership is all about.  Unfortunately, we don’t always make the connection, take the extra time, compliment them on a job well done.  These are all lost opportunities to help make a difference in someone else’s career and life and possibly to learn something new about yourself in the process.

    Today, Labor Day, as we celebrate the worker, let’s take time out to appreciate our staff, to thank them for all the hard work they do for us and to make a commitment to give them more of us so they can become more tomorrow than they are today. When you get back to work tomorrow, thank your team and embrace a more giving mentality in your leadership style.

    So what about you? Are you enriching your life by giving of yourself to your team members?

    Experts believe that Brian Davis paid well over 1 million dollars for his recent behavior on the golf course.  Many of you are probably thinking that Brian Davis did something bad, right?  The media is constantly inundating us with all the bad things that sports figures and celebrities do that this question automatically makes us think negatively.  But not in this case.

    Here’s the deal:  Brian Davis is a 36 year old British Generation Xer who recently played in the PGA Tour at the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C. Now I know what you’re all thinking:  I keep saying I don’t like sports but I keep bringing up examples of things that happen in the sports world.  Am I secretly a sports fan?  Truly, I am not but it just happens that really cool things are happening with sports figures that I think are worth highlighting. 

    So Brian Davis is hitting onto the green in a sudden-death playoff  and apparently his golf club hits a reed when he does his backswing.  Well, as I’m sure all golfers know and I did not, a reed is considered a loose impediment and moving a loose impediment is apparently a big NO-NO in golf.   It came as a shock to me that there actually is a PGA rule that prohibits moving a loose impediment!  So instead of keeping quiet and seeing if the tournament director catches the mistake, Brian calls a penalty on himself.  Yes, he actually highlighted the mistake and requested that the two stroke penalty be applied to his game.  This decision automatically put him in second place giving the win to his opponent, Jim Furyk.

    Is that not an unbelievable and refreshing story?  I was reading about this in my hard copy version of September’s edition of Success Magazine.  As I am writing this post, the online version of the September issue is not yet available but here’s the link to Success Magazine.  I’m sure the September issue will go online shortly and you can read it.  The name of the article is “The Most Important Golf Story of the Year (That you Likely Never Heard About).  The reporter’s name is Don Yaeger.

    The article goes on to explain that interviewers and golf experts told Brian Davis that his act of integrity cost him over $1 million dollars in pay and sponsorship opportunities. Brian’s answer: “I just saw it as doing what I was supposed to do”

    Here are the 2 things I love most about this story.  The first is that Brian was inundated with emails, texts and letters that thanked him for this wonderful act of integrity.  Imagine how many people became his fans and admirers by his decision to lose instead of compromising his principles.  I don’t even know who he is and I’m a big fan now!  The second thing I like is more related to leadership. It has to do with the notion of leading by example which I think is a forgotten leadership trait these days.   In the article, Brian talks about how he promised his son that he would buy a puppy as soon as he won a tournament.  So technically, even though he won the tournament, he didn’t officially win it.  Brian felt it was more important for his son to know that You have to do the right thing, even it if looks like it costs you.  I wanted him to know I finished second, but can hold my head high”.   What a great example of doing what is right regardless of consequences.

    Oh and by the way,  Brian did not get the puppy because as he said in the article ” I wouldn’t be a good dad if I just got the dog anyway”.  Here is a Generation Xer not just telling us but actually showing us how to do the right thing.  I can already hear people disagreeing with me saying that Brian’s actions are more representative of his personal convictions than of his generation. You can certainly look at it that way and you would be right.  But, when highlighting people in my blogs, I always try to connect the person with his or her generation. This helps maximize and showcase the positive traits of the person’s generation wherever possible.  Too often, generational discussions center around negative impressions when  it’s more productive and useful to bring out the positive.   As a member of Gen X,  the generation that is often forgotten and overshadowed by Baby Boomers and Millennials, Brian shows the rest of us what it’s like to be a true leader living and leading proudly with integrity and respect. Kudos to Gen Xers like Brian Davis!  

    What about you?  Does your integrity have a price?

     

    That’s an intriguing question that I paraphrased from a recent Success Magazine interview with Sam Duncan, CEO of OfficeMax.  In July’s issue,  John H.  Ostdick of Success Magazine interviewed the OfficeMax CEO who told of his incredible corporate journey from store clerk to CEO.  He also walks us through the steps he took to instill the company’s core values and how the employees embraced them.

    In the article, Sam Duncan says “If you are trying to work on today’s or tomorrow’s problems, you are too late..You have to read and anticipate trends”.    I wondered how many of us actually take time out of our hectic, tactical schedules to observe what is happening around us and in our industry? I mean really take time to observe because that’s the only way that you will truly be able to read trends and ultimately anticpate them.

    When was the last time you took time to see what you produce from the eyes of the customer?  To see your team from the eyes of your employees?  To learn what your peers did in their departments?  Chances are most people would say they don’t do this or if they did, not with enough frequency. But the reality is that if you are engrossed in what you do everyday, in the projects you are responsible for and the issues facing your team you are just working on today’s and tomorrow’s problems.  I don’t mean to belittle that in any way because those are big problems that need immediate attention.

    But if that’s all you focus on, then you are not preparing for the future.  To do that, you need to anticipate trends and to do that you need to remove yourself from today’s problems.   Sam Duncan tells how he walked the floors of OfficeMax and the stores to immerse himself in what others were doing.  When he discovered that his customers were mostly female he replaced the paint color in the stores to make it more appealing to women and changed the products the stores offered.  He could not have done that sitting behind his desk working on the company’s current problems.   He had to remove himself from that to see the trends that would affect the company in the future.

    I can relate to Sam Duncan’s philosophy because it happened to me when I began to observe Millennials more closely.  As I began to shadow them I was doing so because I was working on a current problem – my inability to figure them out.  But that observation led much further.  I was able to see them in action and although not obvious to me at first, I slowly realized that I was seeing a glimpse of the future. The way Millennials worked, the way they interacted, the way they utilized technology, the way they were raised were all strong signals of the trends that were being shaped right before my eyes.  Trends that I would have ignored if I had just been working on today’s or tomorrow’s problems.

    I was able to spot and leverage those trends because I purposely disrupted my daily focus of tactical issues and followed a different course.   I couldn’t disrupt it everyday but the more I did, the more I observed new things, new patterns and that gave me the motivation to experiment and try new approaches.  Experimentation makes you a better observer of trends and sadly we don’t experiment nearly as much as we should in organizations today.

    So what about you? Do you agree with Sam Duncan’s perspective or are you still trying to work on today’s problems?