Friday, April 29, 2016

Tempus Fugit

I recently celebrated yet another birthday and found myself saying on more than one occasion, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Certainly, like many of you, I DO wonder where the time has gone and if my time has been well-spent as I’m reminded of a quote from Michael Altshuler "The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot."

Rather a daunting thought…we’re responsible for our own destination, our own course, our own schedule…no one to blame or congratulate except ourselves…how empowering…how invigorating…how challenging as we move forward to another year…another new vista…

Be good to yourself…

Friday, April 22, 2016

Just Say NO!

At certain times throughout our careers each of us is faced with the challenge of simply saying NO! No to working on this project or NO to chairing another committee or NO to attending a meeting or no to an new idea or project; learning to say no is essential. Steve Denning suggests that leadership is all about focusing energy on achieving an important goal. In achieving focus, leadership is implicitly saying no to all the other less-important things that might be attempted at this time. In this sense,  saying no to trivia and distractions is the essence of leadership.

Saying no is an art form, as if done incorrectly can foster apathy (why try, she’ll just say no), or resentment (she NEVER likes my ideas), or can cause division in relationships (she NEVER does anything for me).

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article, Allison Vaillancourt (University of Arizona/Tucson) says she often has to figure out how to politely decline a request to participate in a committee or activity for which she just doesn’t have time. Here are some approaches she’s come across:
-    “I’ve been trying to figure out a way to say that I could do this – because I would enjoy it. But the terrible truth is that I am really overcommitted in the next couple of years, and adding anything is probably not a good idea. I really hope I can help in the future.”
-    “I’m not the best person for that, so let me suggest ---- or ----.”
-    “It would be so great to work with you on this, so I’m crushed that my schedule won’t permit me.”
-    “I wish I could say yes, but I’m in the middle of a big project right now.”
-    “This is an important event, and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention it deserves.”
-    “Can you give me a few weeks to think about this and call you if I think I can make this work?”
-    “I wouldn’t be able to participate on a regular basis, but I’d be happy to serve as a sounding board from time to time.”
-    “You are so kind to think of me. I wish I could.”

Saying no is strategic, but like so many other things must be practiced.  I’m guessing some reading this are better than others in saying no…I’d be interested to hear how you just say no…

Be good to yourself…

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more; you are a leader. - John Quincy Adams

Friday, April 15, 2016

Do You Know Where Your DQ Is?

So…how’s YOUR DQ? With summer just around the corner I’m guessing your mind may have wandered to thinking about your local Dairy Queen…but no…I’m referring to your Digital Quotient or DQ.

For many years it was a widely held belief that to be a great leader one must be intelligent as measured by his or her IQ. It was believed that people with the highest IQ’s were destined to be great leaders with extraordinary accomplishments and achievement throughout their careers.

Then Daniel Jay Coleman’s work showed that along with intelligent attributes great leaders also showed a high degree of Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Such qualities included self-awareness, inspiration, empathy, social and relationship management skills.

Enter the digital age with its mobility, social networks, data warehouses, cloud capabilities, 24/7 accessibility, and it’s ever changing digital environment, today’s leader must now develop and hone his or her Digital Quotient or DQ as well.

In a recent article published on, author Prashant Ranade offers 6 components and attributes of DQ.

1.     Managing the Unknowable – Simply said, there’s simply too much information for any one person to “know it all”. Today’s leaders must acknowledge their limits and build reliable networks to help navigate through the mountains of information and data.
2.     Entrepreneurship -  Great leaders aren’t necessarily great entrepreneurs, but the ability to take calculated risks is critical to move forward. Identifying and understanding trends to be able to scale up or cut losses in a timely manner are crucial.
3.     Mind Map – New terminology in the DQ world, as this simply translates to vision. The ability to visualize the BIG picture, understand the end game and setting boundaries are all part of the leader’s “mind map”.
4.     Discern at Speed – Speed is the most distinguishing characteristic of the digital age according to the author. No matter how fast you’re moving…you’re not moving fast enough to keep pace. As a result, leaders must have clarity of purpose, thought, and action to align the organization to achieve common goals.
5.     Succeeding in the Customer Age – It was once held that customers could ever choose two of the following parameters: speed, quality, or cost.  In today’s world the customer EXPECTS all three and leaders must transform their mindset, along with the organization’s to meet and exceed those expectations.
6.     Inspiring Technology – Today’s technology offers infinite possibilities stifled only by one’s limited imagination. Digital age leaders must harness this power of creativity to benefit their organization.

Technology is here to stay and unless we adapt to it and embrace its potential we will be on the outside looking in…

Friday, April 8, 2016

Do You Lead by Design or Accident?

On of my favorite quotes, is “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more; you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams The question is, how to inspire? What can leaders do to bring out the best in others?

Recently I read an article by Stephanie Vozza who sited a study done by DDI and Harris Interactive which found that 98% of employees who had good leaders were motivated to do their best, while only 11% of employees with ineffective leaders felt motivated to give their best. The report goes on to say that the ability to inspire and bring out the best in others is a skill that involves just 10% natural inclination while the other 90% has to be deliberate, practiced, reinforced and used day to day. Great leaders inspire as they:

1.     Focus On People's Strengths – Doing this implies that the leader must get to know the people they work with, build relationships and cultivate and optimize their talents and capabilities.
2.     Empathize – Simply put, a great leader LISTENS and puts themselves in the shoes of the team working together to solve the burning issues.
3.     Give Recognition – Giving recognition publically and privately is an important ingredient which is often neglected. According to research, one to two thirds of leaders are not good at acknowledging good work, as leaders often worry that praise somehow seems unprofessional or that employees will be complacent or overconfident.  Yet research shows time and again the importance of a pat on the back and a “job well done” by the boss providing huge dividends.
4.     Great Leaders Connect The Right People - Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, calls leaders who bring out the best in others "multipliers." She says multipliers look for talent everywhere and focus on finding people, at whatever level, who know the things they don’t. "Multipliers take the time to understand the capabilities of each individual so that they can connect employees with the right people and the right opportunities—thereby building a virtuous cycle of attraction, growth, and opportunity," she writes in an article for Harvard Business Review.
5.     They DON’T Micromanage – This is easier said than done, but one of the keys to inspiring those around us to learn and grow. Will the team make mistakes along the way? CERTAINLY, but ask yourself…when is it you learned the most; from your successes or from your mistakes?
6.     Finally, Great Leaders Create Safe Environments – They give permission for people to speak freely, to think out loud, and to act with reason and respect.

In the final analysis, great leadership doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design. So the question my friends is what are you DOING to provide great leadership for your team?

Be good to yourself…

Friday, April 1, 2016

Music To My Ears!

As many of you know, music runs deeply through my veins. As a former vocal major and choral director I have had the opportunity to participate in some rather spectacular performances. All of my children appreciate and value what music has to offer the soul. In fact, even in adulthood all still find their underlying spirit in the notes which dance across a score.
Recently, I had the joy of seeing my youngest daughter’s choir perform in China. As the choral director at a nearby high school, she assembled her vocal ensemble and joined forces with the orchestra to produce a concert of amazing quality.

As I listened, with tears streaming from my cheeks, I couldn’t help but to wonder the impact to the audience as well as the participants.

As a leader, I often find myself asking the same questions. What impact have I made to the audience as well as to the participants? Have I touched their spirit? Have I helped them realize their contribution to the whole? Have I left them wanting more?

As leaders, we’re not that all different from the music director. Our job is to make things blend, even though each department has their own part, to help the whole become greater than their individual parts, to leave those that they touch spell-bound, inspired, and simply wanting more.

So leader…how do you inspire, to get those who perform for you, create “beautiful music…together?”