Choose One Chair: Evolving as a Leader of Destiny

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“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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Six Ways to Rise Above Your Critics

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To escape criticism- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard

A story is told of Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”

Critics. Every leader has them and every leader will. How you respond to critics is an important component of your leadership development. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. But can you appreciate a critic when he or she is right? Rising above your critics takes courage. Here are six ways to do it.

Keep a positive attitude.

Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” He’s right. How high and how far you go as a leader will be determined by your attitude. Nothing will give you a bad attitude any quicker than a wrong reaction to a critic. Basic things you will want to know regarding a critic are the source, the accuracy, the ramifications, and your reaction – if there even needs to be one. Regardless, stay positive and focused on the big picture.

Stay true to your values.

Don’t allow your critics to throw you off of your game. Stay grounded and connected to the values that have guided you to where you are. Values do not change but are guideposts when your circumstances do. The values and principles that brought you to where you are will keep you there so handle your critics with that in mind.

Speak no evil.

Seriously? Yes. Engaging in mud-slinging with your critics only hurts you in the long run. Unless what they have spoken or done is libelous then don’t waste your time in a verbal battle. Be content in knowing that the truth is on your side. There is no greater satisfaction than in knowing that you can look yourself in the mirror and lay your head down at night with a peace that comes from knowing you did the right thing regardless of how others behaved.

Don’t retaliate.

There will be times when you will want (and those close to you) to retaliate against critics. There is something about human nature that wants to fight back and get revenge and settle the score. I get it. But again, the end result will never be good for you. As hard as it may be there are times when you just have to let it go. Don’t worry if you lose a battle today, you are going to win the war if you keep your heart right.

Give them more ammo.

Most of the critics you will encounter are simply those who have some kind of vendetta or jealousy directed toward you. As opposed to stooping down to their level why not give them more ammo? As you do the right thing by continuing to work hard and by exhibiting good leadership, you will only become more successful. Nothing will annoy your critics more than your continued success.

Don’t lose your sense of humor.

One of the most important leadership skills you can develop is a sense of humor. Churchill exhibited it towards the men who spoke ill of him.  Your critics will stir up a wide range of emotions and reactions that you will want to run with. But if you laugh – at them, and at yourself, half the battle is won.

What do you say?

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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From Frustrated to Fulfilled: Five Keys to Living Your Dreams

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I don’t believe God gives me a dream to frustrate me. He gives me a dream to be fulfilled. – John Maxwell

It started like so many evenings. Mom and Dad at home and Jimmy playing after dinner. Mom and Dad were absorbed with jobs and did not notice the time. It was a full moon and some of the light seeped through the windows. Then Mom glanced at the clock. “Jimmy, it’s time to go to bed. Go up now and I’ll come and settle you later.”

Unlike usual, Jimmy went straight upstairs to his room. An hour or so later his mother came up to check if all was well, and to her astonishment found that her son was staring quietly out of his window at the moonlit scenery. “What are you doing, Jimmy?” “I’m looking at the moon, Mommy.” “Well, it’s time to go to bed now.” As one reluctant boy settled down, he said, “Mommy, you know one day I’m going to walk on the moon.”

Who could have known that the boy in whom the dream was planted that night would survive a near fatal motorbike crash which broke almost every bone in his body, and would bring to fruition this dream 32 years later when James Irwin stepped on the moon’s surface, just one of the 12 representatives of the human race to have done so?

The story of James Irving should give each of us pause to think not just about the size of our dreams but also in finding our greater purpose while here on this earth. Yet how many times have you or someone you know given up on their dream out of frustration?

I am a firm believer that in your journey as a leader you can live a life of fulfillment. The good news is that it has nothing to do with your title, position, income, or station in life. How does one go from living a frustrated life to a life of fulfillment? Here are a few proven ways.

The shift from looking inward to looking outward

So long as your focus as a leader is inward (only about your needs, wants and desires) your life as a leader will be characterized by frustration and unfulfilled dreams. It’s as you get your eyes off yourself and take up the mantle of servant leadership that you will begin to experience a life of fulfillment. When you live your life for others and causes greater than yourself then fulfillment will take on a whole new meaning for you.

The shift from taking to giving

Similar in thought to the first shift, this one takes it a step further. Moving from frustration to fulfillment especially for new leaders can be slow and pain-staking. It’s a shift away from ‘what’s in it for me’ to a life focused on others. When you commit yourself to a life of generosity and helping others see their dreams fulfilled your life takes on a whole new meaning. Instead of an attitude of ‘what can you do for me’ make the shift to ‘how can I help you” and see the difference it makes. 

The shift from mediocrity to excellence

The sooner you make this shift as a leader the better. We all know people in our organizations who are content to only do what it takes to get by. And then they wonder why they are so frustrated (and frustrating). As a leader with big dreams and a desire to live a fulfilled life it will only begin to take shape when you make the move from mediocrity to excellence. It will require more from you and it will stretch you at times to do what you previously thought you couldn’t. But you can’t go from dreaming of walking on the moon one day as boy to actually walking on the moon as a man unless you are willing to pay the price. A big dream without the work to get there is only a wish.

The shift from success to significance

Your life of fulfillment is realized when you make the transition from being success minded to significance minded. The blessing of success is being able to live a life of significance. The truth is, you can’t give what you don’t have. Be it in the form of monetary contributions or the donation of your time to mentor a young leader, etc., your fulfillment is realized in tangible ways when you can give back.

The shift from ‘one day’ to today

The dreams, goals, and the desires of your heart can either frustrate you or motivate you. Are you ready to live a life of fulfilment? Begin today. Begin today by focusing on others. Begin today by changing your attitude. Begin today by adding value to those around you. Your ‘one day’ begins now. What are you going to do today?

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

 

Recommended Reading:

  1. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
  2. Halftime by Bob Buford
  3. Intentional Living by John Maxwell
  4. Simplify by Bill Hybles
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Are You Checking in or Checking Out?

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A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. – John Maxwell

Employee engagement is as vital to your success as a leader as ever. When a Gallup survey reports that only 30 percent of U.S. employees are engaged in their work what do you think that says about leadership engagement?

The question we would like to pose to you is simply this: are you checking in or checking out as a leader in the way you engage your people? Your answer matters because in it reside signals not just to your leadership style but to the health of your organization.

Here are a series of questions we would like to pose to you for your consideration; a check-up if you will as to your engagement levels with your people and the state of your leadership effectiveness.

Do you know your employees on an individual basis?

Like any smart leader in business you make it a priority to know your customer. Knowing your target audience is critical to your bottom line. If it is important to you to know your customer does it not stand to reason that you should know the people serving your customer?

When you don’t take the time to get to know your employees on an individual basis, it clearly shows that you don’t care. How hard will an employee work for a leader who does not care? You will not get anywhere near the productivity or quality you need from employees if you do not show that you care about their well-being.

Check-In Tip: Get to know your employees on an individual basis. How are their families? What are their hobbies? How was their recent vacation?

Do you know what is happening on the ground level?

One of the dangers leaders can find themselves in is being too far removed from the front lines of the operation. We understand that the responsibilities you face as a leader in part take you away from the front lines so it must be a priority for you to return.

There is no way for you to know everything; when you distance yourself from what is happening on the ground level it’s like putting blinders on. What issues might slip by you? What opportunities might you miss?

Check-In Tip: Get out on the floor; make your presence the norm. Be observant and engaged with what is happening on the ground level.

Do you have the right people in the right positions?

Your effectiveness as an organization is realized not when you have a lot of people but when you have the right people in the right place. When people play to their strengths and are passionate about what they do then your organization will excel.

None of your employees want to be just a warm body, and most of your tasks require some form of specialized knowledge or skill. When you give little thought to where employees can make the greatest contribution to the organization, you are crippling your operations and minimizing the importance of individual contributions.

Check-In Tip: Learn where your employees’ strengths lie. Then place them in positions where they will be engaged and challenged while making the greatest contribution to the organization.

Can your employees count on you?

The people in your organization need to know that you are a leader who is reliable and will have their backs. You foster trust and earn respect not merely by your words but in your day-to-day actions that demonstrate your commitment to their success.

If your employees don’t feel they can count on you, we’d be willing to bet that they won’t go out of their way to be there for you either. If you send the message to your employees that it’s every man for himself, be prepared to be left standing on your own.

Check-In Tip: Show your employees that you have their backs; knowing that they can count on you is a key factor in gaining the trust and respect you need to be an effective leader.

So, are you checking in or are you checking out? As a leader, you are setting the example for employees to follow. If you are not connecting with your employees and engaging in operations at the ground level, your employees will follow suit. And, disengaged employees do not reflect well on any leader and do not benefit the organization as a whole.

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson and Elizabeth Stincelli

 

 

liz Liz Stincelli is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. She holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Liz by visiting her website: http://www.stincelliadvisors.com

 

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Finding the Courage to Lead

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Courage means to keep working in a relationship, to continue seeking solutions to difficult problems, and to stay focused in stressful periods. – Denis Waitley

One summer morning, as the story goes, Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast on what he thought would be a normal morning. Except there was nothing routine or normal about the events about to unfold. On this morning, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home.

Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something–possibly a rock– protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. “If I can just hang on until help comes,” he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock.

On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.

The courage of Ray Blankenship is certainly admirable. What he did speaks volumes about the human spirit and rising to the challenges in spite of the circumstances. As a leader you may not be forced to face life-threatening situations such as Ray, but it can be challenging nonetheless.

As if you need to be reminded, I will say if for the record; not everything about leadership is glamourous. Courage is the virtue to embrace when times are tough and you need strength to lead effectively. Hang around in leadership long enough and you will soon realize that were it not for uncommon courage in difficult times, you would not be where you are today. Finding the courage to lead is imperative to your leadership. Here are five reasons why.

You need courage to voice your convictions

People tend to gravitate to leaders who project confidence. You will be hard pressed to find a leader weak on convictions and short on courage who is making a difference. Courage empowers you to step up, speak up, and lead with clarity.

You need courage to face your fears

As leaders we all face fears and times of uncertainty. It comes with the territory. But courage empowers you to see through the fear and see the rewards that await on the other side of it. Despite the fact that Ray Blankenship could not swim, he did not allow the fear of the water to stop him from saving the girls life. When you set your fears aside and lead with courage the sky is the limit as to what you can achieve.

You need courage to dream bigger dreams

Speaking of what you can achieve—what are the dreams and aspirations that motivate you? Perhaps it is to write a book, travel the world, become a noted speaker, or be an entrepreneur, etc. Too often all people see are the challenges and obstacles that stand in the way. You need courage to embrace those dreams and goals. They are not impossible, but are only possible when you summon the courage you need to take the first steps.

You need courage to ask for help

A casual study of any successful leader will turn up this common conclusion- they did not do it alone. A common mistake many novice leaders make is the belief that they can. But if you want to be successful as a leader you will need courage to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and how to surround yourself with people who can help you in those areas.

You need courage to stand alone

John Maxwell was right when he said, “It’s lonely at the top so you’d better know why you are there.” There will be times as a leader you will have to stand alone. Not because it is your preference but because not everyone will, or can, take the journey with you. It may be because they have not bought into the vision or do not share your convictions. You will need courage to do the right thing even if it means standing alone.

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Dare to face your fears. Dare to face the headwinds of adversity. Because when you are empowered with courage, you will rise to a new level of leadership that others only dream about.

 

©2016 Doug Dickerson

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How Anger Shapes You as a Leader

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We boil at different degrees. – Clint Eastwood

A story is told of the 18th-century British physician John Hunter, who was a pioneer in the field of surgery and served as surgeon to King George III, who suffered from angina. Discovering that his attacks were often brought on by anger, Hunter lamented, “My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.” These words proved prophetic, for at a meeting of the board of St. George’s Hospital in London, Hunter got into a heated argument with other board members, walked out, and dropped dead in the next room.

As a leader it is important to know how to deal with anger. Let’s face it, we’ve all had moments when our anger has got the best of us and we’ve said and down things in hindsight that we wish we hadn’t. Yet how we deal with our anger is what will distinguish us as a leader who commands respect. So here are a few helpful reminders and solutions to keep in mind before anger gets the best of you.

Not all anger is bad

The scripture says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” There is a line when you get angry that you do not want to cross. It’s the point where words and actions can do irreversible harm. But anger itself is not bad. It means that you are invested, care, and are passionate about something. Understand that your emotion of anger is not bad, it all comes down to your response.

Not all pleasantness is good

As a leader you need to set the example with your attitude and actions and with the composure you present to your people. All smiles and little truth telling can be just as harmful as misguided anger. Expectations with your team need to be clear. As a leader you need to strike a balance between anger that hurts you and pleasantness that weakens you.

Anger is your stop sign before taking action

Before acting on anger that may have been building up over a span of time– stop. Important to consider here is an understanding of why you are angry, whom your anger might be geared toward, and what the proper actions should be going forward. This is where you earn your stripes as a leader and what you do in your moment of anger will be make you or break you.

It was said that when Abraham Lincoln had to write a letter to someone who had irritated him, he would often write two letters. The first letter was deliberately insulting. Then, having gotten those feelings out of his system, he would tear it up and write a second letter, this one tactful and discreet. Perhaps, like Lincoln, you need to sit down and write two letters, but never act out in anger in a way that is unbecoming to your leadership.

Anger is your catalyst for improvement

As already stated, anger is neither good nor bad, what’s critical is your response. If you channel the energy produced by anger in the right direction it can produce positive results that can be helpful. Perhaps you are angry over quarterly earnings that did not meet expectations. Channel that energy in a way that challenges your team to find new approaches or ways to improve. When you tap into that energy in a positive way it can be just the spark you need to turn things around.

Anger is your responsibility to confront

As a leader you carry a weight and responsibility that most know nothing about. All the pressures you bear have a way of adding up and weighing you down. Despite all the illusions of grandeur, leadership can be tough and can take a toll.

It is important that you take ownership of your issues with anger. Key areas that will make a world of difference (not an exhaustive list) in your leadership and keeping your anger under control is when you learn how to manage your time, learn how to delegate, take time to get away and recharge, set realistic expectations, pay attention to your diet and exercise, make yourself accountable to others, and your spiritual discipline.

Anger, like your attitude, is an emotion to be managed and channeled in the right direction. Either you will shape your anger or your anger will shape you.

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

 

 

 

 

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Leadership Lessons from The Masters

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The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way. –  Robert Kiyosaki

I am a lifelong golf fan. I came up in the era of Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Floyd, to name a few. Golf, in the words of Arnold Palmer is, “Deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” And it’s why I love the game.

Last Sunday at The Masters was both exciting and gut-wrenching to watch at the same time. The masterful play of Jordan Spieth on the front nine was truly remarkable (rewarding)-then came the back nine (maddening). The coronation of Spieth winning a second green jacket was placed on hold as the unthinkable happened on the 12th.

Life has a way of throwing us curves and what we thought was a certainty turns out to be anything but that. As leaders we face our share of circumstances when things don’t go as planned and we have to find a new way forward.

Golf has a way of teaching us about life and leadership. The Masters proved it. Here are a few takeaways.

It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game

On the first nine Jordan Spieth put on a clinic. He closed out the front nine with four birdies in a row. He seemed unstoppable. The front nine revealed a confidence seldom seen in a 22-year old golfer at the top of his game. The back nine revealed his character in adversity.

Adversity has a way of introducing us to ourselves. In post- round interviews Spieth showed a maturity that made the game proud and left us with little doubt that while that loss will sting, he will be back.

Leadership Takeaway: Character is not developed in adversity it is revealed.

Even the best make mistakes

Ranked at number 2 in the world, it was not a fluke that Spieth was in the final pairing last Sunday. Even after the infamous “meltdown” he still had an opportunity to come back and win. And while it wasn’t meant to be this year, it would be foolish to count him out next year or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Hang around in leadership long enough and you will get acquainted with bad shots. You will understand the disappointment of a target you did not reach. It happens to the best of leaders. Mistakes are the pavement on the road to success. It’s not a matter of if you will fail; but how.

 

Leadership Takeaway: You are not defined by your mistakes you are defined by your response to mistakes.

Not everything goes according to plan

A lot of variables are taken into consideration when playing a round of golf. The pros rely on their caddies to help them with yardage to the pin, wind conditions, whether to lay up or go for the long shot, how fast/slow the greens are playing, etc. Nothing is left to chance. But after every consideration is taken into account it all comes down to the golfer to execute.

As a leader you can have a strategy for your business- expectations for sales, customer service, and employee engagement. But despite your best plans and strategies things may not go according to script. You have to make adjustments and play the hand you are dealt. It’s what Spieth had to do and as a leader you will do the same.

Leadership Takeaway: One bad swing can change your game plan. Be flexible and confident in knowing that you will recover.

Keep swinging

I can only imagine the disappointment that was going through Spieth’s mind on the 12th hole. Moments earlier it had almost seemed like a mere formality that had he continued to play even at par, he would go on to win the tournament.

One of the greatest challenges you will have in leadership is not how to stay strong when times are good, but how to keep swinging when you feel like walking away. Sound familiar? Yet, what Spieth demonstrated, and what we all have to do, is to keep swinging in spite of the disappointment.

Leadership Takeway: Disappoint and setbacks will challenge you as a leader. No matter what comes your way – never give up and keep swinging!

 

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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