Saturday, March 1, 2014

Be self confident: Leadership 101

March 1, 2014

Be self-confident.

Successful leaders are secure in who they are.  They have a set of principles and guidelines on which they have built their team or organization.  This should come across as self-assuredness, not false bravado.  Insecure leaders will unconsciously limit their organizations by lacking the courage of their convictions.  This can be seen in two ways, indecision and ego.

An organization without a constant guiding principle, firmly held by its leader, will never live up to its potential.  It confuses the team members and eventually loses their confidence. Leaders must listen to their team members' insights, absolutely!  But a wise leader weighs those suggestions against the goals and principles he or she holds to be the foundation of the organization.  A strong house can not be built upon quicksand.  People need a secure leader, in order to feel secure on the team.

An insecure leader often grabs the spotlight from, or turns the spotlight off of, the successes of individual team members.  He or she may be searching for validation from others, taking from the team rather than giving to it.   They can't allow themselves to celebrate the victories of others.  In most cases this is done subconsciously.   But insecure leaders who consistently do this will lose the team's loyalty quickly and permanently.

Be bold. Be humble. Be open.  Be grateful.

Be self-confident.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Communication is key: Leadership 101

Feb. 27, 2014
Today's idea: Communicate effectively

Communication within an organization is absolutely key to its success, or failure. A leader must be able to express a vision, enthusiastically and clearly.  Modern technology allows us instant communication.  It's a blessing and a curse.  It gives us a chance to relay great ideas, share timely news, or get clarification of a task.  Great!  But it takes away all the tone and charisma from the exchange.  And NO, emoticons do not count as "tone".  

At a minimum, effective leaders use the following points in communicating with their team.

  1. Know your message- Take time to know exactly what you want to say.  Say it with enthusiasm.
  2. Know your audience- Who are these folks and why do they want to hear what I have to say?  Understand that, and you can tailor your message to be more effective.
  3. Know when to be brief- Simplify, Simplify. Simplify.
  4. Know that timing is critical-   Let's talk email and texting.  Respond in a timely fashion.  Even if you don't know the answer to their question, people want to know they've been heard and you're working on the issue.
  5. Know what the other person looks or sounds like-  Face-to-face or telephone conversation is infinitely more effective than email.  It builds stronger relationships.  It leaves no ambiguity.  Email is a breeding ground for unintended offenses and hard feelings.  Use it, but don't rely on it to build a cohesive team.
  6. Know how to listen-  Seek responses.  Answer questions.  Watch for actions.
Communicate effectively.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Show them you care. Leadership 101

Isn't it interesting how different leaders interact with their organizations?   When a leader takes the time to learn effective communication and team building techniques, it shows.  Millions of dollars a year are spent on seminars and books addressing effective leadership. I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject.  However, I have devoted at least 15 years of my life to such study.  So with that in mind, I'd like to start a short blog series devoted to thoughts on the matter.  

Today's idea:  Show them you care.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Sure, the team/community/fellowship you lead wantS to know that you are experienced and that you won't lead them astray.  But if you see those individuals as a means to a end, they will know it.  Show them GENUINE concern for their well being.  Take action on their insights and suggestions when appropriate.  Respect them.  Show them you want the best for them.  And for goodness sake, show them how their efforts positively influence the team, and you personally.  

This doesn't mean you have to send them fuzzy fluffy notecards or gush over them when you see they've done something they're expected to do.  This means that you LISTEN to them.  Greet them with eye contact and a warm smile.  Let them know when they do a great job.  SAY THANK YOU.  And mean it.

Let them know you care.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thoughts on Joseph's Journey to Bethlehem

As I work on getting into the Christmas spirit, I like to think about the arduous journey to Bethlehem. I don't pretend to be a biblical scholar. My relationship with God is my own. It's real. It's a part of me, everyday. I don't find it necessary to shout it from the roof tops. I rarely share much about it. But at a time when all the songs on the radio are either "All I WANT for Christmas" or "Baby Jesus"- centric, I like to think about St. Joseph's thoughts and actions during those weeks prior to the birth of Christ, (and after) and how his example is a model for EVERYONE, Christian and non-Christian alike.

He had to be scared. Did he worry that Mary would suffer, or even deliver the child, before they had safely arrived in Bethlehem? She was riding a donkey over 150 miles, and probably visibly ready to pop. He wasn't a rich man. Was he concerned about the financial responsibilities he was about to take on? He was Mary's spouse, only because he put complete faith in what a heavenly angel told him. Do you think he ever questioned his decision? He was tired. Wouldn't you be?

What does this have to do with us? You and me. Today. All Faiths.  Or, lack thereof.  Let's consider for a moment, what the world would be like if every person on this planet took these following examples to heart.

·  Protect those who need protection.

·  Defend those whom the world has marginalized

·  Work hard to provide for your family

·  Feed the hungry

·  Clothe those who are naked

·  Lead honorably

·  Love unconditionally

·  Teach those who lack adequate education

·  Provide apprenticeship and employment for the young

·  Be honest and pure of heart no matter what your circumstances within society

·  Discipline fairly, in the knowledge that discipline teaches self control and encourages responsibility for self and others as children become adults.

·  Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, (that small, still voice inside)  and act upon them

Where would the world be if we all emulated the life of St. Joseph? We need to do these things, personally. Relying on government to take care of our families and neighbors doesn't work. Our society will only be well and whole again, when we get our hands dirty, and invest ourselves emotionally and physically into our own communities.

Give the world a gift this Christmas. Go out and be St. Joseph to someone in need.
Merry Christmas.  And peace be with you all.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Fun...1.0

Just returned from a lovely long weekend in Concord, North Carolina. As usual, the kids' soccer lives dictate the destination of our summer excursions. But this soccer-trip was particularly enjoyable. Here are a few things that made it so pleasant. 

  • On the way to Concord, we drove along the Ocoee and Nantahala rivers, through some of the most gorgeous country in the US.  Those with serious motion sickness problems should consider a preemptive dose of Dramamine before attempting this journey.
  • Perfect weather!  80 degrees and clear with a 5-10 mph breeze.  Glorious!
  • North Carolina is just beautiful.  Enough said.
  • We didn't win our bracket, but the girls played well and made themselves proud.  It will be an event the will never forget.  
  • The Courtyard Mariott was located close to the Concord Mils Outlet Mall...had a Starbucks in the hotel...and the room was big and comfortable.  A great stay!
  • Bonding with the other soccer parents over cold beer while the girls swim is fun no matter where you are.
  • We got to see the Lowes Motor Speedway, well, the outside of it anyway.  (check off an item on my "always wanted to see" list)  That place is massive. We counted 32 entrance gates and camping areas that were bigger that a medium sized New Jersey township. 
  • The Great Wolf Lodge was right across the street.  Had I known that before we planned the trip, we would have stayed there!  As it was, we explored the place before we left for home, and it was awesome.  Seems like every hour or so on the ride home, the youngest child pointed out how fun it would be to stay there someday.  I quite agree.  Don't know what a Great Wolf Lodge is?  Check out the link.
  • The siblings got along well the whole time.  How unexpectedly enjoyable.
All in all, a winner for a fathers day weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting Educated:

With the state mandated readjusting of our school calendars, with the goal of "increasing tourism tax revenue to support our schools," it occurred to me to inquire how other schools in our country organized their calendars. They vary greatly. However, there is one thing that unites our schools across the country, and that is, we are failing dismally in comparison with other countries.

 I wonder why. We go to school longer and introduce concepts earlier than we ever have before. We spend billions to improve ours schools, but the sum total of knowledge gained keeps slipping.  By middle school we are outranked by nearly every Asian country, Belgium, Czech republic, Slovak republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Russian federation, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark, England, and many more. And it gets worse by high school. 

Click here to read a great article regarding US performance against students across the globe in math and sciences.

Curriculum seems to be the key.  We continually teach to the standardized tests.  Rather than completely mastering topics and moving on from there, students review EVERYTHING that could be on the "tests".  It's quantity not quality.  Teachers instinctively know this.  They have so many "objectives" to teach, they just can't spend time to hammer home the important topics.  I mean really, does a 3rd grader need to know what "opportunity costs" are?  (By the way, I learned this term in my freshman college economics class.  I never needed to know it earlier than that, but I certainly already understood the idea of making good choices in using my time, talent, and treasure.)

Textbooks:   U.S. textbooks treat topics with a "mile-wide, inch-deep" approach. A typical U.S. eighth-grade math textbook deals with about 35 topics. By comparison, a Japanese or German math textbook for that age would have only five or six topics. French math books use innovative approaches to math ie. Fractions don't lend themselves to computerization.  Kids use calculators for long division.   They concentrate on how to use math rather than how to do math.  Perhaps this isn't what my high school math teacher would say, but this is 2012, and technology is here to stay.  We must learn to use it to it's highest potential.

Let's hope there is a common sense approach to raising our competitiveness in this world, particularly in school districts where there is need; for money, quality teachers, and family involvement.

Oh and by the way, they get WAAAAY more vacation time in larger chunks thank we do. Follow this link, to see just how short sighted the state of Alabama has been with our calendar. I'll save that rant for next time

Friday, May 18, 2012


This year's garden promises to be the biggest and most robust we have had in several years. There are tomatoes, squash, zucchini, egg plant, cucumbers, corn, string beans, peppers, and potatoes. Everything is producing well and I'm looking forward to fresh veggies in my kitchen soon.

Weeds are inevitably part of gardening, but I've encountered a new nemesis of the weed variety. Spiny Pigweed. Pure Evil in plant form, it is! Huge fibrous stems with camouflaged, 3/4 inch, hyperdermic needles at every junction. It stings like a bee when you get pricked. You can't pull it out with regular garden gloves. It requires leather rose gardening gloves, with gauntlets up to your elbows. It spreads like wildfire... like all weeds right? But, this stuff is unnaturally aggressive. I swear it reaches out and grabs your ankle when you walk by. Regular herbicides won't touch it. And Round Up isn't my preferred method of killing weeds in my prized vegetable garden. So, it's just me and my dragon hide gloves against the Green Devils.

I plan on winning this war. Which, I'm sure, will make my harvest taste even better. One always enjoys the things for which you work hard, over the things that are just handed to you.  But next year... I may think about buying my veggies from the local CSA.  Just sayin'.