Focus Collapse

The icon of travel for the Eastern U.S. is I-85. This highway runs through the heart of Atlanta, requiring years of construction time, and transporting traffic for decades. Earlier this month many of us witnessed this gigantic structure collapsing. A section of concrete lost its battle against the heat from a roaring fire. The impact from this collapse is being felt across the state of Georgia and the surrounding states by commuters, and tourists. 

This event provides us with many lessons. A quick study, illustrates several examples of leadership essentials:

1. Anticipate of the challenge. These “first responders” paid the preparation price. They visualized the challenge. They trained and re-trained. 

2. Respond quickly. They were on the scene within a few minutes. This situation demanded immediate action.

3. Ask for help. In this case, those on the scene requested help from the Atlanta Hartsfield - Jackson International Airport Fire Fighters. With 18 miles of “rush-hour” congestion, this team was on the scene within minutes.

4. Think team. These professionals worked together. No one was injured by the fire or the collapse of the concrete due to their team approach.

5. Focus on the mission. This event was twofold: keep everyone safe and control the fire. 

The common theme throughout this situation is implementation. Training can be useless if it is not applied or implemented correctly. If you want help, ask for it. In this event, Information minus Implementation could have equaled Tragic Results.

Posted on May 11, 2017 .

Brevity In Leadership

A man once honored, can later be attacked by a composite of critics. Such seems to be the path that modern day historians have chosen to follow in relationship to President Abraham Lincoln. Although a few historians of many decades past did find fault with President Lincoln, a preponderance of early historians referred to him in kind, if not exemplary, terms. Recently, many historians have exemplified a lesser degree of respect for President Lincoln, to the shock of many who still consider him to be “my favorite president.”

Historians of decades past and days recent have agreed on one concept: Lincoln was a master at word crafting. Two examples, one well known and the other rather obscure, illustrate a cornerstone of President Lincoln's word crafting – brevity. 

 His Gettysburg Address, an assortment of words that most middle school students knew by heart, at least for a day, is widely acclaimed as a pristine presentation. It was irrefutably powerful and strikingly brief. The address was less than 250 words, fifty percent of those words held four letters or less.

 A second example of how President Lincoln utilized brevity is an incident at the Navy Yard Hospital. The president would visit the injured on a regular basis. On one visit, he passed by a seriously wounded Confederate soldier - “little more than a child.” He shared brief words, had a prayer, and left. He returned to his carriage exhausted. Before departing, one of the nurses informed him that the young and dying Confederate soldier had requested a return visit. The president obliged and asked the young man how he could help him. “I am so lonely and friendless, Mr. Lincoln, and I am hoping that you could tell me what my mother would want me to say and do now.” The president expressed appreciation that the young man had invited him back and said, “Yes, my boy. I know exactly what your mother would want you to say and do. Please repeat these words with me.” The young soldier repeated words which came from his sole friend – brief words that the president could barely utter:

            Now I lay me down to sleep,

            I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

            If I should die before I wake,

            I pray the Lord my soul to take.

            And this I ask for Jesus' sake.  

There is not always strength in numbers. There is often power in brevity. Excessive verbiage does not always serve a leader well. Expressing the point with precision and brevity can bless a leader and service his team. Many of my books and articles are edited and re-edited by a precise, if not brutal, editor. Invariably, pages are returned with lines striking out half of the page. My books and articles are certainly the beneficiary of her watchful and professional life. She continues to teach me that it is more difficult to express yourself with a few words than it is to express yourself with many words. I feel that brevity requires a higher preparation price for me than does excessive verbiage. I also fully recognize that my audiences and readers appreciate substance and not mere fluff.

As a young man, I prided myself on the Silver Queen corn in my garden. But my labor was not always easy. The most difficult thing for me to do was to pull out from the precious Georgia soil perfectly healthy corn stalks. But, I had to do this in order for the remaining stalks to produce a bountiful harvest. Leaders, before you present critical thoughts, remind yourselves of the power of brevity. Thin the corn.

Posted on August 30, 2016 .

Pass the Ps Please

Pass the P's Please: Parkinson's, Perfection, Practice, and Passion!

What you think will hurt you, can rise up and help you. I was prepared for shock when told that Parkinson's was the diagnosis. Years before I had been informed that Bipolar Depression was the diagnosis. Therefore, my “traveling by detour” is two-fold. Each of us will be familiar with ups and downs, awkwardness, and frustration – and on occasion, deep loss. Just this morning I heard of a horrific airline crash in France. In our country, the west has been inundated with mud slides and the northeast has been hammered with a trilogy of winter storms this year.

Every presentation that I give I refer to my Parkinson's within the first five minutes. Once you diffuse the beast, those with whom you are communicating receive your words as a permission to “travel by detour.” Your opportunity to diffuse your beast may present itself in a variety of ways. Once you have diffused your beast, you have set the stage for leading by example. Over the years I have discovered that our audiences are so open with me because I am so open with them.

A discovery of perfection mentally, emotionally, and physically, is an illusion. Practice does not make for perfect, practice makes for better. This third element, practice, is therapeutic. As I practice my presentations and refine my approach to writing, I continue to improve.

Our fourth P – following Parkinson’s, perfection, and practice – is passion; not a passion that you find, but a passion that finds you. You are free from the burden that equals the pursuit of perfection. The issue is not your perfection – but a genuine desire to make a difference in life. It is as if you become a wounded healer. Yearning trumps earning.

As you “travel by detour,” you need to be sure that following arrows are in you quiver. You have the capacity to diffuse the beast; you have the realization that practice does not make for perfect; but for better; you have the passion that appears as a pleasant surprise; and finally, you have the determination to differentiate between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on circumstances; joy defies circumstances.

My book, Traveling By Detour: Living with Struggle and Surprise, details my own story.

Posted on July 26, 2016 .

Your Professional Appearance

How others perceive you is your business! The professional image you reflect will influence their perception. In this article, we will address your professional image from the perspective of appearance and attitude.

Appearance

The outfit or apparel that you choose to wear on any given day can determine how your colleagues and customers view you. For the most part, there will be dress codes or procedures and policies to guide you in this area. For professionals and those who wish to be regarded as professionals what you wear and do not wear can help make your career or it can hold you back. Whether it is fair or not, others may draw conclusions about your character, your commitment to the team, your judgment, and your abilities based on the appropriateness of your attire.

If you are excited or depressed, sick or happy those feelings and dispositions could very well be reflected in your apparel. Your appearance can say a great deal about who you are and how you feel about yourself. Your style and appropriateness of dress is a reflection of who you are.

Your style is an extension of who you are, a reflection of your personality. If you are serious about reflecting a professional image, then you need to make yourself aware of the requirements and policies in your chosen environment. You will need to dress with your goals in mind.

Attitude

Your mind is a mold and hold vessel. You will find both positive and negative thoughts dwelling there. The simple removal of the negative thoughts is not enough. The negative thoughts must be replaced with positive thoughts, to curb the negative thoughts from returning.

All of your thoughts play an integral part in your actions and reactions to your environment. Your thoughts have developed over years from where you have been and your personal history. The where you have been and your history is your "thatch." Your thatch has a great deal to do with how your attitude has developed.

We are always adding to our thatch with each new day. We can chose to develop and nurture an attitude of respect, trust, and hard work . The thoughts that you allow yourself to think will influence whether or not you reach your professional goals. Do now underestimate the power of your thoughts. Take steps to develop a lasting positive attitude.

Develop a healthy diet. Begin and continue an effective exercise program. Create some daily, quiet, alone time with meditation and/or prayer(even 15 minutes). Drink sufficient liquids (water), Get at least 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep each night. Learn breathing exercises to reduce your stress level. These steps will help to reduce your level of stress, clear your mind, and allow you to work more efficiently..

There is no need to jump into all of these changes at one time. You can begin slowly, but consistently working each one into your everyday life. Over a short period of time, you will notice a positive change in your attitude, your stress and your confidence.

Posted on June 24, 2016 .

Potential: More Than You Ever Imagined

Can you see him? Notice the dominance of the frown over the smile. See the pain in his face – pain that camouflages the awesome talent he has.

See what he is doing now – pushing a rock down the street. Now, see her – with the shawl across her lap, bonnet on her head – sitting on her porch. Hear her ask, “Michelangelo, why are you pushing that rock?” Look deeply into his response, “There is an angel inside and it wants out.”

Potential is a reminder that past performance need not be indicative of future results. Potential whispers words of encouragement into your ears. You do not have to stay the way that you are.

I have exciting news; you can retire at night with a greater satisfaction of experience. You can wake up tomorrow more excited than you were the night before. A pre-occupation of inadequacy can be replaced by a fresh initiative. You can be catapulted to an “about face” at the point of attitude and behavior, and placed into a “forward - march” position. Since potential is a moving target, you can always start afresh. “Finished-ness” becomes a new beginning.

After 50 years of working in the area of personal and professional development, I remain convinced that the phenomenon of potential brings hope to the discouraged and a path and structure to the confused. Potential is a composite of “igniter” and rudder. Potential addresses Viktor Frankl's search for meaning, the glue that joins Dr. Spock's books to each other, and the inspiration of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

You take steps toward maximizing your potential:

  1. Get to know yourself by isolating your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Identify what core values shape you.
  3. Leap beyond the myth of limits.
  4. Respect growth as the process of becoming.
  5. Leverage goals as mile markers.

Remember that there is more to you than you ever imagined. Potential blesses you with an exciting alarm clock call ever morning. Potential shouts, “Do not use the snooze button.”

Posted on April 8, 2016 .

Pesky Kudzu

One question haunting every author is: “Will my book title capture both the attention of the reader and the central thought of the book?” Never has this question held as much power over me as did with my first book, The Art of Killing Kudzu. My frustration was rooted in the concern that only people from the South would know the meaning of kudzu. I stopped my fretting when I received a call from Saudia Arabia. The caller was inviting me to present for the Arabian Human Resources Conference. He specifically requested The Art of Killing Kudzu.

Kudzu is bad stuff. It grows wild, and chokes out good stuff. Kudzu is a cantankerous vine that invades every parcel of any nearby turf, including the plot of terra firma that held the Silver Queen Corn in my garden. Kudzu is also the name that I ascribe to negativity. The most comfortable habitat for kudzu is in the mind and between people.

The kudzu that I want to discuss aggravates the spirit, stifles initiative, and births both irritability and the tendency to quit before you quit. Remarkably, there is a chemical that can kill this Kudzu. This kudzu-killing chemical is not motivation. (Ultimately, the most helpful thing that you can do is create a motivational environment where others are inspired to push their own motivational buttons.) The kudzu-killing chemical is quite simply encouragement.

Many will argue that we do not encourage others at the point of their accomplishments or strengths. Many will suggest that we are gifted at catching people doing poorly or pointing out one's mistakes, and inept at catching them doing well. This is not a matter of “catching” or “non-catching.” The issue is this: Many “catch” others doing poorly and then translate their feelings into expression and behavior when they are disappointed or angry. However, when they catch others doing well, they fail or refuse to translate their feelings into expressions of encouragement. Why does this happen?

Something holds power over us! That something is Assumption! Assumption does not seem to have as much power at the point of confrontation as it does at the point of affirmation.

You will never be as effective in your encouragement--practice as long as you allow assumption to hold power over you. Practice assumption-awareness! Practice assumption-avoidance! Do not assume that someone knows what you know, that someone knows what you wish they knew, or that someone knows how you feel when you catch them doing well. The adhesive that will bind much of these leadership online class segments to each other is the poisonous nature of assumption.

Assumption is not the only hurdle standing in encouragement's way. When you catch someone doing well, do not assume that someone knows how you were impacted by their accomplishment. Learn to express yourself in specific encouraging terms. Avoid generalization! Do not merely say, “Thank you”; try saying, “I appreciate you because...” Do not merely say, “Good job”; state, “You did a good job because...” Do not merely say, “I enjoyed that”; say, “I found that meaningful because...”

Help kill some Kudzu! Kudzu is all around us. Catch those you seek to encourage with pleasant surprises. Overcome your own assumptions. Celebrate and utilize specificity when you seek to catch others by surprise. Encourage them at the point of their strengths, their best efforts and their accomplishments.

Kudzu equals bad stuff! Kudzu grows within organizations and individuals. Good stuff equals assumption-awareness, assumption-avoidance, and specificity. These equal encouragement. Leaders, remember “Encouragement can kill this pesky kudzu—all over the world!”

Posted on March 11, 2016 .

Leadership As Courage

 It is normal to interpret the courage that a leader must bring to task as equaling a caring enough to confront and a willingness to make the tough calls. In this portion of our class on leadership, we address two less obvious occasions that may mandate courage on the part of the leader. In general terms, these are referred to as the courage to accept and the courage to release.

When I use the term, “the courage to accept”, I refer to the difficulty most leaders have with accepting compliments. After addressing the International Association of Police Chiefs, a gentleman approached me and he shared the difficulty he had at this particular point. The number of people he represented is legion. Under the guise of humility, many of us shrug off, or reject compliments. What we fail to factor into our leadership equation is the feeling that is created by our lack of receiving the compliment. What we may interpret as humility is what they may experience as rejection or indifference.

Personally, this has been a huge issue for me. My standard response to a compliment, in the past, was that a power greater than myself made the difference to which they referred. Although that was true, my wife shared with me that it might be appropriate to add, “You know I really appreciate your affirmation, because, I have been working on this particular point. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me.” My wife was right. It takes a lot of courage for others to compliment some of us who appear to be more confident than we are. Perceived rejection of their compliment, as opposed to an authentic acceptance of their compliment, will, in all likelihood, discourage them.

When I use the term, “the courage to release”, I refer to the difficulty many of us have within the crucible that is delegation. Quite simply, it is extremely difficult for some to release control, to let go of what appears to be power. Micro-management is obvious. Our rationale might be that the issue is too critical to delegate – what I would refer to as a “glass bottle” issue. I understand that rationale, as this is a hard one for me. However, many of us refuse to release control in less volatile situations – what I refer to as “plastic bottle” issues. We should be asking ourselves, “how are they to learn.” None of us are all knowing or all doing.

The leader has three options in relationship to a task: do, drop, or delegate. If you repeatedly refuse to delegate, when the issue is a “plastic bottle”, you are not serving the person you lead or the agency you serve. The fear is that “they will make a mistake.” Some of the grandest tutorial experiences I have had in my life have been the “plastic bottle” mistakes that I have made. Sometimes, the smartest leadership-path to walk is to release some control – knowing that if they make a mistake, it is possible for that mistake to make an indelible impression upon them.

 There are two examples of courage that we fail to think about. This part of our course says, “Think about them – the courage to accept compliments and the courage to release some control.”

Posted on January 23, 2016 .

Finders Keepers: The Biggest Challenge You Face

What:

What is your biggest challenge as an uppercase leader in Law Enforcement? The answer to this question is finding and keeping high quality officers. What does a high quality officer look like?

·       Practices to get better, not to become perfect

·       Focuses on building strengths rather than overcoming weaknesses

·       Differentiates between glass and plastic bottles

·       Understands the power of three: Do, Drop, Delegate

·       Understands that you cannot give what you do not have

·       Remains grounded in finding and keeping high quality officers

·       Strives for competency, but understands that character trumps competency

 

Why:

          Why is addressing this challenge so important? Finding and keeping high quality officers is the life blood of an organization. Finding and keeping high quality officers is less expensive than finding, training, and losing high quality officers, and then starting the process again.

          Finding and keeping high quality officers frees you up for other challenges, blesses the entire team, and enhances both effectiveness and efficiency.

 

How to Find:

          The verb on which to focus on is not finding; it is attracting. It is not so much that you find high quality officers, they find you—because you attracted them. It is a matter of perception. Your organization was perceived positively. They like what you did, how you made a difference in the community, and they wanted to join you.

          You market your organization in such a fashion that when others seek a position they think of you. You and your team are building a brand, a magnet that pulls, rather than pushes.

          This is your high challenge, but you do not have to do this alone. You build an army of allies and an arsenal of resources.

 

Keep:

          Keeping high quality officers is a process:

·       You recognize that this is a perception-issue. Worded another way, paying attention to their perception can equal retention. You understand that two-thirds of team members who quit, or quit before they quit, do so because of a perceived attitude of indifference.

·       You ensure that strength affirmation is delivered with the same intensity and specificity as weakness confirmation.

·       You are more likely to keep high quality officers when you focus on servicing their journey—remembering that we do not grow when you remind us of how stupid we are, we grow when you remind us of how smart we are.

·       To a degree, we live by formulae: 1. Expectation minus example equals exasperation. 2. Information minus implementation equals irritation. 3. Assumption minus articulation equals aggravation.

          The above “What, Why, How” approach can be worded differently. You describe what the challenge is, you diagnosis why the challenge is being addressed and you offer a prescription for finding and keeping high quality officers. Critical times demand implementation of this vital information. Let us get started. Today is day one!

Posted on January 5, 2016 .

The 8 M's of Motivation

 

  • Modify the definition. The Motivation that equals "sitting around waiting for happy endings" and the motivation that equals "sitting around waiting for a motivator" are illusions. For most of us, the definition of motivation mandates a second look: "If I act, it is because I choose to act."

 

  • Move in reverse. Often, the progression in the military prospective equals "Attention, About Face, Forward March!" On many occasions, before there can be a "Forward March,"there must be an "About Face."

 

  • Manufacture and hold thoughts. Your mind is a mold and hold vessel. Think about the thoughts you think. Do not believe everything you think. Do not merely remove negative thoughts, replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and hold your positive thoughts.

 

  • Mold habit with focus. Focus will falter if it travels with hurtful habits. Focus will flourish if supported with helpful habits. The effectiveness of your focus informed by the habits you hold.

 

  • Manage the detours. Your motivation will not develop in a straight-line. Detours will invade the line. As you travel by detour, as interruptions, distractions, and disappointments interfere with your plans, you must manage your detours: anticipate, accept, analyze, apply, and appreciate what you learn.

 

  • Massage the motivational environment. "Service" is a verb. As you seek to motivate yourself, and as you seek to create a motivational environment for others, you must focus on servicing journeys. You cannot give what you do not have, so you must service your own journey .You cannot motivate others, but you can service their journeys as you create a motivational environment.

 

  • Monitor your progress. Monitoring is not an "at the endpoint" event. Monitoring is a process that does not wait for destination-arrival, but occurs throughout the journey. Monitoring your progress, in the midst of your journey, will allow you to both apply helpful alignments and celebrate incremental "finished-ness."

 

  • Master your motivation. In order to approach full command of your motivation, the 4C's will be helpful: clarity of purpose, commitment at point of head and heart, consistency of effort, and cycle as reality.

 

Posted on December 4, 2015 .