Category Archives: observation

The identity of a leader

Who are you? I mean – really.

Have you ever found yourself claiming an identity that – upon further reflection – only applied to your past self and no longer reflected your present-day identity?

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I can remember being 10. When I turned 11, I continued to say I was 10, simply out of habit.

This also applied to my work. 3-4 years ago, I loved going on long distance hikes of 15-20 miles at a time. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that distance in a day but I still feel tempted out of habit to respond “long distance hiking” when others at work ask me what my favorite outdoor activities are. Nowadays, the truthful answer is probably “dog park” or “casual bike ride.”

Our yesterday is often not our today.

today

It is a challenge to live in reality and the present-day consistently. Our pride in yesterday’s accomplishments can cloud our present-day understanding of our self, our performance, and our impact.

Your past has helped define who are you but that is only a part of your self. For instance – if you saw yourself as a developer in your management role because you promoted 5 people 3 years ago… but you haven’t promoted anyone since… are you still a “developer?” Or have you shifted into a different season of management, life, style?

Your daily actions in the present inform who you are, just as your present-day identity informs your actions.

tomorrow

Who do you want to be? What impact do you want to have on the people, the world around you in the future? What do you want your legacy to be when you’re long gone?

These are questions that sobering but imperative to answer. Here’s the cool thing: You can have a lot of say around what your future looks like. You can lead, influence, and impact the world and the people you come in contact with.

Leadership and identity start with a choice. Who will you choose to be? Will you choose to have an impact? What will your tomorrow be and will you matter?

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Filed under leadership, motivation, observation

Above the treeline

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I was talking to a person close to me the other day. She has an opportunity to build her resume and plug her talents into an organization that she loves. To get it started, all she has to do is call them. I asked her “Have you called them?” and she responded “I just didn’t have time today.”

I recently had another person close to me mention their interest in getting a promotion… but to do that, they needed to create a strategy for what they’d do in the prospective position. When I followed up with that person, they let me know that they’ve been so busy with their day-to-day job that they haven’t been able to make the necessary hour of time for this task.

How many times do we have greatness within our grasp but we are too caught up in maintaining the status quo to reach out and grab that opportunity?

It’s like hiking on a mountain. There is a nearby trail that is heavily wooded and absolutely beautiful. It’s hard to dislike the trail in any way. However, as tempting as it is to be satisfied with the wooded view of the trees and surrounding forest, a much more marvelous view exists just a mile above the start to the trail. Think: a view above the tree canopy featuring snow-capped volcanoes, alpine lakes, and an endless sky. The push to the top is well worth it.

So ponder this: How would your life, your career, your well-being change if you made 30 minutes a week to look beyond the daily life? To think beyond what is immediately around you? And how would those 30 minute sessions impact your life a year from now?

There might be something really cool above the treeline.

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Filed under change management, leadership, observation, Uncategorized

Not enough brainpower for everything

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Recently CNN posted an interesting article that looked at why certain successful entrepreneurs (eg Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs) choose to only have one outfit. In their article, East and Tinker more or less cite efficiency of brain power as the reason. The more brain power we use on decisions that are irrelevant or less significant, the less brain power we have for more significant and impactful decisions. Information overload can harm productivity. It’s a good article and covers more than a couple topics.

My brain is a muscle and I want to make sure I am using it but not over-using it. This article inspired me to spend time examining my priorities: what are they and what should they not be? I’ve personally made an increase/reduce table and it goes a bit like this:

Increase (decisions for higher impact):

-Spending more time managing relationships proactively

-Intentionally focusing more on the immediate environment/present

-Spending more energy on assessing my own physical and emotional well-being

Reduce (decisions that are lower impact):

-Trivial decisions energy (where to eat, what to eat, exercise questions, being rushed/hurrying to appointments, etc…) through better planning ahead of time

-The noise around me (radio, podcasts…) to lessen some of the overstimulus in life

-Making things more complex than necessary

Brainpower and decisions are currency; We only have so much and we should be smart about how we invest. What do you need to increase or reduce in order to manage your brainpower better?

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You CAN’T be anything you want to be

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If you’re a fellow millennial, this subject probably just offended you incredibly…and there’s a definite reason why.

I’ve been studying up on the different generations of workforce. Honestly, I’m fascinated and blown away. I could write an entirely new blog on all that I’m learning but put easily, as influenced by Brad Karsh’s book “Manager 3.0”:

Baby Boomers – born 1946-64 – idealistic, competitive, smart, collaborative – if they were in a fight at school, they’d be grounded and held responsible.

Generation X – born 1965-1980 – independent, creative, fighters – if they were in a fight at school, they’d train and learn to improve so that they could win the fight next time.

Millennials – born 1981-2000 – endless potential – if they were in a fight at school, there would be a conversation about the school not being a good fit, a teacher not doing their part to foster better communication methods, etc…

Karsh makes some awesome points about millennials, including that they (we) were conditioned to believe in endless potential and a huge sense of idealism. I can remember growing up and hearing over and over again that I could do anything. Heck, I got trophies just for signing up and showing up in every sport league I was in – even if I was awful. Because of this, my dream career changed on a monthly basis. What’s funny is that I’m now 32 and still battle this conditioned response. I find that I have to remind myself regularly that I’m actually 32 and not 14; I won’t be a professional athlete when I grow up or a this or that… but I am grown up now. There’s been such a focus on what will happen someday instead of what actually is happening – the real now. Potential starts to shrink over time and its just a law of nature. It doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy about that – I’m actually really happy in my current job – but it does mean that I need to begin to look at things through a long-haul perspective.

Karsh also includes an awesome chart in his book that rings very very true to me and likely many other millenials:

Assets of employing a millennial – they’re goal-oriented, have positive attitudes, tech savvy, collaborative

Liabilities of employing a millenial – distaste for menial work, lack skills for dealing with difficult people, lack of experience, and confidence extends beyond ability

As a futurist, I have to wonder what will the next generation of workers be like? Are we still conditioning an “endless potential” mindset? Are we still sheltering our kids, over-emphasizing the cerebralness of learning, and over-stressing team-based learning? Or has the pendulum begun to swing the other way, towards the Gen X side of things where individualism is again being stressed?

This is a very interesting time to be alive and I’m genuinely excited to be a part of shaping tomorrow’s workers.

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Filed under business, communication, observation

Where Should I Live?

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Wife and I are always goofing around on facebook – checking the latest newsfeed, playing games, etc. It’s a way that we chillax. People will frequently post links to interesting little survey things – one being FindYourSpot.com – and I will partake. I took the FindYourSpot quiz, which assesses a person’s lifestyle and suggests some top spots where someone might enjoy living. I took the survey and had no huge surprises; my tops were the pacific northwest, the rockies, and Asheville, NC. Duh. I could have told ya that.

However, I think this test is somewhat wrong.

It’s not wrong on the assessment part. I feel it’s wrong on the principle. If we are really leaders, influencers, and people who create our own destinies, does it really matter that much where we live? I like to think that I could move to Atlanta tomorrow (a spot definitely not on my list of results) and find total happiness- based upon my attitude, my outlook, and my ability to shape my surroundings. Sure, it’s nice having mountains, snow, and outdoor opportunities, but isn’t a person’s own attitude and outlook infinitely more important than extrinsic factors?

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A Thought About Undercover Boss

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This year I’ve come to enjoy the show Undercover Boss (thanks Netflix!!!). Perhaps I’m late to the party – since its been on for a few years – but it has a lot of relevancy towards leadership and management.

If you haven’t seen this reality show, the plotline is usually very similar: A CEO puts on a disguise and works for a week in the different entry level positions in their company. There will often be a similar collection of examples they’ll encounter: an employee overcoming hardship, an epiphany of a thing or person who shouldn’t be in the position they’re in, and some positive employees working to further the brand of their company. It’s pretty entertaining and I’d recommend it, even if it does feel a little propaganda-ish sometimes.

I was thinking about it today and I realized something: Each of these CEO’s are well-intentioned and probably good people, but they’re disconnected. It’ s not any mystery why; these high-ranking leaders control so many things at once on a daily basis and their responsibilities are plentiful. Being as extremely solution-oriented as I am, I began to ask the question “what can I do to ensure I do not become disconnected, especially as I am in my management job longer – or find myself in an even higher level position in the future?” I came up with a few ideas:

1. Engagement is a daily walk, not a monthly check-in. I need to be present in the lives of those around me, present in their careers, and to let them be present in my life as well.

2. When I am in a position where there are just too many people to know everything about, I will need to ensure my leaders beneath me can be my hands and feet, living out these engagement principles and communicating with me regularly.

3. The focus of any business or role I am ever involved in always must be largely people-based. Whether I’m selling tents at REI or stickers at my previous job at Graphicsland, everything comes back to people. As long as I am genuinely committed to facilitating a culture of excellence in everyone around me, customers will come, sales will be made, and employees will be productive and connected to the business purpose.

These 3 things I pledge. Let this be my contract 🙂

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Learning How To Learn What to Learn

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Last week, work was busy. Heck, I’m working retail during the holiday season, so it should be!

There was a rare afternoon semi-lull, however, and as is my responsibility as a manager, I did a couple rounds of the store to survey my surroundings to ensure my team was still productive. There were good things to report: every employee was engaged with customers, the store looked well organized and put together, and nothing really required my immediate attention. In fact, the store was running autonomously, which is my goal as a manager, right?

This moment of success birthed a rare conundrum for me: what the heck should I be doing now? Everything that needed to be stocked out had been. My back office stuff was already taken care of. My team was engaged with customers so it wouldn’t be smart to walk around distracting my employees with other conversations outside of their customers.

I eventually found some things that I could improve and shortly after that, more customers came in and I was once again needed on the floor. This caused me to internally evaluate myself, however: how do I identify areas within myself that need to improve? As a leader, I get direction every once in awhile from a superior on what to do better or more or what-not… but most of the time I am responsible for self-evaluating myself, performance, and overall being. This is an absolutely necessary ability and skill for an independent leader to hold.

Sometimes I find that I simply learn things about myself organically. Other times, events will happen around me and I’ll realize that I didn’t deal with them as well as I ought to have – so I should improve that respective skill. My question that I’d love some input on is: how have you grown your ability to self-evaluate yourself in order to figure out what to improve? Is this even happening? How have you encouraged this spirit of development in others around you?

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Filed under business, change management, leadership, observation