30 11 2016

“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

There are 3 kinds of decision makers.  First, you have the naval gazers (many of you Googled that last month).  These are the people who are asked to come up with a plan, and then they execute it like the man in the cartoon below.  Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim and they never pull the trigger because they’re worried about either the consequences of failure, or are afraid that they don’t know what they don’t know.  The second are the ones that go off half-cocked (maybe the bully comparison from above works here).  They get started without thinking.  They are more like Ready, Fire, (oh, drat), Aim,  and try to fix their mistake by changing what they executed.  That may mean stopping everything and re-training, or it may be an instant fail, in those situations where you only had one chance to get it right.

Leaders, try being the third type… The corageous ones who go ready, aim carefully, and then fire.  Think about as many consequences and obstacles, have a plan for dealing with them, then pull the trigger.  You may not hit the target on the first try, but you’ll be going in a good enough direction that someone will be able to give you the guidance to shift your aim just a bit closer to success.  A car that is parked can’t get anywhere (the first type) and a car that drives off a bridge can’t get any further (the second type).  A car that drifts a little to the right or the left is much more likely to make it to it’s destination.

Speaking of fire…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com


Rocking the boat can get you thrown to the sharks

29 11 2016

“The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

You’ve been there.  You and your group are in a crunch-time situation (for example, our current business pilot, and the pressure to hit our numbers), and almost everyone on the team has their head down, rowing aggressively (or in this case, smiling & dialing  🙂 ).  At the same time, someone on the team is checking their selfies on the phone, or shopping for holiday gifts.  They’re basically rocking the boat, by making you work harder than them in order for the team to succeed.

Leaders… Those among you who have a leadership title, or just you line workers who have the respect and admiration of your team.  THIS is the time to step up, and confront the person who is rocking the boat instead of rowing with the rest of the team.   Basically, make it more uncomfortable for them to NOT work than for them to work their butt off.  When they do turn around, don’t forget to praise them.  Positive reinforcement and optimism can be a force multiplier, allowing 10 people to accomplish the work of 15!

Speaking of guys…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com

Defeats that can lead to success.

26 10 2016

“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” ~ Maya Angelou

We’ve all been hit with a “gut punch” at many times in our lives.  It might (hopefully not) be of the physical violence kind, but it’s often a more metaphorical punch.  It could be the car that breaks down when you really don’t have the cash to spare.  Maybe it’s a leak in your ceiling, telling you that it’s time for a new $10,000 roof.  Possibly it’s a break-up with your significant other, with a need to find a place to stay because you’re, as George Thorogood said “outdoors now” (He gives a great concert if you can find it).

Leaders, here in the workplace we get the occasional gut-punch, too.  Maybe it’s a transfer to a new team that you don’t want to be on.  Maybe you lose your most reliable “right hand” employee.  Budget cuts are always fun, when they are mandated.  Keep in mind that first, It’s just a job.  Don’t take these punches as a personal insult.  You’re a leader, and making leader money, because it’s expected that you’ll come up against challenges that need to be overcome.  Second, you’ve got to keep the fact that you got punched from your face, and your behavior.  We leaders need to show that regardless of the challenges, we’re up for the task, and will not be defeated.  If you cant handle the pressure, you might just be driven to find “one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer” (not an ideal coping mechanism!).

Speaking of encounters…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com

Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to lead!

27 08 2014

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~Milton Berle

There are a lot of people who spend their careers waiting for their leader to ask them to take the next step.  They believe that simply doing a good job, and staying out of trouble will get them promoted.  While it’s possible to advance your career meekly, it will take a lot longer than it could if you are bold enough to ask for extra responsibility, and you toot your own horn, as long as it’s not too over-the-top.

Assuming that your leader understands the amount of work you put into a project might be a bad assumption.  They may not know that you spent hours analyzing data to make a great recommendation.  As far as they’re concerned, you may have just “flipped a coin”.  Talk about your effort, and be sure that when an opportunity for promotion presents itself, you’re at the front of the line saying “I’m ready for this, give me a shot.”

Speaking of knock…

knock knock

Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com

Leadership Humility & Servitude

13 08 2014

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very un-dramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” ~ Arthur Ashe 

Many of us chose the nonprofit world (either right out of college, or after years of serving on the “dark side”) out of an urge to “do some good” – or some similar altruistic motives.  Why, then, wouldn’t we bring that same urge to serve the communities that we help to leading our subordinates?  Servant leadership should begin during regular coaching sessions with your team.  Asking questions like “What should I start/stop doing?” and “What resources can I provide to you in order to get the job done?” open the doors for discussion, and even criticism of your leadership.

When you get criticism from a subordinate or teammate, you’ve reached a very exciting point in both your relationship with them AND in your own leadership development.  Giving criticism is a very brave thing for someone to do.  It means both that they care, and that they are right on the edge of trusting you with the truth.  Can you handle the truth?!?!  This is where you decide that you want to be a real servant leader, or you want to wield your power.  You can say “suck it up, buttercup, I’m the boss”, or you can find some humility, accept the criticism, apologize, and thank them for their bravery and honesty.  I recall the first few instances of “tough love” from my team.  My instinct was to make excuses, or lay blame/accountability elsewhere.  I had to work hard to hold my tongue, listen, and apologize.  I look back at these times as turning points in my leadership style.  Thank you (you all know who you are). 


-Your occasionally humble servant

 Speaking of Servant…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com

Celebrate that insecurity!

12 08 2014

“Virtue has a veil, Vice a mask.” ~Victor Hugo

This quote speaks to the difference between the “Anonymous donor” and the over-the-top braggart.  On the first side, you have someone who is comfortable enough in their own skin to quietly give (charity, credit for a good job at work, time, love) with no need for recognition.  The other side is usually born from insecurity.  In this camp you have people who take credit for other’s work, give blame or make excuses when things go wrong, or loudly proclaim their success while quietly covering up failure.  

Insecurity happens, and when it does, leaders should do their best to loudly encourage, while quietly coaching around the mistakes. Keep in mind that insecurity usually happens when people are stepping out of their comfort zone.  This might mean right after promotion to a new position, taking on challenging tasks, or otherwise attempting stretch goals.  So have patience with these folks who are feeling insecure.  Understand that mistakes will happen.  Many others avoid that insecurity by never daring anything.  Who’d you rather have on your team?  So, do your best to support those who might be insecure.  In other words, praise publicly, correct privately. 

Speaking of a mask…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com

The light at the end of the tunnel is rarely an oncoming train

31 07 2014

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.”  ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

What words do you want on your “leadership tombstone”?  “Had the world given to him/her, and they wasted it with a mediocre career never taking chances” or “Scrapped and fought and overcame challenges to become a leader of men and women”?  There’s a continuum of other options, but you get my point.  If everything in your career is handed to you, you never risk making a wrong choice, and never have to struggle with difficult decisions, not only is that INCREDIBLY BORING, but it’s unfulfilling as heck. 

Take the time to look back at the challenges you’ve overcome as a leader, and appreciate how cool it was when you succeeded.  See your failures as lessons learned.  Be sure to let those who may be in a bad place now know that they may be in the middle of a place that will make a great leadership success story down the road.  When things seem darkest, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is only rarely the headlight of an oncoming train.  🙂

Speaking of beautiful…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com