Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Gift of Laurier LaPierre

I'm sitting here with memories of Laurier running through my mind, as I'm sure is the same for so many others right now. All bring me a smile, make me laugh or shake my head in wonder. I remember sitting with Laurier and Harvey at a friend's birthday party (pre Ray) when Laurier turned to my date and told him he was an idiot for not appreciating me enough. That made for an interesting rest of the evening! Still, I found myself gravitating back to the two of them as the conversations weren't anywhere near as fascinating with anyone else. That was what it was like being in their company. Never enough time with them…always treasured moments.

Sitting with Laurier in his living room in conversation to capture for my book, we bantered, conversed, laughed and cried while the dog sat between us, looking back and forth at us, perplexed as if he understood every word. I wish I could have captured the spectrum of emotion for you in Laurier's voice as much as his words. No one loved our country as much as he did. And he let us know it through every word and action.

Having them over for dinner and seeing my kids and family touched by his magic was a gift beyond measure. I am so glad they had a chance to get to know him, even a bit.

Harvey and Laurier were generous enough to have a dinner party in honour of the launch of my book. At one point I found myself sitting next to Laurier. He insisted I do a reading for the group. Of course I picked the piece about him, to which Laurier kept stopping me until I would choose someone else. He teased me and taunted me until I couldn't think straight never mind read! One of the guests turned to me and said "He must really love you. I've never seen him tease anyone like this ever!" That too stayed with me. I think my whole being was smiling at that point.

Last year I made a cake for them for the holidays. This cake is present at all our family functions; holidays, birthdays, and impromtu get-togethers. Harvey was only worried that Laurier would find it in the freezer and start munching on it before the family gathering so was trying to figure out the best time for me to bring it over. I walked into their kitchen with the cake and another small wrapped package. Laurier was about to commandeer the cake before it hit the freezer, but instead, I gave him the small wrapped package. I had made him his own personal loaf which I told him I'd only give him if he'd leave the big one alone at least until the family dinner.

As the cake issue was settled, we dove into conversations about friendships and what that means, who was a true friend and who really wasn't, family, holidays, politics and everything else under the sun.

Those times were precious. Never enough. But when you're lucky enough to have known someone like Laurier, could there ever be enough time?

I'll leave you with some of Laurier's words of wisdom. I asked Laurier "What message do you want to give to the next wave of leaders in Canada? What spark do you want to light in them?" to which he replied:

"Be more conscious of our freedom in this country. Get to know people. Travel, first in our country, then through the world. Get to know Canadians. We may not have fought as many wars as other countries, but in the ones we did fight, no one has ever denied our courage. We are great conciliators. A fundamental flaw is our own people don’t know this country. They only know their region. They go to the U.S. and travel before they’ll travel in Canada. Go to Nunavut. Get to know the people who live in the snow. Watch Canadian programs! Write more. 

We are the first country to believe in diversity. The question of language is no longer necessary. Get to know people's souls. It's in their art and literature. Learn languages. Travel. I want the people of my country to know the stories of my country. Look at human courage. Education is more than knowledge…it's an instrument of discussion. Know what makes our country be right now. Connect with people. We used to have pen pals. Now, through technology, it's even easier. Use technology that is available to you to be better human beings. Better human beings make a better world. Ultimately, if you fail, you will be the generation of the greatest failure in the history of mankind." (
Excerpt from Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words - Conversations with Human-Based Leaders.)

I didn't have a chance to say it before, but thank you, Laurier, for all you've brought to my life. Be at peace. You'll be in our hearts forever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

They Have Our Backs, Who Has Theirs?

It recently came to my attention that the Canadian Forces and their families are dealing with some devastating issues with regards to Home Equity Assistance (HEA) due to relocation for their jobs. Systemic HEA denial has cost these families dearly in every aspect of their lives.

They have our backs. Who has theirs? This community has reached out to ask Canadians for their support. Please help them spread the word as, if you're like me, someone who is not in the military but one who is grateful to live in this amazing country, you had no idea that this was going on either.

In the words of one family (of many) who are affected (and let me add that it took a great deal of courage to speak out):

After over three years, I am speaking out about some very significant issues facing Canadian Forces families upon relocation, ours being one of the more significantly affected. To date,a systemic denial of 100% HEA entitlements has cost families out of pocket and continues to keep them in the red each month.

Systemic HEA denial has cost families their relationships, bankruptcy, careers, health, quality of life and welfare. I would encourage anyone to read into this group and involve yourselves in the upcoming debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 27 Nov 2012 by contacting your MP. I have started this discussion group so that ensuing discussions can be an informed one.

To put this into context, since having our first child (12 years ago) we have relocated five times. Our single income family has lost over $200,000 due to the blanket denial of Home Equity Assistance entitlement during our last relocation. As for other CF families, between 2007-2010 there were 149 applications for HEA and ALL OF THEM WERE DENIED by Treasury Board Secretariat.

This has left our family doing without, our retirements savings gone, significant debts and exhausting the redress system. The only option left now is a Judicial Review costing tens of thousands of dollars, and even that does not provide a solution, but opens the door for a class action. Members in our situation do not have money to pay a legal team and are therefore denied justice.

Should our Canadian Forces soldiers be forced to wait 3+ years, take the Government of Canada to Federal Court and sell off their assets in order to get an "entitlement"? That's exactly what had to happen with the SISIP clawback lawsuit recently. Surely, there must be some accountability for TBS decision making process.

I know that after almost three and a half years of patiently applying for and grieving our entitlement decision, I have little left to sell, and am therefore out of time. I am not willing to declare bankruptcy for an issue which is clearly identified and supported by the Chief of Defence Staff, the Canadian Forces Ombudsman and the Canadian Forces Grievance Authority. All of whom are supportive, but have no authority to provide relief.

24 years of service in my situation equates to an unsustainable financial situation. If people knew what we have had to do to survive these last three years, they would be horrified. This is only one family's case.

After 24 years of service, having to take on the Treasury Board in Federal Court, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, to obtain an entitlement is not "supporting our troops".

I have taken on this issue on behalf of many, many soldiers and their families. Knowing full well the effects of suffering huge financial burdens, the effects on health, career, family, opportunity and relationships.  

I encourage your assistance in passing the word and engaging this discussion in a public forum. Please help us. Share your opinion and support with your Member of Parliament. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Essence of Great Leadership

Some leaders can have a meeting or retreat with their executive team over an eight hour period and basically give a state of affairs of that organization, what strategies they believe are key to the success of the organization and of what to improve and how. And yet they don't look at the critical pieces to this puzzle which are the people who will be implementing the change and how.

"Leadership for today's world requires enlarging one's capacity to see the whole board as in a chess match - to see the complex, often volatile interdependence among the multiple systems that constitute the new commons." - Leadership Can be Taught, by Sharon Daloz Parks

Great leaders play chess rather than checkers with their people. They understand that all the pieces move differently, that people aren't motivated by the same things, or learn in the same way. Great leaders discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it. They must play a unique role. to rally people toward a better future. They instigate. They are driven by their compulsion for a better future and do everything in their power to get other people to come together to make this future come true.

By definition they’ll be successful in leading only when they find a way to make many people, regardless of each person's uniqueness, excited by and confident in this better, shared future. That is the essence of great leadership.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Power of One

I love Seth Godin's blog this morning The Power of One a Day. I can't tell you how many people ask me how they can market themselves, their work or an idea and look at their marketing plan as this huge entity that, even in concept, is overwhelming. Because it's so big, they park it and just get on with their every day lives and what they've always done. They don't do what they have to do, even what step at a time, to be remarkable.

I maintain that life can be complex but doesn't have to be overly complicated. Seth's post is a perfect example of that.

Before you go diving in and doing everything on Seth's list, I'll ask you to answer a few questions for yourself. First of all, what are you really great at? It's much easier to market yourself and your work if you're brilliant at it and others can see that you are. 

Start there. 

Secondly who don't you know who you need to know? Start meeting and having those percolating conversations with people who will 'grow' you and your way of thinking and vise versa. Lastly, what don't you know that you need to know? Make everything you do a learning and growth experience for you and those you interact with.

Now go build your mountain. Get ready. It's going to be HUGE!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Work / Life Balance is a Myth

Work / life balance, in reality, is a myth. To believe we can balance our work and life to the "nth" degree so that everything fits perfectly in its place assumes that life is controllable and static, at least long enough to control it. Nor does it take into consideration all the external factors at play which we have no control of.

Years ago one of the lead performers for the Cirque du Soleil was asked how he can keep his balance. His answer, which definitely applies to this was, "I don't keep my balance and stay still. I'm constantly readjusting".

To have any sort of a balanced life we have to learn to dance in real time with whatever comes our way. That's what keeps us resilient, readjusting and being able to stay psychologically balanced no matter what.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Do You Suck At?

Danielle LaPorte asked the burning question "What do you suck at?" A GREAT question!

For me there are a few answers. I'll get the ball rolling and ask you to throw in your three cents as well....

I suck at accepting praise. When someone compliments me, I give them every reason in the book as to why "it" happened but I'm not a part of the equation. I have to learn to say thank you.

I'm horrible at delegating. I eliminate delay in all its forms (whenever possible) so have a hard time waiting for someone to get something done. 

I'll add to this over time. 

I live by "When at first you don't succeed, try something you've already been successful at and become masterful at it". That frees up others to step up and show their mastery in areas where I suck. Thus a great partnership or team is formed!

What do you suck at?

What Does Your Picture Look Like?

Life is a puzzle. How you put the pieces together will paint what your life's picture will look like. What pieces are missing? How do you find them and complete the picture?

I was reading Peter Bregman's piece this morning about "Who Are You Really Mad At?" How we treat others is a huge puzzle piece and creates a ripple effect for how others will do the same and whether or not we'll be viewed (and treated) with respect.

A part of that are the questions "Are you living your own story or one that others have of you? Are you living the life others think you should be living or one of your own choosing?" Answer the question and then put those puzzle pieces together.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Getting Out of Your Own Way

I'm just back from speaking at the International Congress of Coaching Psychology in Sydney Australia, To say it was an extraordinary experience is an understatement. In the sharing and teaching I learned many things, which is, for me, the beauty of teaching; not only to share what I know and do but to see how it's absorbed, viewed and how people might integrate what they learned into their current practices.

This was probably the most advanced group I've ever worked with. What occurred to me, and I believe is relevant for leaders, teachers, professionals in the human systems realm and all others who help people grow for a living was how so many extraordinary people hold themselves back from being remarkable.

So I asked just that question. "In what way are you standing in your own way of being remarkable?" Some had a difficult time embracing the label remarkable in any way. When we dove into that question, the subsequent ones that came to mind (and were asked) were "If you're stopping yourself from shining, why in the world would any of your clients believe that you can see it in them? How are you modeling what you strive to do with others?"

It's not about ego or conceit. It's about allowing yourself to do everything in your power to make a difference.

Many practitioners need a script or a framework within which to work with their clients, staff, students, whoever your target audience is. I maintain that in order to do our best work, we need to get out of our framework and enter theirs to understand where they are to see their capacity and potential. It's working from within their story, not yours.

Are you getting in your own way of being remarkable? What would the global impact be if all the extraordinary people we know (or heard about) held themselves back?

Monday, April 09, 2012

What's Your Excuse?

Great leaders don't look for excuses why they can't do things; they look for all the possibilities that will support their goals and dreams and those of their staff.  Here's a great video to remind us of just that. 

What "reasons" do you have to let go of?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

John Spence Speaks on "The Most Important Thing I Have Ever Learned"

John Spence is a Human-Based Leader extraordinaire. It's not only what he says and does...it's the core of who he is. His story in my book in Leaders, Their Stories, Their Words has inspired people around the world. 

This TED talk is yet another indication of he not only turned his life around but how he deeply and profoundly impacts people in a myriad of ways.  It's an honor and privilege to know him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Putting on a Human Face to Build Trust

In a great article that speaks to Human-Based Leadership™, the authors, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers Ph.D speak of how "Corporations Must “Put on a Human Face” to Build Customer Trust

We can never really know someone else's intention. Any person's motive is internal to the person. It's in the mind. All we can do is observe their behavior—what they do, how they look, what they say out loud."

Are these leaders paying attention and being mindful of those around them? Are they leading others through positive impact, inspiration, caring, and recognition of their people's unique talents and strengths? These attributes are evident and easy to identify. They also go a long way in growing and retaining talent. The characteristics of a human-based leader serves as a strong foundation for leadership which considers ethics, personal values, diversity, and social responsibility.

The more we identify and applaud these HB Leaders, the greater the shift from 'power-over others' style of leadership to 'power with others'.

Tell me about the Human-Based Leaders in your life. We'd love to feature them in a conversation.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Promises Made and Kept

The concept of kept promises seems to be ambiguous of late. I was just having this conversation with a colleague the other day. Many make promises at the drop of a hat without any reflection beforehand. Can they keep the commitment? Do they have the bandwith to add something else to their plate before saying "I'll do this" or "I'll be there" before they dive in and make that promise? 

Others love to use the expressions " I hope to be able to". Hope doesn't make things happen. Doing makes things happen. Or "I'll try to...." As Yoda is famous for saying "Try? Try not. Do!" If you don't have the bandwith to do it properly and in the timeframe you promised, then don't.

This morning in Seth Godin's blog, "Specific Promises, Kept" he hit the nail right on the head when he stated :"The power of the specific, measurable and useful promise made and kept is difficult to overstate." 

The thing is, it's up to us as the recipient of the promise to hold the other accountable. That's not to say we have control over whether or not other people honor their commitments. We have the right to decide whether or not to engage with and believe in that individual in the future. After all, we are our word. If we promise lightly with no intention of honoring that promise why would people trust us in the future? And why would they expect we will trust them in return if their words are empty?

The biggest gift you can give clients, customers, colleagues, friends and family alike is to be honest about what we can give and do.... and what we can't.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Joel Manby: Human-Based Leader Extraordinaire

I first "met" Joel Manby when I watched him on Undercover Boss. There will always be sceptics in this world who ask questions like "Didn't Manby's co-stars think it was odd that a television camera was documenting someone's first day at a unglamorous job?" or comments to that effect. I met Joel in person in Michigan where we were both speakers at Catalyst University. I can tell you, what you see (or saw on the show) is what you get. He is a caring, interested, interesting person and a Human-Based Leader to the core.
I was honored to continue the conversation with Joel as there was so much more I wanted to know and share with my readers.

Listen in:

D.K.    Looking over the span of your career to this point in time, was there a moment, an occasion or experience when you realized you were exactly where you dreamed of being?

J.M.    There was not a specific moment or experience. But I do know that in past jobs, I felt as if something was missing. I have now been at Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE) nearly 15 years. I've been courted by other companies for bigger jobs with more pay, and have never felt a calling to go elsewhere. That tells me I am where I'm supposed to be. So many people search for something external to help them feel fulfilled. I realized that fulfillment has to come from within. Human beings to a great extent might be hard-wired to measuring success based on output. I believe wherever your values system comes from, you'd better be in alignment with it.

D.K.    Was there something tangible about how you made the decisions on your career path that gave you the absolute certainty you shouldn't be doing anything else? With a business background and years in the automotive industry, transitioning to themed parks and the family entertainment world is quite the shift.

J.M.    For many years, I was caught up in WHAT I was doing; the level of responsibility, and the output of the job. Over time, I became more concerned with HOW I was doing it. Quality output” was the price of entry anywhere I worked, but I was more interested in the higher calling of leading people the right way such as caring about HOW they are treated. I had a glimpse of what it meant to combine a firm set of behavioral values with a firm set of performance principles in my stint at Saturn. At 27, I was fresh out of business school. Saturn was my first leadership position. They cared deeply about people and profits. In many ways, I have been searching ever since for that balance of caring about people and profits like we had a Saturn. I found it here at HFE. At HFE we call it Leading with Love.

D.K. I recently read the manifesto The Four-Letter Word That Makes You and Your Work Irresistible by Mark Sanborn where he says " LOVE is a four-letter word in the business world. It makes us uncomfortable. It seems inappropriate or even taboo", a perspective shared by many business leaders. Joel not only has the courage to embrace it in the business world but shares it and lives it with all those around him. The conversation continues....

J.M.    Love is a four letter word in business for at least two reasons. First, some think leading with love will hurt profits. I think the opposite is true and HFE has returned over 14%/year to investors for a 10 year period, even through the recession so that argument doesn’t work for me. Second, many think leading with love is SOFT. It is not. Leading with love is hard because you have to care about how your decisions impact others.

D.K.  Where did your desire to Lead with Love come from?

J.M.  My desire to Lead with Love is based on my faith. It took me a long time to get here. I moved 10 times the first 15 years of marriage, struggled with working too long, and traveling too much, which hurt my family. It was a wake-up call. I needed to remember that loving others included those at home as well. I needed to have relationship time at home too, and figured out a way to balance home and work. My family and I came up with their key points of what made them feel loved, and I work very hard to stick to those desires. 

At HFE, I learned that love works not only at home, but in the rough and tumble for profit business world. We have a huge responsibility at HFE. Not only is our motto "Creating Memories Worth Repeating" but we have a responsibility for the safety and well-being of all who walk through the gates of our facilities. We also care for our people. There is pain everywhere. So many of our people are struggling with something, so we "Share it Forward" with an internal foundation that uses funds to help employees in need. We have programs for just about everything to support our people from Catastrophic relief, Single Parent Support, Marriage Counseling, to Financial Help (Debt Relief). We have helped nearly 10% of our workforce with some kind of aid this year.

We grow our people and have a philosophy to promote from within as much as possible. If we create supportive relationships in our work environment, an environment that's grounded, centered and emotionally healthy, we'll all succeed which will also support great guest experiences.

I continuously remind myself to find your own “true north”. I ask myself "How do YOU want to behave and what kind of environment do you want to be in? What kind of people do you want to work with?" Life, both personal and professional, is about relationships. I focus on that. I've seen so much in my 30+ years in business; great leaders and horrible leaders, companies with horrendous cultures and companies with caring cultures. I never stopped believing there could be a better way. If you feel discontented and want more from your work, there is something stirring. Intuition is a powerful wake-up call. You need to figure out what you have to do to live in congruence with your core values. If you can't, you might just have to get out and go elsewhere if the organization isn't aligned with your values.

Key areas I focus on are:

  • To listen better,
  • To ask better questions which tests my thinking as a leader,
  • To be willing to change my mind more, and
  • To hire and keep better people
The fact is, we are ALL going to "cheat" at something every day. What I mean by that is we're always going to have to choose one thing over another. The important factor to remember is there are always consequences to our choices and actions. Figure out what they might be and choose accordingly. For instance, in leaving the auto industry, I had to accept working with less prestigious brands in a less prestigious industry, but I would never go back. If you stick to being home for dinner except in an emergency at work; it COULD cost you something (for eg. a lost sale, accolades, promotion) but what is more important?

D.K.    I consider Human-Based Leaders™ those who have a passion for what they do and compassion for those they do it with. Both are evident in your episode of Undercover Boss. Can you tell me more about how you demonstrate and promote HB leadership within your organization? Do you acknowledge it and reward it in some way?

J.M.    We have developed a set of values we expect all our employees to adhere to. All leaders complete Servant Leadership training to make sure they understand HOW to lead and follow the values.

We continually discuss the need to manage the tension between our three shareholder objectives which are profit and growth, a great place to work for great people, and servant leadership. We discuss the 2X2 matrix and how people’s salary raises are dependent upon achieving both “do” and “be” goals.

D.K.    Why would the next generation of leaders want to follow you? What about you will inspire them?

J.M.    We have a clear Vision and Mission. We have a clear definition of success. They will know if they are winning or losing. We care equally about the “do” goals and the “be” goals. We are family oriented. We care deeply about quality. If 'it' is not remarkable, we look to change it. We have FUN....this is the FUN business.

D.K.    What words of wisdom would you like to pass on to them?

J.M.    Do what you love to do, it is the only way you can do excellent work.

Joel's book Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles For Effective Leaders will be released end of May, 2012. Click here to pre-order and learn more about this extraordinary Human-Based Leader.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

World of Psychology | The Power Of Intentions: Thriving Through Divorce

Intentions equal results. If you intend to emerge through a difficult situation stronger than ever before, it will happen. This article which I co-authored with Melanie Gorman can be applied to a divorce in a marriage, a partnership (life or work) and many other relational circumstances. 

If you set your intention, make it powerful and easy to achieve. Click here to read on...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Paying Your Leadership Forward

Paying their leadership forward seems to be a common thread that emerges in the stories of my book Leaders: Their Stories, Their Words. Not only do they lead people from a sense of values and humanity, or as I call it "humanness", they honor those who helped them evolve into their leadership by doing something that matters.

Joe Saltzman shows how much he honors his mentor and past High School English teacher, Ted Tajima by giving his all to his students and sharing Ted's impact as a role model with everyone around him. He states it beautifully when he says "The best lessons I’ve learned along the way are these: always put others ahead of yourself, and never do anything solely for personal gain. By helping others, by doing the best job you can on everything you do, true joy will be yours. The unhappiest people I know are the ones whose goals are trivial and unimportant, and who put what they do second to what they want to get out of it. I believe that if you care about what you do and put all your talent and time into it, the rewards will come. But to do something simply because of those rewards is to fail.

Ron Kitchen had many who dramatically impacted his life from Ewing Kauffman in an exchange he had with him at the ball field to his mother's best friend to a good friend who mentored him into business.  In his words, "Most people want to be asked to mentor, whether it’s officially or unofficially. They’re willing to give you a little bit of themselves to help if they believe you’re honest and genuinely trying to use that to move forward. I’ve never had anybody who I asked for help and mentorship who turned me down, and I don’t think I’ve ever turned anybody down either.

The key factor with these leaders is they don't forget their roots nor the people who helped them emerge into their leadership. They don't take all the credit for being "self-made" they acknowledge those around them who they paid attention, listened to and learned from.

There were a few people in my life who showed me not to take no for an answer. Jim, an early mentor and teacher told me I could hugely impact the world if I just gave myself the permission. David told me "no" had no business being in my vocabulary. And Paul told me to go out and start my own firm as I was making a name for myself way back when and I had a choice to either make it for the consortium I was affiliated with or myself.  I listened. The rest is history.

When I was talking at Catalyst University I challenged the people in the room to find others who can help them make their dreams a reality. Everything knows something about life and living that we don't.  Ask them for their guidance and help and give the same back. Do it without any expectations of anything in return and you'll get back more than you imagined.

Clients often call and ask if I might speak to their kids who are going away to university. I always say yes and hope that they'll help someone some day who's in the same boat. Next week I'm donating my time to teach at a local high school. This is the age when dreams are formed and if I can light a small light in the hearts and minds of these students, it's worth every minute and then some.

How are you going to reach out and pay your leadership forward? Before you start telling yourself (and others) that you're no one special or have nothing to share, think again. You just have to think deeper. In the day and age where social media makes it so easy to reach out and connect, your impact can go a long way to helping many realize their goals and dreams.

Just do what matters.

Monday, February 06, 2012

A Catalyst for Learning

Caring Doesn't Cost Anything. Not caring does. Caring continues to grow a community and that was tangible at Catalyst University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Speaking at Catalyst University was an eye opener for me in many respects. Hopefully you'll excuse the pun once I share my own learning because of this powerful event. 

Caring for community and the people within it is a driving force behind the leaders in Kalamazoo. What Southwest Michigan First does in bringing Catalyst University to the community is create an extraordinary 'container' within which one can shift their thinking, percolate on possibilities, benefit from the great minds and huge hearts in the room and, in turn, start "doing differently".

As a Coach, my job is to help people think differently, and view themselves differently. Asking the questions like "What don't you know that you need to know? Who don't you know who you need to know?"seemed to really resonate as I had quite a few conversations around the edges of Catalyst (breaks, lunch and post). People were sharing their interpretations of that and how they were going to integrate what I shared with them into their worlds.

Many picked my brain to see how they could integrate the models I use in my group and team work into their organizations and teams. And many thanked me for sticking around to have these conversations and to honor them by doing so. For me that's a given as in all the years I've been speaking and guest lecturing I will always stay around so the people in the room can connect the dots and have their questions answered. I never want to be so busy as to be able to stick around and get to talk with the people who take their precious time to hear me speak. My learning continues to be about talking with people as opposed to at them.

I love connecting with people through their stories; through conversations. Even when I'm on stage I want to see their responses, what's engaging them, exciting them and what might push their buttons. All creates shifts. My learning this particular time was difficult to say the least. I walked on stage, turned to the almost 600 people in the room and couldn't see a thing. Not only couldn't I connect with the people in the room, even visually, I couldn't see the monitors, timer, the video when it showed… I could hear it but couldn't see it. I was completely blinded by the lights. Because of the eye glasses I wear, my height and the positioning of the lights, I couldn't see anything. My first reaction was almost one of panic. My second was being grateful that I decided not to use the slides as I wouldn't have been able to see and speak to them. I spoke from the heart and shared some reality check questions with the people in the room. I learned that one can operate as much on instinct as preparation. What I do is as much who I am as a profession. That served me well. 

My second lesson was if I am completely focused on the people and not myself, then I could stay centered. That worked until towards the end when I asked myself how I was going to walk off stage without being able to see. Thankfully, once I turned away from the lights I could see enough to navigate the stairs. Once I was back stage in dim lights, my sight came back and off I went into a great conversation / interview. There would be time to process what just happened when I got home. I didn't want my personal experience to interfere with the people coming over to talk with me and the fabulous conversation I had about what I'll be doing with the future leaders when I return to Kalamazoo next month. My biggest lesson was how I will never again assume that the setup for a speaking engagement will work for me. That was something I took for granted at every talk. Now I'll check out the stage and position of the lights so this never happens again. The lights I want to see are in the eyes of those I'm talking to.
Someone asked me how they can pay their leadership forward. My answer is to open your minds to truly listening to what others bring to the table no matter what their age, title or position. Let them know what you plan to do to honor them in sharing their ideas with you. Help them make their ideas a reality.

Speak to them based on their story, not yours. Share possibilities with them, connect them to people who will help make their dreams happen and the ripple effect of your leadership will go well beyond your knowing.

We are the center of a circle, the circumference determined by our circle of influence. Join with other people and the circles and possibilities are endless.

At the end of Catalyst, Ron Kitchen, CEO of Southwest Michigan First (Leaders, Their Stories, Their Words, Chapter 2) asked everyone to answer the following questions. I'm sharing them with you (and my own answers) so you can answer them and positively impact your world.

1.    What am I personally passionate about?
Supporting people to achieve their level of excellence and to positively impact the world, even one person at a time.

2.    What needs to happen to bring results to my passion?

Teaching more, speaking more….working with students to help them see their leadership. Supporting other 'game changers' in their worlds. When we partner with others who have their own broad circles the impact is exponentially larger than our own no matter what our global footprint is.

When my book was formally launched end of November, 100 copies came in with damaged covers. I had to rip them off and send them back to the publisher for them to figure out what went wrong in the printing. They told me to do whatever I wanted with the books and that I could dispose them. I refused. Even though they were "naked" books they had value.

I sent a broadcast out through Twitter and my FaceBook asking locals for names of people who ran leadership programs in the high schools. I contacted them and because of the great responses, starting this month, I will be going into some of the local high schools with my "naked" books. I will be giving them to the students, doing personality profiling with them, and asking them to choose one story they will work on in triads and come back with their learning and action because of them. I'll spend a day with them up front, then go back towards the end of the program to see where the shifts have occurred. I will be donating my time and giving back to my own community.

I will continue to support the TED Fellows (which, by the way we do pro bono) and the Ronald McDonald Houses as we lived in one on and off for 18 years. I will also mentor 2 rising stars to help them evolve and continue implementing reverse mentoring programs in my clients' organizations.

3.    What can I commit to do today to make my passion a reality?
To remember to do what matters.

I commit to keeping the spirit of Kalamazoo and love of community and the people within it as a driving force in all I do, whether within Kalamazoo or elsewhere in the world, to always remember that people are behind everything we do and as someone who goes into communities, organizations, companies,  governments, and political offices, to be a steward and remember the basic tenet of stewardship which is "To do no harm".

And to always remember….no ceiling just sky.

I'd love to hear your ideas and action as to how you're going to dive into the deep end of what you're passionate about and make it happen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do You Expect Support or Has it Been Earned?

The other day I was in conversation with a colleague about two member organizations we both belong to and support. As I do every year, I review my work, what conferences I'll attend or present at, and what avenues are open to me to continuously learn. I also look at who I mentor and engage with and then make my decisions to move forward based on what comes up for me in those reviews.

In this case, for these two organizations, nothing much has happened for close to a year and even less since the new terms have started. As a past executive in both organizations, my loyalty is strong, but to a point. The question is, is my loyalty and support honored and is it earned?

Those are two of the questions I have to answer when I make my decision to renew my memberships and whether or not I'll be an advocate for them. As not much has been happening, at least that we're aware of, I thought I'd ask what was in the works for the coming year, how I
could support the organizations and ask why they think I should rejoin. For one, I was told to rejoin because it's only $129. There was no other answer forthcoming. For the second, I was basically told I had no right to ask the questions, that asking was insulting.

So to get back to my conversation with my colleague, his response was "That's not what the organization stands for" to which I replied "That's not what it stood for". Things have radically changed. We cannot make decisions based on history. If an organization believes we should continue to support it just because we're founding members and nothing else, then it's resting on its laurels. They are not earning our support based on current action or honored commitments or basic respect for its members.

Should we continue to support organization which have fallen silent to its members or made commitments that haven't been kept? It's more than whether or not we waste money. In my opinion, when you attach your name and advocate for a person or organization, your reputation and professional integrity is on the line. Would I recommend an organization to a student or colleague that told a member they didn't have the right to ask the relevant questions? No. Would I disrespect myself in attaching my name to an organization that disregards its members? No.

We have to choose how we devote our time, energy and money. For me, devoting it to something or someone who will help others evolve and grow is a key criteria. Don't ask people for their support if you don't care what you give back. Don't ask people to support you based on past history. Ask them because you know you'll make a difference in their lives and professions and they'll be valued as contributors. Then you have earned their loyalty.

Great organizational leaders understand this and make sure the customer is always kept in mind for every decision that's made. Great leaders understand that if they forget who they serve, they won't have an organization left to lead as they won't have anyone left that they're serving.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leading by Example

This afternoon I read a fabulous post Live to Lead by Example. A question I often ask my clients is "Are you paying attention to your level of impact?" This post speaks about "Pay(ing) attention to the power of leading by personal example." You are what you do more than what you say and people are paying attention.

Even if you're not paying attention to your level of impact (good or bad), others are. Count on it!