LIFE – Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. ~ Jim Rohn

LEADERSHIP – Recruit people who “play well in the sandbox with others.” A group of great people does not necessarily make a great team.

Initiate

alexs-lemonade-stand-8ec1c4e50e90f858_mediumNothing happens until something moves. Einstein

My favorite word in the English language is initiate and its noun form, initiative.

Life favors those who take initiative.

Most people live passive lives; others are aggressive. Aggressive is better.

This may be the single most critical difference between leaders and followers. Leaders initiate; they are proactive. They have an agenda. I’ve even noticed that good leaders walk fast, literally; they know their destination and want to get there quickly.

Kirkpatrick and Locke agree: “Effective leaders are proactive. They make choices and take action that leads to change instead of just reacting to events or waiting for things to happen; that is, they show a high level of initiative. Instead of sitting idly by or waiting for fate to smile upon them, leaders need to challenge the process.”

When teaching the Lead Well workshop, I ask delegates to consider the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer merely reflects the temperature of a room; a thermostat has the ability to change the temperature. Leaders are like thermostats; they visualize a better environment and take the initiative to make necessary changes.

Often, initiative must be paired with courage because you will inevitably pursue things that you have never done before, and that can be intimidating. Also, when others follow your initiatives, you’ll sense a responsibility toward their effort and well-being, and that also takes courage.

Initiative is a bias-to-action; a frustration with passivity. It likes movement.

“I would not sit waiting for some vague tomorrow, nor for something to happen. One could wait a lifetime, and find nothing at the end of the waiting. I would begin here, I would make something happen.” Louis L’Amour, Sackett’s Land Summary

Summary

What? – Initiative is good.
So what? – Initiative will give you an advantage in life; a lack of initiative will stymie your progress.
Now what? – Analyze your life in this area. Do you take initiative? If not, why not? Identify several projects you will start or goals you will pursue.

Leaders – It’s important that leaders create an environment in which team members are encouraged to take initiative and are supported when they do, even when the initiative fails. Sanction inactivity, not failure. Micromanaging will stifle initiative; you must give good employees the freedom to make decisions and pursue plans.

Read

books

 

One of the marvelous things about life is that any gaps in your education can be filled, whatever your age or situation, by reading, and thinking about what you read. (Bennis)

 Are you in any of these groups?

  •  33% of U.S. high school graduates will never read a book after high school.
  • 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate.
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy a book last year.
  • 70% of adults have not been in a book store or ordered a book online in the past 5 years.
    [Statisticbrain.com]

The fact that you are reading this blog indicates that you are literate. This is a good thing, but not sufficient. The critical question is not can you read but do you read? Mark Twain observed,“Those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot read.” I would add: but those who do read are better off than those who can read but do not.

When I was in graduate school I read a lot, but after completing my degree I didn’t read much for the next ten years. Perhaps I had what John Maxwell calls destination disease. He says, “Some people mistakenly believe that if they can accomplish a particular goal, they no longer have to grow. This disease can infect us at many times in life: after earning a degree, reaching a desired position, receiving a particular award, or achieving a financial goal.”

I regret that for 120 months I seldom opened a book. Granted, reading is not the only way to learn and grow, but it’s a good way.

When was the last time you read an intriguing book that challenged your thinking?

The potential benefit of reading regularly is astounding. If you read 60 minutes every day you could read a book a week, four books a month, 52 books a year, 520 books in 10 years. That would change your life. If you read 520 books, in a world in which the average person reads less than a book a year, you would develop a decisive advantage in life.

Read widely and think deeply.

Click here to read more on how to learn from reading.

Click here to learn how to quickly and effectively read a non-fiction book.

Summary

What? – Though reading is beneficial, most adults don’t read.
So what? -Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot read; but those who do read will grow, learn, and have an advantage over those who can but do not.
Now what? – Set a goal to read one significant book per month. If you need suggestions on what to read, see the recommended book section on my home page.

Leaders – On a regular basis, lead your team to read and discuss significant books.

Life – I have no obligation to listen politely to people who are exhibiting social halitosis. Albrecht

Leadership – If the decision is going to be made on the basis of facts, then everyone’s facts, as long as they are relevant, are equal. If the decision is going to be made on the basis of people’s opinions, then mine count for a lot more.” James Barksdale

Have vision – all things are created twice

telescopeWhen Disney World first opened, Mrs. Walt Disney was asked to speak at the Grand Opening because her husband, Walt, had died before the project was completed. She was introduced by a man who said, “Mrs. Disney, I just wish Walt could have seen this.” She stood up and said, “He did,” and sat down. (Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within, pg. 143)

Walt had vision.

Anthropologists tell us that humans are the only species of mammals that can think about the future, conceptualize what it might look like, and control our destiny. Take advantage of this gift.

Vision casting is not an attempt to predict the future; it endeavors to shape the future by visualizing possibilities which then influence current action.

Mary and I had a vision of being debt-free. It took 20 years of frugal living and careful planning, but in 1995 we made our last house payment and became unhindered by debt. Early in our marriage we had a vision for higher education among our family members; now, in our immediate family we have an M.B.A., Ph.D., M.D., a master’s from Columbia, and a Juilliard graduate.

In life, you seldom drift into a good spot. If you don’t have vision and don’t take initiative, you will likely be marooned in mediocrity.

Crafting vision is not a mysterious or difficult exercise. Simply take the time to think about the future and identify ways that it can be better than the present.

In his book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey says, “Vision is applied imagination. All things are created twice: first, a mental creation; second, a physical creation. The first creation is vision” (pg. 70).

When Mrs. Disney said that Walt “saw” Disneyland although he died before it was completed, he truly had — in his mind, where it was first created.

Summary

What? – Vision is a mental picture of the future that is better than the present.
So what? – Vision will help optimize your life.
Now what? – On a regular basis, take time to think about your future. Consider many possibilities, and in time, some of them will captivate your heart — pursue those.

Leaders – Is your organization energized by fresh vision? Vision casting is one of the 12 skills taught in the Lead Well workshop. Click here for a full manuscript of the lesson.

Get ‘er done

convertibleThe story is told of the town drunk who left the tavern late at night and decided to take a shortcut home, even though it meant walking through the graveyard.

There were no moon or stars to light the ground, and with his cautiousness hampered by inebriation, he tripped and fell into an open grave prepared for the next day’s funeral. He was immediately stone sober. He frantically tried to get out of the grave but it was too deep; when he tried to scale the side walls the dirt just crumbled in his hands. After several unsuccessful attempts, he decided to wait until dawn—someone would arrive and help him out. So he sat in the corner and began to doze off.

But soon, another town drunk, also hoping to shorten his walk home, stumbled into the same grave. The newcomer had the same first reaction as his predecessor; he started jumping toward the top, clawing at the dirt, trying to escape.

Realizing the man’s attempts would be futile, and wanting to spare him the trouble, the first drunk said, “Friend, you’ll never get out of here.”

But he did.

It’s amazing what you can do — when you have to. It’s sad what you won’t do — if you don’t have to.

Years ago I worked for an organization that was so small (only seven employees) that we didn’t have a marketing or sales department. During a staff meeting, the boss asked if one of us would take on the marketing responsibilities. I replied, “I’ve never done that before and wouldn’t know how or where to start.” I punted.

Several years later, I started my own business and for the first year I was the only employee. I produced some products that needed to be marketed, but I didn’t have the money to hire someone, so guess who became the chief marketing officer. I did.

I crafted and pursued a self-directed crash course in marketing and advertising: I read four books on the subject, interviewed professionals, did a lot of research, and learned through trial and error. I became quite good at it.

It’s amazing what you can do — when you have to.

Why do we often wait until we are compelled to do something before we do it? Are we lazy, fearful, complacent? If so, are these inhibitors affecting all areas of our lives?

An unemployed friend of mine was very casual about finding a job, perhaps because his wife made good money and was supporting the family. But she left him and suddenly he was on his own. He immediately found a job. Interesting…

One day while driving around suburban Detroit, Iacocca passed someone in an old Mustang convertible. “That’s what Chrysler needs,” Iacocca thought. “A convertible.”

As soon as he got back to his office, he called the head of engineering. “Well,” said the department head, “the normal production cycle is five years. I suppose if we really pushed, we can have a convertible coming off the line in three years.”

LIFE – One of the hardest things in life is to see ourselves as others see us.

LEADERSHIP – Dialogue is the basic unit of work in an organization. Leaders should engender intellectual honesty and trust in the connections between people. All social operating mechanisms (meetings, etc.) must have honest dialogue at their center.