As I was doing my hair the other morning and I picked up my favorite styling spray I noticed that the bottle was over half empty. My first thought was, I'll save the rest for good and use a less costly, less effective product that I have for now. My hair won't be it's best, but.....
It was a bit on an "ah ha" moment as I said to myself "why isn't today good? why don't I want to look my best, feel my best today? What am I saving it for?" And I used the good stuff after all.
I wonder how often we show up as leaders saving it for good. By this I mean keeping the best most effective "us" for good, for the super leadership meetings, for the big brass visits, giving less when we can be giving our best.
The question here; are you saving it for good, or using it for good?
I had the greatest conversation with Mike last week. Mike, a leader who can dance circles around most of us with his ability to strategically assess and manage situations.
So as I discuss leading my teams in new directions, not without some frustration on my part, Mike says "I have a note above my desk that says," Do You Need To Pee?." Huh.......??
He tells me that as he grew up his family would take car trips across a couple provinces to visit family. With the parental determination to get there, the trip was planned with specific rest stops at intervals, hours apart. Mike tells me of squirming in agony, sitting in the back seat with the other kids, whizzing by gas stations along the road, needing to pee so bad when it wasn't time. How it becomes all you can think of - this need to pee, and nothing about the trip is fun anymore.
He says the sign above his desk is to remind him that in leading his teams through the challenges, the long journey to the destination of success, he remembers to ask "Do You Need To Pee?", much like he asked me, and in doing so, gave me the break I needed to get out of the car, walk around, get my bearings and continue on refreshed to finish the journey.
An effective leader like Mike will not only plan stops but will watch his team for squirminess, and ask "Do You Need To Pee?" pausing in between the planned rest stops sometimes, recognizing his team as individuals, giving them the break they need to get back in the car and continue on.
The request for feedback needs to be as genuine as the feedback given. Don’t ask for feedback when the conclusions and results are not only pre-determined, but advertised as such.
When support and empowerment are usurped by a strictly directive style, and the emotionally intelligent leader is discounted, the business suffers in the long run. Condescension does not replace emotional intelligence. Compliance becomes the driving force and we become leaders who ask, is this high enough? Do you want higher? We jump to please instead of to collaborate in our leadership position.
In this case, the request for feedback is also a dance in compliance, and reflects what the requestor wants to hear, and the supposition is that feedback will be structured to validate not assess. To do otherwise puts you square on the tracks in front of the train. Best to step off the tracks and wait to catch the next train.
A community - a group of like minded people sharing goals, proximity, interests - sharing is the key in this statement.
In northern British Columbia about a year ago I was driving between two of my offices, Terrace and Prince George ( a short little 600km commute) and before I left Terrace my people said to me "watch for the Spirit Bear, they've seen him around Cedarville".
Sure. And I'll watch for the Sasquatch and the Yeti. Because I've lived there a long time and seen hundreds of bears. Black bears, grizzly bears, Alaska browns. Never seen a Spirit Bear - a Kermode. In fact my theory is that one time some guy saw a spirit bear and took his picture and it's that one, the same bear they put on the calendar year after year. One bear.
So I'm driving along beside the Skeena River with the highway to myself and as I came around a corner - there in the grass by the side of the road was the Spirit Bear. He was a huge, big fat, magnificent Spirit Bear. I was so excited I nearly squealed as I pulled my van over and shut it off to be quiet. My window down and it was just me and the bear. I just watched him. I could hear the river, and the leaves rustling in the springtime wind. I could hear him chortling to himself, making bear noises. Every once in awhile he looked up at me, and then he wandered off in the trees and he was gone. Like a spirit.
I wanted so much to tell someone, but there was no cell service in that remote northern area. I drove 45 minutes down the road and I found a little pocket of cell service love, so I pulled over and I emailed a picture I had taken with my blackberry, a picture of my bear. I emailed it to my colleagues, to my leadership group, to my field staff team, to my dispatch team, to my community.
And the message I sent with it said, I've just spent half an hour with the Spirit Bear. It was magic!
In a community we share our challenges and our setbacks. We share our successes.
And we share our magic.
Every six months or so I take a few minutes and scroll through my outlook calendar and throw random events in that simply say "Say Thank You".
Not that I don't do it anyway, but in case I forget. In case the nights of waking up at 3 am with project worries, or the Sunday night prior to Monday morning anxiety hits. In case my life gets too big, crazy, sad, mean or mad.
I have a great employee who is one of the demographic of retirees returning to the workforce because wondering what to do after the third cup of coffee every day wasn't for him quite yet. He brought a wealth of professional experience to my team. And I understand him; we are in the same demographic.
He said to me one day, "you know, Tony in Dispatch said thank you to me. He thanked me for the work I do." He said "that meant a lot to me that he cared about what I do."
The power of that conversation is not so much to remind me to say thank you - because people deserve it - because it's an employee engagement thing - because it's the polite thing to do.
The power is that for Thank You to be genuine, one must be thankful. The required introspection that expressing genuine thankfulness and gratitude is the best kind of empowerment.
It's not penciled in, it's inked in my calendar.
BTW, I thanked Tony.
There is virtually a plethora of personality leadership assessment tools out there in the market today.The results of which are uncanny in their accuracy as if the crystal ball is showing our very core. The essence of us.
Like looking through the seed catalogue planning for the colors in your spring garden, we can sort through tools to help find the type of leaders and teams we want.
A few years ago I planned a designer garden of all blue flowers. With the first blooms it was strikingly beautiful, but as the summer wore on something was missing. It lacked definition and even any surprise. I looked at it thinking that a few splashes of brilliant orange, an opposite but also complementary color would have been spectacular.
We understand best what we know, and our comfort is there. We like what we do and how we do it. But we need to use caution in branding ourselves with our assessment results, "I am Blue, I am Red", and so on.
The usefulness of the information assessments provide is diminished if it becomes a tool to craft a garden of colleagues all of one color to match ourself.
Ideas, inspirations, ah ha moments and magic are all meant to be shared. Lessons learned from falling down and scraping our knees are meant to be shared as well.
Opening the ratty Moleskine I carry around, I share those moments here. Each shared moment is an opportunity to stop at the curb before the light changes and take stock of what direction our path is taking us when the walk signal comes up.
My recent trip to Portland was as much about building my consulting platform and sharing my message of clarity in leadership as it was to recharge in the familiarity of my birthplace and the foundations that brings. And I filled up another Moleskine to share.
Come with me on this journey of moments, take a look at leaders and teams and the fascinating dynamics in working with clarity and purpose. And - yes, laugh. I do.
Inspiration is contagious