Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Good Leader vs. Great Manager

Would you rather be a good leader or a great manager? There isn’t a ‘right’ answer. It’s all in what you value, probably the stage of your career and many other factors. Lots of people think they are both a good manager and a good leader. The reality is, that rarely are people really good at both.

Recognizing Your Natural Strengths

Years ago, I took a leadership and strategic planning course. The instructor insisted that people who weren’t ‘born’ leaders, including the ability to think strategically, could be trained to do so. I disagreed then and I disagree now.

I think each of us has a natural strength toward either leadership or “managership.” We can build leadership “skills,” which are very important, but the notion that we can ‘teach’ people to be great leaders is problematic.

Learning to be a good manager is hard and takes a long time. Good managers make the team feel positive and empowered.  Good managers take themselves out of the equation and focus on the task and the team.

Maybe I’m Wrong

But wait, most mothers (and a lot of dads) are the ultimate managers. They know how to get things done. They make it look easy to run a household, feed, clothe, educate, chauffeur, etc. At the same time, they lead each child to be their very best. Maybe classroom teachers learn both. Maybe master tradesmen, learn both.

Maybe if you practice every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for 20 years; you learn both.

Learning to Walk

Rose looking happy

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – George S. Patton

Falling Down

Watch a child learning to walk. We let them fall down, over and over; they have lots of ways to get that toy.  They’ll crawl, knee-walk, butt-slide and many more ways we’d never consider. If we dictated when and how our child learned to walk, would that be better than letting them find their own way? No. Because they are learning more than just walking. They are learning to learn, to gain command over their muscles.

The older we are, the more we want to tell people what to do AND how to do it. We’re afraid they might not do it … “the way we want.” When was the last time you let the people around you (co-workers, family members, etc.) figure out the ‘how’ to get something done.

The Power of Letting Go

There is a place in the world for control freaks (think safety). But if General Patton was able to let soldiers find the “how” within the structure of the military, then surely we can let go of the “how” at work and at home.

People rise to the occasion if they understand  what they’re supposed to do and, whenever possible, WHY they need to do it.  Sometimes when people complain about having to much to do, it’s because they don’t know how to let go, ask for help, or see that there are many ways to solve a problem. Think about it.

Photo credit: Happily Learning to Walk  Delta Mike

Creativity: A Way of Being vs. a Way of Doing

Isn't this a happy picture?

What is Creativity?

Creativity can not be defined by words. Like ‘love’, when we try to describe it, our words dance all around it. Words hint at it, our hearts know when we see it, but words… don’t really touch it.

I believe that we are all creative in our own way. No two people are creative in the same way. Look at two painters or two musicians. One gets inspiration from their children, another from where they live. One paints outside, the other uses food to paint. Yes, they are both painting but how each one’s spirit is being expressed, is different.

In the article in the New Yorker titled, “Creativity Creep,” the author describes the increasing number of books that claim to ‘teach’ creativity to the ‘uncreative.’ If work creativity interests you, check out, CEO’s now value creativity in employees more than influence or dedication.

You’re Alive, You’re Creative

I believe creativity is a way of being in the world. We do it naturally. The way we talk, the food we cook, the clothes we wear, how we appreciate nature, the list goes on and on.

I’m lightening up on the whole…”I’m not creative enough” thing. I’m just paying more attention to “being” instead of “doing.” I’ll let you know how it’s going. Be a human “being” not a human “doing.” Pass it on.

Photo credit: A Spring Scene  Rexandsharkey

Surrendering as Action

“Surrendering is action. Surrendering to what you can’t control is the most powerful form of action.” Time to quit

Surrender is not the same as quitting. Sometimes, quitting can be appropriate. Sometimes surrendering is appropriate. They are not, however, the same thing.

Quitting means, stopping. If I smoked and I stopped… then I quit. If I am in an unhappy relationship and I tell the person that I want to break up, I am quitting. If I’m on a diet and I decide that it’s too hard and start eating the way I did, pre-diet, then I quit my diet.

Surrender, on the other hand is an acknowledgement that my way isn’t working. That whatever I was trying to do, in the way I was trying to do it, isn’t effective. Maybe the goal was too lofty or incorrect. Maybe the goal wasn’t logical or ethical.

Surrender may led to quitting, but often, true surrender leads to an acknowledgement that MY ego, MY will, MY, MY, MY… isn’t the only way. It leads to a new way of looking at things. A new approach.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents were alcoholics. For so long, I thought I had to be strong, smart, ‘right’. That I had to control everything (honestly… I still fight this battle). But I didn’t get the peace of mind or sense of serenity I longed for, until I surrendered. Until I learned that my will isn’t ‘right’ and my way isn’t the only way…not until then, did I find happiness.

As an example, I stayed in a job much longer than I should have. Had I surrendered, acknowledged that the job wasn’t right, I would have benefited greatly. Instead I just stayed and stayed and ultimately, was let go.

Big changes are ahead for me in the near future. I wonder if I’ve learned to surrender. I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Photo credit: I surrender, 39 days old Jessicafm

Success – How High You Bounce After You Hit Bottom

Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts and Crafts - The Colors Emerge</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Photo By: SPC Aristide Lavey</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>To learn more about the annual U.S. Army Photography Competition, visit us online at <a href="http://www.armymwr.com" rel=&qu...

Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom (Gen. George Patton)

Thinking back on my career, I see 5 turning points, i.e. mistakes:

  • blabbing when I should have kept my mouth shut (my most common)
  • being disrespectful to a boss
  • not admitting when I was wrong

As I suffered the consequences of my actions (getting fired or pulled off a big project); I berated myself. What helped me was…

  • talking about it to someone I trusted
  • telling myself that I am human
  • examining why I behaved that way (what was in it for me)

This last step is where I learned the most. When I would act against my own best interest, there was usually something to justify it. “He deserved to be taken down a peg.” “They don’t admit their mistakes, why should I?”

My self-defeating behavior stemmed from insecurity and a lack of self understanding.

Success depends on learning from mistakes. Mistakes are good. They wear down our sharp edges. I can look in the mirror and smile. Make friends with your mistakes.

Photo Credit: The Colors Emerge   Familymwr

Finding a job: 1930 vs. 2015

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In 1930, many people found themselves without work; without a way to support their families. Have things changed?  Some have; some haven’t.

Take a closer look at the picture. This man, probably dressed in his good clothes, is walking the streets, advertising, ON HIS BACK, that he needs work. Imagine if you had to do this. That you were so desperate to work that you  literally had to walk the streets with a sign.

Humbling isn’t it?

Just for today, think about how fortunate you are. Whether you have a job or not. If you have a place to live, food to eat, a family, good health or any combination of these, you are one of the lucky people. For today, I choose gratitude for what I have.

(If you need a little help finding a job… check out, “What’s Different About Job Search in 2015?”)

Photo credit: I know 3 trades

Be Who You Are

When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. Maya Angelou

In some ways, it’s easy to be ourselves. After all, who else can we be? The fundamental ‘stuff’ that makes up ‘me,’ is written in genes and ‘the way I grew up.’ So why are we so afraid of being 100%, ourselves?

If we really think about it, we spend a lot of time ‘conforming’.  We worry what the neighbors, our co-workers or our family will think. But what about how we spend our time, who we associate with, what books we read, what thoughts we express?Do we betray ourselves in order to seem the same as everyone else?

We are often so afraid of being even a little bit different, that we push, no shove and repress our uniqueness to a place where we (and everyone else) doesn’t feel threatened. When we do this enough, we grow up to be replicas of those around us. Those who go to our church, live in our neighborhood, work at our company, etc. We are not individuals, we are a reflection.

If you’re a young person, you still have time to learn to assert your unique perspective and vision of yourself.  You can practice not wincing when someone tells you they don’t understand who you are, why you’re wearing that outfit, why you think that, why you hang out with him/her.

If you’re like me (old, haha) it’s hard, but we can still do it.  Let’s catch ourselves when we think, “I can’t do that.” That’s the moment we need to be brave. You can do it. I’ll report in on how I’m doing.

Image credit: Quotes wave

The Sweetest Sound: My Name

Some people make jokes about their terrible memories and their inability to remember people’s names. Like it’s a big joke. It’s not.

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound” Dale Carnegie

Recently I recounted a story about the CEO of a national company with 2,000 employees. When I visited his office, the walls were covered with photos of the company’s employees. Some had check marks next to them. The check marks indicated those employees that the CEO had met in their hometown (all over the country) and with whom he had spoken about their family. His goal was to know the face, name and family members of each employee no matter where he met them. Imagine the energy it took to work on this.

Why did this CEO think this was so important? Well, first of all it meant that he was focused on employees. Next, it gave him a way to connect to people who were not at ‘headquarters’ and a way to make them feel that he cared about them, which, he obviously did.

I work hard to remember people’s names. I learned a trick many years ago; when I meet someone new, I say their name as I shake their hand. Then I try to use it at least one more time before we part company. It’s a small thing but it leaves a positive impression. Check out these tips for remembering names.

Photo credit: Whisper

Job Interview Magic: I and We

I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.

When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.

When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.

While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.

In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.

When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I”  in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”

The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.

Habits for Excellence – Yawn. Been There.

Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.

One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.

“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”

How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.

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We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)

Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.

By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?