Posts tagged: strengths

Leadership: Handout or Hand Up?

As leaders do we see ourselves as coaches, mentors and teachers or as managers, bosses and the person “in-charge.” The distinction may be subtle but the influence you may have on people and the results you drive may not be subtle. In the book, “Leaders East Last,” (title derived from the Marine Corps where enlisted men always eat first), Simon Sinek says, “whether a leader puts themselves or their people first, determines if they are worthy of our love and loyalty. Leadership is a decision not a rank.”

Many people think that the ‘younger generation’ is lazy and entitled. I say every generation has this type of person. I see so many 20-30 somethings doing such great things; I hope you see them that way too. I loved this article, “Meet 6 Entrepreneurs Who Use Tech to Change the World.” Each young entrepreneur is doing something simple to solve a problem. My favorite is HandUp started by a young woman named Rose Broome.

“HandUp is direct giving for homeless people and others in need in your neighborhood. Your donations are redeemed for basic needs like food, clothing, and medical care through our partner organization Project Homeless Connect.”

Like all start ups, this one will have critics and bumps along the way. What I like is that Rose didn’t just give the homeless woman a dollar and forget her. She’s looking for a way to help stabilize her situation. It may be a handout right now, but hopefully a hand up is on it way too.

Photo credit: photo leroys

“Failure is a Process … You Have to Fail Over and Over”

“Failure is a process … you have to fail over and over and over again to get anything that’s worthwhile.” Jules Feiffer cartoonist

Feel like a failure? You’re actually winning. Watch this 40 second video about the power of failure. According to Mr. Feiffer, you need to continuously try new things and fail in order to create anything worthwhile. Think about raising children. If you think you didn’t fail over and over again… I suspect you are kidding yourself.

Think about nature. Evolution is a series of failures in order to find the best way forward: the flower that is drought resistant or the leaf that absorbs water more effectively.

I am teaching a new online course. Learning the software is driving me crazy. Just when I think I have learned something, it appears that I forget it. And this is happening live, in front of my students. Humbling to say the least.

Think of the last time you failed. Did you curl up in a ball? Did you try to deny it? Were you ashamed? This last is the worst of it. Failure is a sign that you are trying. If you can’t think of the last time you failed, then you are either not paying attention or you aren’t trying anything new. The old saying, nothing ventured, nothing gained, warns us to keep trying new things. To live fully we need to fall on faces from time to time.

Photo credit: Fig leaf John Leach

If you are unfamiliar with Jules Feiffer’s delightful cartoons (as well as the rest of his body of work), check him out.

 

 

What Can You ‘Give’ Your Children?

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I have two children; they are wonderful people. There are times when I wonder what I gave them. Oh, I think I was a good mother. I’m not questioning whether I gave them a good education or a nice home, but I wonder -  what did I pass on to them that they only could have received from me?

I love this quote from Thomas Edison. Whether you call it passion or enthusiasm – it is the “estate of incalculable value.” How does a parent pass this along?

There is really only one way. That is by example. What you do. Your behavior. How you spend your time. How you treat people. How you learn new things. How you accept the good and bad. Your precious time – how do you spend it? How do you act when you think no one is looking.

Are you excited to be alive? Are you grateful? Do you complain everyday about the weather, your boss, why you don’t have this and that?

Or do you focus on the beauty? the joy? the positive? the kind? Do you greet each day with an energy that says, “life is an adventure.”

Bring passion and energy to your children today and everyday. They might just thank you.

Image credit: Thomas Edison and GE That’s Genius Pinterest Board

Become a Connoisseur of Your Mistakes

“The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them – especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial, … you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which, in a way they are.” Daniel Dennet

Many of us want to shrink when we make a mistake. We deny that we’ve made one or we hesitate to own our part. While it may seem easier to avoid ‘consequences’ – the truth is we (almost) always  feel the consequences one way or the other. For instance, if we avoid taking risks for fear of looking foolish – we deprive ourselves of opportunities to grow and learn. Not good.

If we take a big risk… e.g. wholeheartedly sponsor a big project at work… and it goes well; we might get that promotion. If it fails, we will suffer from the ‘slings and arrows’ of people’s looks and possible gossip. But who learned? You did. While they were sitting back and judging you, you were out there talking, promoting, learning, growing and gaining visibility. Instead of hiding from your mistakes; what if you embraced them? what if you just say, “Wow, I made a mistake. I learned a lot and I won’t make that mistake again.” Imagine how confident you would seem and feel.

Billy Joel has a great line in his song… You’re Only Human:

“You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own”

If mistakes are the only thing I can truly call my own, then I should make MORE not less. We encourage our small children to make mistakes and assure them that it’s ok when they do. Then they get to be teens; we start to bear down on them — don’t make mistakes!. As adults, we are mortified when it happens to us. Why? Because we are afraid to look anything less than perfect. We set a better example when we own our risks/mistakes.  We then have the satisfaction of knowing that we created something – all my own. Smile, it’s just a mistake.

Photo credit: Hand over mouth Mel B.

Selling Ugly is Never Pretty

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“When you have to sell ugly, sell the result.” **

You know the expression, “a face only a mother could love”? This little piggy is beautiful in her mother’s eyes. The good news is, we’re all beautiful to someone. “Selling ugly” means selling something that, on the surface… doesn’t seem great.

Selling sexy is easy; selling results is hard. If you spend more time understanding what the ‘customer’ (potential employer, someone who’s buying what you’re selling, etc.) needs… it will be more reasonable to assess your strengths versus that end.

In life, we all have those moments of doubt… when you and I need to convince someone (including ourselves!) that we’re wayyyyy more attractive than we might appear at first glance. In this case, we need to sell on the results we can deliver – not on our outward appearance. Maybe our experience isn’t a perfect fit for the job that’s open. Maybe we think we have  too much or not enough education. Maybe we think we’re not pretty, thin or rich enough… whatever.

The truth is you are a perfect fit for someone, someplace. The question is, do you understand what you can DELIVER? Can you be more fun, more creative, more interesting? Can you design it, deliver it? Can you hit sales targets, hire better, add integrity? What goal do you have and does that goal match the person/organization you are trying to sell?

Even if we’re not quite as difficult a sell as the hairy pig… focusing on results will nearly always get us closer to the prize.

** thanks to Chris Brogan

Photo credit: Hairy Pig   JLplusAL

Be Weak Like Water (Or Is That Strong Like Water?)

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water and yet for attacking things that are firm and hard, nothing is so effectual.” Tao Tê Ching
Are you soft or hard? Ask people who know you. Ideally, we find a way to be both. This is the ideal of yin and yang; sweet and sour.
As a young, ambitious employee… I would charge around… spouting ideas, giving my opinion in a very “hard” way. I didn’t mean to be annoying or a smart aleck.. I just thought the world needed changing and I was just the person to do it. Sandpaper does eventually wear down the surface… but it’s not the easy way.
Think about the power of water. Think about the Grand Canyon.. (have you ever been there… it’s amazing). Water created this magnificent sculpture. The steady, slow pressure of water creates miracles.
Have a goal? Are you bullying your way there or are you slowly, deliberately applying the appropriate pressure. Guess which one helps you win the war, not just the battle.

Photo credit: Magnified by Nature Scott Robinson

What Is The Stupidest Thing That Could Possibly Work?

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There’s that line from the movie Forest Gump… “stupid is as stupid does” … well, there’s stupid and then there’s bravely awesome. Clay Shirky, one of my favorite authors, says…

“My motto for 2013, adapted from Agile Programming precepts = What Is The Stupidest Thing That Could Possibly Work?”

One of the reasons we keep doing the same thing over and over and don’t innovate… is that we surround ourselves with people just like ourselves. It’s human nature. And if someone sounds different or has goofy ideas or looks different; we forget to value the difference. We discount them based on whatever. The goal of diversity is to OPEN up the pool of ideas and thoughts. Recent research shows that large corporations that have women board members are more profitable than those that don’t. This only tells part of the story.

Real innovation must come from change and change takes courage. We’d all still be hitting each other with clubs if there weren’t some of us willing to create tools to go get food.

The more we think about things and try to ‘figure it all out,” the less likely we are to take the risk. The most successful parts of my life.. traveling, new jobs, speaking in front of large groups, etc. all came to me because I didn’t think about what might happen. I just did it.

We don’t have to engage in foolish risks without considering how to mitigate them, but letting “risks stop us from doing new things” is the safe road and on the ‘safe road’ only the guy with the biggest club will survive and I’m not having that.

Photo credit: Projectile Placement skycaptaintwo

Building the Brand of You: Portrait of an Expert

So imagine you are a the only person of your race in a world full of money, power and prestige. Now imagine that through your talent and pure force of will… that you build an impeccable career and reputation. What would it take for you to overcome all the odds against you?

Some reading this, may not know Sidney Poitier. For the rest of us, Mr. Poitier is a movie star who starred in tour de force movies like, In the Heat of the Night . If you haven’t seen this wonderful film, I encourage you to check it out. If you are wondering how to build your personal brand, I suggest you examine the public life of this amazing human being.

He rose to be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. No rehabs, no scandals, no spin — just a high quality ‘service’ (his acting) delivered with dignity and thoughtfulness. It’s not about being famous… it’s about a sure and steady knowing, inside ourselves, that we have done the job well and conducted ourselves in way that makes us proud.

As I think about my own career, I can say that I have done well on some fronts and could have done better on others. Here’s what I learned from Mr. Poitier…

1) Be myself. I can learn and grow, but don’t take any crap from anyone; particularly those who would exploit or diminish me.

2) Don’t let them judge me by my looks and don’t judge others that way. Remember the words of Martin Luther King …” where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (Substitute age, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. for color of their skin).

3) When in doubt, don’t do it, say it or type it. Mr. Poitier gained his reputation by making thoughtful choices from words to roles. Did he sacrifice tremendously for those choices? My guess is yes.

If you want to figure out how to build your personal brand… look at those who have done such an amazing job before us. They’ll teach us everything we need to know.

Under the Influence

Choices, do you have too many or not enough?

People without food, homes, jobs, health. self-respect, family, etc.  don’t have many choices. Most of us have a ton of choices (like the cereal aisle – 100 kinds of cereal – really?)

We’re so invested in our comfort and conformity that we literally say… we have no choice but to… work a job we hate, stay in relationships with people who harm us, believe things that make us hate other people.

Here’s a little inspiration by Liz Strauss. I don’t know Liz except for her twitter posts. but I really loved this.

Be a treasure.
Start a quest. Create and conspire.
Be a mentor, a leader, a teacher. Inspire.
Be a beginner, a learner, an adventurer. Aspire.
Shine at being you.
Shine because being brilliant is what you do.
Do it because YOU have decided you’re living up to being a treasure.

Influence yourself.

Be irresistible.
– ME “Liz” Strauss

Do you understand that you are a treasure? Do you know how much you can influence the world? Start with yourself. If you’re not sure where to begin– try being quiet; the answers will come to you– I promise.

Photo credit: Nightgaunt Graphics

Who’s Your Customer? It’s Not Who You Think…

A lot is written about discovering who your customer is and how to find them. A new blog post by Seth Godin, titled, “Who is Your Customer?” sheds light on this in a whole new way.

Instead of thinking about customers as a group of people, think about the one, two or three people who are most important and pay attention to them.

For example, Godin asserts that Apple employees had one customer only, Steve Jobs. Nike’s customers are not the people who buy their shoes but the athletes who endorse them.

I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Godin; but I do like the idea of shifting our thinking. Whether we are in a job search or looking to put some sparkle back into our lives, the idea of thinking about who we are trying to get to support us is a great exercise.

If I want to sell a book of fiction, maybe my customer is a publisher. In a way, this is like the viral sales funnel. In the “old” way of selling, we broadcast messages to lots of people. The ‘new’ way (social) of selling/marketing is to get to the key influencers and then ‘attract’ them to help you spread the word.

If we always do what we always did, we’ll always get what we always got… but the rules have changed and we have to find a way to change too.

Photo credit: Inc.com

Viral funnel credit: Socialsteve’s blog