Leadership is Difficult – If you think you can’t do it, you are right… and?

Leadership is difficult.  The burden of doing what is right with what is trusted to you is heavy.  And it’s certain you will stumble and you will fall.  You will make mistakes and you will make missteps. The longer you lead, the more burdens you will bear and the heavier it can seem.  

And if you are in a position of leadership and you are pursuing big goals and big dreams one day you will say to yourself “I can’t do this anymore.” And you will be right. You can’t.  But is that a bad thing? I maintain that its good news. You have come to the end of your skills and you are now dependent on others to succeed.

If you are in a leadership role facing a project that is bigger than your skills can handle – you need others.  The larger the vision the more dependent you are on others and the more certain it is that you will face days where you say to yourself, “I can’t do this”.

I’m not sure you are getting my point.  You can’t do it.  That’s right, you can’t do it.  Let that sink in.  And as a leader you are not supposed to do it.  You need others to help you.  And your new role is in service to finding that team and helping them achieve their goals.  To quote Rick Warren, “It’s not about you”.  In this case, it’s about them.

So about this burden of leadership and about the weight of responsibility; is it possible to lighten the load?

I’ve found personally that you can lighten the load by accepting what you can do and finding others to do the rest.  You transfer the weight of doing things, but not the weight of responsibility.  And certainly not the pressure of getting things done.  A good leader doesn’t blame the team if in the end the task is not done. Don’t pass the buck.  Don’t pass the blame. It’s still the leaders responsibility.

When your team makes a mistake the best thing you can do for them is to take the blame.  Cover the responsibility.  Do what you have to do to protect them.  This helps your team trust you more.  It helps them want to work harder because of your loyalty for them.  Take the arrows – that’s part of serving the team when you are the leader.

Help others create their ownership and help others have a win.  Design for them to be successful. Make plans for their success.  Don’t focus on you.  Focus on them.  Service is key.

That’s right.  Leadership is really service.  As a leader you must serve your team, your customers, your shareholders.  Serve serve serve.  You need more than yourself and when you focus on yourself the burden can seem too hard to carry. When you focus on how you can help your team, your customers, your shareholders – strangely the weight shifts.  It’s as if by magic.

Leadership is about service to others.  Remember that you can’t do it alone and you need others and your burden will lighten up.  Keep it that simple.

Spoken from experience.  😉


Chasing the Clouds Away

I’m watching the sun chase the clouds away. It’s as if the weather doesn’t remember how cruel it was a few hours ago. The camera on my smartphone really doesn’t do my picture justice – I’m amazed at how beautiful it is.  It’s so bright and refreshing and energizing, and yet it was really ugly, dark and dim just a few hours ago.  

A few hours ago I said something I regret saying and I can never take it back.  I have apologized but I still feel horrible.  I let myself overreact.  No, I didn’t curse or insult or say anything demeaning; but I definitely showed my anger.  I took offense to what someone said in an email and I ranted.  I screamed in ALL CAPS and for me that’s a big deal. It’s way out of character for me.

I know better. I know not to loose my patience and I know not to rant.  I still did it. And I know that I hurt whom I threw my words at.  I really didn’t want it to be hurtful, but it doesn’t matter.  It hurt them.  Unintended consequences, damage done.  

I wish I could be like the weather and let the storm blow over.  I wish I could chase the clouds away and let the sun warm the ground below.  It’s so amazing how quickly the weather can turn. And for me it’s harder to forgive myself than it is for me to forgive others.  Meanwhile, damage done, time wasted, and for what purpose?

I cannot think of a valid reason to say hurtful things to anyone you care about.  And more often than not, I am sure what we say is not meant to be hurtful.  Regardless, ideas expressed whether out of defensiveness or aggressiveness – if they are expressed in anger, they hurt.

It’s very unwise when you are angry to take quick action.  It’s most certainly unwise to rant and show your anger.  What good does it create in the end?  Better to hold back your wrath and see if the storm passes.  Better to wait and see.  Better to look at their intentions and not rush to judgment and worse; express condemnation on anyone else in anger.

If you must attack an idea; do it with intelligence and do it with tact and resourcefulness. Do it with planning.  Express your concerns and ideas in a way that is articulate and constructive towards a positive end.  If you need to tear down an idea, even more so – do it on the basis of solid expression of ideas.  No reason to devalue your concerns by acting out in anger.  

Put your words to better use than shouting. Remember to construct them carefully; there are more important things that need to be done.

I’ll endeavor to do the same.


Another Day – Another Miracle

Whether you believe in God as I do, or you believe that a series of random unplanned sequence of events (probably trillions of them) in which you have somehow survived and which has lead to your very existence – either way, be thankful for this day.  If nothing else is true, the very fact that you exist, it is a miracle – and be thankful for it.

I recently have noticed an abundance of miracles happening every day in my life.  The tougher the circumstance, the more amazing the miracle.  It’s building in my life more acceptance over the challenges and confidence in knowing that things will work out.

For example, I have noticed in my life a team of individuals working together to work miracles.  Not any one of them doing anything extraordinary but when combined as a group; they seem to accomplish miracles and they seem to move mountains.  The more practical a solution, the more basic and simple the solution; a bigger miracle it seems when combined as a group.  

I have noticed the confidence that comes from the courage to make a list and get it done.  To hold your attention on that list as a group, and get it done.  It’s an absolute miracle.

It’s a miracle to think that something as simple as writing down a list and getting that list done builds confidence.  It builds teams.  It builds families.  There seems to be nothing as powerful as this.  

There comes a certain point in seemingly every journey to where the logic ends and I can’t explain it anymore.  At the end of that road is where faith strengthens or weakens.  For those that believe in miracles, they seem to happen.  For those that don’t… I don’t know what to say.

In my prayers I have come to realize that things work out.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  But they always do work out. Sometimes I understand a deeper meaning, sometimes I don’t; but regardless of what I understand… things work out.

I’m not saying that all bad is good or anything like that.  Bad is bad, and if you know me personally; you know that I am not an optimist.  I know bad things happen to good people, it’s foolish to think otherwise.  In fact I have been know to say, “don’t worry, it can always get worse,” and not only do I believe that – I have seen that.  

What I have come to learn as if things are really bad, nothing helps more than making a list and starting to get things done on that list.

I count it another miracle.  I pray that you do too.

It’s Still A Stupid Idea

Let’s call it what it is, “stupid”.  Mass adoption of a stupid idea does not in anyway alter the intellectual value of that idea.  It’s still stupid.

For me when confronted by a populist idea – I remember an anonymous quote I heard years ago; “if 250 million people have a bad idea… it’s still a bad idea.”

Regardless of how many people think a thought, you shouldn’t make it yours because it’s popular.  That’s not what freedom of thought is about.  If the news media says it, if your mother says it, if your brother says it, if your employer says it… no matter who says it. If you are the last one in the world that believes it’s still a stupid idea – then it’s still a stupid idea.

To adopt any idea because it’s what the majority of people want – is horrific. I fear the day that I use this as a key criteria for making any decision.  The more popular a thought is, the more I worry that I am making the wrong decision. It scares me to go in any popular direction.

After all, “because everybody is doing it” is the sort of thinking that leads to drinking cool-aid, joining cults, putting bumper stickers on cars supporting whatever seems popular without even knowing the real agenda; it’s peer pressure for adults, populism, surrendering of ideals and surrendering thoughts.  

As for me, I am proud to go the other way.  I am proud to think on my own two halves of my brain.  I not only question authority, I expect answers.  I want to understand why it is so.  And if an idea wants my support, I want to make sure it’s not stupid.

So I suggest that because everyone else thinks it’s so – it doesn’t mean that it is a good idea.

In today’s age there seem to be daily polls on just about every major topic in the news cycle; and what purpose do they serve? If everyone thinks you should be shot, does it make it a good idea? Of course it’s absurd.  If everyone thinks your house should be burned down and you should be put in prison, does that make it a good idea?  Absurd as well.  If everyone thinks that you should pay 90% in taxes, does that make it a good idea? No, it certainly does not.  

What if everyone is wrong?  It’s happened before.  They are called mobs and they used to hang people, riot in the streets, burn cars in Paris, destroy downtown Seattle and help populists rise to power. Going along with the thoughts of the mob, the more emotional the thoughts – the worse it is… going along for the sake of joining the movement – is flat stupid.

By the way, some of the most foolish and stupid ideas come from the most statistically intelligent people you will ever meet.  You might say that smart people usually have really dumb ideas.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Remember, if everyone is doing it… that’s reason enough to double check that idea and make sure it’s not a stupid one.


Thought Injection and Thought Security

Accepting the thoughts of others without validation is foolishness.  The more thoughts that you accept, the more momentum you create in those thoughts and the more vulnerable you become to the influence of others.  

Surrendering your thoughts without conscientious deliberation is like surrendering your possessions.  No, it’s more significant than that.  It’s like surrendering your life, your liberty and your freedom. However, if you surrender your thoughts after conscientious deliberation – it’s not surrendering but affirming your values your dreams and your liberty.  

I’ll say it again; accepting the thoughts of others without validation is foolishness.  Try it out on this very premise, don’t accept what I say.  Think it through for yourself.

With each statement I make ask yourself if you agree with that statement and why?  It’s important to be able to articulate why, not merely agree.  If I say something what harm is it to validate it’s truth?  Assuming it is not a life threatening, instantaneous you-are-about-to-get-hit-by-a-truck-type-get-out-of-the-road-type circumstance; then there is no harm to think that thought through and check it out for your own self.

On a daily basis most people seem to surrender what occupies their mind’s thought with the bombardment of constant content and messaging.  Their minds are an open door to what would interrupt them and take over the power of their thoughts. Most content is blindly accepted and assimilated.  For what purpose and more importantly at what cost?

I call this thought injection or probably better stated as thought security; protecting yourself from threats that would steal your resources.  In this generation the momentum of insertion is gaining speed.  It’s been said that my generation grew up with a 7 minute attention span because of the length of TV segments between commercials.  Now it seems that we are on our way to a 30 second attention span with commercials themselves, internet media, tweets and facebook feeds, SMS, etc.  All of them short bursts of content that affect ones thoughts.  

The capacity to think is the most valuable resource that you possess.  Your mind and how it processes data is what keeps your world running and every relationship you have.  Your thoughts are key to your well being. Therefore thought injection is a threat to your personal well being.  Guarding your thoughts is critical.

Be mindful today of how many thoughts interrupt you.  Or better yet make up your mind to focus on an objective that is most important and train yourself to monitor that thought.  Watch for what distracts you, interrupts you and takes you away from what is most important. You’ll be amazed at how many things threaten your ability to focus on the task at hand.

Like a virus attack on your computer, it’s important to recognize a thought attack. There are different types of attacks.  I don’t have enough time to go into too much detail on this today, but I want to mention a couple.  

First up – media attacks.  I liken these attacks to when you receive information with extra spin put on it to solicit a manipulative response.  As an example, let’s take the news media.  Instead of getting the facts of the report, you are usually told how to feel about it, how it’s not right and what you should do about it.  What purpose does this really serve?

Second up -email attacks.  I’m not talking about viruses here.  I am talking about waiting on productivity because you are constantly checking email.  Email is a great tool, don’t get me wrong.  Where I have noticed a problem is when I get stuck in a rut constantly checking email when I am waiting on something.  I seem to surrender hours of productive time to checking the ‘in box’.  It’s fruitless. What is even worse is when I constantly check it and respond to what comes in.  With emails coming in seemingly every minute,  I can literally waste all day fielding messages in a defensive mode instead of a productive mode.  Again, if you are like this and you spend most of your day responding to emails – what purpose does that serve?  I am not saying shut it off; I am asking how often do you check it.  And when you check it, what’s the purpose?

Third up – (and last for today) is background noise.  My historically biggest offense was working with the TV on.  I thought I was productive, but I found my attitude sinking downward and downward.  Constant media stream in the background while trying to be productive on a task is not conducive to a healthy work environment, at least for me.  I have met many people that say they need background noise to work.  I used to feel that way.  I have come to learn my need to have that distraction was an escape from focusing on what the ‘really important’ things are that I needed to do.  The background noises distracted me, they didn’t help me. (More on this in another post some day).

Controlling the thoughts that capture your attention is the key.  If you aren’t controlling them, odds are someone else is.

Enough for now.  Careful what you think about, thoughts start things…