Connecting and Performing Uniquely

9 12 2016

“In general, fashion is decorative, it’s protective, it acknowledges that the world does involve conflict, and you might be attacked by assumptions, presumptions, and attitudes.” ~ Margo Jefferson

On this casual Friday, I hope you are wearing your favorite fashions, representing your sports teams, or whatever it is that, during the “business casual” week, might not represent your personality as much as Fridays allow you to.  Don’t be afraid to use your fashion to tell a story, as long as it’s within dress code.  Sure, someone might attack you with assumptions (for example, a Ravens fan might chide at a co-worker in Steelers gear).  Others who are more conservative might make presumptions on more progressive fashion choices.

The point, leaders, is that people are all unique.  Your challenge is to find whatever it is in them that motivates them and that they get energized by.  Use that connection to make their workday better.  Maybe it’s asking about their child.  Maybe it’s congratulating them on their favorite team winning over the weekend.  It could be that you see their car in the parking lot, and it’s looking sparkly after a good detail job – and you know they’re a “car person”.  Whatever it is, they very likely won’t make you have to guess.  They’ll show you pictures of their kid, wear a sports jersey proudly, or otherwise let their passions leak into their conversations.  Listen, note, and get back to it when you get a chance.  That connection will make them pull harder with you when you need that extra effort.

Speaking of decorative stuff…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.


Pick your leadership style for today.

1 11 2016

Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable.  Style is more about being yourself.” ~ Oscar de la Renta

As a man who doesn’t have much style in my usual look (polo shirt, scruffy beard, etc.), I sometimes have people who subscribe to the “first impressions” school of thought underestimate me.  On the other hand, I’ve met several people who present well, with sharp dress and excellently coiffed, and had them disappoint me after I got past that first impression.  I feel like I would rather have people see me, and set the bar low, then wow them with my dazzling charm and intellect (Ok, that’s over the top, but you know what I mean – being underestimated has many advantages over the long run).  My style, I hope, is casual but results-oriented.

Leaders, when creating your own “leadership fashion style”, keep in mind your audience.  Some of you may have one chance to make a good impression, so you’ve got to use every tool at your disposal to do so.  Counselors only have one chance to gain buy-in from clients, so that’s why we ask face-to-face personnel to keep in mind their audience.  So, as you decide what your style is going to be (and it may often be very different on different days, or for different engagements), keep in mind the audience, and the impression that you need to make with them as well as what time frame the interaction will be over.

Speaking of dressing…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

With all due respect, grasshopper.

3 08 2015

“If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage, but not his judgement.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

I’m a leader that enjoys hearing how I’m wrong.  I consider having someone challenge my idea a great way for me to learn a little bit more than I did when I started.  It’s good to have a team where the lowest ranking person on the team can challenge the ideas of the highest ranking person.

That being said, it can be unhealthy for a career to challenge some leaders with anything other than “all due respect”.  I’m fine joking around and having a good time, so my threshold for “due respect” is tied to my more laid back, “enlisted guy” style of leadership.  Others you will encounter in your career may have an “officer style” of leadership, where there is a clear line between officers and enlisted.  These folks might insist on being called Mr. Jones, or otherwise want a more arms lengh relationship with their team.  These people may be just as open minded on push-back, but set a higher bar on “due respect”.  Be sure you’ve felt out the leadership style of someone you may be challenging, as the percieved “style” of that challenge may over-ride the substance of your idea, and you might get smacked down.  That might mean that you have much to learn about judgement, grasshopper.

Speaking of grasshopper…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Build your own leadership tower.

7 05 2015

“Be as a tower firmly set; Shakes not its top for any blast that blows.” ~Dante Alighieri

I think the quote is talking about having a strong foundation, and how doing that can allow us all to weather the strongest forces working against us.  Nonprofits like ours have mission statements which, when used correctly, can be the lens through which all decisions regarding strategy can be viewed.  When deciding to pursue a merger, or opening (or exiting) new lines of service, look at the mission statement, and see if the decision to move forward is in pursuit of accomplishing/enhancing the mission.

As leaders, starting with a strong foundation of leadership tools will allow you to weather more of the challenges that come to you in the course of your career.  You can discover leadership tools by emulating leaders that you admire, taking courses, reading books etc.  Some tools will work for your own style, and others won’t be a good fit.  Whether you have 5 tools in your tool box, or 15, make sure they are tools that you are comfortable using, and then you’ve got the right tool set to build your own leadership foundation, and hopefully, over the years, you will build many floors in your own “leadership tower”.

Speaking of blast…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Leadership is a highway

14 06 2013

“A man’s conscience, like a warning line on the highway, tells him what he shouldn’t do – but it does not keep him from doing it.” ~Frank A Clark

 While these leadership quotes, sermons, and cartoons should tell you my philosophy on leadership and those things that I think a good leader should and should not do, they cannot keep you from doing (or not doing) something in your own leadership situations.  I don’t claim to be a great leader, but I’ve been one for a while, and learned, painfully & many times, what NOT to do.  If you get value from these daily ramblings, and they help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made, then they’re a success to me. 

 However, each of us will develop our own leadership style.  I’m not looking for a company of “Jim clones”.  As you encounter challenges, and successfully deal with them (or fail… but learn from it), please share those experiences with me.  As many of you know, I’ve used your particular situations to help the rest of the group learn (anonymously, of course).  I hope to continue to learn leadership tricks of the trade from you, and I hope all of you embrace the philosophy of being lifelong learners, as well. 

 Speaking of warning lines on the highway…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.