Posts Tagged ‘Change the World’

Do you remember the days before photocopiers were everywhere? I do…I remember in Junior High School, being a teacher’s aid for the elementary school across the street. The teacher asked me to make copies of something she was planning to share with her students. I had to use what was called the “mimeo” machine (short for mimeograph, if I recall correctly). The original was a carbon copy with tracing-paper thin pages, and there had to be fluid in the machine, and you had to line the page up straight and catch the top in this “gripper” thing…ooof! It was a difficult and annoying exercise, to say the least!

Well, others had just as difficult a time, if not more so, duplicating documents. Chester Carlson worked in a patent office as a young man. He routinely experienced the costly and time-consuming process of obtaining copies. Motivated by his frustrations, he set out to discover an alternate way to make copies.

Through intense research and experimentation, he patented an inventive way to make copies. His patent was ingenious, but marketing it proved to be quite difficult. After all, he was a newlywed, earning a modest salary, studying law, and living with his in-laws (just a few challenges and constraints, wouldn’t you say?!).

While he could see the commercial applications for his invention, he had trouble selling the merits. IBM, RCA, and Kodak all turned him down. Even fellow scientists at the National Inventors Council dismissed his ideas as impractical. As anyone would have been, he grew more and more discouraged and nearly gave up on his interest in photocopying several times, but just couldn’t quite get it out of his system.

Eventually, Carlson had an experience similar to that of Theodor Geisel in trying to get his first children’s book published; Carlson was rejected by about twenty organizations before he happened upon Haloid, a tiny company in Rochester, New York. Haloid invested research funding to develop Carlson’s patent and over time created the first copying machines. Haloid would turn the business world upside down with the new machines, essentially vindicating Carlson, making him a multi-millionaire 21 years after he secured his patent. You may not recognize the name Haloid, but surely you are familiar with Chester Carlson’s company, Xerox!

When leading, others may not initially see your vision as clearly as you, and some never will. Like Chester Carlson, and millions of others before and after him, you may spin your wheels for some time…weeks, months, even years, before your vision gains traction. To find success, you must find and display a bulldog-like tenacity to stick with what you believe in.

Today, journal about someone who has inspired you to persevere through unfavorable conditions. What have you learned from this person?

How can you use those lessons to help you persevere?

Read Full Post »

We have come to the end of week two…Friday’s sure do seem to come quicker these days, especially when one is really busy.

I’ve been in Guatemala City all week, working with John Maxwell, EQUIP, and my fellow John Maxwell Team-mates preparing for and teaching Transformational Leadership to groups of leaders from the seven streams of influence: Government, education, business, media, arts & entertainment, the faith community, and family. We have been teaching the principles shared in John’s 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (this is really powerful material; if you are at all inclined toward growing yourself, and you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. In fact, I take that one step further and recommend you join a Mastermind Group on this topic and work through the book with a small group of other growth-oriented individuals so you can learn together and from each other), as well as 15 values inherent in transformational leaders.

It’s been an amazing, invigorating, exciting, educational, and fun week. I’ve stretched and grown. I’ve helped others stretch and grow. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone in many ways. I’ve met some amazing new people. I’ve gotten to know so many of my JMT Team-mates so much better. I’ve discovered new opportunities I hadn’t even imagined. We donated a variety of materials and supplies to some orphanages; I brought art and school supplies, primarily.

Tomorrow, we will have our last teaching sessions, and after lunch we will be the guests at a huge party celebrating our investment in this effort of transforming the culture of Guatemala. What an amazing opportunity this has been!

So, you can see, my weekend will not be a typical time of rest and restoration! Saturday will be quite full and I will be traveling on Sunday.

What will you do with your weekend?

What relationships do you need to build, nurture, grow…repair?

What activities would you like to spend time and energy doing?

What do you need to do to be prepared for the start of a new week on Monday?

What do you need to be thinking about and planning for, for the next few weeks?

Have an intentional, enjoyable weekend!

Read Full Post »

The reality of leadership is that it requires hard work and regular investments of energy and sweat!

As a leader, there will be times when you encounter resistance. There will be times when you question whether the time, energy, and effort are worth it. There will be times when you feel like giving up. What you choose to do in your darkest moments will define you as a leader. When adversity comes to call, will you fade into the background or will you persist in fighting to move forward?

The truth is, nobody advances in leadership by coasting to the top. Leaders are distinguished by struggling upward through the daily grind.

Consider the story of Nelson Mandela. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to a life of hard labor in prison for his anti-apartheid convictions. For 18 years, he lived in a cramped cell and toiled in a rock quarry. Each year, he was allowed 30 minutes with a visitor and could receive and send only two letters. These were his only opportunities to communicate with the outside world.

It’s reasonable for you to assume that since I’m telling you his story as a lesson in perseverance, you already know what choices he made with respect to fading away — allowing some pretty depressing circumstances to alter the course of his life — or choosing to persist.

His perseverance and strength of character over those 18 years he was incarcerated earned him the respect of everyone, including his prison guards! Rather than drifting into obscurity while in prison, Mandela boosted his image while in prison. When he was released, he emerged with a higher profile than ever and leveraged his influence to bring about liberty and a democratic South Africa.

No small feats, indeed!

As we move into month six on our Intentional Leadership journey, take a few minutes to consider your responses to the following questions:

What unfavorable conditions are making your leadership difficult?

What steps can you take to remove or neutralize the sources of resistance on the job?

How might you grow stronger by enduring these hard times?

What rewards might you receive if you persevere through the toughest aspects of your job?

We will be digging deeper into these thoughts in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to working through them with you.

In the meantime, have an intentional day!

Read Full Post »

Passion is contagious.

Are you familiar with the story behind the Susan G. Komen Foundation? Yes, the one focused on finding a cure for breast cancer.

More than 25 years ago, Nancy Brinker promised her dying sister she would devote herself to fighting breast cancer, and she did. She named the foundation after her sister, and set forth the vision of raising awareness of the disease and supporting research towards a cure. As you know, the non-profit resonated with the population and quickly grew. Brinker’s passion and focus attracted survivors, supporters, researchers, and more.

Two years after she formed the foundation, Brinker was diagnosed with breast cancer herself; she refused to allow her condition to keep her from advancing the cause of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She continued to host fundraising events and secured corporate sponsorships, as she was winning her own battle with cancer.

Her passion was contagious…it lit the fires of so many others and the foundation grew by leaps and bounds. Passion is similar to lighting one candle with another; Brinker’s passion sparked the passion of those she touched on her journey. By 2008, the SGK Foundation had donated over $1.2 billion to research a cure for breast cancer and to promote education about the disease.

It’s fair to say, largely due to the Foundation’s efforts, the five-year survival rate of women with breast cancer has increased from 74 to 98 percent, and more women than ever are having regular mammograms.

Is your passion tied to a core belief or commitment in your life?

At what cost are you willing to pursue your passion?

What would be the impact if you pursued your passion?

What will be the impact if you allow your passion to dim and fade away?

Read Full Post »

Wow! We’re already into week three of our fourth month on this journey! Time flies…

What does clear focus do for you and your team? When I work with teams, I begin with team building (have to have a foundation of trust before anything else of significant value will happen), and once we have that foundation, we work on where the team is headed — defining and clarifying what their vision is. Then I walk them through plotting out the steps they will need to take to achieve their vision, how they will measure their progress along the way, and how will they hold themselves and each other accountable for their individual and team commitments.

As they begin to move forward, they will develop momentum, but they will also be dealing with the rest of their lives, which creates some distractions, both at home and at work. It’s critical they remain focused on the end game. Clear focus eliminates distractions, unifies activity, and guides decision-making.

When your focus is diverted, all kinds of things will come into your path to get you and keep you off track. You will find competing goals and your team mates will be pulled in other directions. As the leader, you must be the reminder, relentlessly keeping the team focused on your shared vision, championing that vision, and celebrating the work your team is doing and the milestones it is achieving along the way.

Think back to the Cold War. There were several different schools of thought about the approach we should take with the USSR: Befriend them and seek common ground; divvy up territories — giving them control of Eastern Europe and parts of Asia; others said they must be defeated at all costs.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher agreed with the final approach — defeat them at all costs. Our leaders had determined that the USSR having any significant control beyond its own borders was not an option that would be good for the rest of the globe. Each took a specific approach. Reagan framed it as a struggle between liberty and suppression. Thatcher focused on unraveling socialist policies at home and abroad. Together, they focused the resources and willpower of half the globe toward crushing communism.

What do you think would have happened if they didn’t have a laser-sharp focus on these issues?

What distractions threaten to sway the focus of your team?

What can you do — daily — to unify your team’s attention and activities?

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.   ~Alexander Graham Bell

Read Full Post »

Thursday, again, already?! Wow!

Time for some reflection…

We’ve been focusing on excellence all month, and perhaps you’ve already come to this place, but I’m curious. What is your motivation for pursuing excellence?

How will a life of excellence impact others?

What motivation will sustain you to pursue excellence day-in and day-out?

I’ve given this some thought, as while I realize this will sound trite, for me, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If I’m going to exchange my time and life energy — both of which I can never get back — I want whatever I spent it on to have meaning and value, and not just for me, but for the others around me, as well.

As I have said on several occasions, I am here to change the world through encounters with people each and every day. I can’t do that without doing what I’m doing at a high level of performance. Well, I suppose I could, but my quest is to change the world in a positive way, and that takes focus, attention, intention, energy, and effort.

I remember being told, by at least three different people, at three different jobs (yes, this is absolutely true!), that I could “relax now…and not work so hard.” I asked each of those people to describe to me what that would look like or be like, because I wasn’t sure what they were attempting to guide me to do. You see, I was working at what I consider “normal Laura level,” not in comparison to anyone else. I wasn’t sure what “relaxing” would mean. None of them were able to describe it for me. I still don’t know.

I want to make a difference. I want to set a positive example. I strive to leave things better than when I found them. And, when I leave a place, I want the people I encountered to say I did my share; I did quality work; and the place was better for my having been there.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this topic?

Read Full Post »

Please forgive me, faithful readers, for being so late with today’s post. I allowed myself to “unplug” over a long weekend, and didn’t think to take my material with me for today. I apologize! That said, let’s get started with Week Four of Excellence.

Excellence is doing small things in a big way!

If you had the chance to interview successful leaders, any number of them, I’m confident they will tell you they have developed and follow habits, systems, and processes daily, regardless of what they are working on, and excellence is no different.

Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.   ~Booker T Washington

I am reminded of stories of moms and dads who take the time to write personalized notes and slip them into their children’s lunches every day. Very thoughtful! It takes time, energy, and discipline to maintain this kind of schedule five days a week; but any child who has been on the receiving end of this practice will tell you what an enormous difference it makes in their life!

I am reminded of the time I participated in a FranklinCovey workshop called Focus — all about setting priorities and making our time intentionally productive. The facilitator shared that he flew a lot, facilitating classes all around the country. He said that on one particular flight, the Pilot took the time to write a note (on the back of her business cards) to each passenger flying first class, thanking them for choosing that particular airline and trusting her and her crew to get them to their destination safely. He spoke with her about it, because he was very impressed she had taken the time to do it. She explained that she felt blessed to have her job and wanted her passengers to know this. Because during flight we are often on aut0-pilot, she had a lot of time during a flight that she could choose how to spend, and she chose to spend her time connecting with others.

I am reminded of my mother. She was a server in coffee shops for decades. On occasion, she would leave one restaurant and take a job in another. Consistently, her customers followed her from one place to another. Turns out their loyalty was to her, not the restaurant! I was too young at the time to ask any of these people why they followed her, but clearly they valued something she offered…attitude, service…I can only guess, but clearly she was doing something with excellence!

Each of these people put their “signature” on what they did, focusing on excellence. Today, think of ways you can put your personal signature on what you do, by modeling excellence.

Read Full Post »

Welcome to “Intentional Acts of Kindness” Day!

Today, think about how you can contribute to and invest in relationships. Perform one small, intentional, act of service for a co-worker, family member, or friend. And by “intentional” I mean think about it ahead of time, plan it out, consider the potential impact before you take action.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Buy them a coffee or lunch
  • Give your seat to someone if you happen to take a bus or train
  • Write a Thank You note to someone (make it personal and specific)
  • Do another family member’s chores for the day
  • Arrange an introduction for someone you know who is looking for a job
  • Give one of your most valuable offerings — sit down and truly just listen to someone who needs a sounding board
  • Give someone a sincere, specific compliment

I’m sure you can come up with lots of other great ideas, more appropriate for the person you have in mind…but these should get your thoughts started!

Who will you invest in today?

What small act of service will you perform?

If this isn’t something you do often, I suspect you will be surprised by how good it feels to simply give and have no expectation for receiving anything in return. It does wonders for relationships when people understand you are just there, doing something kind, because it’s the right thing to do and there is no other agenda behind your actions.

Please, please…share your stories in the comments box below.

Read Full Post »

As we begin week four of our focus on Relationships, we will shift gears a bit and bring it all together.

In January 2012, I was responsible for leading a team of people planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a significant investment (major equipment overhaul) at a manufacturing company. This event was open to all employees (nearly 1000 people); Union officials; local, regional, and state officials and dignitaries; media; and company executives. Immediately following the ceremony, we also planned an Open House for employees and retirees, allowing each to bring a guest.

Both events required safety orientations, distribution of personal protective equipment, and designated escorts for anyone entering the plant. The Open House also involved refreshments, commemorative give-aways, coordinated plant tours, and, again, media coverage. While the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony saw about 200 people in attendance, including employees and guests, the Open House saw nearly 1000 people over the course of the afternoon.

As you can imagine, these events required a lot of planning — over the course of a few months — and the hard work and dedication of numerous individuals and departments. It was a monumental effort. And it came off nearly perfectly! We had administrative, communications and marketing, operations, purchasing, supply chain, safety, quality, and human resources support. Each person on this team offered a different kind of expertise and brought different perspectives to the planning and implementation process. Each had a clearly defined role and responsibilities. We met weekly to plan, and communicated between meetings.

On the day of the big events, everything went pretty well. I won’t say the execution was flawless, but nearly so. And the things that didn’t go exactly as planned were not significant enough to make a difference. When the few things occurred that we hadn’t prepared for, people came together to adapt and move forward. All in all, a huge success.

That’s one example. Let’s look, very briefly, at another example of team work. On D-Day, during WWII, the Allied invasion of Normandy required intense coordination between Army, Navy, and Air Force troops. This, too, required a well-thought out plan, clear and frequent communication, each organization and person tasked with clear roles and responsibilities.

This is a shining example of the interdependence between leadership and relationships. The more influential the leader, the more he or she relies on the relationships within the team to maximize production and likelihood of success, whatever the mission. The best leaders don’t go in alone; they realize their success depends on the support and skill of those they work alongside.

Take some time, now, to consider a similar situation in which you were involved. With teams, there are shared goals that must take precedence over individual goals if the effort is to succeed. Think about someone who failed to sacrifice their personal agenda for the good of the team. What was the outcome? What did you learn from the experience?

Read Full Post »

I was in Orlando, Florida, last week for a John Maxwell Training. When I flew home on Saturday, I observed a situation in the airport that really disturbed me.

There was a very upset woman, probably around 40, with two young boys, maybe 4 and 6 years old. She was speaking very loudly to an airline employee, who was notably cool, calm, and collected. Of course, I can only speculate on what was going on, but based on the few things I heard and my observation of their interaction, it appeared she had missed her flight.

She was very loud and adamantly declaring that it wasn’t her fault, something about being told that she needed to be there 20 minutes ahead…The airline employee said something to her, too quiet to hear (I was ~10 feet away, standing in line to check my bag). She got even louder, telling him she didn’t need him to argue with her and make her feel like a seven-year-old, that she needed him to help him. She had tears running down her face, and was quite visibly agitated.

All the while, these two little boys standing there watching the whole thing…looking a little lost and frightened. As the mom walked a few feet away, the older boy went and wrapped himself around her waist, hugging and comforting her, telling her it would be all right. The younger boy joined them, but stood off to the side watching.

I had two very loud thoughts in my mind as I watched this scene play itself out. First, she had absolutely no concept of the lesson she was teaching her boys about how one deals with stress, the unexpected, and the people who are trying to help you. Second, was that she has an incredibly strong belief that she behaves like a seven-year-old, projecting that onto the airline employee who was trying to help her. Suddenly, I saw not a grown woman standing there, but a frightened, frustrated little girl, facing a situation she was not equipped to deal with.

My heart went out to her and her boys.

I hope they made their way home safely.

What lessons are you teaching?

I encourage you to be thoughtful and intentional about them…

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »