Sunday, August 7, 2011

Stop and . . .

Recently, I had an interesting experience that changed the way I will think about things in the future. I frequently go for a walk at lunch to the Canal Park area of Duluth, MN. Usually, on these walks, I take in the waterfront and Lake Superior. I enjoy the smells of the many restaurants and enjoy watching the tourists as they meander from shop to shop. This was my usual experience and I looked forward to my walks. This was about to change.

As I was getting ready to head out on one of my walks, Donna, one of my coworkers was looking at my new camera, and asked if I ever took pictures of flowers. Then she commented, “You’re really not a flower person are you?” My response was that I wasn’t a flower person, but that I would try to find a flower to take a picture of.

As I approached Canal Park, I was stunned. There were flowers everywhere. My first thought was, when did they plant all these flowers? They were everywhere. They must be new, because I never noticed them before. As I took pictures, I noticed something else, the smell of the flowers. I had heard the quote, “Take time to smell the roses,” but obviously never took it seriously. I hadn’t even taken the time to see the roses, let alone smell them. Wow! I was in a new world.

As I continued to take pictures, I then noticed and heard the bees, butterflies and other birds and insects floating around. I had to sit down and think about everything I was seeing, smelling and hearing. It was a completely different experience.

Why? Because I was focusing on something different, I was having a different experience. Interesting! How many times in life do we do the same things over and over again; the same foods, the same steps, the same route to work, the same goals, and the same results?

If we want different results, we must change the way we think, the things we do, and the things we focus on. If I can have this profound experience just on a lunch time walk, what could I accomplish in my life if I focus on the task at hand in a different way? I’m looking forward to other breakthroughs as I practice this in business, and in life.

If you are stuck with a challenge, can you look at it in a different way? Ask for others opinions. Do your research differently. Use a different Search Engine. Ask different questions. If you are not sure, just try something different. 

I encourage all of us to look at our challenges with a different focus.  This just may give us an unseen breakthrough to unseen results. I also thank Donna for giving me something new to focus on and teaching me such a valuable lesson. Don’t just stop and smell, stop and see, then ask, “What can I focus on to change this experience?”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leadership Lessons Learned – Vision

Take a moment and think about a company or organization that you know to be successful. Now, think about what makes this company successful. The list could be long and include a worthwhile mission, passionate people, efficient processes and policies, and a much needed product or service. Usually, at the top of the list is a successful leader that has a guiding principle, a passion, a vision that helps guide the leader in all matters and decisions.  

Go to the website of the company or organization that you thought of, and you will most likely be able to find their guiding principle, their Mission and their Vision. While these collections of words may seem trivial, used properly these same words can make the difference in success and failure.

I work for a company that has a Vision and Mission that I truly believe in and can live every day on the job. More importantly, I see the leaders of my company living these words every day in their actions and in their decisions. In the past, I worked for a very large corporation that lost its mission. The morale was incredibly low while layoffs happened every 6 months. The company eventually went out of business and the operation was taken over by a different company. What was the difference?  I believe the answer lies in the fact that the latter example lacked leaders that lived the company’s Vision.

Leading a District of very talented Toastmasters gave me the opportunity to share my guiding principle, my Vision for the District. I planned this for two years and shared this vision in my inaugural address. My theme was “An Attitude of Service” and my Vision was that every member enters every leadership opportunity with an attitude of being there, not for themselves, but for those they serve. My theme and vision were well received and I fostered many positive comments and huge support. Was I done?  No!  While I had the support and passion of the members at the starting gate, those same members needed to see me live this Vision every day and in every way.

I immediately was tested as other leaders came to me with problems. In every case, I asked that leader to step back and ask, “How can I be of service in this situation?” I would often receive feedback that the leader was inspired by this opportunity to look at the situation differently and find alternate solutions. On many occasions, I was there with my Vision as a solution to a challenge.

I’ve studied and had a passion for Missions and Visions for years, but this was my first opportunity to lead a large organization with my thoughts and beliefs. I really learned at a different level that it is imperative that those we lead see us live our Vision. We must be passionate about it, we must motivate with it, we must coach with it, we must meet challenges with it, and we most of all, we must empower others to do the same.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Leadership Lessons Learned – My Journey through the District Trio

On June 30th, I completed my term as District Governor for District 6 Toastmasters. This was a four year commitment which included a year as Lieutenant Governor Marketing, a year as Lieutenant Governor Education and Training, a year as District Governor, and now I will serve a year as Immediate Past District Governor. Serving in these positions has been an incredible journey. Working with a leadership team of about 100 people to lead an organization of over 5000 people has been fun, challenging and educational. These positions gave me the opportunity to use many of the leadership skills that we learn and practice within Toastmasters. Over the next several weeks, I would like to share my thoughts on a leadership skill that I learned, relearned or discovered new insights on. Check in next week when I share my thoughts on Vision.