What’s Your Independence?

What’s Your Independence?

How was your fourth of July? The day we celebrate our Independence. So here’s a powerful question: What are you declaring independence from? What are you breaking away from this Fourth of July? Fear of risk? The naysayers in your life? The status quo of mediocrity and repetition? What are you declaring independence from? The wonderful irony of Independence is that by stating such a declaration, you step wholly into interdependence. And that’s a good thing. Think about it: The founding fathers could not have built this nation alone. They separated from tyranny to build possibility! But the thirteen colonies needed each other to survive; in order to build a more perfect union, they had to work together. The Continental Congress couldn’t do it by themselves. It took community, people of all types, and a collective commitment to work together for a common goal. It’s taking us a long time, and we still haven’t mastered it, of course, but it is interconnected, interdependence that supports our independence. We tend to celebrate independence in this rugged, bootstraps, I-don’t-need-anyone American mindset. But NO ONE does it alone. No one! We use collective resources, services and roads; we eat food others have grown, and drive cars others have built. In all aspects of our independence we are working with a team, a community, a neighborhood, a family…it is this very interdependence that is powerful. If we’re celebrating independence as some kind of isolated lone wolf, then we’re missing the point. So, by all (safe) means, celebrate Independence. And, while you’re at it, honor also the truth and value of interdependence: Great leaders...
Leaders Embrace Difficult Conversations

Leaders Embrace Difficult Conversations

… Not because they’re fun, but because those conversations are the incubator of change and growth.   Lately, I’ve noticed a theme among my coaching clients. I’m not sure if there’s something in the water or it’s just a strange coincidence (or perhaps it has something to do with our political climate), but everyone I’m talking to these days is learning how to embrace and engage in difficult conversations. You know the ones: When you have to confront your boss because they’re sending you contradictory messages. When you have an employee you have to let go. When you have a teammate who’s spreading negativity behind your back.  A loved one with a diametrically opposed view than yours. You know you want to engage, but how does one engage in those conversations productively? Remember this lesson: Everything we see hides something else. When we see sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, learn to ask — what’s that hiding? What’s underneath it? What is their anger covering up? Seek that sense of understanding, to know what’s really going on under the surface. As is wisely pointed out in one of my favorite books, Getting to Yes, the key to being able to engage productively in difficult conversations is the ability to state your opponent’s position better than your opponent. That doesn’t mean you’ll change them overnight; nothing happens overnight except sleep. But when you can state their position, and its underlying catalyst, your ‘opponent’ will feel understood by you — and that’s the real tipping point, isn’t it? That’s where there’s room for change, that’s where they begin to really feel heard and seen, and no longer can they say “you...

Where Were The Leaders?

Leadership is easy as an academic study; it’s when our opportunity to lead shows up in real life that it all gets difficult. We saw just how difficult on Sunday, aboard a United Express flight. The revelation of United Express flight 3411 isn’t: Surprise! airlines have the right to bump you from their flights any time they chose! You knew that already. It says so in the fine print of your ticket — which, I don’t know about you, but I read thoroughly every time I schedule a flight, just to make sure the terms haven’t changed in any way that would harm the airlines should my business gets in the way of theirs (can you sense my sarcasm?). I would go so far as to say that the revelation of United Express flight 3411 isn’t even that officials boarded the plane and used aggressive and excessive force. Sadly, we’ve seen that before. The revelation of United Express flight 3411 isn’t even the newest fact — that the flight wasn’t actually overbooked, it was just full, and airline employees come first. Silly you; you didn’t believe the old mantra “the customer is always right,” did you? That is merely a platitude, certainly not a belief of the airline industry. No. The revelation that keeps SCREAMING at me is that the plane lacked a single leader. No one, NO ONE, stood up and said this was wrong. Not the pilot, not a flight attendant, not a single passenger. We watched, we recorded on our iPhones, we gasped in horror, all the while letting it happen. And I say “we” intentionally, because I wonder how many...

How To Be A Rainmaker

You know the term ‘rainmaker,’ right? These are the people who bring in the money. They’re the lawyers who attract big clients, the high-grossing salesman, the partners who have a knack for finding new streams of revenue. Wanna be one? Then look a little deeper into the weather analogy it’s based on. The rain comes, the flowers grow…what’s that old saying? “April showers bring May flowers…” In terms of weather patterns, the higher the barometric pressure, the less chance there is of rain. High pressure typically means a sunny, clear day. We love to have and play in these days, but if we experience too many of them in a row we get drought – the metaphorical opposite of success.   We live in a culture of stress and high pressure — as if it’s the high pressure that will produce the “rain” of success. There’s almost this idea that if you’re not stressed, you’re not working hard enough. We are under pressure to win, to do better, to beat our previous best in a never-ending stream of improvement and “success.” But in weather, it’s when pressure lowers that space opens up for the clouds to roll in and the life-giving rain to pour. Kind of ironic, don’t you think? High pressure doesn’t make rain; low pressure does. And yet we continually place ourselves and our rainmakers under tremendous pressure. To be fair, some pressure is good. After all, we like the sunny days. They push us to get outside, to exercise or play at the park, to enjoy the beach…and as a result, we feel better (huh, now there’s a thought: pressure that actually causes you to “feel...
The Pebble, the Pond, & Leadership: How to Connect in a Black & White World

The Pebble, the Pond, & Leadership: How to Connect in a Black & White World

When you drop a pebble into a pond, it creates a splash of concentric ripples that work their way to the outer most edges. If, as a leader, you see yourself as the pebble — just trying to make a splash — then you are missing the whole point of leadership. Your job is not to make waves and then disappear. The pebble is the idea, the disruptive technology, the new thought — those things that without real and genuine leadership to carry their momentum, would just sink to the bottom. The pond, of course, is the community you lead: a company, a family, yourself, or a nation. The first wave of that pebble always touches the people closest to you: those who already agree with you, those ‘on your side.’ To get to the ones on the edge takes much longer; they can’t be reached until those ripples work their way out. We can’t change the people who are polar opposites of us — or can we? When topics get heavy, talk gets serious and tempers flare… leadership often gets pushed aside. We stop trying to connect with people, to assuage their fears, or find the value in their perspective; we too often simply shut them down to try and prove they are wrong. Leadership, however, asks so much more of us, but it doesn’t ask of us the impossible.  It asks us to be the ripple, to take the time to make gentle connections, to work our way out one ripple at a time, realizing that we don’t reach those who feel so very far from us with the splash. We reach them over time...
Fearless vs. Fear Less

Fearless vs. Fear Less

What does fearless leadership mean? To lead without fear? Is that possible? Is it even desirable? If you’re going to engage with people and bring out the best of who they are, you’re going to take risks. Not everyone’s going to like where they think you’re going. How can we not be ‘afraid’ at some level? We want to do our best and we don’t want to mess up. What if fearless leadership isn’t the absence of fear at all? What if fearless leading is simply fear-less leading? What if, instead of trying to convince ourselves that great leaders do not have any fear at all, which simply isn’t true, we instead focus on just coming one notch down – fearing just a little less? What opportunities might that open? What might we see? It’s easy to think our job as leaders is to get everyone to agree, but that’s just not true. Our job is to get people to actively and productively engage. It’s not about having no ‘enemies’ or opposition, and losing every ounce of fear, it’s about connecting with our ‘enemies,’ converting opposition into power and slowing our own fear down. The art of leadership is the art of...