Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
When I decided to start my blog, I told myself that my reason for writing was to serve as an outlet for my own mental health. Essentially, it served as a journal to express my thoughts, but not hidden in my nightstand. Deep down, I hoped that it would be a pathway to IMPACT others in a positive way - to engage those who I may not normally engage or even meet. But I made sure my purpose, my value, was focused on what I could control and anything beyond that would be an extra benefit.
It didn't take long to start getting feedback on my blogs. First from people with whom I already had a strong relationship, then I started hearing from people at work that I had not ever talked to - such as interns from other parts of the organization. Casual acquaintances would send me notes or bring up my blog when we would run into each other sharing feedback and their own experiences.
A few people engage me on a different level. They pose questions to dig deeper into the topic and challenge my point of view. They compare and contrast to their own experiences to help expand my understanding of other perspectives. Still others, seek out my insight on other topics and ask to explore it further through my blog. They share their own experiences and challenges that they are facing, hoping that I can not only shed a light on what they are facing, but help create pathways through my stories that can help others find their way to a solution as well.
One day in the breakroom, I was caught off guard when a coworker started talking about the Friends episode when Ross, Rachel, & Chandler were moving a couch up their apartment stairway with Ross barking at them to “PIVOT” until Chandler finally lost his cool. Actually, that was not the conversation we had, but I love Friends and thought it was a great way to introduce PIVOT as the topic of this blog.
My coworker knows my love of basketball and he suggested that a blog post focused on Pivot would be a great way to use a basketball analogy with challenges at work. Merriam-Webster defines pivot (v) as:
1. to turn on or as if on a pivot
2. to adapt or improve by adjusting or modifying something (such as a product, service, or strategy).
In basketball, the term is used to describe when a player, typically on offense and with the ball, keeps a foot planted on the ground and then moves the other foot allowing them to “pivot” around the defender. It allows them to change direction and gain a different perspective.
His reference to work was one about introducing change, which can be a difficult undertaking at best. What made it even more challenging for him was that he was not responsible for the introduction of a new system, but he and his team were the end-users of the system. The system was introduced without a formal change management plan. Buy-in was not obtained prior to the creation of the system nor were any of the team involved in the design or implementation of the system. It was rolled out as an improvement but in reality, it created a lot of headaches and even some extra work.
With his teammates frustrated, pushing back and in some cases refusing to use the new system, this person took it upon himself to seek out the initiator and ask more in-depth questions to get at the WHY. What he soon realized was that there was a bigger purpose for the system than what his team understood or was even told. The real value had never been explained.
As he engaged the system owner, he uncovered the hidden value and began to connect the dots on how his team can have a greater impact on the company. He took it upon himself to help his team pivot. He helped them look at the process from a different perspective. He helped them see the value that others get from the system and then connected the benefit to the customer all the way back to where it impacted them.
This pivot, around the obstacle in front of them, allowed them to get a clean look at the goal. He not only helped them pivot to a new perspective, but he also allowed them to pivot to a greater sense of worth. This alone would be a great success. But the pivot wasn’t done as he followed-up with the system owner/creator and helped them see the folly of not engaging the end user. He educated them on why there was frustration and the damage that was unintentionally done to productivity, morale, and relationships.
In basketball, the pivot is normally focused on the person with the ball. But the teammate also has the ability to pivot, to change their view, to change their pathway to receive a pass, to help their teammate achieve their goal. So don’t get stuck - whether on the court or at work. Be prepared to pivot. To improve your outlook. To improve your position. To improve your chance to achieve your goal Beyond Today.
“Fear and faith have one thing in common- they both believe in a future that hasn't happened. Fear believes in a negative future. Faith believes in a positive future.”
A few months ago, I received feedback from a coworker on one of my blogs. In Who is On Your Team I discussed the dynamics of sibling relationships. He pointed out that he was a middle child and he found it enlightening to see that I was the baby of the family. He wrote “this helps explain a lot of things…” he included some laughing emojis in the note along with a winky face.
We went on to discuss the roles people play, whether on teams or in families, and how that can change over time or even situation to situation. He then paid me a compliment by saying, “I have seen the youngest also be completely fearless and able to succeed in any situation like yourself.”
I was taken aback. I immediately responded with “fearless? Not even close!” I went on to explain that I am a walking panic attack waiting to happen. I spend my time bouncing between excitement of the opportunity in front of me and the feeling of being frozen, unable to make a move in fear of an attack ready to swell up inside my chest. I told him that the fact I can hide it up from those around me probably explains the heart attack!
His response was kind, thoughtful and encouraging, “I think you are fearless in your willingness to try. Maybe being fearless, and being fearful, are two different things.” It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.” The 1st Pillar of Impact is the Courage to Challenge talks about even when things are not comfortable for you, you still need to put aside the fear and do what is necessary.
A site I follow called, the Winning Difference, tweeted out an excerpt from a Will Smith movie called After Earth. “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. Fear is a choice.” They concluded the post with “Fear and doubt have ended more dreams than talent ever has.”
What a great message. Fear is a normal response in life. The key is to manage it and recognizing that it is a feeling and not a roadblock. Then, you can visualize your fear as an obstacle to overcome and focus on that desired outcome. The fear of the miss can prevent a stellar basketball player from taking the winning shot. Hall of Fame basketball player, Charles Barkley, said “If you’re afraid of failure, you don’t deserve to be successful.”
Fear doesn’t need to be suppressed but instead acknowledged for what it is, a feeling of negativity and doubt. By recognizing the fearful feeling, we can choose the fearless actions that enable us to move forward. To move past our fears and fearlessly move forward Beyond Today.
Recently, it seems like I have had a multitude of discussions that have been focused on purpose and why. These conversations have run the gamut of co-workers to family, from sports to life. Simon Sinek has written, “Find Your Why” and given talks on this subject to millions of people. It is in demand because many are trying to connect with their greater purpose. They look at their lives and think there must be more.
Viktor Frankl, a Jewish-Austrian holocaust survivor, wrote the bestseller, Man’s Search for Meaning, which became the foundation of his logotherapy movement. There were several passages of his book that really hit home for me that supported the premise that it is our search for meaning that fuels us as humans to find success. He wrote, “We had to stop asking what we wanted from life and instead what life wanted from us.”
Much has been written about the younger generation seeking instant impact and gratification. Not satisfied with putting in time and showing that through hard work and dedication, that they deserve the promotion. They want the promotion and then will show what they can do. But this isn’t a generation thing, as this is something I have observed throughout my lifetime.
People spend time changing jobs, changing partners, changing hobbies trying to fill some void and to find themself. Maybe while they spend all the time “searching”, they are missing out on actually finding their purpose. Frankl wrote, “Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue.”
I have written before about the power of a vision whether in the 3 Pillars of Impact or in leading a team, Losing Site of Your Vision. The importance of staring at the horizon, keeping your site on where you are going and not letting what is in front of you serve as an obstacle . The risk you have about focusing on the vision, on the dream, is that you lose awareness of what is in front of and around you.
What happened to making the most of what you have? Of where you are? Of what you are doing? Happiness and satisfaction are not always something that is found through searching. Sometimes it is created, not by others, but by you.
When having discussions with my kids and they are feeling stressed about not knowing what they want to do with the rest of their life, I tell them that very few people know. Early on, my daughter knew that she wanted to work with young kids that needed extra guidance and attention to support their development. Her “why” was in front of her and she is pursuing it today.
I asked my kids if they really thought that when I was a young kid that I laid in bed at night dreaming about leading operations in a chemical manufacturing company? Your purpose is more than your job, your why is more than what you are doing at a given moment in time. Frankl shared that there is a difference when people finally understand their purpose, “Once he knows the why for his existence, will be able to bear almost any how.”
Sometimes you realize that your why is already inside of you and what you need is to find ways to bring it out into the light. To not only represent what you are doing, but to motivate and inspire what you are doing. Sometimes, you need to take a break from focusing on the future and instead focus on what you have today. Explore what you already have and what you already do and then take the time to understand who you are today and how you can impact what more you can do Beyond Today.
The words written in the Declaration of Independence have inspired generations of Americans as well as citizens of other countries. The story about the young upstart that was willing to fight for their freedoms, despite the odds before them, is inspiring to all people who have ever felt held down. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While the declaration was written to declare their independence and rally together the 13 colonies, it wasn’t about forming a new nation. It was written, “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.” We have come to recognize this day as being synonymous with the founding or our nation, but in reality, it was the day we stood up and said we were no longer going to be ruled by a foreign power. It was pretty clear that we didn’t want to be ruled by a domestic power as well, since the Colonies viewed themselves as their own sovereign powers.
It wasn’t until 10+ years later that the Founding Fathers realized that independence, by itself, without a true purpose, wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. They recognized the limitations and challenges associated with being independent colonies and set about to create this incredible system of representative democracy. The preamble attempts to provide the “why” that is so critical to unite a people.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
There are so many critical words within that sentence that each of them could be the subject of its own blog post. But what I enjoy most is the phrase “...in Order to form a more perfect Union…”. It shows that the Founding Fathers were aware of the flaws that resulted after winning their independence. It also shows the recognition that the new nation that they were founding with this Constitution, was not perfect. They showed a willingness to embrace Continuous Improvement and saw this Nation as a journey and not a destination.
What a great reminder that it is not an end state that we are trying to achieve, but we are looking to be better than we were yesterday. They chose to work towards a MORE perfect or a better place than they were before. They were not arrogant enough to assume that they would create perfection. On this day, may everyone take a moment to realize that your commitment to work towards a “more perfect” today is the key to improving Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.