Three Traits of Pay it Forward Leaders

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church “Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself,” she told the girl. When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. “Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did.”

One of the many great lessons of leadership I have learned over the years comes from Rick Warren. It’s the opening line of his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. It’s a succinct and powerful sentence. It reads, “It’s not about you.” It speaks volumes about finding your purpose and it speaks volumes about your leadership style.

Pay it forward. We hear it a lot and conceptually we embrace it. It makes us feel good especially at this time of the year. But as leaders how are we doing it?

My intent here is not to generate a check- list of “to do’s” like opening doors and saying hello. Not that those things aren’t worthwhile; but I’d rather explore the mindset of a pay it forward leader. Here are three traits.

A leader’s heart

Paying it forward begins in the heart. Before any encouraging word flows from your lips and before anything flows from your wallet in a monetary contribution- it passes through the heart. Leaders who pay it forward are those with a giving mindset and understand that value given is value added.

A leader’s hand

Tangible acts of paying it forward: volunteering, mentoring, etc. are extensions of a pay it forward mindset. Another name for it is servant leadership. John Maxwell said it best,” People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The hands and heart of a leader are a powerful force for good when it flows out of a heart of compassion.

A leader’s habit

Pay it forward leadership on the surface may come across as “random acts of kindness” to some, but for the pay it forward leader it’s more about a habit developed over time. Over time it’s become a lifestyle, not an isolated event.

As I look back over my thirty plus years in leadership I see a common thread among the successful leaders I know and have met: they are generous, they have big hearts, and they always pay it forward.

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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Three Traits of Leaders Who Finish Strong

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man,

But soon or late the man who wins

Is the one who thinks he can.

  • From, The Man Who Thinks He Can, by Walter D. Wintle

The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit.

As we move down the stretch toward the end of 2016 now might be a good time to think about how you are finishing the year. As it was with the Greeks, it’s the one who finishes the race with his torch still lit that wins.

At this juncture in the year you may be tired and weary. You may be more than ready to turn to turn the page on 2016 and welcome a clean slate that awaits you in 2017.

With the finish line of 2016 in sight let’s consider the traits of leaders who finish strong. It’s a simple list and is certainly not an exhaustive one. You may want to add to it. These are my top three.

Leaders who finish strong have clarity of purpose

One of the traits of leaders who finish strong are those who live their life intentionally with purpose. Each day is seen as a gift and an opportunity to add value to those around them and make a difference in their world.

Living and leading with purpose makes each day meaningful and unique. It’s an opportunity to use your God-given gifts and abilities for a good cause. When you live your life with purpose it motivates you in a different way. No longer is it about you, it’s about others. A selfless leader is a strong leader who will also finish strong.

Leaders who finish strong have a resilient attitude

I’ve yet to meet a leader who doesn’t face his or her fair share of problems and adversity. It comes with the territory. Maybe more so. But the leader who finishes strong is not the one who was exempt from adversity but the one who endured it.

Leaders who finish strong have discovered the secret that it’s not about what happens to them that matters but what happens in them that sets them apart. Leaders who finish strong have a resilient attitude that never gives up. They understand that they are responsible for it and work at having a good one every day.

Leaders who finish strong have tapped into their work-life balance

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” so says the old proverb. Leaders who finish strong are those who understand the importance of a sound work-life balance. These leaders know and understand the value of hard work and give it their all day in and day out. They roll up their sleeves and are willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.

But finishing strong requires balance. And if as a leader you are burning the candle at both ends with no balance in your life as it pertains to rest and recreation soon you will be of little value to anyone.

Leaders who finish strong are able to do so because they have found the balance they need. Make sure that you give your mind and body the rest it needs and deserves. Remember, it was not about finishing the race first for the Greeks that mattered, it was finishing with your torch still lit. If you cross the finish line of 2016 burned out and spent how will you begin 2017?

As the year draws to a close think about how you can finish strong. What action steps do you need to take? It’s not too late. Finish strong and be ready to tackle a new year with a renewed sense of passion and purpose.

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

 

*This week’s column come to you courtesy of the vault.

 

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Four Ways Leaders Can Foster Cooperation

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people. – Theodore Roosevelt

Charles Osgood told the story of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret’s stroke left her left side restricted, while Ruth’s stroke damaged her right side. Both of these ladies were accomplished pianists but had given up hope of ever playing again. The director of the center sat them down at a piano and encouraged them to play solo pieces together. They did, and a beautiful friendship developed.

We all know that cooperation is important. That much is certain. But if you are a leader on a diverse team of individuals how do you reconcile such diversity of opinion, egos, and DISC placements in a way that inspires collaboration and cooperation rather than a brawl in the break room?

Here are four approaches that may help.

Embrace the tension

Some leaders prefer to shy away from the tension and madness that makes up their organizational culture; I say embrace it. Within those diverse opinions and ideas is a wealth of creativity, when collated and organized, can be a game changer for you. Corralling your team and tapping into their collective creativity can be a leadership challenge but if you can pull it off it can pay huge dividends.

Challenge assumptions

One thing you have to be mindful of as a leader is not falling into the mindset that you must always “keep the peace” or not “rock the boat”. I think once in a while it’s a good thing. I am not advocating disrupting your organization simply for the sake of creating chaos, but I am advocating confronting status quo thinking head-on. Disrupt your way of thinking and disrupt it in your people so that no idea, option, or way of looking at things is ever business as usual and predictable.

Build bridges

Within your organization you have left brain people and right brain people. You have the visionaries that see things before the rest of the team and you have the builders who make it a reality. You have the strong-willed, the analytical, the outgoing, and the humble. You are all over the DISC map. Good! Building a culture of cooperation begins when you acknowledge, embrace, and seat everyone at the table. If your organization is going to grow and succeed you need all of these people with you. It was General George Patton who wisely said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

Create engagement

Successful engagement and cooperation within your organization occurs when you bring your team together- not when you keep them apart. It happens when you put the visionary and the builder together to see the big picture. It occurs when you put the right brain and left brain people together so they see they are not each other’s competition but their completer.

Lest you think I am looking at this through rose-colored glasses, let me be clear- this will not be easy. It will be hard work and a leadership challenge. People will have to check their ego’s at the door and come prepared to learn.

But before cooperation can take place you must name the elephant in the room and embrace the tension that exists that is a result of different personalities on your team. You must challenge your assumptions and traditional ways of thinking. Cooperation is not forcing everyone to conform to your way of thinking. It starts with an open mind, respect, and by embracing other points of view.

Building a culture of cooperation can be the difference-maker for your organization. As a leader it is up to you to foster the environment.

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

 

 

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Jumping to Conclusions

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Man is too quick at forming conclusions- Edward E. Barnard

John was driving home late one night when he picked up a hitchhiker. As they rode along, he began to be suspicious of his passenger. John checked to see if his wallet was safe in the pocket of his coat that was on the seat between them, but it wasn’t there! So he slammed on the brakes, ordered the hitchhiker out, and said, “Hand over the wallet immediately!” The frightened hitchhiker handed over a billfold, and John drove off. When he arrived home, he started to tell his wife about the experience, but she interrupted him, saying, “Before I forget, John, do you know that you left your wallet at home this morning?”.

Jumping to conclusions. It would be great if we could raise our hands and say we’ve never done it, but we all know better, don’t we? Many of us as leaders have been too quick to jump to a conclusion about a person or situation only to regret that decision later. We didn’t wait for all the facts and we let our imaginations get the best of us. In the heat of the moment we made a decision only to regret it later.

As leaders our gut-instincts are critical. We come to rely on our perceptions and intuition and hopefully more times than not they serve us well. So how can we avoid those embarrassing times when we blow it and our conclusions are wrong? Here are a few tips worth considering.

Give people the benefit of the doubt

Not every idea is a bad idea and not all of your ideas are the best. Be open minded enough to hear out the people in your organization and what they have to offer.  Appreciate the diversity of thought in your organization and the people who act in good faith to add value. When people fall short of your expectations be willing to work with them to find ways to improve. Don’t write them off too soon.

Cynical leaders are a drag on the organization because in due time the people in your organization are going to recognize it and as a result will be less likely to bring forth their ideas if all you are going to do is criticize it.

Seek inclusion and input

Your stock as a leader is going to go up as you bring more people to the table and work together. The buffer to your cynicism rests in your ability to hear from everyone. Even if your gut instinct about an idea or person turns out to be correct chances are in the natural course of inclusion and discourse it can be resolved.

By bringing people to the table it can validate your suspicions or it can erase them. Be willing to hear from all sides before jumping to a conclusion you may come to regret later.

Sleep on it

I’ve regretted not doing this way too many times. But sometimes the best thing to do when faced with a dilemma or decision is to just sleep on it. Often time afterward the situation looks much different and you have a much better perspective.

By sleeping on it and thinking things through one thing is for certain – you will not wake up with regrets about making the wrong call. Patience is a hard virtue to come by, and I admit it’s not always mine. But it’s better to make the right decision off a good night sleep than not being able to sleep knowing you blew it.

Check your motives

Before jumping to conclusions about people or ideas within your organization why not check your own motives at the door. What is the basis for the conclusion you’ve come to? What is your motivation? Have you openly and honestly played all of your cards for the benefit of the team? What are you holding back? Do you have your own agenda you are trying to protect?

Yes, these questions all sound like the very ones we use to come to our conclusions about other people, right? Well, perhaps as leaders it’s time to turn the tables and do a little soul-searching of our own.

As a leader it is important to trust your instincts and intuition and not jump to conclusions. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower in jumping to conclusions.

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

 

 

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

“Don’t take your love away from me

Don’t you leave me in misery

If you go then  I’ll be blue

Cause breaking up is hard to do

 

  • Neil Sedaka

 

The song by Neil Sedaka was first recorded in 1962 and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.  Sedaka recorded it again in 1975. Without a doubt it was one of his signature songs.

Breaking up. Broken hearts, Lost love. The song encapsulates it all. And it’s time to explore the issue now. But not in the way you may think.

A survey by ADP Canada revealed that two-thirds of employed Canadians or 65 percent, are “ready to walk or leave their office doors.” The are described as “the uninspired”, “the casual daters”, and “the dissed”. While the survey was exclusive to Canadian, the implication is clear- many are ready to break up.

Circumstances will vary from one organization to the next but the reasons for wanting to  break up will be similar. While the reasons for a break up might be numerous let’s explore three of them now.

Lack of loyalty/trust

Loyalty and trust go hand in hand and when one suffers it has an impact on the other. People within your organization need to know that you have their back and that you trust them.

As pointed out in the aforementioned article company loyalty has been in decline since the 1980’s. How can any organization successfully move forward with a steady loss of loyalty and trust? As a leader you must shore up the loyalty trust issue. Without it your future is in jeopardy.

Poor communication

Communication is the life-blood of your organization. When done right your people will respond. Your people not only want to be informed of decisions that affect their performance but need to be included in it. If your leadership style is to lead by decrees then this might explain why you have loyalty/trust issues.

Be proactive in establishing clear lines of communication and be inclusive with your team. They will appreciate the inclusion and it will strengthen morale.

Lack of vision or purpose

The buy-in to one’s work is linked to a clearly defined vision and purpose. People deserve to know the vision in terms of where the organization is headed and the significance of their role in seeing it to completion.

If you people are in the dark as to the vision and mission of the organization or if the organization is adrift internally then one’s purpose will be a casualty. A smart leader will keep the vision, mission and purpose clear and before the team at all times.

While breaking up might be hard to do it becomes much easier for your people if there is no loyalty or trust, when communication is ineffective, and when there is no vision or purpose found in being there.

It’s time to evaluate the strength of your organization and reinforce what matters most. Building the type of organization your people would never dream of leaving begins by being the type of leader everyone wants to follow.

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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Value- Added Leadership

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

Few things increase the credibility of leaders more than adding value to the people around them. – John Maxwell

American artist James Whistler, who was never known to be bashful about his talent, was once advised that a shipment of blank canvases he had ordered had been lost in the mail. When asked if the canvases were of any great value, Whistler remarked, “not yet, not yet.”

Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. While it’s not too hard to spot beauty when we see it, the search for value might be a bit more challenging.

I came across an article in Inc. magazine (http://on.inc.com/2bZaq1X) by John Brandon in which he reveals the results of one survey that should grab the attention of every leader who has anything to do with his or her employees. Citing a survey by O.C. Tanner that surveyed 2,363 office workers it “ found that, for those who feel appreciated, a whopping 89% feel satisfied in their jobs. That number drops to only 51% for those who said they don’t feel appreciated.

In the same control group, 85% of the “appreciated” employees also said they were satisfied with life while 61% of the under-appreciated employees were not happy with life in general. The data creates a stark contrast in other areas as well, revealing that those who feel appreciated tend to be less stressed, have a better sense of belonging, and feel like they have better control over their life.”

In theory we know that employee engagement is a good thing. We intuitively know that we should be engaged and taking a proactive posture towards building relationships that make a difference. As a leader, the value that you add to your organization is like one of those blank canvases. The value is yet to be determined.  So what can you do as a leader to make a difference and create a masterpiece? Here are four practical ways.

Add value with your words

You can add value to those in your sphere of influence simply by the words you speak. Be generous with praise, be passionate with vision, be patient in confrontation. But understand that the word you use set the tone for the way in which your employees react and how together you move forward as a team. When they feel valued they will perform like it.

Add value with you actions

In as much as your team likes to hear from you, what carries the day is not your words but your deeds. Talk is just that – talk. Value is added when you back it up with actions that moves the team in the right direction. If you want to see morale soar in your organization be a leader that backs up the talk with action.

Add value with your attitude

Your attitude is the thermostat for the morale of your organization. It’s most unrealistic for you to expect strong morale from those you lead if your attitude stinks.  Can you blame them? You add value to those you lead with a strong attitude that knows how to celebrate accomplishments, is steady in times of testing, and sets the bar high with a winning attitude.

Add value with your culture

The findings in the above mentioned survey found that the quality of life not only at work but outside of it was much improved simply because the employees felt appreciated. What one, two, or three actions could you do today that would add value to those you lead? It’s not about righting the ship overnight, but it is about taking steps today that can begin to change the culture of your organization. And you don’t have to fly off to some fancy conference to learn or do this.

Adding value to those you lead should be utmost in your mind, your heart, and the focal point of the decisions you make. Are you a value-added leader?

 

©2016 Doug Dickerson

 

 

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Choose One Chair – Becoming a Leader of Destiny

Credit: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

“Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.”- “Yesterday”, by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

In Guidepost magazine a number of years back Luciano Pavarotti relates a story from when he was a boy and his father introduced him to the wonders of song.  He recounts, “He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ “‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ “I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book–whatever we choose–we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

At some point every leader has that moment of awakening when one chair wins over another. The process of getting there will vary person to person, but that day will ultimately come.

Your growth and development as a leader is a fluid process. Foundational character principles that guide you on your journey will not change, but for the sake of future growth and development as a leader you must be open to change and new ideas.

As leaders we also know that the only constant is change. What worked for you in years past may not be sufficient today. If you are content to just “phone it in” and coast as a leader on how it was done in years gone by then you may like have lost your edge. So what is a leader to do? Here are three basic questions you need to answer. Reaching your destiny as a leader may very well depend on it.

Is yesterday’s passion enough?

Passion is the fuel of your leadership. With it the sky is the limit in terms of your potential and destiny. It’s what keeps you up late at night and gets you up early in the morning. It’s the “why” that gives your life meaning and purpose.

Yet perhaps the wear and tear of the daily grind has taken its toll on you. Perhaps your dreams haven’t been realized and you feel there is no use in going forward. Let me encourage you today to buy-in to the words of Joel Osteen when he said, “If you’re alive and breathing, you can still become everything God has created you to be.” Becoming a leader of destiny requires a new passion going forward. While the passion you started out with may have been sufficient at the time; today’s goals, dreams, and destiny will require more.

Is yesterday’s attitude adequate?

If passion is the fuel of your leadership then your attitude determines your mileage. How far you go is about possessing the right attitude. Your attitude in years gone by may have served you well up to a point, but to get to the next level you may have to step it up a notch.

Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine you altitude.” And that is the secret to achieving your leadership destiny. Leaders who have stood the test of time understand the importance of a positive attitude. Every leader has also dealt with the challenges-both internally and externally, of right thinking. Your attitude will cause you to reach your destiny as a leader or it will prevent it. Be sure it’s a good one.

Is yesterday’s mindset working?

One of the greatest threats to your leadership today is holding on to a “this is the way we’ve always done it” approach of years gone by. Evolving as a leader is not about disrespecting the past but has everything to do with letting it go for the sake of your future.

While values are timeless your methods must be current and relevant to today’s world. Are you still open to new ideas? Do you still have the attitude of a student who is humble enough to learn? Don’t forfeit the destiny that could be yours because of limited thinking. Stay current, be relevant, and keep growing.

When Pavarotti chose his one chair it changed the course of his life. It was that singular decision that put his destiny in motion. In like fashion you must choose your one chair and make sure that you have the right levels of passion, attitude, and mindset to take you to the top.

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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