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.