Friday, December 7, 2012

Staying on the Cutting Edge Series: Permission to Fail

     So far in this series we have covered several reasons why people don’t like to change. The last reason that I am going to cover is failure. In a changing situation, one of the biggest worries for people is the simple fact that they could fail in the change to their industry.

This fear of failure actually ties back into the same reason given in my last post, Change Is Inevitable. The brain seeks out safety and any fear causes it stress. A brain under stress doesn’t function as well as a brain that is stress free. Fear of failure is a common fear with everyone going through a change. Everyone has self doubts about whether or not they can be successful in a new environment. Even if the new environment is in the old job! How do a leader and the organization overcome a fear of failure? My opinion is that it has more to do with a person’s perspective than it does with anything else.

As leaders we have to establish an environment that allows people to feel safe if they fail. Giving people permission to fail sounds easy enough, but if you are in an industry that holds high accountability it can be a little tricky to navigate. The last message you want to send is that the leader is just fine with mistakes. The message should be more like, We are doing our very best to deal with the change in our industry. If mistakes are made, we will learn from them and move in a positive direction.

One of the best principals I had in my career as a teacher had a philosophy that has always stuck with me. He said, “Most mistakes or problems can be fixed”. After twenty-three years of being in education, I’ve found that he was right. With one exception, most everything can be fixed. The damage can be repaired if the people participating have the willingness and right attitude to take the necessary steps to make the situation go from bad to better.

In my experiences, death is the one exception that makes it difficult to fix any problems or mistakes. When a person has passed away, there is no opportunity for something to be done by that individual. If the problem is going to be fixed, it will have to be by someone else, someone willing to step into the deceased person’s shoes. (As a side note, depending on where you stand spiritually, death can be viewed as a beginning instead of an end. This beginning can also last for eternity.)

  "Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker." Zig Ziglar

This past weekend I took my son, along with a co-worker and his son, to a Kansas City Chiefs football game. Since both of the teams playing had a losing record, I didn’t think there would be much attention from the local and national media. It turns out this game became a national story. The game was thrust into the national spotlight because of two deaths. The morning before the game the Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher, for reasons we probably will never know, murdered his wife Kasandra Perkins and then took his own life. In doing so he left his three-month-old daughter as an orphan. There is no way to repair this situation. This little girl will never again have her father and mother in her life.

The damage has been done and can’t be changed for Jovan and Kasandra. The circumstances and events of that night don’t, however, have to define their daughter’s life. As painful as death can be, there can still be hope if someone or several someones are willing to stand in the gap and repair the mistake of her father. The Kansas City Chief players are considering starting a college fund to help with college expenses. What will others do?

To be successful in failure is a matter of perspective. If you have failed as a leader or the organization that you lead has failed, the best thing you have going for you is the next day. With the right attitude and assistance, the next day brings an opportunity to recover and over time get better. Share this bit of good news with everyone in your organization. Share it with more than words. Share it by the way you react to events. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” I am hoping the example starts with me in my organization. I hope it starts with you in yours.

Great video on "Famous Failures"


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Staying on the Cutting Edge Series: Change is Inevitable

     In my last post I covered one the obstacles of staying on the cutting edge.  Lack of time is a factor for nearly everyone.  But we can't let it be prohibitive enough that as leaders we don't improve.  The second factor is change, or not wanting to change.  What's ironic about change is that it's inevitable for everyone.  As we age we naturally change.  For some of us this is unfortunate, because some age better than others.  Civilization has made changes or progress throughout its existence.   In this instance, change always happens for the inhabitants of civilizations.  Why do people oppose change?  I think there are several reasons.

1.     Fear.  People fear change because of the unknown.  It's a security issue.  It's perfectly understandable.  Brain research shows that in order for the brain to function properly it wants to feel safe.  The unknown throws the brain into a lot of stress.  How to overcome fear of change: Make a change one small step at a time.  Doing so will allow you time to absorb the effects of a change and all the little steps will add up to you moving forward.  

2.     We've done it this way for years!   This can be the biggest obstacle for change in an organization.  It makes good sense.  Why change something if it has been working for so long?  The general consensus is that longevity equals success. How do you overcome this belief?  Don't buy into it! If you do, you won't make a change.  The people or businesses that have been around a long time have changed in order to keep up with their industry.

3.     Change brings a sense of loss.  We are creatures of habit.  When something changes, whether it's a small or big, it feels like a loss and it affects us emotionally.  I can remember when I graduated high school and moved off to college, I missed my weather man.  Think about it.  Your weather man is a trusted source for something pretty important.  The college I attended was in a different state and thus different TV channels.  Different local news equals a new weather man.  Let me make it clear that I didn't sit around and sob for this loss of my local weather man.  It was just a familiarity issue.  Something I had become accustomed to was no longer present.  It's the same way with every change we encounter.  There is a sense of loss.  The degree of attachment we have to something determines whether it’s a minor or major sense of loss.  How to handle it?  Stick with the new.  I just keep watching what was available and eventually got used to my new weather man.  Eventually the sense of loss disappeared.  If it's major, you might need to talk about it with co-workers, a supervisor, or someone close to you.  

     These are just a few reasons people feel uncomfortable when they have to deal with a changing situation.  Go through the questions below to find out where you are at in relation to change.

1.  Is my organization or industry going through a change?
2.  If it is, how am I adapting to the change?  Am I helping lead the change or am I an anchor preventing the ship from sailing into the sea of progress?
3.  What if I am not sure where I am at in the change progress in my industry?  Ask someone how you’re doing.  A trusted co-workers that will be honest with you is a valuable asset.  A word of advice: Don't ask someone who will just sugar coat the information.  Be willing to be stretched.  In a changing situation encourage people to help you by saying, "Tell me honestly."

     Whatever state of change that you are in, and remember we all are in one, keep moving forward, educating yourself and reflecting upon where you have been.  As author C.S. Lewis of the famed book "The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe" would say,

     It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Staying on the Cutting Edge Series

      As leaders we have the challenge to stay on top of the new changes in our industry.  That is easier said than done.  With today's hectic professional and personal schedule, it's pretty easy just to get into the routine of life and let the days pass by.  The unfortunate thing about a routine is soon days become weeks and weeks become months.  Months turn into a year and the next thing we know several years have gone by. Before we know it, we have done the same thing over and over again for years.  If the past few sentences are speaking to you, then bear with me for the rest of my blog.
     Staying on the cutting edge is all about making a choice.  One can either keep doing what they are doing or change what they are doing.  Sounds simple enough.  Why doesn't everyone make the change?  Through my experiences, I have come to understand why people don't pursue getting better.
     The first reason is that people give for not trying to improve: time.  Or the lack of it.   I have fallen into this trap and for that matter all of the traps I am about to cover.  Today people are living at a break neck pace.  If you take their professional duties and combine with their personal responsibilities, people are staying active for ten or twelve hours a day.  People that stay on the cutting edge do the same thing.  They work hard and take care of their responsibilities just like everyone else!  That's the issue with people that stay on the cutting edge.  They are not like everyone else.  They go to their jobs, they take care of their responsibilities, but somehow or by some way they find the time to stay on the cutting edge.
     Take Thomas Edison.  Before he become famous for perfecting the light bulb, he worked as a telegrapher for the Western Union Company.  His works days were generally anywhere from ten to twelve hours long.  You imagine that he was tried from the long hours and the constant tapping of the "brass pounder".  Just thinking about it makes me want to go in my basement and put my earplugs in!  The last thing I would have wanted to do is "moonlight" in my basement perfecting an invention.
     But Mr. Edison wasn't satisfied.  He could have easily gone home and said to himself, "I have worked a full hard day and I deserve to relax."  But he was different.  Internally he wasn't satisfied and better yet, he wasn't idle.  Though he was successful as a telegrapher, he wanted something more.  The light bulb had already been invented and was working but, he thought it could be better.
     How about you?  Are you satisfied with your current state?  You say to yourself, "Yes, I am doing just fine."   You rationalize it saying, "What I have been doing in my job has been working just fine for the past five, ten, and even maybe twenty years.  I have people tell me how good of job I am doing every year!"  You might even say, "My methods have with stood the test of time!  It's been working well for so long why would I want to change?"  Ask yourself this: Could it be better?  Then ask yourself this: Has the world of the people that I offer my service to changed?  
     If you have determined it’s time to improve, then what is stopping you?  Is it the lack of time?  Here are some suggestions to help you find more time.
  1. Turn off the TV.  It's a time sucking machine.  Yes, it has some enjoyable programs. Watch your favorite ones and then shut it off.  If you have too many favorites, reduce them.
  2. Evaluate what is important to you.  If you have spread yourself to thin, you’re not doing yourself, your family, and your profession any good.  If you feel an inch deep and a mile wide every week, evaluate your schedule and set your priorities.  
  3. Learn to say no.  Unless something aligns with your priorities, say no to it.  If you struggle with this, you are really struggling with letting people down.  Don't let guilt make decisions for you.  It should be convictions that guide your decisions.  Just politely tell people that you will have to decline. 
  4. Find someone in your field that is successful and ask them how they find time to improve.
  5. Start reflecting and writing in a journal on how you can improve your time.  Through your writing, good ideas will come to the top and help you improve.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Campfire Time!

     This is the last post in the series of "Finding Ways to Unwind". In the previous post you were able to see the highlight of the evening: a nice little ten point deer stopping by my stand. It wasn't a shooter but it sure is nice to see some action. Makes a nice experience even better. Moving down from the tree I could see that my brother-in-law hadn't made his way down to the four wheeler yet. A relaxing walk to the four wheeler was the final step to the evening hunt.

     Although the walk was a nice touch to the evening, the "cherry" on top was going to be the settling around the campfire and enjoying the evening conversation. This was going to be a nice time because both of my brothers-in-law were able to be in attendance, but most important my son was back from college. It's always fun to get together with the guys. In case you were wondering, my girls have had the opportunity to hunt. My youngest has been turkey hunting and my eldest daughter dove hunting. All of my kids went through the hunter safety course when they were in elementary school. I believe it's important for kids to have a understanding of guns and how to handle them safely. My girls know they are always welcome to join us. Generally they decline. They like to hunt for the sale specials at the clothing stores. When I go, I usually get to chauffeur and then pay the tab. That's okay because I love them and want them to look their best. I wouldn't trade a smile and hug from my daughters and son for any big trophy buck. Those moments are what make being a parent great.

     As we settled around the campfire, the evening meal started to get prepared. Brats and dogs were the choice. I ate both topped off with chocolate chip cookie bars. Not a bunch of health food. Fruits, unless you count strawberry pop tarts for breakfast, and vegetables don't make the camping menu. I am sure it's an unwritten rule when camping to eat as much junk food as possible.

     As we finished off the meal, we settled into tending the fire for the next couple of hours. Halfway through the evening our fireside chat was interrupted by coyotes howling. I am sure they were several hundred yards off from our campsite and we were never in danger but when you’re camping if there is one thing that can spook you, it's howling coyotes. Full bladder or not, I am not going out in the dark without a flashlight and something to fend them off. This prompted us to make wagers on who would be brave enough to walk across the pasture without a flashlight. The pot got up to one hundred dollars, but it was all a moot point because there weren’t any takers.

     Then it led into the discussion of how nerve wracking a hunt can be in the morning. Before the sun comes up, walking into a deer stand can be a little spooky. Sometimes I catch myself thinking "mountain lion" as I am walking to the stand. Once this starts, I am just positive that one is waiting behind each evergreen that I walk by. To make things worse, I start thinking that this "kitty" probably has not had anything to eat for over a week. As I pick up my pace, I wonder if I would taste like fish or chicken. In reality, I have never come across a mountain lion. I have come across foxes, possums, bobcats and raccoons. None of them were a big deal compared to the time I walked into knee high grass.

     As I walk through any tall grass I try and look a couple steps ahead. Doing so keeps from stepping into a hole, or worse, on a top of a critter. Just as I looked up to see how far I was from my pickup, I spotted a black and white furry tail sticking straight up like a lightning rod. This sight will freeze any hunter in their tracks. Moving ever so slowing and quietly away from "Pepe Le Pew," I managed to escape unscathed. These moments are just part of the wonderful experience of hunting in the great outdoors.

     I wouldn't be able to camp tonight because I would need to leave in the morning to go and watch my daughter run regional cross country. Something I learned early on is that hunting isn't more important than two things: family and church. As much I love to hunt, I love God and my family more. I believe leaders have to set their priorities in life. What are you core values? They will keep you grounded as a leader. Hopefully these values are in an area that can help build you up as a leader. Most importantly these need to be values that will help you serve the world that you work and live in. Thanks for joining me in this series. I hope as a leader that you find your way to unwind. If you do then you will not only enjoy life, but will look forward to coming back to work.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Buck Stops Here!

In the previous post of the "Finding Ways to Unwind" series you were able to see that I had several critters appear in my view from the deer stand.  From cattle to does the evening hunt was picking up.  Hopefully with a little more luck something else was going to come into view.  That something was  getting ready to show up.

After about twenty minutes of watching the does wait patiently for the cattle to drink and move around, he showed up.  It was a sight right out of the movies.  As my view went from left, watching the does, to right, he appeared on the ridge top of an old railroad track. Although he was twenty yards behind a hedge apple tree, the sun was still able to peek through the windblown leafless branches.  As the rays hit his antlers, they had a shine that caught the corner of my eye.  Finally I was seeing a quality buck!  All of the waiting was well worth the next thirty minutes.  It would take him about ten minutes to check out his surroundings and make sure it was safe to jump the fence and pursue the does. The older a deer gets the wiser he become.  The rut season will cause him to let his guard down and compromise his well-being.  Although this buck had the does on his mind, he was still being cautious.  At this point a hunter is fighting the remainder of light.  If the buck moves slowly, the hunter may not even have a shot due to darkness.  Looking through a pin hole sight requires some light.  Without it you are shooting blind and will more than likely lose an arrow.  Losing an arrow is frustrating because they cost anywhere from $15 to $25, depending on the quality.
I was in luck, with about an hour worth of light left he made his move for the fence and wandered west to join the does in nibbling on some of the wheat that was coming up.  As he moved within 75 yards of my stand, I was able to get a clear picture on his size and number of points.  He was a ten point, a younger deer.  I could tell this by his body and face size.  He would have room to grow and make a better deer next season.  At that point I decided that he wasn't something I would shoot or as bow hunters say, he wasn’t a "shooter".   Although a little disappointing at first, it didn’t take me long to just sit back and enjoy this beautiful animal get closer and closer to my stand.  I was able to take some decent, for a phone camera, pictures of him.  Eventually this buck made his way to my deer stand and stopped.

     President Harry Truman had the saying "The Buck Stops Here!" on his desk in the White House.   As a leader it’s something we have to do.  The responsibility resides with me.  I made the decision so I have to live with it.  As the buck came into view, I had to evaluate several items.  What size of deer is he?  Does he have potential to be something better next season?  Is he any better than what I have shot in the past?  What will my fellow hunters think of me if I pass on this deer?  Instead of "Peer Pressure" hunters call this "Deer Pressure"!  Okay, I made that up.  No one has ever said that around the campfire after a hunt.  But it sounded funny and really does fit in some circumstances.  Once a leader gathers their information, they make the decision and must live with the consequences.  Don't pass the buck onto someone else.  No blame game.  Good or bad a leader must live with the consequences.

Follow this portion of the hunt through the pictures below.

The ridge on the upper right hand corner of the picture is where the buck first appeared.  He would take a few more steps along the fence line and then jump into the "Melon Patch" field.   At this point he was about 125 yards from my stand.  I was busy looking through my range finder and counting points.
Within 75 yards I was able to determine he was a ten point buck.  I was evaluating whether or not he was  a "shooter".  Although you can't tell because of the weeds in front of his belly he wasn’t a big body deer.  Combining this with a small face, he was probably a three to three and half year old.
Can you find him?  He was within ten yards of my stand and well within my comfortable shooting range.  Several minutes before this I had determined that he wasn't a "shooter".  Two reasons, his potential to become a very good - meaning bigger - deer next season and he wasn't bigger than the one I shot a couple of years ago.

There he goes following the same path of the does.  Hopefully he will live through the remainder of bow season and rifle season.  I hope he can live through this season and grace me with his presence again.  What a great hunt!  In the next thirty minutes, due to darkness, I would be getting down from my tree.  Although the hunt was over for the evening the best part was coming.  Sitting around the campfire and enjoying each others company.

Next post:  Around the campfire.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Invasion of the Quarter Pounders!

     If you are joining me in this series of "Finding Ways to Unwind" ,  you will soon discover how my evening hunt evolved after the slow time was over.  Who would have thought sitting twelve feet up in tree on a seat made up of two metal rods and a thin cushion would be one of most relaxing places during my week?   Did I say the cushion was thin?   Imagine a slice of bread and then sit on it for two or three hours.  When hunting is slow you think of these little comfort things, but when it picks up you could be sitting on a seat of nails and you wouldn't notice it.  And for me it was getting ready to pick up.

     As I looked about three hundred yards to the north of my deer stand, I noticed something moving along the cedar tree row.  It was hard to make out because of the trees and tall weeds.  I mainly could tell it was big and dark.  I squinted a little to cut down on the glare from the sun that was starting to get about eye level.  Luckily for me, if I leaned back just a little I could use a branch to my left to block the light.  Since it was far away, I decided that looking through my range finder would help me make out what it was.  As I looked through the eye piece and scanned down the tree line, my pulse rate went up a little thinking that I might see a big buck.  I could make out the hind legs and then the body.  It was big, but it was a COW!  A stupid cow!
    Seeing a cow in your hunting area is almost as bad as getting your cover blown by a snorting deer.  Deer and cattle don't generally hang around each other.  It’s not that they are mortal enemies or anything, but they just don't hang around the same social circles.  If one cow was bad enough, then twenty was worse.  As the cow moved into a clearing, I could see several more follow.   Although this was disappointing, I have come to learn that it's not the end of the world.  The phrase, "A bad day hunting is still better than a good day at the office" always holds true.  I was still enjoying unwinding and if I wait long enough, you never know, the dumbest creature on the earth might just move out of the area.
     For about twenty minutes I sat and watched the cows lumber around and eat grass or chew their cud. Whatever they were doing, I didn't really care because they were just getting in the way.  The only thing that is important to remember about a cow is this:  Don't shoot them.  If you do, it will become a very expensive hunting trip.   You might end up with a lot of meat, but it will run you a price of one full cow.  And what's worse the land owner probably won't send you a thank you card inviting you back onto his property.  Let me put it this way, if you just shot the family favorite that little sis bottle fed when she was a little girl, you won’t get a warm "come on back anytime you get a chance" invitation.
     As I kept looking north watching the cows doing their cow thing, I noticed a doe jumping over the fence line about one hundred yards to the east.  Finally, some action!  Even though it was just a doe it made life more interesting.  Better than watching a bunch of quarter pounders walk around the pasture.  The next thing I knew two more does jumped the fence line and followed the lead doe.  They were making their way across the pasture to the automatic water tank.  As they got within twenty yards of the tank, a cow decided that it was thirsty.  I guess being several hundred pounds heavier gives you the right to go first in the drinking fountain line.   Really not much different than when I was in grade school.  The big kid always got to cut in line and get his drink before me.  I was okay with that because I figured he needed the hydration to sustain his girth.  The does seemed okay with standing around and drawing circles in the dirt with their hooves as they waited on "Big Mac" to slurp all the water up.  Oh sorry that was more of a flash back to grade school.  Actually as they waited the does did a little bit of munching on whatever wheat that had come up in this dry land.  Once the cow had finished, the does stepped up to the tank and had their refreshment. 
     This was one of the first times I had seen this type of activity by deer.  It gives you an idea of the type of dry conditions this area was going through.  In order to survive and receive water, the deer were willing to change their habits and be around the cattle.  As leaders we can learn a lot from their example.  Sometimes circumstances that are out of our control can change the environment around us.  The best way to survive is to adapt to the changes and not only survive, but thrive in our organization.   What ways have you had to adapt or change to be a successful leader?

Here is a picture of one of the does.  Notice the
lack of wheat coming up.

Join me in my next post to find out what joins us in the hunt.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leadership in the Hunt

     This segment of my "Finding Ways to Unwind" series takes us on the hunt.  Again I would like to thank everyone in joining me in this series.  I hope you are getting something good from my experience and will also find ways to unwind from your work.  One of the best things that unwinding does for me is allows me to clear my mind.  The saying "You can't see the forest because all of the trees" holds so true for leaders and the job that they do every day.  Sometimes a bit of clarity is all a leader needs to help solve a problem at work or get inspired to move forward in your organization.  Unwinding allows the mind to clear its thoughts and see something from a different angle.  Sounds like a lame excuse to go hunting?  Maybe, but I have had many times sitting in a quiet deer stand in which an idea for work has come to me.  Unwinding could be more related to finding that quiet place for your mind to think.
     Once camp was set and we sat around the campsite enjoying the afternoon we soon decided who was going to what deer stand.  We were still about thirty minutes away from heading to the deer stand so it was time to get our hunting gear on.  It takes a bit of time to shed what we were wearing and get all of our scent blocking clothing on and get everything that you need to take, from a grunt call or binoculars and a cell phone.  Why a cell phone?  Great way to communicate with another hunter!  Texting someone who might be 300 to 400 yards away is important in giving you a heads up if a deer is coming your way.  Or if it's really slow at your stand you can get excited for your buddy if a deer is in their area.  Another reason for a cell phone is to take pictures which can provide evidence as you are sitting around the camp fire discussing the big one that came by your stand. That is if you shoot and miss this trophy buck.  You know the "Big one that got away story" that no one believes.
     Once we had all of our gear on and our bows were properly equipped, then it was time to jump on the four wheeler and head to the deer stand location.  As we were cutting across the wheat field the dust kicked up around us.  Where we were hunting had gone through two consecutive droughts.  It was so dry that the dirt in the field had turned to a fine powder, which made it difficult to keep from getting into your mouth or eyes.  The wheat field had just been planted but not much of it was coming up.  It was so dry that the main river running through the property had disappeared.  With all this, we were a little worried that there would not be too many deer in the area. Without food or water deer don't have a great habitat to live in.
     As I pulled up the four wheeler to the fence line, I noticed the tree stand about 150 yards into the "old melon patch" field.  As my fellow hunter left on the four wheeler, I made my way to the stand.  Moving into a stand you have to be careful not to draw any attention to your area.  Stepping on leaves and sticks can send a message to any of the critters around that some loud dude is in the area.  You also have to be careful about rubbing up against weeds and fallen branches.  Doing so will leave your scent for the deer to smell.  With the wind blowing slightly from the north, I walked close to the fence line then made a straight line for the tree my stand was in.  I had to step through tall weeds and grass for most of my way.  I was a little worried that I might leave my scent behind but there wasn't any avoiding this tall vegetation.  I made it to the bottom of the tree and made my way up the tree to the stand.  This evening was unseasonably warm, so by the time I got into the stand I had broken into a sweat.  I settled into the stand with about two hours of sunlight left.  For the first thirty minutes in was slow. Nothing was moving, not enough mouse.  Sorry that sounds like "The Night Before Christmas", but it was true.  It was slow.
     Slow was just fine.  I could soak in the quietness of the great outdoors and let mind just slow down. I compare these times to peeling an onion.  As each layer of my work comes off, the stronger the power of my mind comes through.  Without knowing how much time passes, I can sink deep into my own thoughts and let the stress of the work world can just melt away.  At the same time, I can be watching for that ever magnificent buck that I could tell stories about around the campfire that evening. 
     Do you have these moments where the world leaves you and the only thing you have is yourself?  Maybe it's just you and your thoughts.  Maybe it's you and your Creator.  Either way it’s time that you need to help you unwind from being a leader.  As a leader you have to find these moments.  No one is going to make them for you.  I found my place to unwind.  What about you? 

Join me in my next post to see what shows up after the slow part of the hunt.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leadership in a Deer Stand

     If you are reading this then I would like to thank you for joining me on my hunting journey.   I hope you find my recent evening in the deer stand insightful and entertaining.  I arrived about mid afternoon to the pasture to help set up our campsite.  Once the tent was set up and the supplies set out, we settled into our lawn chairs to talk about how we could solve the world’s problems.  That discussion lasted about ten minutes and then we were on to important matters, like who was going to sit in what deer stand.  The area we hunt has several deer stands on the property.  Either side of the property in all directions you can take your pick and sit in a stand on a different day of a week.  Why so many?  In bow hunting the wind can make or break a hunt if the deer move in the direction of your stand.   With a north wind then you better sit on a stand that has the deer coming in from the north.   If the deer's movement on the trail is predominately from the south they will avoid your stinky human scent or worse let all of the deer in the area know that something is up.
     How do they warn their fellow deer friends?  It's quite the sight to see a deer stand up on their back hind legs and hold up their front hooves in front of their mouth to shout out, “Live, Bambi, Live!”  That's deer code for "Run!"  Okay that only happens when watching a Bambi movie.  What the deer will really do is, with their head held up high and ears perked straight up, stomp the ground with their front hooves and snort so loud that every deer within ear shot hears.  And believe me in an empty wooden area that sound seems to travel for miles.  If this happens to you as a hunter, you have two choices. You can either get down and go to town or wait for everything to clear out and hope that some other deer wasn't close enough to hear the hunter alert.
     As a leader I can learn a lot from this process.  Be well prepared, but don't be discouraged when everything goes wrong.  Be patient and wait it out because the circumstances could change for the better.  Like any successful program, plans have to be made, steps have to be taken to insure success.  As Stephen Covey would say, "Begin with the end in mind."  The end for me, in this situation, is successfully bagging a nice deer.  Trophy deer would be great for my ego, but I would be just fine with improving from the last deer I shot.  Either way it's still a win-win, because my family and I can still enjoy the meat harvested from the hunt.  Even though the hunt may not go exactly how I like it, hunting can be just like leadership.  The experience is always the best part of the process. 

Next Post:  Leadership in the Hunt

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finding Ways to Unwind

     As a leader the job that you have can consume a lot of your time.  Sometimes it can become a twenty four hours and seven days a week job.  You have to find ways to get away from your job and unwind.   For each person it can be different.  I know people who enjoy quilting, shopping, painting, and even making furniture.  Either way it has to be something that can take you worlds away from your responsibilities as a leader.
     Mine is hunting, specifically deer hunting.  As a kid growing up on a farm I enjoyed getting away from everything by exploring the land which surrounded our property.  I could spend endless hours exploring our property, looking for wildlife, or fishing.  Either way I was enjoying myself.  As I got older and able to handle a gun my step father taught me how to hunt.  It was mainly bird hunting but never the less I was outside enjoying God's creation.  
    As I went to college, started my career, and eventually my family, hunting became less and less of a priority.   Trying to fit in a busy teaching/coaching schedule and raising three kids doesn't leave for very much personal time.  Evidently, I would pick it up again.  But this time it was different.  My brother in-law got me hooked on bow hunting.  The best thing about bow hunting is that you have to fully immerse yourself into the woods.  You have to get close enough to a deer in order to be able to shoot it.  Since I am not the best shot in the world I like to have the deer at least twenty yards or less away from my deer stand.  Closer the better.  Not so much to shoot but just to get a glimpse of this beautiful animal.  
     Deer are one of the most amazing creatures on this earth.  There senses are extremely sensitive to sounds and scent.  Deer can smell twenty times better than humans.  As a hunter going into the woods it's important to cover your scent as much as possible.  This means covering your scent as you walk into your deer stand and the scent the wind can carry from your deer stand.  Generally a deer stand is twelve to fifteen feet in the air.  By having it this high the wind will take the hunter's scent up and away from the deer below.  If the wind is in the right direction a deer will not have any idea a hunter is right above them.  
     This weekend I was able to get away on do some deer hunting.  I was really looking forward to a hunt.  Not so much to shoot a deer but just to get away and unwind.  Sitting in a deer stand there are no distractions.  Siting in a deer stand, life can be simple.   There are no work questions, demands, or concerns.  This isn't to say that I don't enjoy what I do or appreciate the people I work with.  I am blessed with my current position as well as the positions that I have had in the past.  No matter where I have been God has put wonderful people to work beside.  With that being said work can be work and sometimes for me it can start to consume all of my time and thoughts.  If I am not working then I am thinking of work.  When I get to that point then I know it's time to get away for a good hunt.  In my next few posts I will give you an idea of how my weekend hunt went.  I hope you can join me.  Enjoy the hunt, I know I did!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When You Don't Feel Like It

    Some of the worst times are when a leader just doesn't feel like leading.  It happens to everyone.  In fact mine was happening right before I started to write this post.  I opened my computer and turned on the TV.  Football was on.  For a few minutes I wasn't in the mood to write anything down.  It could have been that I just didn't know what to talk about.  It might had been that I just got home from work at nine o'clock and didn't feel like writing.  Sit down and type something up or just sit and watch Monday Night Football.  Hmmm....
     So what did I do?  I turned the TV off and tried to write something down.  Eventually this story came out.  Why not write about what I was dealing with at that very moment.  When to lead when you don't feel like it.  Hall of Fame Basketball player Jerry West was quoted as saying, "You can't get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good."  Jerry West knew something about not wanting to go to work in his basketball days.  In 1960 Jerry was drafted with the second overall pick by the Minneapolis Lakers.  Being drafted by a midwestern team would suit Jerry well because he grew up in West Virginia.  Unfortunately for Jerry after he was drafted the team relocated to Los Angeles.  
     In the beginning, Jerry felt odd in his west coast environment.  Jerry by nature was a loner.   He had a high-pitched voice which earned him the nickname "Tweety Bird".   He spoke with such a thick Appalachian accent that his teammates also referred to him as "Zeke from Cabin Creek".  Don't you think Jerry felt like not going to work each day?  It would have been just as easy for him to pack his bags and head back to West Virginia.  Jerry thought differently.  He decided to put the extra hours in the gym to become better.  His work ethic and physical ability caught people's attention and eventually acceptance and respect from the Laker organization.  The Laker's organization thought so much of his career that in 1983 they retired his number #44 to the rafters of the Staple Center.
     As leaders we have to do the same thing.  Show up to work.  When we show up to work we have to work our best.  By doing so we can also gain the respect and admiration of the people around us.  I am not saying that our world will be trouble free, but at least we will be present and working through the troubles.  People in an organization want to see that from their leaders.  Present and engaged.  Showing up everyday and working side by side with them in the trenches.  A good philosophy is: "When you don't feel like leading, then just fake it until you do."  You might be surprised that no one will notice the difference.

Want to know more about Basketball Hall of Fame player Jerry West?  Click on this "Flashback" video below.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stretch Yourself Armstrong!

    If you were a kid growing up in the 1970s, you probably remember the toy "Stretch Armstrong". From 1976 to 1980 Stretch Armstrong was produced and sold throughout the United States. This latex rubber toy filled with gelled corn syrup was a hit. No matter how much I would stretch Armstrong he would always revert back to his original form. Okay I confess, Stretch would eventually change his shape when I would leave other toys, shoes, school books, and whatever else was tossed on top of him in the bottom of my toy bin. A couple of weeks of being smashed left him with a flat chest and several dents. He would even have some lint or some kind of fuzz stuck to him. He didn't look great after the abuse and abandonment. He deserved a better life, so eventually I would take him out and pound him back into shape. Turns out it was a great way to take out aggression. I should get one today to help me cope with stress.
     I was reading how hard it was to find quality Stretch Armstrongs because they have to be stored correctly to maintain the latex rubber and gelled corn syrup. I guess dry and cool places are best. If only I had known, I would have taken better care of Stretch. Probably would be worth thousands of dollars now. Could have funded the kid's college if I had better latex rubber gelled corn syrup preservation skills. For those of you that are big Stretch Armstrong fans, I bet you can't wait for the movie to come out in April 2014.
     As a leader, stretch is something that you should always keep in mind. Stretching yourself to become a better leader should be something you do each year. Ask yourself if the goals that you set are stretching your skills enough in becoming a better leader or are you letting the area of improving skills get tossed at the bottom of your personal or professional "toy bin" so that it’s smashed to the degree that the status of your leadership skills are out of shape?
     The routine and mundane work day can get in the way of stretching our skills. We have to stay focused on the goals we set. We should write these down and put them where we can see them every day.
      Set goals to build your skills as a leader. Want to be a better public speaker? Take a class to improve your skills. Start volunteering at your organization to present in front of people. Don't be afraid to admit to people that you are working on a skill. They will appreciate your honesty and be more likely to give you quality feedback.

Step out and stretch yourself to become better leader. You will make the Stretch Armstrongs of the world proud.

Check out the old vintage 1970's video on Stretch Armstrong!  It will bring back memories!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where Do You Find Your Strength?

     As leaders our role can consume a large amount of our time and energy.  Most days can be very rewarding but there are some moments, events, or even people who can exhaust a leader.  I call these little moments, "Life Suckers"  I know it's not a real creative title but it sure is accurate because these moments can suck the life out of your day.  There isn't any avoiding them.  Life sucking moments are just part of life.  They happen.  Majority of time in leadership they happen as a result of what someone else has done.  Sure it can happen because of bad practice, bad policy, or a mistake by the leader, but it's been my experience it happens most of the time because someone has made a mistake.  Maybe it's an honest mistake or maybe someone is just being plain stupid.  Either way it happens and as leaders we just have to get over it and deal with the "Life Sucking" moment.
     As leaders we have to look past these moments and find our strength.  No matter what has happened or how stupid someone is we are always called by our profession to treat them professionally.  To do this we have to look past the circumstances and find our strength.  Where do you find your strength?   I think it's important to ask yourself what my strength is based on?  Is it your circumstances?  What if it changes then where is your strength?  What if your bank account goes in the negative does your strength quickly follow?  Your stress level goes up but what about desire to take care of the problem?  If you want to keep the bank off of your back you work quickly to take care of the problem.  In this situation your reputation might be your strength.  Find something stable for your strength.  Your family, friends, or your faith.  Families have their ups and downs but for the most part they are pretty stable and you can rely on them.  Your friends, the good ones that will tell you the truth and still accept you, are generally pretty stable. 
     Your faith, and I'm talking about God, will never change.  Why?  Because God is always faithful.  Don't get faith and circumstances confused.  Circumstances change, almost like a roller coaster ride.  Your faith is always there because God is always there.  Don't put faith in your circumstances because they will change and then you will think God is on vacation or just ignoring you.  He doesn't, because God never changes.  He is always their because God is always faithful.   When the "Life Suckers" walk into your presence think to yourself, this to shall pass, and start working on resolving the issue.  I have learned more in leadership through each of these life sucking moments than I have in a week of things going well.  These life sucking moments will make you stronger by just going through the experience.  Just remember your strength and not your circumstances.

Here is some more good information on finding your strength!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What is Your Presence?

     As a leader in any setting you bring presence.  What do I mean by a presence?  In this sense I am talking about how you make people feel.  Do you make them feel uncomfortable?  Do you give the impression that you care?  Do you give people the feeling that you invite and value their input?  What type of image do you project as a leader?  In all these questions, along with others that you could come up with, lead to your presence in your organization.
     Did you know that your presence can be establish even before you get a new job?  Several years ago I had a colleague tell me about a job situation that he had just gone through.  He had left a position that had a terrible working atmosphere.  People hated coming to work and they disliked the direction the organization was headed.  Through an opportunity he was able to move from that organization to a new one.  He was still working the same type of job but it was for a new organization.  He knew that this new job would be a piece of cake because the guy he was replacing was fired for stealing from the company.  He said to himself, "This will guy will be easy to follow because I am honest and don't have a problem with stealing".  It turned out to a terrible situation.  The environment and presence of that position he was taking over had no trust with anyone.  The guy before him was a crook so everyone from then on was always checking to see if everything was being accounted for.  It was a nightmare of no trust already established before his first day at work.
     How do you maintain a presence that convenes trust, openness, kindness, fairness, and any of the positive virtues that a quality leader needs to have?  You have those characteristics each and every day in each and every situation.  Are you going to be perfect?  No, and trust me people know that about you.  No one is perfect.  When leaders aren't batting one thousand in a situation, the great thing is we can go back and try and remedy the strike out.  We will have another plate appearance to make a hit with the people we work with.   People can appreciate that openness of making a mistake and trying to make it right later.  Leaders are human.  Leaders will have to admit to the "Elephant in the Room" when something isn't handle correctly on their part.  They might have to apologize to make things correct.  They might have to fix what they broke, which could be trust.  This could take time.  If you have been a leader that has done this I would invite you to try and build that bridge of trust and help your presence as a leader.  It's not the easiest thing to do but you will be a better person for it.

For more help in this area click on the link below.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Steps to Making a Change in Your Life.

     In my "Are Leaders Born or Made?" post of October 7, I discussed how throughout time that leaders have overcome obstacles and become successful leaders.  The leaders I spoke about in the October 7 post overcame their obstacles because they had the will power to make the change.  They had "Gumption" to make the change.  The word gumption takes me back to when I was a kid. When I hear that word I think of my grandparents.  They would have used that word.  Seems like we don't hear it that much in today's world.  It's a great word.
    American Heritage dictionary defines it as someone having "Guts" or "Spunk".  Spunk?!  There is another grandpa or grandma word!  Don't you reckon that our grandparents had to overcome a lot of adversity in their day.  The sacrifices they made to live through some of hardest times in our country took gumption.  From the dust bowl days in the midwest, to the nation wide depression of the 1930's, to two World Wars, along with the Korea and Vietnam Wars.  Our grandparents generation had to have gumption just to keep moving on in life.
     What about you?  Do you have gumption?  Do you want to make a change in your life?  Want to take up a new hobby or acquire a new skill?  Want to lose weight or just get in better physical shape?  Want to do something different in the area in which you lead?  Whatever the change or dream that you have it will take some gumption to get yourself going.  Don't wait!  Karen Lamb, author of the children's book "Princess Star and the Pancake Moon", would say "A year from now you will wish you had started today."  You can check out her work at her website.  Get started today!  Here are some easy steps to head you in the right direction.

  1. Set a goal.  You must have a vision for what it is that you want to do.  Want to learn how to play the piano.  Envision yourself playing it.  Maybe in front of a group of people.  At church?  Or maybe leading your family in a Christmas Carol over the holiday season.  Dream a little bit on your vision so your mind can grasp the image.  As the first part of Proverbs 29:18 says "Where there is no vision, the people will perish..  If you don't envision your goal then who else will?  
  2. Set an ending time.  A goal always has to have an ending point.  As author Stephen Covey of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".  You "Begin with an End in Mind".  What is the ending time of your goal?  You have already dreamed about your goal in the first step.  When will it be concluded so you can celebrate!  
  3. Surround yourself with people that will support you in your goal.  Just a word of advice.  If it's something that is a little way out there in the realm of realistic you might want to keep it to yourself in the beginning.  If you want to learn to ride a camel so you can spend a year aboard surviving in the Sahara Dessert, keep it to yourself.  I am not trying to be sarcastic.  It's more about protecting your goal.  If you have to share, do it with someone that you can trust to be confidential with your dream.  The more people you tell the more likely you will have someone that will shoot it down and scar up your goal a little bit.  I am not saying to keep your head in the sand, okay I will stop with the Sahara jokes, about a goal but you do have to protect your dream a little bit from the naysayers.  Share them with a supportive core group of people that will give you good sound advice about how to advance in meeting your goal.
  4. Get after it! Set you mind upon your goal and focus on getting it done.  It may not happen overnight so have patience.  If it's weight loss then celebrate after losing each pound or a set number of pounds.  Stay focused on the end results and don't get down if you take a step back.  Stay positive and take one step at a time!  No one ever learned to ride a camel overnight!  Okay really that's the last joke.
Here is great article to help get you motivated to meet your goal.  

If you need more a pep talk and some goal setting advice from Tony Robbins on this video.

Good luck!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Are Leaders Born or Made?

     Its almost like the question of which came first the chicken or the egg?  Are leaders born or made?  After twenty some years of experience in education I have come to learn that leaders are made from their circumstances.  A leader's circumstances have more to do with their surrounding than with their genetic make-up.  The only genetic make-up that a leader really needs to have is a high energy level.  Being a leader takes a large amount of energy to put in the time and commitment to lead.  I am sure that there are some leaders out in the world that don't have the energy to lead and they are still competent in their job.  But without an adequate energy level leaders may lead but they may not be as effective.
     Leaders are made from their circumstances.  Their home and modeling from their parents.  Their education and training.  The type of leaders they had in their schooling.  The type of followers they were when they were being led.  Were they an intelligent follower?   All of these circumstances have one thing in common.  The leader was either trained or educated to develop the leader inside of themselves.  Everyone can be a leader if they so choose to be.  Especially in the United States were free enterprise exists.  Some of the obstacles can be challenging to overcome. Poverty, physical disability, family tragedy, illness, etc...  But they can be overcome.  Throughout history their has been numerous examples of leaders overcoming obstacles to go on and become a great leader.  Henry Ford overcome the death of his mother.  Abraham Lincoln's mother died when he was nine.  He also grew up in poverty.  David Paterson, Governor of New York is partly blind.  Theodore Roosevelt suffered from asthma and was sickly young man.
     Whatever the circumstances, these leaders and many others overcame their obstacles.  What I have learned from watching students after students go through my schools is that leaders have to be determined.  They have to have a vision and a plan for what they want to be or do then they have to stick with it.  They have to have some gumption and a never say die attitude.  If they don't stay focused then the day to day grind of life will get in the way of what they want to be.  What about you?  Are you wanting to aspire to something better?  Do you want to learn something new?  Be more skillful in an area that you have struggled?  What are your dreams?  If you have that desire to do something or be someone different then I would encourage you to do it.  Need a little help in getting started?  Try this link below and see if it helps you get started.  Good luck and go for it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Who Inspires You?

     In today's world it is sometimes hard to find inspiring people.  Politicians can be corrupt, professional athletes get arrested, and even pastors break commandments.  Seems like the news that we watch, read, or listen to has bad story after bad story.  As leaders we have to look for people that inspire us.
     It's been my experience that we don't have to look very far.  I have found inspiration in the people I work and live with every day.  To the teacher that will put in the extra hours to meet a struggling kid's need.  Or a building principal that will go the extra mile to support that same teacher.  Even the kids are inspiring!  From helping a classmate or overcoming challenges to met an academic goal, they can inspire me each and every day.  One of the inspiring people in my career was my first building principal.  He was then and still is today a man that people could look up to.  He was engaged with the people in his building every day.  He always had an attitude that nothing can't be solved and no challenge to great.  Who inspires you everyday?  Is it someone that you grew up with?  Someone you work with?
     A few years ago I ran into this former building principal at a conference in Wichita.  I took the opportunity to thank him and let him know that it was his efforts that inspired me to become an administrator.  He was very appreciative but was a little surprised.  He wanted to know what it was that inspired me.  So I told him what I have already shared with you.  Does the inspiring person in your life know this from you?  When I let him know some how I knew from the look on his face that I reinforced his inspiring behavior.  I think people appreciate knowing that they have made a difference in someone's life.
     I would encourage you if the situation arises to tell the inspiring person in your life how they impacted you.  If the situation doesn't arise then keep up their legacy by inspiring others around you.  Below is a video of an inspiring story of a father and son team.  Their names are Dick and Rick Hoyt.  Some of you may have heard of the running team called "Team Hoyt".  Click on the video below and enjoy being inspired.   Feel free to share this video with anyone by posting the  link to your Facebook or recommended it to Google by clicking the on the Google icon in the upper left hand corner.  You can visit Dick and Rick Hoyt's website at

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why Do I Lead?

Using a different method to deliver my message today.  Click on the video above.  Just so you know, in the first picture that I am holding up it is me getting ready to read to our first graders.  Enjoy!