Sunday, May 30, 2010

Room To Grow

Like most men I know I am not really into taking care of plants. However, in my office I had a plant and for a long time it thrived and gave me a lot of visual pleasure. Over time I noticed that the leaves on the plant had begun to turn brown. I continued to water it, but to no avail. The leaves had a burned look and then began to wilt. I thought about whether I should throw the plant away.

One day a woman with a floral printed smock and a floppy straw hat came by my office bringing new plants. I asked her what she was doing and she said her company provides plants for offices and maintains them on a weekly basis. I asked her if she could take a look at my plant and let me know whether it could be saved. She took one look at it and told me the plant had outgrown the planter. All that needed to be done was to place it in a larger planter with new soil and it would recover. At my request, she placed it in a new planter with new soil and shortly thereafter the plant gradually showed signs of new life. Over the next few weeks the plant was back to full health.

As a general manager I was responsible for leading a team of over 70 salaried staff. Part of my responsibilities was to work with the various supervisors in evaluating the individual performance of their team members. During one such evaluation we were discussing one of our once-excellent employee’s work. We noticed that over the previous few months his performance had not been up to standard. In spite of our best efforts we could not turn him around and as such we had to make a decision on whether we would need to separate him from the company.

I kid you not, while sitting in my office one day I glanced at that plant that had once been dying and was now completely restored and thought of that employee. We brought him into my office and had a different conversation this time. The result was we determined that he had outgrown his position. He felt stagnated and unchallenged. It so happened that we had a manager’s position opening up that we believed he would be a great fit for, and would do an excellent job. We promoted him and sure enough he became one of our best managers.

When I look back, I think of what a shame it would have been to throw both the plant and employee out simply because I did not understand the importance of environment. As leaders it is our responsibility to mentor, coach, and challenge our employees to grow and play bigger within our organizations. When we do, we all win and we have the pleasure of watching the growth of our potential replacement.

Have you ever been in a pot too small or given someone an opportunity to grow, and how did it turn out?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Someone Is Always Watching

“Persons are judged to be great because of the positive qualities they possess,
not because of the absence of faults” Unknown

You never know who is looking at you. One day I took my 12 year old daughter to my company for a quick visit. I left my office briefly to meet one of our team members and then came back to pick her up. The next day when I returned to my office I noticed that she had written something on my erase board. What she had written was qualities of a good leader. I was so proud of her and her insight on leadership I could not erase it.

Just in case you cannot read the words they state: Qualities of a Good Leader are… will for success, “know how”, love for everyone, interest in job and consumer, flexibility, strength, care, intelligence and patience. Some might question some of the qualities, but I was impressed with her thinking on the qualities she thought essential to a good leader.

The amazing thing is that at the age of 12 she could articulate the meaning of each one of the qualities. When I asked her how she had arrived at these qualities, she stated with a smile, “I saw them in you daddy.” It is really humbling to know that someone is always watching and listening to what you do and say. It places a lot of responsibility knowing that your example can either inspire or disappoint.

You can be a great leader at work and in the community, but your leadership should not stop there. What are your family and friends saying about you? What are they observing? How many leaders do you know or have heard about that do a great job as a leader in their company, but their home life has fallen apart? I have learned that leadership is who you are at home, work and in your community. Be careful, someone is watching you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Lesson Learned

Stay "small in your own eyes"
1 Samuel 15:17

Recently I had to take my wife and daughter to the Oakland Airport. On the road leading to the airport, there is a golf course adjacent to the road where I got my first job. It brought back memories of one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned about leadership.

When I was about 14 years old I held a job as a ball picker on that golf course. The job entailed picking up range balls by hand with a ball retriever on the driving range. I worked with several other boys, two were my best friends. I was the fastest ball picker on the range, (dodging golf balls makes you very fast and nimble). One day I was called into the head golf pro’s office and he promoted me to Range Boy Supervisor which came with a whopping $.10 per hour raise.
Before the promotion, I got along with all of the other range boys. That all changed the day I became supervisor. My head suddenly grew about 3 hat sizes. Instead of working together, I began to dictate and threaten any range boy (including my friends), who did not meet my standards or obey my orders. It was not long after that I was called once again into the office of the head pro, but this time it was to inform me that I would no longer be a supervisor. He explained to me that all of the ball boys complained that my head was way too big for the job! I am lucky they did not bury me on the driving range.

That day I learned a very important lesson on how to treat people, and how to accept responsibility, that has served me well over the last 36 years. The lesson is, as a leader it is essential that you check your ego at the door. No matter what position you hold, humility is a characteristic one must possess if they are going to be great leader. It is not necessary to tell everyone that you are the boss and that you are in charge.

As the Northern California General Manager for a division of a fortune 500 company I led by these guiding principles: 1. give your team the credit when it succeeds, and take the blame when it fails, 2. do not ask anyone to do what you are not willing to do or learn how to do, 3. lead with compassion, 4. treat each member of your team as if they were the only one in the room, and 5. walk your talk.

When I lost my job as a range boy supervisor it was one of the best things that happened to me because I learned “to stay small in my own eyes”.

What are some of the important leadership lessons you have learned?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Greatness in my Mother

When I hear people speak of greatness they often speak of some CEO, actor or athlete. I think of one person, my MOTHER. From troubled beginnings filled with frustration, abuse, and disappointment, she rose above the negativity and chose to break the chains of dependence and ignorance to pursue a different direction, following Christ. Here’s what makes my MOTHER GREAT!

Instilled values - Love for God, she reminds us that there is no other way to life.
Self Sacrifice - Putting her dreams aside, she lived to provide for us without thought of her own comfort and desires.
Discipline - Holding us accountable for our behavior, tempered with Love
Strength - No matter what negative situation came her way, she pushed through it knowing that it was not just about her.
Choice - She could have chosen to live out her own dreams, worked full time, or placed us in child care her choice was to be a MOM.
Caring & Nurturing - Through sickness and health, my mother consistently provided nurturing, not just to her children, but anyone needing her help.
Serving - She has always demonstrated a servant’s heart. She has consistently served God by serving her children.
Generosity - What’s hers is yours. Even if it’s her last.
Inspiration - My mother has not only inspired and encouraged her children in all of their endeavors, but has been a tremendous support to countless others in need.
Friendship - Not just a great mother, but a consistent and loving friend.
Fun - Late nights at Jack N the Box, Creature Features movies and playing board games on her bed.
All driven by Love - There is nothing she would not do for her family. Her life has always demonstrated her unconditional Love.
Leaving a Legacy - Because of all of the above, she has produced four College graduates who overcame the negativity of an apparently hopeless neighborhood to have successful careers.

My mother has had a significant impact on my leadership development. Through her life I have found that if anyone wants to be great they must be willing to serve others.

What is GREATNESS? My Momma! Happy Mother's Day Mom

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Motivational Leadership

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to be there to help motivate someone? How did you handle it? Do you believe that it’s possible to help others to become better? Below are some of my favorite quotes associated with what I believe to be essential leadership characteristics:

"Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value."
—Albert Einstein

"The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."
— Theodore Hesburgh

"One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested."
— E. M. Forste

"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."
— Vince Lombardi

"The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value."
— Unknown

"Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right."
— Ezra Taft Benso

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."
— George Washington

"People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice."
— Stephen Gregg
Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp

Although cleverly crafted motivational words alone may not be sufficient to move people to rise above negative circumstances, they can provide inspirational points of light to an individual or individuals that help them regain focus during trying times.

What is your favorite motivational quote?