Do you know the Christmas story of three wise men from the east who followed a star to find the baby Jesus? The star they saw guided them to their destination. They were determined to get there because they had important gifts to present to Jesus. They wanted to make the journey. They followed a certain star, and delivered their gifts! Leaders also have very important gifts to deliver: gifts of good leadership to colleagues and followers who depend on that leadership to guide, support, and encourage them. The model of determination, commitment, and generosity that the wise men displayed is a motivating example for leaders to emulate year-round.
Harvest time and cornucopia of abundance: the farmer finally gathers the crop planted earlier in the year. The fruit of his or her labor goes to market; we benefit from the harvest, delighted with the selection and quality. Abundant crops invoke celebration and thankfulness. The culmination of the growing cycle reminds us that it was a process. It required good seed, time and effort! As Will Rogers said, “You got to do more than just live in the country to be a farmer.” Leadership is like farming. Leaders sow into the lives of others; over time and with cultivation, there is a harvest…a reaping of results based on what the leader sowed and how it was cultivated. What do leaders sow? How do they cultivate? What do they reap at harvest time?
Let’s take a lesson from aviators: learn to focus on what will save you and further your mission. Foggles resemble over-sized eyeglasses; they are “frosted” except for narrow, clear areas at the bottom of the lenses, designed to restrict the view to a small area. Worn by students learning to fly aircraft by instruments only, they force the wearer to rely on the only thing visible—the instrument panel! It’s the discipline of relying on information the pilot receives from objective instruments of measurement—not feelings, physical sensation, or optical illusion. Pilots with Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) training can fly through clouds, inclement weather, and darkness. This skill can save lives. Fatal accidents have occurred when non-IFR pilots have become disoriented, relying on their physical feelings of orientation—thinking they were ascending—when in reality they were descending to a tragic crash. Foggles are a tool used to develop the discipline of acting in productive response to reality, especially when it seems counterintuitive—to make course corrections that keep you on course and safe. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were Foggles for developing this kind of discipline in leadership focus—to keep your company or organization on the right trajectory for success? There are…
Your Thanksgiving Day turkey takes a journey to get to your table! Many people along the way have already planned and implemented with the future in mind to make the turkey available for purchase—and then—cooks at home use strategic foresight for the advance organizing of the festive turkey meal! Consider the four day weekend associated with Thanksgiving: travel to and from a destination, the special meal, the football games, the activities on the day after Thanksgiving, and the weekend that follows. Many households plan the Thanksgiving meal weeks ahead. Agendas for visiting family and friends are carefully arranged, sometimes down to the hour. Shopping and activities entail schedules. To top it off, travel for the Sunday after Thanksgiving is declared heaviest of the year by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, with 13.7 million long-distance trips.
In the midst of most Thanksgiving plans one will find a special bird—the turkey. If one applies strategic foresight and end-visioning to the preparation of the Thanksgiving turkey, it’s sure to be a success. Furthermore, one can use this process of planning for any other aspect of the Thanksgiving festivities. Take advantage of this enthusiastic holiday planning approach to catalyze your everyday work, life and leadership, too! Here’s how…
Why do you approach your work a certain way? Why do co-workers approach work in ways that seem counter-productive to you? Our approach to work is guided by our personal priorities. Each person has priorities that rise to the forefront in thinking and behavior.
We find it easier to work with co-workers who share our priorities. After all, “they get it!” We may find it challenging and sometimes unpleasant to work with colleagues whose priorities differ from our own: “They just don’t get it!” If we had a way to better communicate our priorities to others and to better respond to the priorities of our co-workers, it would make our workplaces better! Communication would flow more freely and helpfully, productivity would increase, and people would be more fulfilled in their work. All of this would most certainly lead to a better financial bottom line. So let’s take a look at how to communicate better so that our workplaces and work outcomes are improved.
Do you live for 5 p.m. when “work” is over and “life” resumes? Think again. Life happens at work, and more so than ever. Americans spend more time—living and breathing at work—than any other people on our planet. According to International Labor Organization research, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” Financial advisor G.E. Miller reveals: “The U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world.” Facing the overwork reality, can we make business, or work, worth living? Our work investment of hours upon hours ought to be valuable and rewarding. But how?
Vivid autumn colors will soon burst forth across the Midwestern United States. Are you amazed by the shades of changing leaves, fall sunsets, and the harvest moon? But there’s more: it’s the season when nature dies around us. We see the grass turn brown; trees lose their leaves, and flowers dry up. It’s a transition to a barren time, a season when living things are dormant until spring brings life giving warmth and rain. Without the autumn death and the winter barrenness, the spring would not be filled with new life. Always welcomed as a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, and life; spring could not exist without the true beauty of autumn. This is nature’s illustration of the fundamental principle of death and dormancy in order to bring newness and life; it’s paramount for leaders. So then, leaders must die before they lead well? In a way, yes.
Have you ever watched your favorite musical group perform? They look at each other, nod, gesture, smile—and sometimes speak! They’re intentionally connecting and communicating about the music they are creating together. This is called ensemble and the word literally means “together”. What a valuable skill, and one that is also present in all successful workplaces. Whether you’re in retail, manufacturing, professional service or non-profit organizations, working together well in ensemble means enjoying operations that work. What are some components of ensemble?
How many messages are in your inbox? Do you sort, file, delete and respond daily? Many aspects of life and work are dealt with via email; what about leadership? When leaders need to communicate to give direction, make decisions, or in other ways to relate to colleagues, is email appropriate? Maybe you have received email from a supervisor or colleague that made your day—or, just the opposite, crushed you. Conversely, you may have sent the same. Leadership by email? Yes, it can work!
The flow of cash: keep it coming in regularly for what’s called “sustainable cash flow” in business. The principles for creating sustainable cash flow are useful for individuals as well as businesses. Cash is necessary to provide for our daily personal and business needs. The principle is always the same: if the money coming in is more than the money going out, you’ve got positive cash flow. If the money coming in is less than the money going out, it’s negative cash flow. In business, this means considering customers who pay you and vendors you pay. The simplicity of the concept may tempt us to believe one of two fallacies: first, that lots of cash coming in means “big profit”; and second, that slow cash flow means our products are not profitable. This is where we engage our basic mathematics to learn about sustainable cash flow. Everyone wants it; some understand how to strategically plan for it; and fewer exercise the consistent discipline to really make it work. As author Jim Collins points out in his book How the Mighty Fall, “Organizations don’t die from lack of earnings. They die from lack of cash” (2009). Anyone can learn the principles for creating sustainable cash flow and implement them starting today.