One question I ask on the Team Member Fact Sheet is: If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would you select and what question would you ask them? When I answer this, George Washington comes to mind and the thing I would ask him is: What part of what you put in place when this country was formed do you hope is still there in 200 years?
When I was handed The Book of Joy, it was not on my personal bucket list to go into a room with Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama to ask questions and listen to them share their stories and collective wisdom for a week. As I read the last page, I felt like I had been part of a very special event – and I had a book with pages dog-eared around all the thoughts I collected during the journey. I liked this book, and as you head into a gift-giving time of year, it is worth putting on your list.
Instead of writing a review, let me just share some of the thoughts I highlighted from those dog-eared pages and let the thoughts and wisdom stand on their own for a little while:
- So when you look at the same event from a wider perspective, we will reduce the worrying and our own suffering. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 37)
- A study (by Brickman, Coates, Janoff-Bulman) found that lottery winners were not significantly happier than those paralyzed by an accident.
- Courage: Is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. ~ Nelson Mandela (p. 94)
- Courage: Is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite it. ~ Desmond Tutu (p. 94)
- Studies have shown that sadness lasts longer than fear or anger. Fear lasts 30 minutes, sadness 120 hours. (p. 110)
- Sadness seems to cause us to reach out to others. We don’t get really close to others if our relationship is made up of unending hunkydory-ness. It is the hard times, the painful times, the sadness and grief that knit us more closely together. (p. 110)
- Without love, there is not grief . . . when we feel our grief, uncomfortable and aching as it might be, it is actually a reminder of the beauty of that love, now lost. ~ Gordon Wheeler (psychologist) (p. 113)
- Hope requires faith – even if that faith is in nothing more than human nature or the very persistence of life to find a way. Hope is nurtured by relationships, by community. Despair sends us inward. Hope sends us into the arms of others. (p. 123)
- Mudita is the Buddhist concept often translated as “sympathetic joy” and described as the antidote to envy. It is considered one of the Four Immeasurables, qualities we can cultivate infinitely. The other three are loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity. (p. 140)
- A quote from a Tibetan imprisoned by the Chinese (and tortured) for 18 years. He told me he was in danger of losing his compassion for his Chinese guards. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 156)
- The real secret of freedom may simply be extending this brief space between stimulus and response. Meditation seems to elongate this pause and help expand our ability to choose our response. (p. 180)
- Marriages, even the best ones – perhaps especially the best ones – are an ongoing process of spoken and unspoken forgiveness. (p. 181)
- Research has identified key influences on happiness. One being our perspective towards life, or our ability to reframe our situation more positively. (p. 199)
- So many people seem to struggle with being kind to themselves ~ Dalai Lama (p.212)
- Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied? ~ Dalai Lama
- Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and to be free from the past. ~ Desmond Tutu (p. 230)
- We stand firm against the wrong not only to protect those who are being harmed but also to protect the person who is harming others, because eventually they too will suffer. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 234)
- Exile has really brought me closer to reality. When you are in difficult situations, there is not room for pretense. In adversity or tragedy, you must confront reality as it is. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 243)
- Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens. It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment. ~ Brother Steindl-Rast (p. 245)
- Unforgiveness robs us of our ability to enjoy and appreciate our life, because we are trapped in the past, filled with anger and bitterness. (p. 245)
Yesterday on my daily run with my golden-doodle, I ended up walking with a guy named Gary. We have passed each other on the trail for two years and never really spoken. Sometimes I realize it is time to walk and listen, and this was one of those moments.
As Gary told me about his journey across the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in 2008, I asked him this question (remember – great conversations start with a question):
“What is the trick to successfully completing the Appalachian Trail?”
Without much thought he answered,
“You just have to focus on the next town and not think about how far away Maine is.”
I thought of my EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System™) clients and how creating a vision for a company is critical, but establishing smaller goals and the disciplined execution of those goals is most critical.
Successful leaders learn to help their teams understand and stay focused on the next town. People-centered leaders invite their people into the process vs just sharing the goals.
Sometimes you just have to slow down and talk to the Gary’s you run into – they have a lot to share.
Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.
One of my favorite TED talks is Connected, but alone? by Sherry Turkle. It is significant because it brings research behind my belief that social media DOES NOT replace talking in building healthy relationships, and that is a significant concept as Millenials, Gen X, Boomers, and any other groups continue to form teams and work together. We already made the label/assumption mistake in the diversity conversation, and I see the world repeating that mistake with technology and generations working together.
I was so excited about the video I bought the book (Alone Together) and it has been painful to read. One word for the book – Terrible.
So do I dismiss the video and reframe my view of Sherry Turkle? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Failure in one form of art does not mean a voice should be dismissed. Ten years ago I worried about failure as a career derailer, then I joined an entrepreneurial organization and realized failing fast and moving on was the measure in this world.
It still hurts to suck sometimes. Failure is painful, regardless of the external smile people put on. The choice is to wear the failure as a weight or as wisdom for the next opportunity.
Remember leaders – you play a significant role in helping your people with this choice. How do you use failure with your team?
As a test: Next meeting brainstorm around the biggest personal/team failures of the past quarter – and end with a conversation about What did I/we learn? and What will we do differently in the next 3 months because of it? Your teams ability to do this will give you your answer on how you lead through failure/mistakes.
Passion – I am torn on this topic by people that come up to me for advice on starting their own business and realizing the independence they long for. I have learned to listen closely for their why, and if they start with the outcome of entrepreneurism and not the work, they have it backwards. I challenge those people (and myself) to keep the focus on the gifts you have and the work that excites you. Seth Godin shifts our perspective on our gifts by challenging each of us to think of ourselves as Artists – and makes the comment Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create change in another person. He goes on to share that most artists can’t draw.
Hidden in the whole conversation of performance is passion. Here are three things I have learned about passion of the artist:
- Passion is the hidden ingredient in performance: In my book People-Centered Performance I share my belief that Performance = Talent + Passion + Work
- Passion does not have to reside in just the work, it could be the team, or the cause, or even the need to eat.
- Passion is without complaint, so if we can do the work with excitement and ownership, and without complaint, we are close.
- It is impossible to be an artist and not have passion.
A great summary of passion came from a recent book I read called The Boys in the Boat. In it, the master shell builder George Pocock talks about his work and what drove his choices:
My ambition has always been to be the greatest shell buiilder in the world; and without false modesty I believe I have attained that goal. If I were to sell the stock, I fear I would lose my incentive and become a wealthy man, but a second-rate artisan. I prefer to remain a first-class artisan.
I like watching for passion in others, and instead of starting with a pen and paper to write your statement of passion, start by observing and talking to others. There is energy in watching the artist work, and they can be found all around us.
Remember, most artists can’t draw, and most artists aren’t entrepreneurs.
I connect students to parents and grandparents.
What do you think the person who made that statement does as a chosen profession?
Lt. Col. Paul Scheidler has served our country for over 20 years, has served multiple deployments in the Middle East, and has been awarded the bronze star. Oh, and he also happens to be an American History Teacher at Heartland High School in Hartland, Michigan. The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in Michigan recognized him as the 2015 Outstanding American History Teacher.
We have a choice each day to do our job or to make our work about our purpose, cause or passion. It is always a choice.
It was a treat to be in the same room and feel the magnetic pull of the purpose that oozed out of Lt. Col./Mr. Scheidler. I bet his students feel the same way.
Your job does not matter as much as the reason you do it. What is your reason? Just ask your teammates – I am sure they know.
Below is an excerpt from Eric Schurenberg’s column in the March 2015 edition of Inc. Magazine. He is the editor. I also think Inc. is the best source of leadership advice for entrepreneurial minded leaders. Here is the full post.
. . . ideas alone don’t build companies. Building takes leadership, and leadership takes continuous, counterintuitive, ego-minimizing work. That was one lesson I took from a recent half-day meeting led by Alan Mulally, retired CEO of Ford and Boeing. . . . . “Keep reminding yourself,” he kept reminding the room, “it’s not about you.” It’s about the plan. The leader’s job is to ensure that the team has a compelling vision; to help everyone understand the strategy for realizing that vision; and to see that everyone is working together to implement the plan. When teams truly need to mesh, it doesn’t matter whether you were once the world’s best coder or salesperson or idea man. Your job is now facilitator. Behavior matters. . . . what was allowed at Boeing and Ford: admitting problems and asking for help. What was not: texting in meetings, finger-pointing, putdowns, or anything else that interfered with a sense of shared effort. “Working together works,” says Mulally. “Smart people working together always works.”
In my second chapter of my book(People-Centered Performance) I talk about the OBN leader – the one who knows what they OUGHT to do, BUT they DON’T. Mulally’s gives some practical advice for fighting the OBN trap.
Have you ever met the smartest person in the room?
Yesterday I had the opportunity to see Captain John Meier, the commanding officer of the Commanding Officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford. He asked this question as he talked about steps he was taking to build the team that will launch this new aircraft carrier in 2016. The one thing I will say about Captain Meier is that he spoke simply about leadership, and showed a deep understanding of the power of serving others first as a leader. Another great thing is he was not selling a book, he was just taking time out of his busy day to tell his story.
How many of you walk into a room chanting “I am not the smartest person in this room . . . “? I would never ask a leader to do that, and yet there are ways our actions can say it.
Captain Meier shared a couple of tips he had for living this mantra through your actions as a leader:
- Always keep an open mind in problem solving sessions – challenge your team to bring/share solutions and just listen.
- Make Learning a part of your day.
Imagine the power of spending time each day having someone on your team teach you something? You implement Salesforce? Ask someone to show you how to enter a new customer and then do 2 on your own with their help. When we make a habit out of the two tips shared above we are demonstrating our intent to serve first as a leader. It is never that easy, but it is always that simple.
Great conversations start with a question. I spend time with leaders like Captain Meier because they ask great questions.
If you have never met the smartest person in the room you are not looking hard enough.
When I am bored with TV and having hundreds of channels with nothing to watch, I fire up the AppleTV and go to Vimeo. That habit has given me two videos that I think about often – one for a guy now called Slomo and another chronicling the challenges of Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi. I can remember watching each and just smiling. It was a smile not based on something being funny (although Slomo reminded me of a friend of mine), but more on the fact that two individuals made a choice to chart a different future – one on their own and one because circumstances forced a change. It was a smile celebrating a choice made and the inspirational story that resulted.
A foundation of professional development at any level is based on a similar choice. It is hard to see that choice when we dislike our boss, worry about the debt that needs a paycheck to support it, or are scared of not having a keycard to enter the building you have been going to for a decade. It is also hard when like our team or the praise that comes from having the same customers that know us and love us. I preach the lines great conversations start with a question and when we have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions, the result is improved performance. Three questions that come to mind when I think of these videos are:
- What are my choices?
- How do I want to be remembered?
- What matters to me?
Here is a link to my 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance – and the number one is Own It. If you know someone (or maybe someone that works for you) struggling with their next step, please pass this on. The caveat I am adding is that most Own It outcomes don’t mean rollerblades on the strand in LA. More often it means some different projects, a bigger smile at work, or finding more balance between work and life outside of work. I call these pivots, and whether big or small, they all start at the same point – ownership.
Living into choice is simple, but rarely easy.
Do What You Love.
A book that I really like right now is from Rich Sheridan, and it is called Joy, Inc. How We Built a Workplace People Love. Two reasons I like it.
- It is from a CEO/leader who built his business from scratch and he is intimately involved in his business. 99.9% of businesses in the United States are less than 500 people, and I love a leadership voice from the leader that most people can identify with. Rich is CEO of Menlo Innovations.
- It reintroduces emotions into the conversation, not just theories and actions. Joy, Love, Excitement, Jubilation – – – we need more of these things. When our professional reputations, paychecks, support network, friends are all tied into our jobs, and 8.4 million of those jobs disappear in an economic downturn, there is a lot of anger, frustration, sadness, worry, fear, and hunger to overshadow the feelings that great cultures are built on. Leaders cannot make other people feel better. But here is one leaders journey to building a company around a culture.
Rich was our guest speaker at our local chamber breakfast this week, and I had the pleasure of introducing him. I have toured his business, Menlo Innovations, several times (the give public tours to see their culture up close), we share a mentor/friend, and I invited him to speak because my community/state needed to hear his message.
In talking with Rich, he shared one big question he gets from business owners:- “Great message Rich. But where do I start?” As a preview, here is what Rich says:
Try Small, Simple Experiments: To jump-start the exploration of joy in your own workplace, surprise your team with some simple experiments. Here are a few you might consider. They won’t cost anything.
The two experiments he recommends are:
- Where do you sit? If you are in an office, move out and near your people.
- Try a stand-up meeting for a week: He describes a daily Menlo meeting that is quick, effective, and done standing up.
Finally, he invites everyone to visit Menlo and see the culture in person. If you are looking for a speaker on leadership in your community that will talk about culture I recommend Rich. He has a great story.
If you are looking for a good outing for your leadership team and you can get to Ann Arbor – I recommend going to visit to help you start your own conversation around culture.
Is there someone in your work life that is causing you pain?
There are some great books out on having difficult conversations. My two favorites: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott and Crucial Conversations by the Vital Smarts team. When I script leadership development activities, this is the #2 learning must for any new/current leader. It is that important and it gets easier, but it is never that easy.
If I were a leader every time I looked around the room and realized more than half my team is new in the last 12 months, I would make a group learning assignment to read/reread one of these books as a team. It could also be a gift for a new team member, and if you do that remember my gift giving advice!
Let me add another voice to this topic, a TED talk by Ash Beckham. It is not specific enough to outline the skills of having honest conversations with people, but it certainly speaks to the heart of the topic. I found myself laughing as she shared her own transformation to having more honest conversations. Her voice is not academic – instead it is very real and that makes her advice/story relevant and helpful.
She started by controlling her own narrative first. It would be a great follow-up to a book study group because many of the themes of the above books are captured in her talk.
A big part of having tough conversations is showing up often enough – in a focused manner – with your people to have all the other conversations that constitute a relationship. Habits around One-on-Ones and team meetings are critical to making this skill even more relevant and EASIER.
What makes tough conversations tougher is when, as leaders, those are the only time we show up to connect with our people.