A Leader’s Gratitude Makes the Difference

Can we be thankful but not really grateful?

As we enter the Thanksgiving holiday here in America obviously the topic of gratitude comes up. Listening to my pastor on Sunday, he suggested in his talk that more often than not we are thankful for things but not grateful. Do you agree?

What I got from this was that thankfulness is a verbal expression but gratitude is an action.  In the story, Jesus rids ten men of Leprosy but only one comes back to show gratitude to Him.

Were they all thankful? Most certainly. Only one truly showed gratitude and that made the difference.

No Matter What

nighttime view of our cabin in georgiaIt’s been a weird month.  Lately, every month has been a weird month. I’m sure you can appreciate that as well.

My two youngest kids are about to complete their first semester of college. That’s a totally new feeling for me as I realize how close they are to striking out on their own.

We had a sudden need to go car shopping when one vehicle expired. Finding one that had the right features within our budget was a real struggle but we finally found one and completed the purchase. Just in time to drive it up to Georgia for a few days at my sister’s cabin. I am writing this from there.

Where is Your Focus as a Leader?

I mention this not to just to give you a family update but rather as an example. There were things that didn’t get done when I wanted them done because of these many distractions.

As a leader, I can put my focus on that OR I can focus on what went well.

  • I was thankful to find another car. My gratitude is the action of the stewardship I show in how I care for the vehicle and use it.
  • We are thankful our kids are in college. Our gratitude is to support them and encourage them in this experience.

As leaders, the actions we take in gratitude affect not only us but those we lead as well.

  • You can be thankful to be in business and in gratitude approach each day in a positive manner.
  • Thankful for the team you have and show gratitude by the way you treat them
  • Express thankfulness for the level of productivity your team has achieved and demonstrate gratitude by helping them to reach higher.
  • You can thank each customer for their business and show gratitude by rewarding them for their choice and their faithfulness.
  • Because you see despite all the disturbances in our week, the family was able to spend time together and to celebrate Thanksgiving and share a large, very filling meal.  Rather than harp on the inconveniences, we instead focus on the good and positive things that happened.

Gratitude is an action and therefore is one of a leader’s strongest tools.  Gratitude in practically the ultimate in positive thinking.  It doesn’t ignore the fact that there are problems. It doesn’t disregard that we are not where we wish to be or who we wish to be. It rejoices in what we have been blessed with so far, no matter how big or small.  And it turns that attitude into an action that creates more positive effect in both ourselves and our team.

[tweetthis]Gratitude is an action and a leader’s strongest tool. #gratitude[/tweetthis]

Gratitude is Out Loud

Gratitude, when properly practiced, becomes a way of life and a way of thinking.  The proper practice of gratitude is to engage in it daily.  Waiting until the holidays to express gratitude is not the appropriate application.  That’s called ritual.  What we want is authentic, heart-felt thankfulness for how your life has been blessed and how others have influenced you positively.  In fact, the key to effective gratitude is to remember that gratitude is loud and persistent.  The more often you promptly proclaim your thanksgiving and the more openly your share it, the more blessings multiply and opportunities appear and actions yield results.

[tweetthis]The key to effective gratitude is to remember that gratitude is loud and persistent. #gratitude[/tweetthis]

I am thankful I am here with family celebrating this season. My gratitude action is that I am stopping here to enjoy that. What will YOU do?

Action Plan

  • Start your own gratitude journal, beginning today and through to the rest of the year at least.  Each day, first thing in the morning (including weekends), write down ONE THING for which you are grateful.  From that, determine ONE ACTION YOU WILL TAKE to demonstrate your gratitude THAT DAY. Start now.

P.S.

Wow! After I finished and posted this, I ran across this excellent article supporting these thoughts. Give it a read.

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Leaders and Heroes Overcome and Stand Out

The Victory of a Moment for Heroes

graduation day photoThis week we celebrated as my two youngest graduated high school. One after the other they walked from behind the curtain, accepted their diploma, and strode off the stage. It was incredibly exciting for them and joyful for Sherry and I.

As mundane as that sounds, it was a triumphant event. It is also a big reason why I gave the title to this post that you see.

It requires a little background, so bear with me.

You Want Humble Beginnings?

All our children were adopted from foster care. Adopted children always have challenges. Some have have enjoyed the benefit of being adopted as a newborn and thus never know any environment than the one with their adoptive parents. Ours were exposed to other environments less favorable, in some cases deplorable.

My two youngest, a boy and a girl, were both adopted at the age of two. In fact, their birthdays are exactly two weeks apart. We have jokingly called them “The Twins” even though they came from different birth families. Their backgrounds were varied.

My son was born in a house full of neglect and squalid conditions. There was also a very inconsistent adult influence. He came to us just as he turned two. Over time we saw that he was speech delayed and even later found out that he is on the Autism Spectrum. The results of that and other disorders created difficulties with relationships with teachers and others. Too many others around him and too much change created chaos for him. Changing situations created a lot of “do-overs” for him.

My youngest daughter was born premature and drug-addicted. Spent months in an incubator. Pediatric Asthma and prone to Febrile Seizures. When she first came into our lives we wondered if she was ever going to talk. Now we wonder if she is ever going to stop!

History Does Not Dictate Your Future

Both have risen from those backgrounds to become high school graduates with college ahead. He wants to become an engineer and she wants to become a voice-over artist for Disney.

They are My Heroes

because they overcame the odds. Like many, they navigate the challenges of daily life. But think about running a race where you have to start 20 yards behind everyone else. You have a lot of space to make up just to catch everyone else.

So Why Am I Sharing This Here?

You mean, other than a Blatant Dad-Brag?

I’m not above it and happy to do so. I am extremely proud of what they have done and who they are.

It is also because as a leader it tells me that where and what I have been in the past doesn’t keep me from being what I should be going forward.

If you have been the harsh, task-oriented leader in the past (or even the present) where employees were just assets – you are not doomed to stay that way.

If you have focused only on your own success, hogged all the credit and disseminated all the blame – today is the day you can start a new path. 

Nothing condemns you to repeat your failures except your unwillingness to take a new direction.

If you are ready to become the leader your employees want to willingly follow – know that you can.

What’s holding you back?

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Double-Dose of Leadership

John C. MaxwellWe had the benefit at the 2014 L2:Learn-Lead simulcast to hear from John C. Maxwell twice.  He opened the proceedings, which I documented in the post Why Leaders are Learners – Part I, and then closed it with another talk.  This was an excellent close for many, who left raving about what they learned from this.  I did too!

Leaders are Learners By What They Ask Themselves

John emphasized that the first place he looks to ask questions is to ask questions of himself.  The questions we ask ourselves direct us — and sometimes re-direct us — to keep us focused on our vision and goals.  They help us determine if we are improving, if we are making an impact, and if we are truly leading.
Asking yourself questions on a regular basis helps keep the main thing the main thing.  It keeps us from majoring in the minors and getting lost in the details.  It helps us maintain a big picture view.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

1.  Am I investing in myself?
When we take time, energy, and money to invest in our own growth, we prepare ourselves to lead more effectively, to be a more productive contributor, and primarily to unlock more of the potential in others.
[snaptweet]It doesn’t get any better for my people until it gets better for me.[/snaptweet]
This requires DAILY, INTENTIONAL growth.  I call it being a 1%er.
[snaptweet]Focus on growing yourself by just 1% a day.[/snaptweet]  That seemingly small 1% compounds quickly and soon you find yourself doing great things before you realize it.
Three Investment Indicators
  1. MY SELF-IMAGE – How do I perceive myself?  Do I truly believe in myself?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
  2. MY DREAMS – Do I have BIG dreams of what I want to achieve?  Are they scary and yet exciting?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
  3. MY FRIENDS – The Law of Environment kicks in here.  Are the people around you encouraging and uplifting?  Do they challenge you?  Do they add value to you?  Are you able to encourage, uplift, challenge, and add value to them?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
We will only invest in ourselves if we can honestly rate ourselves high in these areas.
2.  Am I investing in the right people?
  1. Do they influence others?  Who do they influence?  How many do they influence?
  2. Do they have potential to grow?
  3. What is their attitude and competence level?
  4. Chemistry Factor – Do they fit into the formula?  Do I like them?  Do others like them?
  5. Passion Factor – Do they have a genuine passion for what they do?  Are they motivated?
  6. Character Factor – Do their character traits fit in with the character traits I desire for my team?  Are they grounded?  Trustworthy?
  7. Values Factor – Are their values compatible with the team or organization (or my) values?  Critical to have this for the right culture within your team or organization.
[snaptweet]Culture eats vision for lunch![/snaptweet]
  1. Team Work Factor – Are they able to fit in and perform well as part of the whole?  Or are they a lone wolf?
  2. Support Factor – Are they supportive of other team members and organization objectives?  Can they support and complete me?
  3. Creative Factor – Can I count on them to seek out creative solutions to challenges?  Can they find possibilities out of impossibilities?
  4. Options Factor – Can they give me options?
  5. Ten Percent Factor – Can they give me the last 10%?  All the fruit is in the last 10%.  Can they stay for the harvest?
3. Am I genuinely interested in people?
Leaders see more than others see and see before others see.  Do I really care for others?  If so, I can use my advantage to add value to others.  If not, I will only use it to add value to me.

Where did you find yourself on this?  What questions do you ask yourself regularly?  Do you set aside time to think?

Add your thoughts and comments below.
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Rich Leaders and Learners

Tim SandersTim Sanders was the third speaker at the L2:Learn-Lead event on October 10, 2014.  Tim was the “Maverick CEO” of a company called NetMinds and is a former Yahoo executive and a noted author and speaker.
Tim’s emphasis was on People-Centric Tools for Leadership.  Here are some notes from his talk at L2.
  • Talking about purpose, he remembered a book he read titled Working the Room by Nick Morgan.  Nick said that the only reason for giving a speech was to change the world.
If you don’t want to change the world, then get off the stage. -Nick Morgan
  • Success is not a destination, it is a direction: FORWARD.

The Modern Leader Needs to be Able to Lead With

A Clear Mind

To Unclutter and Clear Your Mind

  1. Reduce your sources of information.  Own the first 45 minutes of your day and avoid email and social media.  Spend the time in devotion and reflecting on someone who helped you in the past and think of someone who will help you.
  2. Create a culture in the workplace that is upbeat and hopeful and action-oriented.  Remember that culture is a conversation about how we do things around here.
  3. A Clear Mind is an educated mind.  READ DAILY books and periodicals of significance that help you grow.
  4. Remember if you let your calendar get full you will be an ineffective leader.  You need time to think; to be curious.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it killed the competition. -Sam Walton

A Creative Tendency

  • Most issues in a company are design issues, not people issues and need creative solutions
  • He has found that highly successful salespeople have creative projects within their life.
    • Creativity = Problem Solving
  • Make NEW mistakes
  • Trust people
  • Policy is the scar tissue of an organization.
If you have to rely on policy, you need a corporate cultural change.

A Compassionate Way

  • You can only effectively lead those you love.
  • Treat everyone like family
Mentorship is a program of highly effective leaders, not HR
  • Learn to listen without power – give empathy
What I like about Tim Sanders is that I believe he “gets it”.  Tim has learned that motivating through fear, dismissal, and non-emotional focus just doesn’t work for any extended period of time.  Either people burn out or they become totally disengaged.
Work is personal.
You can’t spend 1/3 or more of your day in one place and not have it be personal.  As a result, the rest of our lives are influenced by what happens at work and what happens at work is influenced by what’s happening in the rest of our lives.
If you want to create sustainable productivity and empowering employee engagement, as a leader you must spend time learning about your people.  Their hopes, their dreams, their fears.  You don’t have to solve their problems, in fact if you do then you are doing them a disservice; but you do have to know where they are and what’s going through their minds.
That’s how a modern leader achieves success.

What do you think?  Is there a “fine line” between relational leading and task-orientation?  What would be your two-word theme for how you lead?

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Inspired Leaders Have GRIT

On October 10, 2014 I was blessed to be a host for L2:Learn-Lead, the new annual leadership simulcast produced by the John Maxwell Company.  In the last post, I shared the opening keynote by John C. Maxwell to initiate this series.  Today, I want to share some of the thoughts from Linda Kaplan Thaler.

About Linda

Linda Kaplan ThalerLinda is the co-founder and head of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, a marketing and advertising firm.  She is definitely a leader within her industry; creative and innovative.  She knows how to get things done.  Among the many claims to fame she has is the creation of the Kodak Moment, the AFLAC Duck, and the Toys R Us Kid jingle.  She is also co-author of a few books, including The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.

GRIT Creates Extraordinary

Linda spoke on GRIT: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary.  GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Industriousness, and Tenacity.  Here are some of Linda’s thoughts from her talk:
  • 98% of highly successful people were considered average.
    • Walt Disney was fired from his first job for being “uncreative”
    • General Colin Powell was a C- student
    • Michael Jordan wasn’t good enough to make his high school varsity basketball team
    • What makes the difference is their GRIT.
[snaptweet]Anyone with perseverance and pluck can go from ordinary to extraordinary. -Linda Kaplan Thaler[/snaptweet]
  • If you are brave enough, stop dreaming and start doing!
[snaptweet]I never spent one minute dreaming about success. I worked for it. -Estee Lauder[/snaptweet]
  • Overprepare and outwork everyone else
  • We get easily distracted and need to refocus on where we are going.

Four Keys to Help Stay on Track

  1. SOLVE SMALL PROBLEMS – when you resolve the small problems that pop up regularly, it prepares you to solve the big problems.
  2. MAKE YOUR BED – Military recruits are taught early on how to make their bed first thing every morning and to make it neat and precise.  Part of the reason is discipline but a good deal of it is that you accomplished something immediately.  If you accomplish nothing else that day, you made your bed.
  3. FINISH WHAT YOU START – With busy schedules and competing priorities, it’s easy to jump from one thing to another and not really finish anything.  Successful people finish.
  4. FORGET WILLPOWER – No one has enough willpower to stay the course consistently simply based on their will.  Develop habits and create situations that take willpower out of the equation.
Next post will cover Tim Sanders thoughts from L2:Learn-Lead.

Action Items:

  1. How will you apply this to your life?
  2. What do you need to change?
  3. What should you share or teach to others?
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