Are You A Freak?

My title shouldn’t offend…it is a term of compliment.  Really.  The freaks, the misfits, or the weird are to be admired.  Most of the time they are agents of change.  I find it ironic that these folks are often ostracized in their places of organization.  Conversely, those that fit in are often those who contribute to the malaise.  Kind of like high school isn’t it?

If you’re a "freak" it can be lonely and painful.  Take heart and don’t give up.  Your thoughts could be the seeds of change needed.  You must understand that people desire order, stability and security.  Those that are different and excellent in their ideas, are a threat.  So what do you do?  Be clear and connect.  If you do this with the right people you’ll build a community that will be very powerful.  Don’t worry about those that don’t see what you see, and don’t want to consider.  You don’t have time to waste. 

If you are a freak, the world needs you.

Thirty Days Left

I asked a sales group last week what they would do if they only had thirty days left to live.  The answers to that question were telling.

The premise behind this engagement was a workshop around finding perspective in uncertain times.  We looked at a film clip of the musician Sting (a performance of a song entitled "Dead Man’s Rope," which details a man’s redemption before death).  After the the clip, we examined why we procrastinate, why we think we’ve got time and why we don’t slow down.  The thirty days proposition would only allow them to do what they were doing currently (working for the same company, working in the same city, etc.).

Here are the responses:

  1. Be more urgent about completing the "task."
  2. Connect more personally with each customer.
  3. Say thank you more often.
  4. Appreciate what I have.

What would your response be?

A Powerful Illustration of Influence

As you know, many organizations (profit and non-profit) consider "leadership" to be a soft skill.  Soft, in this case, meaning not a high priority.  I’ve written many things about the danger of this perspective.  Mostly about the power of influence, which describes leadership.

A powerful lesson in leadership can be found in a real life experience that I encountered a few days ago.  A gentleman I know was attending a Christmas service that I was at as well.  I hadn’t seen him for some time, but his presence was obviously for his daughter.  The family had split through divorce.  I think he had his arm around her the entire service.  Not surprising…

The daughter rose and left the sanctuary to prepare for a choral performance.  Minutes later I noticed her return and join the other youth in procession down the aisle.  What struck me was her steady gaze at her father.  Almost a; "Dad do you see me…do I matter?"  And though I couldn’t read her mind, the look was very telling.  Maybe you’ve seen the look.

Whether we choose to believe it or not, leadership is powerful.  A father, a mother, a CEO, they all speak to this.  Don’t fail in the art…you may change the world..for the good or the bad.

Desperate Measures

Would you believe me if I told you that a major corporation was requiring it’s sales force to watch (from beginning to end) the movie "Field of Dreams."  Or how about some other flight of fancy?  Sure you would…you may have experienced this type of desperation yourself.

I’m always amazed at how corporations pay so much attention to "budgets" when the market is favorable.  But when things head south, you begin to see every type snake oil salesman, every lofty principle, or some goofy diversion to save the day.  Like the husband whose wife has the bags packed, because she can’t stand being ignored any longer, so it is with those that neglect leadership development.  Desperation sets in and fear takes root. 

Do you realize that many enterprises consider leadership a soft skill.  Soft?  When you think of Colin Powell do you think of soft?  That mind-set certainly makes my mission interesting.  When organizations dedicate only five percent of their budget to development around leadership, you know they don’t believe in growing.  Again, watch the behavior when things head south.

Regardless of our position in an organization, we should speak passionately about investing in growth (leadership).  Every voice counts in this struggle…some have been silent for too long.

Making Leadership Management

Watch out when an organization confuses leadership with management.  For example, your organization says that learning HR policy is key to your leadership development.  It is not.  Management is task driven, Leaderhship is vision driven.  For example, leaders paint a picture of the future that is clear (Max De Pree calls this "defining reality").  Managers make sure the sales conference has the proper meeting space.  Both are important, but dangerous if confused.  If this confusion (right up there with nipple confusion) sets in, it will erode the organization’s opportunity for "real" growth.  Cultures where management is interchanged with leadership are dry as the Sahara.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this state of confusion?  Just stop!  Get away somewhere and reflect.  What do you want, what makes you come alive, what are you willing to sacrifice, these are key questions if you want to get on the right road. 

Once you answer the "key" questions, you’ll gain clarity needed to grow.  By the way, here are a few suggestions if you want leadership more than management (management is OK if that’s what you want, but management is not leadership):

  1. Continue to read my blog Epic Living
  2. Read "Leadership is an Art:" by Max De Pree and "The One Thing You Should Know:" by Marcus Buckingham
  3. Get a mentor (someone who exhibits traits of clarity, connection and creativity)
  4. Get to know Jesus Christ (he was the greatest leader to walk the planet)
  5. Practice.

Clearly Connected

I am a simple person in many aspects of life.  Leadership is one of those aspects. 

I spoke with an associate yesterday, and asked her a simple question around what is the first thing a leader (one who leads people) must do?  Her answer was that a leader must first speak with clarity.  I agree with her…with emphasis.  Today, I asked her about the second thing, and she said a leader must connect.  How powerful and profound were her responses.

If your a leader of people you can almost guarantee success if you do what my associate recommended.  The following outlines why:

  1. People will follow someone who can "paint" a picture of the who, the what and the why of the organization.
  2. People want you to connect because they want to know that you REALLY want to know them, and care about who they are.

Five Percent of a Hundred

How much of your hundred is spent on development…specifically leadership?  If you’re like the typical organization, the answer would be five percent.  Is that enough to do all that we want in this life?  You probably would say no.  Whether we realize it or not, five percent spent on growth and leadership reflects a lack of understanding of the impact of influence.  Is it any wonder that we spend so much time "fixing"  and "keeping up."  You might be surprised at how many things get done when we focus on leading.  I would rather accomplish something through influence and inspiration. 

If you or your organization is fixated on "numbers," you’ll leave leadership growth in the dust.  Some organizations (and people) spend almost half of their efforts on teaching people about money/budgeting.  That works fine if you work with robots. 

Take a look at what gets left in the wake.  The path of numbers is riddled with bodies…people who wasted away as they discovered that they were not a priority.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, life and business is about human beings.

Tiger Woods credits part of his success to what he "puts" into golf.  This age-old principle applies to our growth as well.