What’s Wrong With (Always) Being Right?

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Doing the right thing isn’t always easy-in fact, sometimes, it’s real hard- but just remember that doing the right thing is always right. – David Cottrell

In my many years in leadership, some of the most annoying people I come across are those whom, no matter the circumstance, are always right. They always have a ready excuse, an ‘out’ when things go wrong, it’s never their fault. They are always right. Chances are you’ve met one or two of these people along the way yourself.

Then you have the ‘know it all’ – that one person who’s the in-house ‘expert’ about everything. They would choose an ‘I told you so’ moment over ever admitting they were wrong about anything- even if it adversely affected the organization. (If this type person exists in your organization they are toxic, and you must deal with them).

Here’s the rub- people hate being wrong. I get it. We like to be at our best, do our best, but at the end of the day, we are mere mortals. We screw up. And we don’t know everything. So how do you guard yourself against ever developing this kind of an attitude? Here’s some food for thought.

Acknowledge your limitations

You bring a certain depth of skill and knowledge to your workplace. It’s great that you are highly trained in your area of expertise and contribute to the good of the team. You do your best to add value to your organization.

But a dose of reality is necessary if you desire to be an effective leader. While your expertise can be strong in one area, chances are you are not an ‘expert’ in every area. That’s why you have to listen, collaborate, and tap into the skills of your colleagues and defer to them. A lack of self-awareness on your part doesn’t change what others know and what you fail to admit. You don’t know everything so quit acting like it.

Focus on doing right, not always being right

When you make the shift from always ‘being’ right to ‘doing’ right, it will significantly change your leadership. It will change the way you look at things – and it will actually be a liberating force in your life. The self-imposed pressure of always being right frees you up to do right. It’s a game changer in many regards.

Let’s be real – it’s when you focus on doing right that you will experience growth in your leadership. It’s a mark of maturity. With nothing to prove and no compulsion to always be right, you can now focus on more important things like being a servant leader instead of protecting your ego.

Be humble and teachable

Personal growth and development will rarely happen within the ‘know it all’ or ‘always right’ bubble or mindset. There’s no room for it. Not because there’s nothing more to learn, but because this person believes that he or she is already there. It’s a dangerous mindset to have as a leader.

In Proverbs 19:20, the writer says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future”. For the sake of your own personal development, and those whom you lead, be teachable and walk humbly. None of us have arrived and there’s a lot of people depending on us to realize it.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Are You Really a Team Player?

 

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A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other. – Simon Sinek

For many of us, the idea of being part of a team is something we’ve identified with from an early age. Many of us were introduced to the concept of being on a team from our Little League days, or choosing teams with our neighborhood friends for an afternoon of backyard football, or whom we wanted to play with at recess.

While our current understanding of teams and teamwork may not mirror those early days,  it’s not a concept that is lost on us now. We all want to be on the winning team and we all want teammates that will give us that competitive advantage. And we can still play favorites.

As leaders, how we model teamwork is important. Unlike the backyard football game, the stakes are higher and more is riding on the outcome. What kind of a team player are you? Here are a few questions to ponder. After some honest reflection, decide for yourself if you are really a team player or an imposter.

Does my attitude benefit my team or undermine it?

Teams that succeed do so with players who have a positive attitude. There’s just really no other way around it. Is your attitude one that lifts your team or tears it down? Is your attitude a reliable one that others can look to and emulate and from it gain the confidence and courage they need in a moment of doubt or uncertainty? Or on the other hand, do you entertain those with a bad attitude by lending them a sympathetic ear? Remember, what you tolerate you promote, and this is especially true as it relates to attitudes.

Am I looking out for my own interest, or what is best for the team?

This is an age-old problem for many teams. If you are only looking out for your own interests and your own agenda, and not that of the team, can you really say that you are a team player? Babe Ruth was right when he said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” If you are promoting your own interests over the team, it’s likely you really aren’t a team player.

Do I celebrate the successes and accomplishments of my teammates?

One of the hallmarks of a successful team is realized when fellow team members can celebrate the achievements and successes of one of its peers. At the end of the day they understand that when he or she wins, the team wins. If you are blinded by petty jealousy or insecurities you are really not a team player.

Am I open to new ideas and change or am I a hindrance to it?

Teams that succeed are growth-minded and are always looking for ways to improve. They realize that they can’t rest on yesterday’s win, and they must be open to new ideas. If you are always resisting change and your mantra is “we’ve never done it this way before,” then chances are you are really not a team player you’re simply standing in the way of those trying to move forward.

Am I intentional and consistent about adding value to my team?

A team player is not one out to protect his or her own agenda or playing politics, and not saying one thing in public while undermining and scheming behind the scenes in private. Are you looking for ways to add value and lift others? Are you willing to put others ahead of yourself for the good of the team?  If so, chances are, you are a team player.


Are you really a team player?

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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The Power of Selective Discipline

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What’s done can’t be undone. – William Shakespeare

In his book, The One Thing, Gary Keller writes about a disciplined life in one of the chapters. In it, he expounds on the concept of selected discipline. In doing so, he points to Olympic champion Michael Phelps.

From age 14 through the Beijing Olympics, Phelps trained seven days a week, 365 days a year. By doing so he gained a 52-training day advantage over his competitors. He spent 6 hours a day in the water training-mastering the discipline of one habit that ultimately earned him Olympic gold.

The story of Phelps is quite inspiring.That he would channel so much time and energy into his life’s passion for swimming at such a young age is impressive. It also caused me think about how we as leaders develop our own patterns of discipline and personal growth. Here’s a thought that Keller expressed that is worth mentioning:

The payoff from developing the right habit is pretty obvious. It gives you the success you’re searching for. What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is an amazing windfall: It also simplifies your life. Your life gets clearer and less complicated because you know what you have to do well and what you don’t. The fact of the matter is that aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas. When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.

In my early years of leadership, I was thoroughly indoctrinated with the concept and ideas of living a well- disciplined life. It’s a virtuous goal of every leader, right? But the notion of selective discipline was refreshing music to my ears and to my sometimes less than disciplined ways.

To obtain this noble virtue as a leader, like you perhaps, I wore myself out trying to measure up to what at times was just an improbable reality. It was frustrating. The fallout? Becoming the jack of all trades, the master of none. Keller adds, “You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.” How refreshing!

Selective discipline brings a measure of healthy simplicity to your life. Here are a few suggestions on how to make that happen.

Embrace your ‘one thing’

Selective discipline in your life begins when you identify what your ‘one thing’ is and direct your energies towards it. It’s as simple and complicated as that. But you will burn yourself out and have less energy for what truly matters so long as you don’t know what it is.

Embrace your selective discipline

Discovering your one thing is liberating. Knowing your purpose gives life meaning. But now comes the channeling of that discipline to take you to new levels of growth and potential. Sadly, you can know your one thing and still not live up to your potential if you don’t form the proper growth habits.

Embrace the sacrifice

The formula will look like this: SD(Selective discipline) +S(Sacrifice) = Success. Unless you are willing to sacrifice the good for the great you will always flounder. It’s time to focus, embrace your one thing, and channel your energies to become the person God created you to be.

The sacrifice won’t always be easy. Muhammad Ali put it this way, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”. And this is the reward of embracing the sacrifice- knowing that your success would not have come about any other way.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

 

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Is Your Leadership Adrift?

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Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship. – Omar N. Bradley

One of the dangers I have observed over my years in leadership is the leader who tends to stray off course. It’s an easy trap to fall victim to and I have been there myself a few times.

It tends to happen when we are not focused on our “one thing” and are chasing rabbits down trails where we have no business going. And because we are distracted and we didn’t say no when we should have, we drift off course. It’s usually never intentional, but we are adrift nonetheless and we need to correct our course.

Writing in his book, Simplify, author Bill Hybels poses an intriguing set of questions that started me thinking about this. He writes:

Are you in the right race? Or have you accidentally drifted into a race that is mostly in vain? Are your best efforts going toward a race that results in fleeting applause?  Or do you strive for material gain, which rusts, rots, and depreciates? Or for passing pleasures that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the eternal scheme of things?

Those are some powerful and thought provoking questions. Staying on course requires intentionality on your part as a leader. What does being adrift look like as a leader? How do you know if you are adrift? Let’s explore five possibilities.

Your leadership is adrift when you try to run someone else’s race

When the race ceases to be your own you are adrift. This happens when you are not being true to yourself. Each of us has our own race and our own lane in which to run it. Quit trying to be the person in the lane next to you and be the person God created you to be. When you do this you will stop drifting.

Your leadership is adrift when you mistake all that glitters for your true north

As the quote above mentions, you must not set your course by the lights of the passing ships, but by the stars. Leaders who are adrift are frustrated because they didn’t keep their sights set on the star that is guiding them in their race. Forget about the other glimmering lights and get your focus back to where it belongs.

Your leadership is adrift when you fail to set proper boundaries

Leaders drift when they think they can be all things to all people and fail to set realistic, proper, and necessary boundaries. Without boundaries, there is no buffer in place to steer you back on course. You have to establish boundaries and stick by them. Otherwise, you will be drawn off course by every glittering light that comes along.

Your leadership is adrift when you chase applause and approval

This is one of the easiest traps to fall for as a leader. Afterall, who doesn’t enjoy the applause and approval that stokes our ego? But if this is your motivation for being a leader you are setting yourself up for disappointment and you will always be adrift. When you focus is on developing your character and integrity you will never have to worry about approval.

Your leadership is adrift when there is no accountability

Accountability is crucial to your success as a leader. It’s also what will keep you from drifting. When you have someone that has permission to speak truth into your life that person(s) can be an invaluable benefit to you as a leader. Do you have such a person? If not, let me encourage you to find one. The writer in Proverbs 22:15 said, “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.” (The Message).

As a leader, there is nothing more frustrating than being adrift. The good news? You don’t have to be when you know the warning signs. Stop drifting and get your focus back on what matters most.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

 

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The ‘I’, ‘We’, and ‘You’ of Teamwork

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In order to have a winner, the team must have a feeling of unity; every player must put the team first-ahead of personal glory. – Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant

A team, business, or organization that desires to attain any degree of success must reconcile basic understandings of teamwork with practical application. There is an abundance of information available on the topic. But how do we make it applicable? What attitudes should a leader adopt that will cause people in your organization to buy-in to your leadership and commit themselves to its team environment?

One such approach I discovered is found in a statement attributed on the late Paul “Bear” Bryant, the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama. He said:

“I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally, they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team.  There are just three things I’d ever say: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

This attitude is a reflection of his coaching and leadership style. Bear Bryant coached football teams for 38 years and in that time he had a 323-85-17 record including 29 bowl game wins. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not an Alabama football fan. I am a proud Tennessee Volunteer.  But that aside, Coach Bryant’s insights into teamwork are worth serious consideration. Here are what I call the ‘I’, ‘we,’ and ‘you’ approach to his teamwork model.

I – “If things go bad, I did it.” This approach speaks to his accountability as a leader. Most leaders would prefer to throw themselves into the spotlight rather than under the bus. Leaders who have developed the teamwork mindset knows who deserves the spotlight when things go well and who deserves to catch the spears when they don’t.

Coach Bryant knew that in order for his teams to play at the level of his expectations he had to earn their trust. The same principle applies to you as a leader. You have to earn the trust of your people in order to build a cohesive teamwork environment. This takes a leader knows how to coach his or her people then get out of the way and let them perform.

We – “If anything goes semi-good, then we did it”. This speaks to a balanced approach of how he saw his role as a leader and what amount of credit he felt he ever deserved. If things went reasonably well then it was safe to say “we did it.” If not, then, of course, we know how felt.

Coach Bryant knew that “semi-good” successes were good for morale and are what led to the “one heartbeat” as he described it. The road to National Championships was paved one play, one-quarter, one-half, and one game at a time. It was in the grit and grind of the “semi-good” that his great teams came together. And it was in those moments for the players that the transition from “I” ( look at how great I am, etc.) to “we” transformed them into a team. Coach Bryant was the example the players needed to make that transition.

You – “If anything goes real good, then you did it”. This statement speaks volumes about the heart and character of a great leader. When a team has come together, when they’ve left it all on the field, and together they have won a victory – the leader does not say, “look at what I did”, the true leader says, “you did it”.

“A leader is best,” said Lao Tzu, “when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”. This is at the core of the leader who sets out to build a team.

Are you developing the heartbeat of a team?

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Are We Keeping Pace As Leaders?

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The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang. – Mary Kay Ash

 

After watching this video entitled Did You Know, I will confess that I have more questions than I have answers. Perhaps you have seen the video before. It’s been updated and is well worth the look. Here are a few highlights taken from it:

  • China will soon become the Number One English speaking country in the world.
  • The 25% of India’s population with the highest I.Q.’s is greater than the population of the United States. Translation: India has more honor kids than America has kids.
  • The Top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
  • We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.
  • There are 845 million monthly active users on Facebook. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest (behind China and India).
  • Twitter is seeing about 50 million tweets per day, That breaks down to about 600 per second.
  • The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet.
  • It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.
  • The amount of technical information is doubling every two years. For students starting a 4-year degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.

The pace at which our world is changing is breathtaking. We truly live in remarkable times. And this leads to many questions so please indulge me. My focus here is not so much about leadership “tips” or quick anecdotes, but rather reflective questions meant to awaken the leader in all of us. My questions are rhetorical but also intentional. You may have the same ones. Hopefully, you will have additional ones. I would sure like to hear them. Here are a few of mine:

  • Are we as leaders cognizant of how rapidly our world is changing around us and are we ahead of the curve or behind it?
  • What are the best leadership practices or beliefs that transcend time or culture?
  • In what ways have technologies helped us as leaders? In what ways has it hurt?
  • How do the changes that are taking place in our world change the way in which we as leaders relate to people today and going forward?
  • What will be our most essential leadership skills ten years from now? Will they be the same as today?
  • Are we raising up leaders today to meet the challenges of leadership tomorrow?
  • Do I have a mindset that is slanted toward embracing the changes that are happening or is it a fixed mindset that has me stuck?
  • Do I need to change my current leadership style to prepare me for the future?

John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law  of life.” He was right. Change is happening at a faster pace than perhaps any of us ever expected. Are we keeping pace?

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

 

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The Things That Matter Most

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It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. – Roy E. Disney

In his new book No Limits, John Maxwell makes a profound statement worth consideration. He writes, “Today I am far less interested in certainty about many things and much more interested in clarity about the few things that matter.”

The statement comes on the heels of writing about how he relies less on his beliefs, which over the years have become fewer and fewer, and more on values which do not change. He adds, “Every time you learn something new, your beliefs adjust. In my lifetime I’ve let go of dozens and dozens of beliefs that I once possessed just because I learned more or experienced more.”

It caused me to reflect on my own personal and leadership journeys. I can also look back now and see where certain beliefs have changed over time. Clarity of values has brought perspective which in turn has brought much more meaning to life.

Where are you on your journey? Your belief systems are vitally important and I do not wish to diminish them. But perhaps a shift, no matter how small, toward having more clarity over your values is in order. Beliefs will change over time and through life experiences, but your values are your foundation. Here’s why they are important.

Values clarify your why

Your life’s purpose, both personally and professionally, is rooted in your values. Life has meaning and fulfillment when you know why you were placed on this earth. When you have more clarity about why you are here then everything else you do toward that end makes more sense. No longer is it a chore, it’s a calling.

Values clarify your passion

Passion alone is not enough. I can get passionate about losing weight for a week or two, but if I don’t have the discipline to follow through it won’t be enough. Passion is the fuel for your purpose. When you understand why you are here and the purpose behind it, then your passion will be contagious.

Values clarify your character

Maxwell devotes a section to the role that values play in determining your character. He writes, “Our values determine our character, and our character determines the direction we will go in life.” Clarity of values is critical to understanding the kind person you will be because your character flows from it. Whatever station you are at in life – husband, wife, father, mother, executive, leader, etc., what will set you apart is that you are a person of character. In short – clarify your values, clarify your character.

Values clarify your focus

Maxwell said he was far less interested in certainty about many things and much more concerned about clarity in the few things that matter. What great perspective!

What about you? How different would your life be right now if you began making the shift away from wanting certainty about many things to clarity about the few things that matter most? In this stage of your life right now, what are the few things that matter most?

We want certainty because we have a sense of security attached to it, but life takes on a whole new meaning when we can look at it with clarity. That’s when you understand what matters most.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

 

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