Saturday, January 29, 2011

Times gone by

My grandfather and me, when I was 2yrs old
I came across a post today that made me go back 33 years. It reminded me of the time I had with my grandfather, Cecil Farley. I wanted to share this with you. I can't say that it has much to do with leadership, but it is something very personal to me that I wanted to write about. 

My grandfather passed away, of a heart attack, in November of 1978.  I was 7, to sum up what he meant to me, I would simply state, everything. 

I remember him walking with me, holding my hand and teaching me about life on a farm and all the wonders of nature. He would take me fishing at a trout stream that was close to his home. He would do most of the catching, turning the rod over to me to allow me the excitement of the, "Big catch"

I recall how he would sit with me on the front porch and just enjoy being with me. Other times, he would take me up to the woodshed, sit and crack walnuts for me to eat. I remember vividly how he would smile at me every time that I came running up to him. He would pull me up me into his arms,walking and talking with me. 

There were times when he would take me for rides on his tractor, even letting me "drive" We would drive out to the barn or out to the field and check on the cows. Pointing out the various animals that we encountered and the different vegetables in the garden. Explaining how each should be cultivated, to achieve the highest yield. 

Mostly of what I remember of him is his smile and how he made me feel accepted and loved. He cherished me and showed it in all that he did toward me. 

My grandfather, my cousin and me
I have honored him by giving his name to my first born son as his middle name. When my son was old enough to ask me about his name. I told him he was named after my grandfather and his great grandfather. He asked, "But, why?" I explained to him the best way I knew how about the love I shared with my grandfather and how he should feel honored to have the name. I wish often that my children would have known their grandfather. I know he would have enjoyed them immensely. 

One of the last memories I have of him, was shortly before he passed away. It was early November and cold. I was asking him to take me trout fishing. He told me that it was too cold to go fishing, but that as soon as spring came he would take me. He passed away shortly after this. 

I hold to the hope that one day, My grandfather and I will walk hand in hand again, returning to the trout stream and go fishing together again. Mostly though, I long for the day that I can tell him, "I love you and I've missed you so" 

Take the time to tell those you love, just that, that you love and cherish them. Don't think that another day will come or that you'll get the chance again. Life is but a vapor, a passing wind. Tell them today and everyday, every chance you get. Odds are that the day will come when you wish that you would have had just one more second with them. 

"I'm gonna walk with my grandaddy,

and he'll match me step for step,
and I'll tell him how I missed him,
every minute since he left.
Then I'll hug his neck." 
~Brad Paisley, "When I get where I'm going"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Company Culture

"When you put on khakis, you are no longer a Machinist’s Mate or Fire Controlman or Culinary Specialist or, you pick the rate. You are a Chief, and you are responsible for one thing and that is leading." ~ Adm Mike Mullen

On Tuesday night I had a wonderful conversation with a lot of very intelligent folks during #Tchat on Twitter. I was asked about the Navy and how we develop our culture. It's hard to answer that question when you only have 140 letters to use. So, I figured why not write a post about it. So here it goes. 

One thing that helps the Navy define it's culture is, The Sailor's creed, it is something that every sailor learns and can quote from memory. Everyday in the Navy we recite the sailor's creed while at quarters or at muster. It reminds each and everyone of us that we belong to and serve a greater good. I have listed the creed below, with my thoughts on each part:

U.S. Navy

I am a United States Sailor. Simple statement that reminds us that we are part of and represent the United States and the Navy in all that we do. 

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me. Reinforces that we do not set the rules, we are the ones that enforce and obey them. It also reminds us of the hierarchy that we utilize to get the job done.

I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.  Establishes that we are not alone in what we do, and encourages us to continue to honor the heritage of those that have served before us. The last part of this is significant in that it helps us to understand not only a cultural belief but that we are carrying out the will of the american people in obeying our orders. 

I proudly serve my country's Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment. This finalizes our progression from individual sailor, to Country and finally to our shipmates. It then reinforces the core values of how we are to conduct ourselves at all times, off and on duty.

I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all. I think this final statement sums up what the Navy has done, very well, for a long time. That is to celebrate diversity and to understand the acceptance of everyone from every walk of life, and how each brings unique points of view that can help everyone be more successful.

Think about how this creed could impact your companies culture, if everyday you and your co-workers recited a similar creed. It would reinforce so many great qualities that every company would love to have:

  • Sense of Team, part of something much larger then oneself.
  • Loyalty to one another and the mission.
  • Integrity in all that you do
  • Commitment to excellence and to getting the job done right the first time
  • Celebrate diversity and the uniqueness of everyone inside of a larger group.

I hope that maybe this gives you some ideas on how you can create a culture in your workplace that you would be proud of and would enjoy to promote. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wipeout, Leadership edition

I don't know if you've had the opportunity to watch ABC's show, "Wipeout" If not, never fear, I inserted a video of it for you to watch. If you need a good laugh at someone else's expense, then watch this.

Watching this show reminds of some leaders I've come across in my travels. They go charging into a situation, all motivated and ready to get the big win. Only to get knocked down by the unseen obstacle. Of course watching contestants do it on a T.V. show is funny, watching leaders do it in real life, not so much. 

Have you witnessed a leader get knocked down by unseen obstacles?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who's smarter, you or a Lion?

Photoexpress / MLA Photography
Let me finish the rest of the question. When in the jungle, who's smarter, you or a lion? Adding that one sentence makes a world of difference to the question being asked. Most of you were probably thinking, "I'm smarter" Yeah, sure, if your in downtown Manhattan. If you were out on the plains of the Serengeti, I would lay money on the lion. Where I am leading us to? To this; You may be the expert in your field, but there will come the day when you will require someone else's help.

I consider myself to be a handy kinda guy. I can do most, do-it-yourself, projects around the house. They may not always turn out like Bob Villa did them, but there not bad. My arch nemesis right now is the plumbing under my kitchen sink. ( I hope this doesn't get my "Man card" revoked!) I have "worked" on it, off and on, for a couple of months. Every time I think I got it fixed, I discover that it has bested me again. Today for example, I went under the kitchen sink to get a house-hold cleaner. When I opened the doors, I got smacked in the face with a smell that well, smelled like someone had, (Excuse me here for being gross) puked under my kitchen sink. My disposal had leaked around the outlet pipe and had settled in a nice stagnate pool among my cleaning supplies.  Sorry for the real descriptive writing, but I wanted to ensure you got the point.

Now, my lion, the plumbing under the kitchen sink. Is in it's jungle, I'm a foreigner there. What I have to do is find someone who can outsmart this lion in the jungle and make real progress. My lion tamer will be a plumber or at least a friend that has a better understanding of plumbing then I do. I have to admit, I'm not one who throws in the towel easily or quickly. Sometimes though, swallowing your pride and admitting you need help is a lot faster then trying to figure something out for yourself and getting less then desired results.

As leaders, we often tie ourselves up trying to fix or improve something and it costs us time and energy that we could be spending  elsewhere. Don't fall into the trap that just because your the "Leader" means that you must always come up with the right answer. Understand that no matter how good of a mouse or lion trap you may build, there is always going to be someone, somewhere that has built or is going to build a better trap. These are the people you need to find and network with, that way, the next time you have a lion to tame it won't take you nearly as long.

Where are your lions? Do you tame them or do you get help?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The new Leader

Photoexpress/Sophia Winters
New to Leadership and Management?
No matter where you are in your journey as a leader or manager, you had to start off somewhere. If you are new to leadership or are striving to be a leader here are some tips to get you going as you start your journey as a new leader.
  • Confidence: Understand that you would not have been hired or promoted to this position unless the top brass felt you could do the job. So, have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Seek counsel from those that you trust and that have been in leadership before. Pick their brains and get every morsel of knowledge from them. 
  • Know what's expected of you: If you haven't already, get with your supervisor and find out what they're expectations are of you. Find out if there are any issues or concerns that management is expecting you to address or fix. Make sure you understand what the companies goals are and how you/your people fit into the overall picture.
  • Observe: No one expects that your going to come in and have all the answers. Use this time to observe your people. Watch how they interact with one another, how they work together. How they utilize the processes and work controls that are in place. This will enable you to get a good idea of who is good at what and what things might need to be adjusted to increase efficiency. 
  • Interview each of your people: Yes, this is time consuming, it will pay out huge dividends in the long run. Do more listening then talking. Let people tell you what they think and feel about their work and that of your department or company. You will find some real insight straight from the trenches when you do this. It will also show your people that their new leader cares and wants to make a difference with their help.Good way to establish trust and to start the buy-in process from your people.
  • Come up with your game-plan: You've talked with your boss, you've observed your people and then talked with each of them. Now is the time to come up with your vision and objectives. Remember, you don't have to re-invent the wheel. Make small adjustments and then observe how it affects your people and processes. If you start to change too much, too fast, your people will fight back. People don't like change, even if it's for the better. So ease them into it.
  • Communicate: Clearly communicate your plan to your people and your superiors. Don't try to come up with the most intricate plan. Try and lay out a plan that is simple, they understand, they can execute and be successful.
  • Don't forget where you come from: Last, but not least. Don't forget what is was like to be in the trenches. Remember the leaders that inspired you to do more and remember the leaders you didn't like and why. Use both as examples of how to, or how not to,  lead your people. 
These are just a few suggestions that you can utilize when faced with being a new leader. Finding a good mentor is also extremely helpful. Whatever you do, don't give up. Performing as a leader is the best way to learn leadership. 

What are some other tips for a new leader to consider or utilize?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wash your peoples feet

True Leadership, leading with a attitude of service

Jesus was the greatest example of a servant leader that we have to follow. Jesus consistently showed his people how to lead others, by example. In the 13th Chapter of John, verses 1 through 17. Jesus gave us a great example of servant leadership. It was the night before passover, Jesus and the disciples where together to eat the last supper. No one had secured the services of a servant to wash peoples feet, which was customary for that time. The disciples realized this, but instead of figuring out who was going to wash feet, they started arguing about which of them should be considered the greatest. (Luke 22:24)

Jesus seeing a need, lead by example and took on the role of a servant to wash feet. What can we learn from this?

  • Servant leaders are motivated by serving. Jesus knew that by leading by example and playing the role of servant. He could show the disciples how serving others built a leader up, not make them lower in stature.
  • Servant leaders are secure in who they are: Jesus was secure in who he was as a leader. He wasn't driven by titles or worried about what others thought. He didn't buy into the worlds definition that a leader is above his people. By embracing the role of a servant, he added value to his disciples.
  • Servant leaders initiate action that passes on to others: The disciples seeing Jesus take the initiative gave them the example to follow. Jesus was teaching them that to be a great leader you have to take the lead and serve others. 
  • Servant leaders stay humble: Jesus example showed the disciples that there is no room for pride as a leader. His example showed them that there was no job that was, "Below" a leaders ability to do.
  • Servant leaders empower their people: By Jesus washing the disciples feet, he empowered them to do the same thing. He empowered them to serve one another and to understand the value of true leadership.
Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought when you are leading your people. The next time you have the opportunity to wash your peoples feet. Do it, it will send your followers a powerful message and empower them to serve one another as well. 

What are some ways that you can serve, your people, that sends a powerful message?
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