Friday, February 27, 2009

who says an old dog cant learn new tricks?...

Someone I had lunch with yesterday asked me to write about the transition one makes from being a manager to leader.

One of my managers told me that if i had asked her what she knew about her role a year ago , she would have said everything and if i asked her the same question today, she would have said nothing. I said" congratulations you have finally arrived, you are a leader"

Many bosses forget that their employees don't expect them to know everything, infact they usually expect their boss to know less than them. What they look for is the life experience and wisdom to help them navigate through challenges they face. Quite often , it may not even be work related.

Most of my discussions with my team centre around relationship dynamics, vision and looking ahead at possible challenges, what i would have done in a given scenario and bouncing ideas off each other.

Most often they have the answers and sometimes their answers are way better than mine. I see myself as a facilitator to assist those I work with to arrive at decisions that will help them and the company.

Leadership is an on-going journey, you never quite arrive, rather than skills and competency, I think its an attitude.

1. Lead from the heart -keep striving for a better solution, there is always a solution that fits, one that is designed for the highest good of all concerned. It may not be visible sometimes when we make the decision but in the mid to longer term, it always works out for the better. Sometimes pain is good, it wont always be a bed of roses.
2. Being aware of decisions and communication that stem from ego. When this happens, somebody loses or somebody gets hurt. Taking yourself out of the equation and working out what is best for a given situation, requires maturity and confidence in yourself
3. Don't get sucked into dramas like the moth to the fire. This takes discipline, in learning to rise above and showing empathy without being emotionally drained
4. Look at the lighter side of things, give people a break, don't be so harsh in your judgements - why judge in the first place. Value judgements make others around you want to defend themselves and you are seeing things through your own filters. How about seeing things through someone else's filters and life experience. I often catch myself thinking " if i were this person with the kind of life experience he/she has been exposed to, would i respond in the same way" I realise, when i do this , that I probably would have done alot worse than the person I am "judging." The saying " walking a mile in another person's shoes" really rings true for me. It makes me more compassionate.
5. Leading from the heart and being compassionate does not mean that you are a pushover or a "softie" My mum taught be this, she is quiet and loving but she is strong...very strong. Its about being able to say" i love you but i hate the way you work, if you don't fix it, you are demonstrating that you don't want to work here anymore and that's ok, we can still be friends outside of work." There is no need for a villain or bad person, that's only in the movies, in all my years, I have never seen a completely evil person, they may be bad to you but they too have a family and loved ones. I am not saying that there are no bad people out there , I am saying that " they may be out there but they are not a part of my life and my belief system"
6. Speaking of beliefs, this is key. Most people don't wake up in the morning with a plan to "screw up" their career/job. This one belief is so important to anyone managing a group of people. I also ask myself " if i made that mistake, how would i have reacted." There are people who think that most people are lazy and need to be driven. This attitude stems from fear based thinking and it comes from an attitude that everyone out there wants to take advantage of others. It also has an underlying belief that they are the saviours, no one else knows better. People who think like this , don't deserve the privilege to lead.
7. Work is a part of Life, just one part. Stop making it the main theme. Recognise that even if you don't have a life outside of work , others do. It took me a long time to learn this one because i always felt that everyone wanted to excel in their career and grow.... how arrogant of me to think that? Some people just want to come into work , do their job and go home. and Why not??
8. Don't be frivolous with remarks and what you say about someone else. This is a hard one, sometimes we all get caught in the moment. I am still learning this one. When I go home, i ask myself " Am I proud to be me? Did I behave and speak in manner that was respectful of others "...not always.
9. Give people a chance to come up with the answers, sometimes you have to let them "stew" instead of jumping in to tell them what to do

Leadership is an attitude, this is why some people thrive whilst others struggle. Its a gift that the others around us, including those we lead, bestow upon us. It is a truly humbling experience.

Top Dog to Super Dog

I went from employee to business owner to employee when I sold my business.

I am very thankful for the experience because suddenly I was able to see all my "boss mistakes" ....(I cant recall the number of times I thought to myself " Oh my God.. is this how I would have appeared in their eyes when I was their boss??")

I am also very thankful to my team members who let me in as an employee and helped me see through the eyes of an employee. Its really quite funny , what total idiots we make of ourselves as bosses

If the people who report to us could say what they really wanted to say , it would sound like this :

1. Stop operating in a vacuum and making decisions that affect us without consulting us
2. Stop taking yourself so seriously, its quite funny when you rant and rave, you look like a spoilt brat!
3. Make time to know us better, your job is not the only important job around here
4. Say thank you - didn't your mother teach you any manners?
5. Stop taking my ideas and making it look like yours, have you no shame?
6. Say sorry, you wont melt
7. Smile and laugh out loud - don't worry,the gold in your mouth wont drop out!
8. Give me a break!!! -We all have families too, mortgages to pay and sleepless nights, your life challenges are not bigger than ours just because you are the boss.

Sometimes , I wonder if we grew up exactly like the way we were when we were kids. When you watch kids in the playground, you can almost see the roles they will play when they grow up...there is always a bully boss amongst them!

And then there is a flip side to all this and I remember as an employer, I would get well meaning people who would automatically assume that because I was the boss, I was also the Big Bad Wolf! There have been times when I have had to tell these people to stop because there were many occasions when i felt victimised as the boss/employer and thinking exactly the same thoughts as the ones listed above but of my employees!! ( points 1-8)

....When you take a closer look at it all, it boils down to "basic humanness" - whether you are an employer or employee. We all look for the same things, perhaps the context may be different but its still about how we relate to each other.

So much wounding takes place at work and I am not talking about health and safety here. Those of us, in leadership positions can make a big difference to the work world by leading the way and inspiring others to aspire to be better people

Top dogs are there by position...super dogs are there by permission!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The dog's view of the fantastic journey!

I read a story about James Benson who joined a science fiction book club at the age of ten and his journey through life - how he acquired an education, earned a living , founded a company, sold it but how he stayed connected with his dream. He found many ways to be connected to space technology for eg, he founded SpaceDev, a low cost rocket technology and small satellite developer. This company designed the Near Earth Asteroid Prospector to mine orbiting objects and asteroids for minerals and water. He also supplied hybrid motors for SpaceShipOne ( the first privately funded manned space flight) In 2006, two years before he died , he started planning the launch of his own space tourism business. He still had his book club membership card with him when he died at the age of 63. His 50 year old book club card carried a promise to submit the bearer's name to the first company offering commercial space travel.

Some people may read his story and feel sorry that he never achieved his dream, but that's a shallow view. We dont really know what we are here to do on this planet and our purpose is not going to jump out of the sky and land on us. For some people , it may be very clearly laid out infront of them and for most of us, it will be a bit like James Benson's life where life takes us through some detours. We , often, get caught up with the destination and James Benson clearly wanted to commercialise space travel and make that available to the average man. But reading about his journey touched a chord inside me, I was inspired by how he stayed on his journey all the way to the end.

Life's purpose is not going to come and get us in some dramatic moment ( although we sometimes hear about these stories, these are rare, which is why we read about them or hear about them). For the rest of us, it may seem like we are just plodding along and doing things that come along the there a bigger plan? Does it all culminate into some final conclusion?? In my view that depends.... on our view of life. If we go through life with a purpose that inspires us,
we start enjoying the journey and everything is connected and there is meaning to what we do. If we go through life resenting the journey, thinking if ' this is all life has to offer me" than we miss out on life and are "absent" and not participating in life, we are mere spectators on the sidelines waiting for next thing to happen.

I really believe that true leaders stay on purpose despite the detours but take time to appreciate the ''side trips" ...after all life is a journey....sometimes to the frustration of the people around us. We dont know if we have succeeded or failed in our life, and its not for us to make that decision...but we will know if we have enjoyed the travels and that has to do with our own attitude to life.

Reminds me of a Gary Larson cartoon , that has pictures of two cows dressed up like monks sitting by the side of a road eating roses, the advice one of the cows gives to other goes something like this "and as you go life's journey, dont forget to stop and eat the roses"

or .... maybe... in my world , it should be dont forget to find every excuse to celebrate life and share a meal with your friends...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

....Its a dog's life....that's not such a bad thing!

I have noticed that whenever I ask people about their life, some people tend to say " not bad" or " managing to survive"

Why bother to survive when you can thrive!!!!

I heard from a colleague who works in China that most of her team members have not heard about the recession or current market condition. This is because of high censorship in China and in way , she says that this is good ,whilst her other teams in the region are moaning of a business slow down, this team in China is charging ahead.

Granted that China is one of the few economies that is growing at this time - this colleague's team is exceeding projections. In a way, its a self fulfilling prophecy. If we focus on doom and gloom and how bad things are , this is exactly what we will attract into our lives. Stuart Wilde says in his book " Life was never meant to be a struggle, it is a a gentle progression from one place to another" He quotes the example of a lion in the jungle, it doesn't wake up in the morning worrying about what its going to eat... it goes about doing what lions do.. sniff under its armpits, look around and if he sees "dinner" he makes a run for it. And the lion does not sit and cry when it cant catch its dinner, it just brushes it off and looks for another opportunity.

We have so much to be thankful for and the process of creating what we want in our lives starts with an attitude of gratitude. Whenever, my children start "whining" about how bad their patch is, I get them to sit down and write a full page of the things they are thankful for. Usually by the time they finish with it, even if they don't want to show me that their "mood" has shifted, I know that they are in a better emotional space than when they started.

What we give our energy to everyday becomes our reality and instead of focusing on fear based thinking and giving our energy to what we don't want, we can start shifting our focus to what we want.

Start a book of gratitude - and write down all the things you are thankful for now in your life. Also start another page to say thank you for all things you want but have not received yet.
For eg. there is no reason why you cant say thank you to the universe for a job interview you haven't been invited to yet. " I am so grateful that I have been selected to be interviewed for....." or I am so thankful that I have started working as ......."

I read somewhere about a story of a man going to heaven and on his way to meet God, he passes a room filled with presents all beautifully wrapped from floor to ceiling. He turns around and asks St. Peter who all these presents are for. St Peter replies that "these are all the wishes that people asked for but they changed their mind at the last minute, so we couldn't dispatch them."

Process of creation in a nutshell (works for me):

1. Having an Attitude of gratitude - counting our blessings and being thankful for them
2. Writing our goals down, visualising them and keeping our focus on the goals
3. Expecting to receive - ask and expect to receive
4. Being generous - when we give something back , this changes our energy and opens us up to more possibilities - moving to a more expansive energy
5. Being happy for other peoples' success, envy constricts our energy and puts us in a "wanting/needing" frame instead of a "having" frame of mind.
6. Smiling and laughing more - success attracts success - nobody wants to be near a "drip"
7. Monitoring our thoughts - Change negative thoughts into positive ones, think of the opposite thought - for eg. "I am not lucky" to " I am so lucky, I attract so many good opportunities and people into my life" Affirm what you want.
8. Giving our energy to a good cause, helping those who are less fortunate.
9. Seeing goodness in others

Life is only as good as we make it. We have the ability to not only change our lives for the better but also the lives of those around us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zzzzzz..dogs love sleep

Sleep is such a great washes away all the negativity of the day and when you wake up in the morning your head is cleared and its a new day again.

It's about living in hope...a knowing inside you that you can make a difference. This is what drives a leader to wake up in the morning and start again. The purpose is way bigger than anything else , enough to inspire the leader into action , which in turn inspires others that the leader comes in contact with.

What i look for in a leader is congruence, he or she needs to be aligned with what they say and do. They need to be aligned to their purpose and live it most of the time. We cant always be aligned, infact it is my belief that going out of alignment is part of the process of being aligned to our purpose because it marks out clearly what is truly important to us..... We dont need to be perfect as we all have lessons to learn, we just need to accept and acknowledge when we go out of alignment, and adjust the route we are taking to come back into purpose/alignment.

Looking for perfection is a waste of time .... if we were perfect, then its time for us to die... what's the point of living in the planet if we have nothing to work on. The need for perfection stems from the need to look good and not make mistakes. Fear of making mistakes to me demonstrates a fear of learning.

And yet as leaders, how do we react to mistakes? How do we model to others that its ok to take responsibility for our mistakes and learn from it?

How we respond to mistakes is a product of our upbringing. I have a belief that when I employ someone, I am also employing the rest of their family members ( the ones who are alive and dead!...yes including their great grand father!!!) This is because beliefs are handed down generation to generation, even if we consciously choose to not carry some of those beliefs, we need to vigilant and awake to the thoughts behind our auto responses. Its actually quite simple I learnt with NLP to pay special attention to any thought that pops up in my head that includes words like "should" "have" or "must" because they are "rules" that we have learnt. Then I ask " according to whom?" I dont think I had a single original thought, most of them were hand me downs.

Its about how we apply the knowledge we acquire, this part is our own personal journey. The leader has to make sense of this and be very aware of the fact that there are many other people within the his or her circle of influence - that he / she is influencing consciously or unconsciously. To me its about choosng to be awake to the power we hold but its also about giving ourselves enough time to heal from our battlewounds from being a corporate warrior and standing up for our beliefs. If we dont, we tend to spread negativity, the work world doesnt need anymore. We have to face each new day with Hope.

surely there must be more to business and work life?

If there was one thought that's stayed with me throughout my work and business life ...this is it..."surely there must be more to business and work ... than this?

The corporate world in particular is a huge waste of time and its so meaningless. We try not to see it for what it is but those of us in leadership positions owe it to the people we manage and ourselves to face the reality of what we have created jointly. Many people in senior positions are "asleep" and unconscious to the power they hold and the impact they have on other peoples' lives. It is my belief that successful busines people are created by society and community, without the 'permission' of a given community,we cannot do business within it, even if we wanted to. In a way its an honor bestowed upon us by the community we operate within and we need to treat this with respect.

My father used to say that a good reputation is worth its weight in gold in business. The current economic downturn is a good example of leaders not valuing the impact they have on others. It has been fuelled by greed and ugliness. I started reading a book by David C. Korten called " Agenda for a New Economy, from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth" , in his book , he speaks about the idea of phanthom wealth - "creating wealth without producing anything of real value." This is not how our fore fathers conducted business. It makes me angry to see how many large businesses waste so much energy around share values and speculators instead on focussing on what their real purpose is - to serve their customers and to look after their internal customers- the people who keep the external customers happy!!!.
We cannot be leaders by position alone, we need to be leaders by permission. Its time to put some value/substance back into the work world, to look after the people we care about and make sure that their jobs are safe by doing what we are supposed to be doing in the first place. But its a two way street , whilst strong , visible leadership is needed especially at this time, we also need people in the work place to not tolerate "lousy bosses" When we tolerate bad behaviour from bosses, we are giving them permission to treat people badly and the problem only gets bigger. This is because others watch this behaviour and model after it , thinking that this is the way that things get done in the corporate world.