Thursday, May 28, 2009

Week in Review

I have had a fun and interesting week. Today's post is more about what I have been up to than any deep challenging thoughts about leadership.

I enjoyed a great day with my family on Monday as we celebrated Memorial Day together. One of our activities was attending the annual Wheaton Memorial Day parade. It was great to see all the American flags and salute the many veterans who passed by and to hear all the patriotic music that the various school bands played. My heart ached a bit though during that parade because I see the country that I love moving away from much of what our forefathers and fallen soldiers (including my grandfather) fought for. It reminded me of how much we need strong leaders who will fight to preserve the soul of our nation.

On Tuesday I had a great opportunity to deliver a 1/2 day workshop to the staff at Family Empowerment Centers of Chicago that was entitled, "Focusing On Your Strengths." If you have been reading this blog at all I am sure that title does not surprise you. It is a subject about which I am very passionate, and a drum that I will continue to beat.

On Wednesday afternoon I had the privilege of being interviewed for a cable TV program sponsored by School District 44 in Lombard called "SchoolScape." The interview centered on leadership and, more specifically, what makes a strong leader. I enjoyed this very much, though I was slightly nervous as this was my first TV interview. I hope you can check it out. It will air every Tuesday in June at 3PM on AT&T Cable Public Access Channel 19. It will also air five other times each week on the Village of Lombard's Cable Station Channel 6. If you see it please let me know what you think. I would love some interaction on the subject.

Finally, this Saturday I will have the additional privilege of speaking at an event called, "A Father's Legacy." This event will take place at Park Community Church in Chicago. I will have the opportunity to share just a slice of my journey as a father and my hope for future generations. If you are interested in attending, you can look up the details and register for the event at I would love to see you there.

And, don't forget every day is an opportunity to bring significant influence (i.e. leadership) into the lives of those around you.

Seize the day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Meaningful Work

Is what you are living for worth dying for? If not it's time to re-evaluate what you are living for.

Do you see your job as a calling, or a way to pay the bills and earn enough money to take nice vacations? A few years ago I was challenged by a man who asked me, "What is it that you can not NOT do?" That question started me down a path that evenutally led me to leave the company I had been with for eleven years and start my own business.

Today I am a professional leadership coach and trainer and I absolutely love it. Now don't get me wrong. I am not ready to die for the coaching or training profession. But, the call to invest my life in the meaningful growth of others is something that I have risked everything for.

The funny thing is that I am not naturally a risk-taker. Just ask my wife and close friends. But, when I prayed about and grappled with the question of what I was put here on earth to do...what I could not not do...I was compelled to move in a new direction.

So, how about you? What is your life's work? Is it worth your life? And, as a leader, how are you doing at communicating to your followers the importance of the work they are doing?

We are all given 24 hours each day. Each day is an opportunity to invest or waste. Seize the day!

Click here to sign up for my next "Conversational Leadership" program.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Harmony Is A Beautiful Thing

I just finished spending time singing with my wife and eight children. We try to spend some time each Thursday afternoon in this melodious exercise. My wife is very talented with music and her genes have fortunately made it to most of our children. When we hit those 4-part chords well it is really quite beautiful. But, it isnt always that easy. It seems like there is always someone who is off.

Sound familiar? Does it remind you of your family, your team, your company?

Getting everyone to do their part at the right time in the right way takes great effort and coordination. When you do it, it is music to everyone's ears. When you don't, it can be a painful experience for everyone.

One of the challenges we face is finding the right part for each person - especially as their voices change through the teen years. It has made for some good fun (we're not laughing at them...we're laughing with them), but it makes creating pleasant harmonies a little difficult.

Sound familiar? Does it remind you of your family, your team, your company?

In weeks past I have referred to focusing on people's strengths as a key leadership activity. This is exactly why. Finding just the right part for each person to play is a crucial leadership function. Unless we invest the time and energy necessary to properly identify everyone's part, we will wind up with dissonance that makes it hard for our team to deliver what others want and enjoy.

What is one thing you can do today to help your followers identify their part? Maybe it's time to shake up your lineup like professional sports coaches are forced to do at times. It could be painful in the shortrun, but may lead to a beautiful harmony that is hard to beat.

Seize the day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Standing on the Rock

I have been reading a great book lately called, "Strengths Based Leadership" (Rath, Conchie; Gallup Press, 2008). I have mentioned it before, but I continue to get a lot out of it. In the book Gallup presents evidence to show that there are four main reasons why people follow.

As I looked back over my blog posts from recent months I found it interesting that I have actually covered three of the four already. So, I thought it only fitting that today I cover the fourth.

The four needs that followers consistently expressed are: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. The one I haven't discussed yet is Stability.

Stability is something we are all looking for as we have endured a difficult economic situation. A number of people have lost their jobs and scores of others live in fear of it happening to them. Others have had their financial portfolios devastated. One of the most paralyzing effects of this situation has been the uncertainty that has been created. No one seems to know how bad things will get or when this will all end.

In the book the authors state that employees who have a high amount of confidence in the financial future of their organization are nine times more likely to be engaged in their jobs than those with a low level of confidence. That makes an enormous difference. Engaged employees are more productive and produce more profit than those who are disengaged.

The authors also state that being transparent with your followers is the quickest way to establish a sense of stability. I could not agree more with this. I have seen leaders who lie and I have seen leaders who stop communicating when things are bad. Both create big problems. Those who lie typically get caught in their lies and their credibility is ruined. Those who stop communicating create a void of information. And, I learned long ago that in the absence of information the human mind usually assumes the negative. So, if we are not communicating people begin to imagine the worst. It's human nature.

My encouragement and challenge to you today is to look for ways to create a stable environment for your followers. It isn't going to be easy. You will have to look harder now than ever to find the answers. As you may have noticed from my previous posts I am not trying to give you all the answers. I am trying to give you important questions to ponder and explore and answer for yourself.

What is one thing you can do today to provide a sense of stability? How can you be transparent in your communication?

Take the challenge. Seize the day!