If You’re The Smartest Person…

“If you’re the smartest person in your group, you need to get a new group.” – Pastor Josey at K-LOVE

It’s nice to work around smart people! It’s even better when they share their “smarts” with everyone else.

I don’t think Josey was saying you should necessarily leave where you’re working, but rather that you need to find yourself a group where you’re not the smartest person. Didn’t your mom or dad tell you to watch out who you hang around with?

The propensity to want to be seen as the smartest person in the room is pretty common.  It springs from a lack of self-confidence, causing you to position yourself, and everyone else, in a way that makes you look good.  We probably all do it in some circumstances, but some have to do it all the time.  It then becomes obvious to those around them and begins to work against them, which is too bad.

I have an alternate strategy.  As I said to the CMAA conference in Australia recently, I look for really smart people and stand next to them.  If you do that often enough, you’re going to become a lot smarter.  In fact, the conference was full of so many smart people that I wondered if I belonged there.

So there is a choice of strategies.  One makes you look smart, and the other makes you smart.  Your choice.
P.S.  Josey also advised us to “reject smallness and make room for more bigger people.”

This Side Toward Enemy

The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.”– General Colin Powell

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When the team is together, everyone talks teamwork.  When it’s public, we’re all aware that people are watching.  But when in pairs, or by themselves, when they think no one is around, it’s sometimes different.  They’re not leaders, I’m not even sure they’re managers, but I know they are toxic.

There’s a reason the military has “This side toward enemy” printed on the front of claymore mines.  They know that sometimes people are in a hurry, not paying attention, or just don’t understand the ramifications of which way it needs to go.  I’m sure in the early days there were cases of those devices being planted in the wrong direction.  But in the business world, a backfire is a glitch.  People aren’t killed.  Harmed maybe, but not killed.

The difference is you, and your leadership.  When you’re complaining about your boss, or another leader, when you’re rolling your eyes at their comments, or when you try to create an alliance to ensure you win, you’re planting a leadership claymore in the wrong direction

Ridiculously In Charge!

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Robert Louis Stevenson

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I’ve been reading Boundaries For Leaders by Henry Cloud, great book about growing a culture of leadership.  In it, he talks about a leader he was talking to who was complaining about the culture around him.  Cloud kept asking questions about why these things were happening, which led the leader to realize the culture was up to him! Finally, the leader was in charge…ridiculously in charge.

Leaders and managers spend a lot of time complaining about how their workplace operates without ever realizing that they are the ones who can fix it.  I won’t give you all the details of the book, but two of the principles that will allow you to be ridiculously in charge are what you create and what you allow.

What you create is based on what you aspire to see, the culture you create (intentional or not), the goals you set, the strategy you employ and the leadership you demonstrate. These are usually the things we want.

What you allow are the things you don’t want to happen, but seem to anyway.  It’s the things that happen because you don’t work against them.  If you never say anything to people about coming to work late, they will come to work late.  If you allow people to snipe at each other, sniping will grow as a tactic.

Of the two, what gets the least attention is what you allow.  All those irritating things that happen – that you actually allow to happen – that you can’t understand.  The things you don’t really want to deal with, because it’ll be too tough or complicated.  Also, the things that you do yourself that only become irritating when it happens back to you.

This is one of the easiest to understand books about leadership that I’ve ever seen. Don’t expect to breeze through it, some parts are more difficult than others.  You’ll also want to go slow enough give yourself time to absorb it.

One reason I love it is because it challenged me, but then gave me simple, doable answers.  We can all improve our leadership skills, even if we’re only leading ourselves. This could be one of the biggest answers to a challenge you’ll find this year.

The Value Of Never Giving Up

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. – Pele, sort of ok “football” player.


I spent some time at the Oregon coast recently, which brought me to the guy on the skim board, in front of our rental.

He, at least I think it was a he, hard to tell with a wet-suit.  But that’s not the point.

In this shot, it looked like he was trying to become one with the ocean.  He leaned over, studied the water, and then stepped off into the waves.

As much as I’d like to make this a story of overcoming adversity, but it’s not.  Time after time he stepped off and lost the board in the first wave.  Good thing he was wearing a wet-suit.

The remarkable thing to watch was how he never gave up.  Time after time he’d step off, not make it, and do it over.  I found myself really respecting his refusal to give up when I knew many people I know would call him a failure.

The problem with being perfect is that that guy is already taken.  There’s only one perfect person, and I’m ok with that.  For the rest of us, we can only accept it.

So whoever you were out there along the Lincoln City beach, a digital high five from all of the rest of us who understand not giving up and applaud your efforts.

Are You Here To Serve or To Be Served?

“Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.” – Ken Blanchard

I talked with Ken Blanchard recently, and I felt bad. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able read all of Ken Blanchard’s books. Yes, they’re usually short, and told in story form, but there are so many of them! But we were talking about leadership when he mentioned, “Are you here to serve, or be served?”
Ahhh…ok, that’s a really good question, rooted in one of his books I hadn’t read, “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know.” He teamed up with Mark Miller of Chick-Fil-A on this one. This co-author thing he does is one of the things he was asked about, and his response itself was a good lesson in leadership. “I like to collaborate. I’m better when I collaborate.” I thought a lot about that, and then realized that I am too! Is it possible that we all are?

But wait, that’s what I’d mention to talent as a rabbit trail. We’re talking about service.

My answer was that I’m here to serve…except when I’m not. Like a lot of people I focus on serving, but get caught up in being served – the struggle for recognition and the perks that come with the cool title. Even the term “servant leadership” is irritating sometimes. Serving means the perks and bennies aren’t as important as the tangible legacy you leave. It means we all have to win, not just one of us win.

It’s entirely possible I’m preaching to the choir at this point, because those who want to be served will have stopped reading after the last paragraph.

If you’re still here, Blanchard and Miller indicate great leaders serve in at least five ways:

  • See and shape the future: The leader is responsible for vision.
  • Engage and develop others: The leader is responsible to develop those around him or her.
  • Reinvent continuously: Life doesn’t idle, a true leader understands the need for change
  • Value results and relationships: You need to be able to exercise both in order to lead
  • Embody the values: If you say one thing and do another, you’re not leading.*

Just think about those qualities. They’re all higher focused and bigger picture than most alleged leaders concentrate on. I’d go as far as to say these five actions are the difference between leadership and management.

* This is the leadership principle that causes the most “leadership” failures. Or, you can think of it as the number one thing that holds people back from growing from managing to leading. There seems to be an inverse principle where the higher you get on the organizational food chain, the more you think you can fool people. But people are never as unaware or stupid as we may think. They hear you, but they also see you and your actions.