Friday, September 28, 2007

My Lesson on Persistence………..can you make the connection?

I could probably get by with saying 6 words, and everyone with children would be able to link up the title of this post with the 6 words I uttered and see a connection. So, let’s try it: “I have a toddler at home!”

I want to hear your stories! I will share my toddler-taught “lesson on persistence” with you later (see next post), but what are your lessons learned? What about persistence have your kids/friends taught you?

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My Lesson on Persistence…………my story

Okay, so here it goes. My 2-1/2 year old daughter loves to walk down the stairs. But, for some reason, a couple weeks ago she decided she was going to be carried downstairs by her “daddy.”

I made my way downstairs (stepping over her at the top) explaining that she could walk down the stairs like “big girls do.” Needless to say (since she was convinced already that daddy was carrying her down the stairs), she began to chant the following word in a whimpering voice: “Daaaaaddy.”

I sat down on my chair in the living room and just listened. “Daaaaaddy………………..Daaaaaddy……………….Daaaaaaaddy…………” Her voice actually stayed fairly constant and had a very nice rhythm to it. I was convinced that I was going to let her sit up on the stairs until she stopped her chant. But, 5 minutes passed………and then 10 minutes……and then 12 minutes (all the while the same loud whimpering chant going on in the background). Finally, I just couldn’t take it. My heart gave in to that sweet little voice, and I headed up the stairs to pick her up and carry her down.

Persistence Pays! Now, granted, this is a story of persistence that is probably down right annoying, and may not get you very far with other professionals/coworkers/family members. But, it illustrates an important concept.

Persistence is a great trait to possess. If there is something out there that you really want and are dreaming to attain, then you must be persistent in your pursuit to attain it. Failure happens! Things go wrong! But, you must persevere and keep working at it.

That said, how you persist and persevere is also key! My daughter’s whimpering, yet steady voice did it for me, but I’m guessing it won’t do it for everyone. The idea of persistence is situational. Delivery, Audience, Means of Attainment, Etc – All of this needs to be taken into account!! Sometimes a “quiet” and/or “private” persistence is what gets things done, while other times, it takes a “loud” and/or “public” approach.

What things have you come across that have really taken some persistence on your end? Do you get annoyed with those “whiny and loud” types? Do you prefer to persevere quietly and unnoticed? Lots of good stuff to discuss here. Give me your opinions!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Persistent Pursuit of Perfection!

That’s right! I’m one of them! A perfectionist! I am always striving to be perfect in everything I do. I hate failure, and that is what drives me toward perfection. I want to be perfect in my career, in my family life, in my sports, in every area that I can think of. I am an avid bowler of 5 years now, and every night I strive for that “Perfect Game of 300”, although I have not reached that goal yet! When I am asked the inevitable strength and weakness questions in job interviews, I usually use the word “perfectionist” as my answer to both!

See, I think perfectionism can be a strength. It keeps a person always moving forward. When that person falls short, it’s dealt with and s/he is looking into the “why’s” of the failure, and then is back at it full steam ahead. It creates constant goals for achievement. If perfection is the goal, and we all know that being perfect is nearly impossible, then isn’t there always a goal out there to work towards? This is how the perfectionist needs to view their actions (and where I try to spend most of my thought): as a continual walk towards the ultimate achievement of perfection!

Where one needs to be careful (and this is where it may become a weakness), is that perfectionism can lead to self doubt. As a person falls short of his/her perfection goals, they can become consumed by the “failure.” They begin to self doubt, not remembering that perfection in anything is virtually impossible. They dwell too much on the shortcomings, and not enough on the journey. The journey is what it’s all about. That’s the fun stuff! Not the stones in the road that we trip up on.

I recommend that you perfectionists keep this in mind as you continue on your path to perfection! Remember that perfection is a very lofty goal that’s very tough to reach, and at some point you will fail. It’s how you choose to react to that failure that will distinguish you from the others. Be persistent! Don’t fall trap to self doubt! And, remember, it’s the journey that is the biggest reward! Not the end result!

What do you all think? Are any of you perfectionists? Or, is perfectionism just too draining to be involved in?

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Prosen's Passion

I was awe-struck last night as I sat in my leadership class listening to a seasoned veteran in senior manager and an amazing speaker. After class, all I could do was thank my instructor, Tim Johnson, for bringing in such a wonderful guest lecturer.

Bob Prosen recently wrote a book entitled “Kiss Theory Goodbye.” In his book, he lays out a real, applicable framework for how to obtain results in business. Since our class was reading his book, our professor invited him to speak at our class.

It was amazing to hear his story, and how he worked his way up the ranks at AT&T, before becoming a senior manager with them. He went on to obtain senior management positions with Hitachi and Sabre. His passion in life was taking “chaos”, and bringing some normalcy to it. Once he had accomplished all he wanted to do in business, he started his own consulting firm and now travels the country, teaching CEO’s and top executives the finer points of business execution.

To be honest, I sat there dumbfounded; just taking it all in, hoping that by some form of osmosis (by being in the same room as him), I could become an amazing leader. Realizing that he had spent all day with 20 CEO’s, and then had decided to spend two hours of his evening with our class was amazing.

What I really took away from that experience (besides the wonderful insight and advice that he gave each of us, because that is definitely priceless), was that this man, Bob Prosen, absolutely loves what he does! He didn’t just come in and lecture to our class. Instead, he came in and carried truthful and meaningful conversation and discussion with our class. For two solid hours, Bob fielded difficult questions from our class. For two solid hours, Bob smiled and passionately explained his thoughts.

As successful and as powerful as he has been in his career and in life, he was even more down to earth and genuine in his desire to teach a bunch of young professionals his secrets to success. It was an honor to meet him and to listen to his expertise, and it is one of the highlights of my career as a student, as well as a professional.

Do you know Bob Prosen? Is your business in need of “results”? I would recommend reading his book “Kiss Theory Goodbye.” He does a great job of bringing what some might call “common sense” about business execution, and laying it out in a real, and usable format.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cake or Pie?

I know it’s an odd question, but I thought I would mix it up a bit! This would be one of my first “..and other ramblings.”

My goal is this: to get to know other readers and bloggers better by posting a __ or __ poll every once in awhile. I thought it might be fun to see people’s answers and/or explanations, and it would be neat to learn just a little more about everyone. I know that everyone is busy and that sometimes we just need a little break. What better way to spend that break than to respond to these posts with one simple word? (Actually, don't answer that, as I am sure many can think of better ways to "take a break").

So, cake or pie? If you could choose your most favorite pie in the whole world, or your most favorite cake in the whole world, what would you chose? Why?

For me, it’s definitely cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good peach or pecan or French silk pie. In fact, when I was younger, I made my mom make me birthday “pies.” But now, if I was starring at a piece of French silk pie or a piece of white or champagne wedding cake, I would have to go with the cake (as long as it had the “right” frosting)!

So there it is. One up for the cakes. What about all of you?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hypnotic Indcued Audacity

First, let me say CONGRATULATIONS to the Iowa State Cyclones!!! That a way to prove those critics wrong!!

Now, on to my post:

As my leadership class discussed Steve Farber’s book, The Radical Leap, a week ago, we were discussing the 4 LEAP elements needed to become an Extreme Leader:

- cultivate Love – love of what you do, love of your employees, love of your organization, developing a culture of love, etc.
- generate Energy – lead in a way that inspires others, that brings energy and action
- inspire Audacity – (more discussion below)
- provide Proof – walk the walk, do what you say you will do, etc

My small group within the class was discussing how a leader needs to be audacious – that is, they need to be courageous, willing to bring their ideas to the table, willing to speak up without regard for the norms set by others. We were discussing how an organization that has the other three key characteristics of extreme leadership (Love, Energy, and Proof), but is lacking that of Audacity, would have a very tough time remaining successful. The culture would begin to become bland and stagnate. Nothing would change, because know one in the organization would present their ideas for change. No one would be striving for change. In essence, the organization would begin to look like that of an organization many of you may know, Innitech.

Initech comes from the movie “Office Space,” (a great movie by the way). If you’ve seen the movie, you will remember that Initech had a very bland culture. There was no audacity in that organization (of course for that matter, there was no love, energy or proof either). It was a very apathetic organization. No one really had the audacity to bring issues to the forefront, or to offer suggestions for change. That is, until, Peter was hypnotized. Peter’s hypnotic induced audacity really helped him become more open and honest with management, as well as the infamous “Bob’s” (those consultants brought in to determine who was going to be downsized). In fact, after Peter explains to the “Bob’s” that he just is NOT motivated by management to work hard, and that he is just really working to make it through the day, they actually decide to promote him.

Now, is this movie realistic? Maybe not. Either way, I feel it’s a good example of an organization that does not have an environment that inspires audacity in its employees. I really think that the leaders of an organization need to create a culture that allows people to bring their ideas to the table. They need to create an environment of open communication. An open communication environment is going to be the key to developing other audacious leaders within their organizations. Of course, they can’t leave it at that while forgetting the other 3 “LEAP” elements!!

How are the companies you work for? Do they allow you to present/promote your ideas? Are you an audacious leader?

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's Almost Game Time Baby!!!

Here it is, the night before the big in-state rivalry game between Iowa and Iowa State. Being a cyclone fan, I have to say that this year has been disappointing so far. About 2 months ago, I was thinking ISU would probably get 4 wins. However, as the season grew closer and closer, my excitement and dementia grew with it. Before the first kickoff I started thinking 6 wins and a possible bowl game.

Well that daydream came crashing down after 2 straight losses to Kent State and Northern Iowa. Actually, I should say that reality knocked me upside the head. I knew better than to expect a lot this season. New Coach. New System. A whole lot of “newness” this year. (By the way cyclone fans: You have to give Coach Chizik at least three years to bring some people in and instill his game plan. Keep believing).

With that said, I will have to continue to hold on to faith and hope. I might as well keep the dream alive. Who knows, maybe the clones can pull off the upset on Saturday. No one is giving them a chance, and why should they. I do have to say, if there is one truth that has stayed true for the last 9 years, it’s that this game has been the one game where ISU steps it up and plays well most every year. I would not be surprised if the clones pull off the upset by a score of 21-17.

Iowa definitely has the better team this year, but can ISU’s “superbowl at home” be enough motivation to wreak havoc on the Hawkeye’s plans? Only time will tell.

So, raise your cups and let’s toast to a GREAT rivalry, and a Cyclone Victory!!

My prediction is a closer score than most............Iowa 24, ISU 13 (oh, please let me be wrong)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sarcastic Leadership

Is there any room for sarcasm in leadership? This question just hit me the other night, as I was reminiscing on my Freshman Soccer Coaching days. I loved coaching soccer! I enjoyed trying to help the younger high school players develop the necessary skills they needed to pursue a Varsity career.

As I was looking back at myself as a coach, I realized that I was a very “sarcastic” leader. My teachings were presented in a sarcastic way when there was criticism to be given. I always believed in constructive criticism, but my self reflection as a coach made me realize that I may have been giving unconstructive criticism via sarcastic humor. I have realized that this was not an effective tool in this situation because it made it very difficult for the kids to realize when I was being serious, or when I was just joking around with them. I believe it might have portrayed me as being much more disappointed in them, than I actually was.

So, back to the present! In our professional careers as leaders, is there any room for sarcasm in the workplace? Thinking back to my coaching days I am starting to think that “No” is the correct answer. However, is it really the correct answer?

Maybe there is some room for sarcasm in the workplace as long as it is kept to a minimum. For example, every workplace has a Dwight Shrute, doesn’t it? You know Dwight from NBC’s “The Office.” He’s that annoying “know-it-all” coworker who is always in everyone’s business, and always has an argument to present. Maybe this is the place for sarcasm. Dealing sarcastically with the Dwight Shrutes of the workplace may just be the way to drop them the hints needed to let them know how they are acting. But wait!! Dwight never really picks up on the hints that Jim throws, so maybe sarcasm doesn’t work here. Maybe the annoying “know-it-all” coworker is, dare I say, immune to sarcastic hints.

Well, I’ve gotten nowhere on this subject. I’m still trying to figure out if I can incorporate the sarcastic humor I’m used to into my leadership strategy. Help me out here! What are your thoughts? Can sarcasm be an effective leadership tool? What situations would call for sarcasm? Or, should it be left out of leadership altogether?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hey Poser.....Yea, You in the Mirror!

Wow! Was I slapped hard in the face on Wednesday night! No, I didn’t physically get slapped by another grad student or our professor. Rather, I was slapped hard by a gut wrenching reality, that I just may be a poser.

I knew I was a poser when I was younger, when I tried taking up the art of skateboarding. I thought I was all cool riding down the street getting ½” air on my ollies. Needless to say I gave that sport up quickly. But, Wednesday night, I had the unfortunate realization that I may just still be a poser…….a leadership poser!

If you checked out Tim Johnson’s recent blog, you’ll have realized that our leadership class was discussing Steve Farber’s book, The Radical Leap. In his book, Steve differentiates between a true leader, and a poser (one that brings the talk, but fails to walk). As we discussed the book as a class we began to list various qualities of “the poser.”

· Fear – of risks, of empowering employees, etc
· Deflection – “quit picking on me” vs accountability for one’s actions
· Failure to Follow Through on Promises – a lot of “talkin,” but no “walkin”
· Put other’s down, just to build themselves up

This was the moment that I was broadsided by the big right palm of reality. It was self reflection time once again. Could I be one of these posers? I’ve always felt that I was a decent leader (knowing full well that I probably needed some work), but I was becoming nervous that the truth of the matter, was in fact, that I was a poser. Or, was it just the fact that my “perfectionist” attitude was taking over and I was being too hard on myself? So, I started thinking about areas of my life, and here’s what I came up with:

At Work –
I supervise a few shop employees at work. As I thought about the various dealings with these employees, I began to realize that I take on a few traits of the poser.
1) There are times that I am “slow” at following up on requests made by these workers
2) There are times that I don’t always follow through on what I say I will do for them
3) There are times that I deflect the negative, and avoid confrontation
However, I can say that I absolutely, do not put other’s down, just to build myself up. That is a true pet peeve of mine!

At Home –
Well, the home pattern pretty much follows suit to the work pattern. I love my family dearly, and I want nothing more than to be there for them constantly and follow through on the promises I make for them. But, yes, there are times when I fail. Plain and Simple! It’s hard to be “perfect.”

What does this mean?
So far, it’s looking as though I am a bit of a poser. But wait a minute, aren’t there times when we all fall into the “poser” category? I mean, don’t even the most renowned leaders sometimes fail? Maybe the Poser vs Leader line is a continuum and I just happen to fall somewhere in between. The good news is this: I’m young and fairly new at this, and I’m confident I can hone my skills and become an effective Leader!

What about all of you? Do you need any self reflection? What are your thoughts on posers? Have you read The Radical Leap?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I’m Stuffed, So Just A Little Theory Please

Last week in my graduate leadership class, we tackled the ever so exciting topic of Leadership Theories (did you catch my hint of sarcasm?). Really, it’s not as bad as my sarcasm may have sounded. In fact, I believe that learning a little about the evolving theories of the last 100 years actually helps build a foundation for a person to begin to develop their own leadership theory. It allows a person to self-reflect and begin to see how their own leadership skills and abilities would mesh with the more modern theories. It provides a nice base to build upon.

Lucky for our class, we have a very “hands on approach” professor, who tries to involve the students in the “teaching” aspect. This was nice, as we got to get into groups, research the theories, and then present them to each other in class. Much better than sitting and listening to a monotone professor’s lecture (although this professor here would be far from a monotone lecturer, due to his energy and creativity). The whole process proved to be a nice exercise, as everyone in class was able to participate. Also, we were able to cover many theories in a short amount of time (1-1/2 – 2 hours), where as I’m sure there are many other classes that could spend days on these theories. So what are some of these theories we looked at?

Maslow’s Hierarchy
Herzberg’s (motivators and hygiene factors)
McGregor’s X&Y theory
Great Man Theory – leaders are born, not made
Blake & Mouton’s managerial grid
Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational
Vroom Yetton Jago Normative Model
House’s Path-Goal

Have any of you had any experience with these theories? What are your thoughts on them?

Again, I feel the theories are needed to build a base. With that said, I can’t wait to dive into the “meat” of this Leadership class. I’m ready to see some real world examples of how other professionals choose to lead. I’m ready to see what some of the best ways of motivating employees are. I’m ready to jump into some of the most renowned books on the topic of leadership. That’s what gets me most excited! But, maybe I’m off base a little. Should I want or need to spend more time on “theory?” Or, am I correct in thinking that the “meat” of the course is where I’m going to get the most benefit?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Shakin' Like a Leaf.....

Well, not exactly shakin' like a leaf, but I am somewhat nervous as I dive into the blogosphere world. I've been contemplating for quite some time now whether I should try my hand at blogging, but my fear of the unknown has kept me out of the game. So, what was it that got me to take the plunge? Or, in Steve Farber's words (in his book The Radical Leap), what was my OS!M.

Again, I have been thinking about it for a while now. As a young professional, I've been wanting to expand my network in the hopes of meeting many other knowledgeable professionals. Also, (hence the title of my blogsite) I am always searching for discussion and conversation on the topics of leadership, motivation, and others.

Yes, I know, this is all well and good, but what was it that actually got me started. That credit would have to go a Drake University graduate professor, Timothy Johnson. I am currently taking a Leadership course for my MBA degree. Timothy has made it a requirement to complete a weekly journal, which was just the excuse I needed to begin to blog (which brings me to the "why" of creating this blogsite).

This blog will serve a few purposes for me:

1) I will keep a weekly journal discussing the various topics we are covering in my Leadership class. My hope is that this will be an open discussion to all and may create great conversation on those various topics
2) I will also post a blog or two per week in addition to the journal entry with my thoughts on leadership. Again, I am hoping that this will generate some great conversation and advice that I can take with me throughout my professional career
3) And finally, as my self diagnosed adult onset ADHD takes over, I will randomly post other thoughts that may have nothing to do with anything.

So, there it is. A little bit of the why I want to blog, and my hopes for this blogsite (of course, I'm sure there will be more insight to come later). My questions to all of you are these: Why do you blog? What are your motivations? How do you keep your posts fresh?