Monthly Archives: August 2011

Wise Words on Tough Times

One of the most profound challenges that leaders face is how to effectively deal with problems, urgencies and crises. Add to this the impact of major events and issues beyond the organization – from economic difficulties, wars, political conflicts, and natural disasters to hardships and stress in the leader’s own personal life. All of this adds up to requiring a very significant degree of skill and maturity to maintain a constructive outlook and provide inspiring leadership.

Food for Thought ~

The following quotation is a brilliant answer to this challenge. It was written c. 1930, so let us appreciate its wisdom and mentally add the word “women” to reflect that times have changed.

“The world will go on somehow, and more crises will follow. It will go on best, however, if among us there are men who have stood apart, who refused to be anxious or too much concerned, who were cool and inquiring, and had their eyes on a longer past and a longer future.”

Walter Lippman, Pulitzer Prize Winning Writer and Journalist

Question of the day ~

As a leader, are you able to find a perspective that allows you to be effective and inspiring even in the face of organizational crises and world events?

Many readers wrote in response to last week’s column on Happiness and Forgiveness. I’m glad it resonated with so many of you.

Keep on forgiving – yourself and others.

3 Keys and 4 Practices for Happiness

Regardless of our intelligence, expertise, and good intentions, we all misstep once in a while. The corollary is of course, forgiveness. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Fred Luskin speak on this subject. He is the co-founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, and author of Forgive for Good and Stress Free for Good. He has studied what it means for people to be satisfied with their lives, which is as relevant for leaders in the workplace as it is for each of us personally. The research on this subject indicates that three factors lead to happiness:

1) a deep sense of purpose and meaning,
2) being of service, helping others, and
3) relationship, connection with others, community.

Food for Thought ~

His summation included these insights on how to be happy:

– Practice small, relentless opportunities for kindness.
– Learn and practice being able to say you’re sorry.
– Think of how you can help others: co-workers, customers, family, friends.
– Slow down enough to notice when somebody near you needs help.

Question of the day ~

As a leader, how can you use these insights in your organization? Have you considered the myriad benefits of having happier employees?

I hope you find Dr. Luskin’s thoughtful observations as inspiring as I did.

Return to a Metaphor

My long-time readers will find this metaphor familiar ~ a hike on my usual trail at my “home” park. Once again, the experience fulfilled its metaphoric potential! This time, it was thanks to a very unusual phenomenon: during my hour-long hike, I was the only person on the trail. Usually I see a half-dozen or more people. I hear voices in the distance and exchange greetings with passing hikers. This day there was neither, and I felt quite alone – just wild creatures, wild blackberries and me.

Food for Thought ~

Naturally, my thoughts turned to leadership. Indeed, leadership often involves being out ahead of others to some degree. I often think that being a leader is like being a scout, looking ahead and surveying the terrain, the weather, the obstacles. It occurs to me that there are a number of questions worth asking if you find yourself out on the trail alone. Are you perhaps out of touch with your team, your followers? Are you too far ahead? Have you gotten off the main trail and onto a side trail? Or are you right where you need to be to effectively lead?

Question of the day ~

Have you ever had the feeling you were out too far ahead of your group? What methods do you use to find the optimal balance of visionary leadership and maintaining a close connection with your team?

If you are still debating whether or not to take some time off this summer, here’s the read more link to my recent article on the benefits for both you and your company.

Happy hiking!

What I Like about Personal Branding

There’s a lot of confusion about the concept of personal branding, which is essentially about positioning and self-packaging. However, what’s relevant for the entertainment industry and celebrities is not necessarily desirable for the workplace. As one of my readers commented, it raises the issue of authenticity. To varying degrees, with varying degrees of success, we all seek to craft our public persona in the service of increasing our social status. However, since time immemorial, the opinions that others have about us is fundamentally based on what we do. No amount of clever presentation will overcome a track record of mediocrity or a lack of integrity at work. What I like about personal branding is the spotlight it shines on being clear about who we are and what we stand for. Your “personal brand” can, and indeed should be, your authentic self and express your values and principles. In today’s workplace, being able to articulate our essential talents, strengths, and values succinctly and directly is a good exercise for all of us.

Food for Thought ~

Heraclitus, one of the great Greek philosophers, said some 2500 years ago:

“A man’s character is his fate. The content of your character is your choice. What you think and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny…it is the light that guides your way.”

Question of the day ~

Can you provide a clear, concise description of your key traits and abilities? If not, what resources can you utilize to develop this proficiency?

In case you need a reminder about the benefits of taking time off, for both you and your company, here’s the read more link to my recent article.

Another Branding Question

Ask Mary ~

Sarah Dove, Director of the Career Center at Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics, sent this request after my July 19 Minute on branding.

How about a follow-up piece on one’s “personal brand?”

Answer ~

Similar to branding, it’s a new term for a timeless concept, with some interesting twists. Before “personal brand” was popularized, people had an image, and before that, a reputation. Historically, “name” (or “good name”) was commonly used. Several cultural shifts have coincided to shape this current iteration, starting with the evolution away from long term careers with just one or two employers. People now change jobs and careers. It’s quite acceptable, and moving toward being the norm. New technology and other cultural changes have led to a dramatic rise in the numbers of self-employed, independent contractors and “solopreneurs.” For the generations that prized stability and security, your reputation – the collective opinion of your character and esteem in your community or company – was critical to your success. Younger generations prize their independence and mobility, and are seeking meaning, opportunity and achievement. People now want a personal identity that is more explicit, more immediate, less subtle, less intangible. Thanks to the Internet, we are more visually sophisticated and more personally visible than ever before. These and other trends have resulted in a talent marketplace that has become far more complex. As the branding craze swept our media-saturated workplaces, personal interpretations have joined the branding party.

Stay tuned – Next Week: What I like about personal branding

Note to Leaders ~

No one, and especially not leaders, can escape the fact that actual performance and earned credibility are essential. Genuine character and capabilities are still the 80% foundation of your “personal brand.” Your style, personality, appearance, flair, social media image, on-line profiles, website, business card, and social skills (or lack of any of the above) are the other 20%. A “personal brand” is based on real attributes and accomplishments, not wishful thinking or creative chutzpa.

A Personal Note ~

Last week marked my 29th anniversary in business. This milestone evokes a feeling of deep appreciation for the people who value the work that I do. I am honored to be a part of your leadership journey.