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.