Turn the other cheek…

“Never regret being a good person, to the wrong people. Your behavior says everything about you, and their behavior says enough about them.”

Author Unknown

Do you value self over others or do you put the needs of others over self? If you are the former then you are a person who won’t regret being a good person, even if it hurts your own interests on occasion.

I am reminded of this verse from the book of Matthew.

“‘But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.‘” Matthew 5:38-40,42-43

I would argue that that an occasional “setback” because you are true to yourself, and your values, is well worth it. I would far rather be known as a person that is consistently good, even to those who would do me harm, than a person who is seeking to put myself above others…

Check the compass!

“Direction is more important than speed. We are so busy looking at our speedometers that we forget the milestone.”

Unknown

Where are you going?

Where do you want to be one year from today? What if instead of one year, it took two years? Would that devalue the direction you are headed? Would an inability to achieve some goal within your desired timeframe diminish the goal or make it null?

If the goal is right, then not achieving it as fast as possible, in some personally assigned timeframe, shouldn’t impact the direction itself.

There’s no question that we live in the age of agility and speed. Everything is happening faster and faster and we need to be able to act and react with temerity.

But if we focus on speed over direction we are surrendering ourselves to live a life that is reactive instead of one that is filled with purpose and clear direction.

One should spend as much time looking at your life’s compass as you do the speedometer. In general it isn’t nearly as much fun to look at a compass as a speedometer, because if you are headed in the right direction the indicators on a compass don’t change whereas the speedometer symbolizes so much action and energy.

But what good does it do if you get to the wrong place as fast as possible?

Happy Father’s Day…

“Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.” 

Author Unknown

My Dad is one of those men who has had incalculable impact on my life. I chose today’s quote because even though we might not talk every day my Father is always with me. The lessons he taught me from a very young age have formed the core of who I am as a man, as a leader, as a husband and as a Father. It is quite likely that not a single day goes by that I don’t do something, consciously or unconsciously, that is a direct attribution to my Dad in some way. This morning though I want to express my gratitude for three specific things that my Father taught me.

First, my Dad taught me from a very early age that EVERY person was to be valued and treated with dignity, honor and respect. It didn’t matter where a person came from, how much money they did or didn’t have, what race, religion or creed they belonged to. People were to be honored and respected. Period. I can think of dozens of stories from my life where Dad exemplified this through his actions in how he treated others. It wasn’t just words, he lived this out and taught me a valuable lesson through his actions. Some of those actions I observed became the bedrock of my own beliefs.

Second, my Father taught me the value of hard work. He grew up on a dairy farm and truly knew what hard work was. I remember his great stories from the farm and life growing up in rural Georgia in the 1950’s and 60’s. The stories all sounded fun but the most profound lesson that he passed on was when he taught me, “Son, on a farm the cows have to be milked seven days a week, 365 days per year. There are no days off on a farm. You have to take care of the animals that take care of you. Never forget that work doesn’t stop needing to be done simply because you are tired. When the work is done, you are done.”

Third, my father was hyper-engaged with my brother and I growing up in life. We went camping, fishing, hunting, boating, shooting, did Ju-Jitsu together, worked together on projects to earn money, etc. If there was something to be done or experienced it was the three amigos of my Dad, my brother and myself. Dad gave himself completely and fully to his boys and never put himself first in any way. Dad didn’t do things for us, he taught us how to do things. I have incredible memories of life growing up experiencing the world with my Dad. We didn’t have much money but we were rich beyond measure. My Dad wasn’t a helicopter parent in any way. He worked HARD. He worked a lot. But the hours that he had to give were given 100% to myself and my brother.

On this Father’s Day I am so appreciative of the lessons my Dad has taught me, and continues to teach me, through his actions, words and support. He is the silent guide on my shoulder and I am eternally grateful for his influence. Happy Father’s Day Dad…

Keep score today…

“Tip your server. Return your shopping cart. Pick up a piece of trash. Hold the door for the person behind you. Let someone into your lane. Small acts can have a ripple effect. That’s how we change the world.”

Author Unknown

The little efforts that you do for others can have a profound effect not just on the ones that you help, but those that observe you doing them as well. I can vividly remember seeing the CEO of a company I used to work for who would regularly hold the door open for others and pick up a piece of trash in the parking lot. Those impressions were powerful for me not just because he was setting a great example, but because he was extremely grounded. He was well aware that value and worth don’t come from what role you have or how much money you make. Instead the measure of ones value comes from serving others and being intentional in your actions to elevate other people.

If you were to create a game where the score was tallied by how many times in one day you could make another person smile, or how many times you could intentionally do one of the these small acts, how would you score? Try it today, just for one day, and then do it again, and again and again. Then it will become a habit and that’s when going the second mile for someone else can become second nature.

Where to focus?

“The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.”

Author Unknown

How often do we intentionally sit down and ask ourselves these questions?

  • What part of my life do I need to focus on improving?
  • Where should I stop putting my effort so I can focus on what truly matters?
  • What is preventing me from doing so?
  • Am I focusing my time on areas I want, or areas I need to improve?
  • What are the consequences if I don’t get better?

These are just a few questions that come to mind as I reflect on this quote. What really strikes me is the wisdom that is needed to know where to put your improvement efforts. Everything can be improved upon, knowing where to focus your efforts for maximal impact is the secret to long-term success.

Find the good…

“Positive thinking is not about expecting the best to happen every time but accepting that whatever happens is the best for this moment.” 

Author Unknown 

I don’t think this is something that you just “know” when you are young. It is wisdom that is formed through experiences and from taking some lumps along the way in life. Frankly it is a lesson I am continually learning and relearning.

The more that I marinate on this quote the more I realize that it is not about being supper happy and focusing on the “good” things happening to me or others but is instead about finding the good in the things that do happen. It is always there, we just have to choose to seek it out…

Do you have a bilge pump?

“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

Author Unknown

The bilge is the lowest part of a ship or a boat.  This is where the water that manages to get in collects and builds.   In order for a boat or a ship to operate safely there has to be a bilge pump to remove this water.  Without it the water would continue to gather until the boat, and the people on it, are in jeopardy. 

What is your bilge pump for life?  How do you remove the negative that is going on around you and pump it out so that it can’t build up and weigh you down?  

My bilge pump can be a variety of different things, depending on where I am and what is going on in my life at the time.  Generally speaking though I need a few things. A good long run or workout.  A good book to read.  Separation from those that are negative influences.  Doing these things sounds easy but without intentional focus and commitment they won’t happen and I’l be stuck with rising waters and a sinking boat.

The magic recipe for success…

“It’s not the X’s and the O’s, but the Jimmys and the Joes that make the difference.”

Unknown

This quote has been used in college football for years.  Finding the original author proved to be impossible.  It has been attributed to Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson and many others.  Leaders who knew that no matter how brilliant their plays might look on the chalkboard, if they didn’t have the right talent on the field to execute it, the plays wouldn’t work.

I have been blessed in life to work for teams and players that could perform exceptionally well in almost any business.  Frankly, they could be successful at any plan, product or initiative.  Having an opportunity to serve alongside players like this is incredibly motivating and humbling.  They elevate the game of everyone around them.  But it is more than just pure energy and commitment.  The magic happens when the players fit the game plan AND the plan is the right one for the game being played.

Winning takes combining both great plays and great players.  You have to have the right talent in the right place.  You can’t ask a 6’4″, 220 pound wide receiver who runs a 4.35/40 to be your left tackle and expect to win.  Nor can you ask your 6’5″ 312 pound offensive tackle to go run a post route down the field and expect him to beat the coverage.

As Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great” (still one of my favorite books of all time).  “First who, then what.”  You have to have the right people.  The bottom line is that if you don’t have the right talent you can’t win.  Period.  The joy of working with exceptional people is almost indescribable.  Their will to win, their effort and intensity, their sheer energy that is exuded all the time.  With the right people you know that almost any game plan can work.  With the wrong people, no matter how great the plan, it is doomed to failure or mediocrity at very best.  Sustainable greatness comes from marrying the right talent to the right plan and then executing relentlessly.  

So here’s the question.  Do you have the magic mix of the right talent, in the right place, at the right time to win?

 

 

Who do you serve?

“If you can’t serve, you can’t lead.”

Unknown

I was blessed very early in my work life to have been mentored by some incredible people.  Several amazing people took me under their wings and taught me some of most important lessons I have ever learned in my life.  One of those folks introduced me to the concept and philosophy of Servant Leadership. This resonated deeply with me and learning how to become a better servant leader has been my  lifelong quest.  

Col. Greg Camp was that mentor and is a person to whom I owe so very much.  Greg had retired from the Army a year or two before I met him after an exceptional career.  He  was working at Columbus Bank & Trust when I joined the company back in 1997.  Greg was one of those people who was an exceptional teacher and had a knack for pulling out a persons hidden talents and gifts.  From day one I knew he was different because he told me that “his job was to ensure that I had everything that I needed to be successful and that when I was successful, that we as a team, division and company would be successful.  That in no uncertain terms he worked for me.” (Reflecting back on what I learned from Greg I realize that I could write countess posts about his leadership influence and impact.  Maybe I’ll do that one day in other relevant messages.)

One of the practices that Greg introduced to me was the idea of having a “leadership book club” at work so that we could learn and grow from each other.  We would become much better leaders by having heard what others think about particular topics. This practice is something I still use today for the very same reason.

I vividly remember our first “book club” meeting even though it was well over 20 years ago now.  Those meetings were held once a week before work, at “0-dark-thirty,” or to be more precise, at 6:30 AM on Friday mornings.  I was very excited to be part of the leadership team and to learn from some truly amazing and very seasoned team members.  The book we started with that morning was Leadership By The Book (which is still a personal favorite) and it opened my eyes to the philosophy of leading others by first serving them.  

Servant Leadership requires inverting the traditional hierarchal leadership pyramid and understanding that in order to create success one must first serve those you work with and ensure that they have the things that they need to be successful.  It requires a willingness to really lean in and understand your team and ensure that you are giving them the vision, direction, skills, talents, resources, accountability, etc that they need to excel at their jobs.  It requires that you are continually focused on having the right people on the team and in the right seats on the bus (to borrow from Jim Collins).  The team must know that you serve them in their success AND that they OWN the results of their efforts.  A very wise person once told me that “servant leadership is like being a great parent, it comes from your servant heart and you have to know when to praise and know when to spank, and your team has to know that you serve them by doing both.” 

I can’t possibly begin to explain all the nuances and impacts of servant leadership.  Many great books have already done this but the bottom line for me is this.  Over twenty years ago I was given one of my greatest gifts of my life when I learned that “leadership is not about self, but it is instead about those whom you serve.”

 

I have met the enemy…

“Incompetent leaders spend too much time evaluating others and not enough evaluating their own leadership.”

Unknown

Well snap. And I don’t mean in a “snap, crackle, pop” rice krispies kind of way either. Yes, I fully recognize that I am not demographically qualified to use the term “snap.” I validate that by knowing that Snap, Crackle and Pop are the names of the gnomic elves that pitched Rice Krispies for decades. Don’t believe me?  Check this out. Hmm, now I’m not sure where to go from here. Oh yes, incompetent leaders…

snap crackle popPerhaps real leadership only exists when self leadership is there first? How much easier is it to say “it was their fault” or “they are a horrible leader” than it is to ask the question “how can I improve my leadership?” If it is their fault then I have nothing to worry about right?  WRONG.  I speak from experience.  If I “snap” and excuse it because “they” did it, deserved it, or earned it, then then I’m an incompetent leader.  Period. Thank goodness leadership growth is a journey.  Leave the snap for the cereal.

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