Monthly Archives: February 2011

Lesson in Progress

I believe that for the most part, I do not take my good health for granted. I am grateful to be strong and healthy, and make a concerted effort to stay that way. Even so, I certainly get beset by various conditions, mostly temporary, including recently a very tenacious virus. As I am rounding third base, heading for home and full recovery, I have been surprised by a loss of my voice ~ not completely, but certainly significantly. And because I speak as a part of my work, this is no small matter. Although my work is roughly 80% listening and 20% speaking, that 20% is essential. What I am learning is that I do take speaking for granted! The need and the desire to communicate is powerful, and the give and take of listening and speaking is a big part of my life. I am adding being able to speak to my list of things for which I am grateful.

A Historical Leadership Lesson

279 years ago today was George Washington’s birthday. Now, most of us give only passing thought to the man who was our first President, but even a cursory review of his biography leads me to deeply appreciate him as a leader and wish that his influence was more widely felt. In selecting just one aspect of his leadership for our focus today, I have chosen his personal motto: “Deeds, not words.”

Food for Thought ~

Reportedly, he was a man of brevity in his speaking. From his motto, I would surmise that he believed in the maxim “Actions speak louder than words,” or today’s colloquialism, “Walk your talk.” Whatever version resonates with you, this advice is an essential reference point for good leadership. No matter how elegant or powerful, words will prove empty if a leader’s actions and deeds are not in congruence. Without congruity, credibility is suspect. Without credibility…

Question of the day ~

Are you mindful of these maxims in your role as a leader? Are you rigorously honest with yourself about what you do and what you say? Do you have a personal motto?

Love and Leadership

Valentine’s Day provides a good opportunity to think about the subject of love at work. Historically, the word “love” has been largely left out of conversations about the workplace, as if it doesn’t belong there. That belief is crumbling as we have learned what it takes to sustain a successful enterprise. Positive and healthy human relationships are now clearly acknowledged as a critical variable for success, not to mention for meaning and satisfaction. In their great book, Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner end their 400 pages with these final thoughts: “The best kept secret of successful leaders is love… Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”

Food for Thought ~

Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One-Minute Manager and a host of other books, has been a leading figure in contemporary management and leadership training for 30 years. I recently heard a live interview with Ken, and when asked for his “bottom line best advice” for leaders, this was his reply: “Love is the answer. Now what’s the question?”

Question of the day ~

Does love have a place at your place of work? Does your company culture encourage treating one another with kindness, respect and appreciation?

What Makes a Leader Inspiring

Building on the theme I introduced last week re: the benefits of “risking” your ego/pride, let’s explore why that might be worth the perceived risk. In two words ~ happiness and effectiveness. Lance Secretan, the former CEO of Manpower, Inc., writer for Fortune magazine, consultant and author, makes a distinction between our “social self” that uses the external reference points of career/status/success/appearance/love as measures of worth vs. our “essential self” that establishes our self-worth using the internal reference points of our deepest desires, our character, and the ways we use our gifts and talents.

Food for Thought ~

For those of us in leadership positions, the implications are significant. Simply put, people admire leaders who inspire them. As you become more authentic and allow your work to be a reflection of your essential self, you become more inspiring and increase your effectiveness as a leader. Inspiration is the essence of leadership.

Question of the day ~

What’s your ratio of social self to essential self references? As a leader, are you as authentic as you would like to be?

The Rewards of Risk

We think of risk-taking at work as occurring most often in the financial or strategic realms. On the personal level, there are also emotional risks inherent in working with others. Perhaps the most formidable are the perceived risks that affect our ego, our self-image, our pride.

Food for Thought ~

What might risking our ego look like? Here are just a few examples: asking for help … reaching out to someone … admitting you don’t know something … offering a creative idea that’s new/different/controversial … expressing a minority opinion publicly … doing something you’ve never done before and you’re not good at it … admitting you made a mistake or you were wrong … making a proposal for something you care about or want. For some, simply acknowledging others is perceived as a risk.

Question of the day ~

How comfortable are you with “risking” your pride? What benefits might you experience if you were to expand your pride’s comfort zone? In what ways might it also benefit your organization?