Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm 100% Geek.....And Proud of It!!

I think "Geek the Library" is a great organization, as well as, one of the better marketing campaigns I've seen in while.  In it's spirit, I've realized that I am a bit of a geek myself.  Ok....I'm 100% Geek and I’m proud of it.

Need Proof?

I geek the ins and outs of bowling
I geek the finer details of a list
I geek fishing
I geek spreadsheets
I geek slow smoking meats at 225 degrees (BBQ)
I geek leadership
I geek experimentation in the kitchen (Cooking)
I geek my wife and kids
I geek the annual boys-holiday-all-nighter-video-gaming-extravaganza
I geek a good glass of wine with friends
I geek helping my community through firefighting and EMT work
I geek continual learning
I geek board games with extended family

And finally, to steal a line from Pink, “I’m to school for cool.”

Yes, I’m a geek. Are you?

What are the top 5 things you GEEK?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Little Miss Muffet and Her Arachnophobia

I'm continuing my series on leadership lessons we can learn from nursery rhymes.  I hope you'll recall the one I posted a couple days ago.

I’m willing to guess that you once again couldn’t get the following nursery rhyme off your mind after reading this title. Let’s say this one together:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away

This is another great nursery rhyme, with another great leadership lesson. Let’s dissect it, shall we (the rhyme…..not the spider).

Fear is difficult to deal with as a leader. Maybe there’s something you (as the leader) fears, or maybe it’s something your follower’s fear. Either way, fear can be what keeps us from becoming GREAT. Fear can be what stands in our way of success. Fear can be a crutch.

Little Miss Muffet can sure sympathize with this fear as a crutch notion. She sits down to enjoy a nice little meal, and what happens? Her biggest phobia nearly smacks her right in the face! That would be scary for anyone.

It’s Little Miss Muffet’s reaction that I want to analyze. She succumbed to her fear. When dealt with a decision, she decided to run from her fear, instead of staying to face it. She had an opportunity to show her friends and followers that her courage as a leader could allow her to “face off” with her fear, but she instead retreated. Hey, there are some fears and battles that we need to run from. It’s up to us as leaders to decide if retreat is the best approach. However, we need to remember that we are being watched, and if we want to convince our followers to “buy in” to our vision; plan; direction (as was discussed in the previous post), then more times than not, we need to stand tall to our fears.

What fears are keeping you from reaching new heights as a leader? What steps can you take to help build that courage needed to stand tall to your fears? Are all your fears worth running from?  Is this one I should run from or face? These are questions you need to ask yourself as you further grow as a leader. “Am I being ‘Little Miss Muffet’ today?”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mary Had A Little Lamb

Don’t be embarrassed. Your 1st thought after reading that title was the same as nearly everyone’s first thought after reading that title……which, in fact, is why I titled it the way I did.

We all remember that great nursery rhyme don’t we? In fact, my 3 year old is now old enough to recite it, and my 5 year old is getting close to being able to read it. Will you join us?

“Mary had a little lamb (little lamb, little lamb).”
“Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.”
“And everywhere that Mary went (Mary went, Mary went).”
“And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.”

I love that nursery rhyme. It reminds me a lot about leadership. See, to be a leader, you need at least one follower. You can’t really be “classified” as a leader until you have someone that is willing to follow you: Someone that “buys in” to your vision; your plan; your beliefs; your cause; your direction. A person may call themselves a leader because of the way they speak or act, but only when they have someone who is willing to follow them, can they truly be a leader.

Mary was a leader. She had a lamb that followed her everywhere she went. Now, you may be thinking “It was an animal, for crying out loud!” I challenge you with “So, what?!” Don’t we observe many “Mary’s” and many “Lambs” every single day? Mary had a plan; a vision; a direction she was heading, and she was able to get that lamb to buy in to her plan. That lamb was a follower. Mary was a leader.

What are you doing to attract “lambs”? How are you ensuring that you are truly being a leader, and not just calling yourself a leader? Are you able to effectively convince others to believe in your vision; plan; mission; etc? These are all questions to ponder as you continue to build your leadership knowledge. “Am I being a ‘Mary’ today?”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Favoritism in Leadership

My big question for you (I usually save these for the end) is: Can/Should a leader play favorites? Is there ever a place for favoritism from a leader? I've discussed this before, but I'd like your input

I’d really like your input on this. It’s something I’ve been pondering for some time now. I’ve been cruising down the path of “No!” That is, I don’t think a leader should play favorites. Sure, a leader or manager may have a “go to sales guy/gal” or a “go to project manager,” but it should be based on performance and that “sales guy’s” ability to get the job done, and not just because s/he’s a friend. (Maybe this discussion depends on one’s definition of favoritism. If so, what’s your defininiton?)

I see favoritism as a morale reducer in the workplace. Those that aren’t the “teacher’s pets” begin to question their importance to the organization. They begin to lose sight of where they fit within the organization and more importantly, they begin to question their own abilities. I’m afraid that it may become a destructive path, whereby the “last gal picked for the team” starts to care less about her work, and eventually reaches apathy.

So, is this the case? Have any of you seen this happen? Or, am I just way off base here? I haven’t had a lot of exposure to this yet, but I can sure imagine that it happens in many organizations. And, if this does happen (favoritism leading to apathy among the non-favorites), is it due to the environment of the organization, or just a weak/frail personality of the non-favorites? Playing favorites: Should it be done in leadership?

note: picture courtesy of

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leadership Wellness

It’s important, as leaders, that we continually improve our leadership skills. Just as we would take care of our physical wellness through exercise and healthy eating, we must also take care of our leadership abilities through “exercise and healthy eating.” Where do you go to get your “leadership exercise”? What mental food do you consume to keep abreast of your leadership wellness?

I’m a big believer in continuous improvement and life-long learning. Although I’m a bit of a perfectionist myself, I also realize that we can never be perfect. Once we’ve gained perfection, there’s nothing more to strive for. However, in the persistent pursuit of perfection, I’m committed to honing my leadership skills and abilities, so that I may continually improve as a leader.

So, I ask you again: Where do you go to get your “leadership exercise”? What mental food do you consume to keep abreast of your leadership wellness? Do you read books? Go to conferences? Use social networking?

Please share your experiences, thoughts, and tips. Here are just a few of the places I go:

A Dog’s Advice to Leaders

Leader Business

Extreme Leadership: Steve Farber

Lead Quietly

Brain Based Biz

Manage to Change

Erika Andersen

Terry Starbucker

Angela Maiers

note: picture courtesy of

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Opportunity, Is That You?

Opportunites abound! They are everywhere. In everything people do and say. In every positive or negative influence, an opportunity presents itself. The key is: Do you recognize it as what it truly is? An opportunity.

I think many of us get so caught up in the past, in what just happened, that we fail to recognize opportunities. When something negative influences our life, it’s easy for us to react. Some people will fall down, get right back up, and keep moving forward. Others will fall down, get hurt, and stay injured for way too long. In either case, what we fail to do is reflect and process what just happened, which in turn, causes us to fail to recognize another opportunity.

The same can be said about positive influencers. Something good happens to us, and we are too busy celebrating or being congratulated, that we fail to “see” another opportunity.

Let’s think about this another way. The inputs (something affects us) are presented, and something internal and external happens to us (the process), and we kick out a response or reaction (the outputs). What we fail to realize is that another output has been ejected from the system, a hard to see output, a hidden output… opportunity. Maybe it’s a learning opportunity, or a teaching opportunity, or an opportunity to express patience, or forgiveness, etc. Maybe it’s a career opportunity. Whatever “it” is, it definitely is an opportunity. And, my challenge to you is to become better at learning to “see”, the hard to see opportunitities.  What are opportunites are you failing to recognize? 

note: picture courtesy of

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leadership Mission Possible: Helping Others

I've been on a mission here lately.  It's a mission to help my sister and her fiance raise money to cover medical expenses for the fiance's battle with brain cancer.  It's a personal mission.  It's a leadership mission.  It's a helping others mission.

It got me thinking about leadership.  Isn't leadership all about helping others?  To me, true leadership is about taking those around you and helping them become more successful than yourself.  This mission I'm currently on, is using my leadership skills to help organize an amazing benefit fundraiser to help raise money for a very deserving family.  It's about helping others.  It's an easy mission for me because it's personal.  It touches home.  It's going to benefit someone I feel very dearly about.  I'm passionate about it.

So the internal question for me is:  Would I do this if it wasn't so personal?  If not, then am I truly being a leader?  I hope my answer to the first question is "Of course", although it's probably closer to "Maybe".  Something, as a leader, I may need to work on. So, what missions have you been on?  How are you lifting others up?

Note: If you are interested in learning a little more about Jesse's (the fiance) battle with brain cancer, please check out Jesse Haworth Benefit .  Also, please take a look at the flyer below.  And, if you are in central Iowa on Oct 2nd, please think about attending a wonderful pancake breakfast.  If you feel called to donate to help the family, Donations can be sent to the following:

Jesse Haworth Benefit
Hills Bank
1401 S. Gilbert St
Iowa City, IA 52240

Please make checks payable to "Jesse Haworth Benefit"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teach Em How To Fish!

You all remember the band Arrested Development don’t you? If not, I encourage you to give them a listen, as they produced…..a…well….an interesting sound. Their lyrics to “Give a man a fish” happen to be the inspiration for my post today.

“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat forever.”

These really are words to live by. They not only tell us how we should treat others (our children, family, friends, etc), but also how we should lead others, whether it be teammates, subordinates, or followers.

This is what leadership is all about. It’s about teaching others how to create success and achieve results on their own, as opposed to providing them success and achievments. To really be effective leaders, we have to equip others with the tools and knowledge necessary for them to strive and succeed on their own. That is, we have to “teach them how to fish.”

Think back to your leadership journey. Were you ever handed answers, achievements, or a title? If you were, then what did you learn from that experience? I would be so bold as to say “Not Much.” See, when things are handed to us (when we are given a fish) we don’t learn anything. We enjoy that success for the short term (we’ll eat for a day), but then we fall down, because nothing was instilled in us to continue striving. We didn’t have to work for it. It’s kind of like that spoiled little brat down the street that everyone knew of when they were growing up. They were entitled and lazy.

Now, back to your leadership journey. Did you have someone that forced you to go looking for the answers? In other words, did they teach you how to fish? See, when that happens (when we have to seek out our own answers, or work hard to strive for our own success and accomplishments), that’s when we learn. That’s when we are able to eat for a lifetime. And, that’s the kind of leaders we need to be. The ones that will teach our followers how to lead. Teach our followers how to accomplish. Teach our followers how to succeed. We need to empower our followers and challenge them to create their own success, and quit providing all the time. We have to cut them loose from our coat tails, and put them in an environment where they have to succeed on their own. This can be tough at times. I’ll relate it to our children. We want to provide, provide, provide, but that can get us close to spoiling them. The better option is still to provide when necessary, but then try to empower and teach. Get tough. Challenge them to seek out answers on their own. Challenge them to become independent. Challenge them to start their own journey. Challenge them to strive for excellence but embrace failure. Challenge them to finish the race.

From our children, to our friends, to our coworkers, to our followers, to everyone we touch, we have to be leaders who will: teach them how to fish, so that they can eat for a lifetime.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Journey to the End Result

I’ve been thinking about accomplishments, achievements and success, and more specifically, whether I savor the end result of the accomplishments more than the journey it takes to reach said accomplishments. What’s your take on this? What have you accomplished lately? Was the journey worth the end result? Was the journey savored as much or even more than the end result? How about this one: Does the value of the accomplishment increase or decrease based on the effort given during the journey?

I was speaking to my wife about this exact thing this morning. She has ran a couple marathons, and she stated that the emotion (and sense of accomplishment) you’ll have crossing that finish line (achieving that end result) is amazing because of all the work and training (the journey) you put into it. Heck, I remember watching her cross the finish line, and I balled like a baby because of the pride I had for her to accomplish something of such amazement. Not only was I proud of her accomplishment, but I was so excited to see her reach a goal that she had worked so hard for, for so long. I remember thinking that if I could even put half that effort into some of the things I wanted to do, I could accomplish so much. Of course, my wife is an extraordinarily focused, driven, and hard working woman, and not all of us are wired to be that way. We have to make the conscious choice to be focused, driven, and hardworking. (I know I’ve driven off course here as I’ve turned this into a bragging session about my wife, so I’ll attempt to get back on track.)

Back to the point: I tend to believe that our achievements are made even greater by the kind of journey we have in pursuit of those achievements. Don’t we tend to savor things more that we had to work hard for, as opposed to those that were given to us without much effort expelled? This seems to be a common sense statement, but then why do I (and many of us) sometimes feel that accomplishments should come easier to us? It’s almost like a sense of entitlement sweeps over us, and we forget that the journey is an important part of our accomplishments. We fail to embrace the journey. Thus, we fail to achieve. Just as we can’t just go sit in a gym and hope to get in shape through osmosis, so we can’t just hope that success will come our way by sitting around and doing nothing. We have to start our journey, persevere and embrace our journey, and finish our journey. That’s how we achieve!

Any thoughts? Any testimonies? Am I stating the obvious here, or is there more to it? Feel free to leave a comment.-

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Embracing Failure? Are You Crazy?!

Why do we fear failure? What is it about “failure” that is so scary? Most people do fear it, don’t they? Many of us get going on a project and we spend much of our time worrying about whether or not our project will succeed. Instead of spending our time-crunched focus on how to make our project succeed, we instead lose all focus and spend our time worrying about the end result. We want to be successful. We want to impress everyone else. We want to be perfect. I’m with all of you, stuck right there in this category, and I’m guessing you and I are not the minority. I mean, sure, there are those out there that embrace failure. But, for most of us, we are terrified of failure. Why?

I think there are some obvious reasons as to why we fear failure. We don’t want to disappoint others. We don’t want to feel ashamed. We don’t like rejection and criticism. We feel as though failure makes us weaker. Oh, what a wrong attitude to have. I’m just as guilty as the next person. I’ve had all these feelings. But, isn’t the fear of failure selfish? Aren’t the reasons I pointed out here purely selfish? Yes, they probably are…..but still, that’s not the point.

My point is, we have to get past this fear of failure. We have to learn to embrace failure. I know that’s quite an astonishing statement. Am I saying that we have to strive for failure? Heck no!! That would be outright silly! I’m just saying that we can’t be afraid to fail. If we are afraid to fail, then we will be afraid to try. We’ll miss out on opportunities. Couldn’t it be argued that our biggest failure could be failing to do something we want or love to do, just because we are afraid we might fail at it?

Okay….back to the point: Embracing failure. I challenge myself (and each and every one of you) to learn to embrace failure. We don’t have to like failure. We surely don’t want to strive for failure. But we do need to learn to embrace it when it happens, and embrace the possibility of it happening when we venture out and try something new. Accepting that failure happens, and embracing it when it does happen, helps us learn. Think back to something you have failed (and failed miserably) at. Wasn’t that one of the best lessons you have ever learned? See, we can learn all kinds of neat things by reading books and studying history, but the lessons learned and knowledge gained as the result of failure is what will really stick. Learning from failure is where we make huge strides towards our overall success. It’s the journey folks. It’s not about having all the right outcomes, as it is about learning from those outcomes, whether they be successful outcomes or failed outcomes.