Four Steps to Positive Leadership

shutterstock_322225793Yes, “leadership” is a buzzword, but I think we have so many confusing voices trying to explain what it is that no one really understands what it is. I have decided to add to the confusion — only because I think I can actually help.

My husband has told me of a manager at his company whose philosophy is that I won’t ask you to do anything that I’m not doing. Oops! This slight twist on the saying is crippling. Employees sit around waiting to be delegated work, the manager is too busy to manage, and the division of his company isn’t necessarily as effective as it could be. Imagine the CEO trying to pitch in with everything from janitorial services on up the company chain!

I worked under a boss once who was simply blind to the inconsistencies in what she practiced as compared to what she preached. In staff meetings, it was about taking small steps in implementing positive change, servant leadership, and other jargon. In practice, if you did not perform to the standards she set for you, you were placed on her discard list — and often found your performance evaluation scores manipulated to make you believe that your job was in jeopardy.

True leadership is about building members of a team. It is about seeing yourself as a mentor and creating collaborative plans to build strengths and strengthen weaknesses. It is about everyone having the opportunity to grow and become the best version of themselves.

I don’t think that it’s a hard or unrealistic as it sounds, and I think it works in businesses, in families, and in any situation where people are trying to work together.

  1. Involve others in a challenge. Instead of the dreaded “You’re failing and here’s the plan to fix it” speech, present a problem to be solved. Have a brainstorming session, searching for reasonable solutions. Refuse to allow anyone to try to throw blame around — keep things focused on creating a solution. Encourage the team to create a personal action plan right then and there, even if it’s simply a couple of sentences. Drop by offices and check in on progress.
  2. Be sure to have confidence in your people. As you check on progress, be sure that each person knows you are only there to offer help if it’s needed. Let each person contribute in their own, unique way. Often, you find that their way is as good or better than your own!
  3. Give honest feedback. Sure, you want to be as kind and positive as possible, but you may have to let someone know they fell short of expectations. Listen to explanations, and work through excuses together. Offer your assistance, if possible.
  4. Give full credit. Even if you helped and supported along the way, let others have the credit for their hard work. Sure, you’re the leader, but a leader accomplishes very little without the hard work of the people he or she is leading! Give the credit, and don’t worry so much about your accolades — your abilities will be noticed, too.
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Keep Calm and…

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As I catch bits and pieces of news these days, one theme seems to override everything else: anger.

Every media outlet seems to be labelling it “hate,” but I think that’s their attempt to sensationalize and sell. The media, in general, has mastered fear mongering, and we are buying it wholesale.

Our anger — over whatever issue and cause — seems to have full control over our actions, and those of us who are not involved witness scenes that we can scarcely believe are real.

What is happening?

I will readily admit that I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I notice every time:

We aren’t listening to each other.

Civil War statues, white privilege, gender privilege, poverty, gender issues, and more have been reduced to 2-minute blurbs on the evening news. We watch and then congratulate ourselves on being in the know and never investigate further. We don’t look at the science. We don’t listen to what the other side is saying, and we especially don’t try to listen for the feelings and beliefs behind those words.

I find it just as easy to believe, in our culture today, that white men feel like they are being labelled as evil for things they can’t control — gender and race — as I find it easy to believe that white privilege is an “elephant hiding under the rug.”

And so I could go on with pretty much every issue.

Nothing changes until something changes. No matter who is “in charge,” no matter what “everyone else is doing,” we have to stand up and say enough is enough. We have to start the rational dialogue. We have to be willing to listen with love and understanding to things that are hard and foreign to us.

 

No Tankini Required

d24235920d4e68736ea61a1b44fe59c5_female-runner-on-beach-700-469-cThis week has been a struggle in the running department. It’s a combination of hot, humid weather, too much on my to do list, and just being worn out. But, I ran.

Early in the week, I nearly made a snarky social media post, because I had been noticing men taking more than just a passing glance at me while I was running. It bothered me — my immediate thought was that they had no right to assume that I was out on the sidewalks of my town trying to be eye candy just for them.

But, the to do list won, and I never made the post.

I did, however, keep thinking about those stares and my reaction. Why did it offend me so much? I dress more than modestly for my hobby — I wear capris and a t-shirt. I even get the same kind of stares when I wearing a Camelbak for my long runs. (I have to be careful about heat injuries and dehydrating.)

Was I giving in my culture and my personal history again? I obviously assumed that the men looking were thinking sexual thoughts. How could I know that?

What if?

As I continued studying my reaction, I started thinking about the what-ifs.

  • What if these guys were, like my husband, simply trying to identify movement and color they had noticed as they were driving? (Yes, that is what my husband does — he stares at everything except people working out as he drives. It’s an interesting experience!)
  • What if some of them were actually thinking that it was refreshing to see a woman with her body modestly covered?
  • What if they were wondering how in the world I could tolerate the heat with that much clothing on?
  • What if I noticed guys staring, but I blew off women staring? I’m not exactly dressed in common running fashions.
  • What if I made a point to practice giving people the benefit of the doubt and assume their intentions and actions are innocent?

 

The runs are still hot, humid, and difficult, but much more pleasant than at the beginning of the week!

A Cat’s Nervous Breakdown

extreme-fear-anxiety-catsThis past week, I took in one of my brother’s dogs while he went out of town. His dog is very loving and intelligent, but she is also full of energy and a bit headstrong. Even so, we didn’t think it would be a big deal because we have two other dogs, and the cats are fine with them. They can see the dogs through the bedroom window, but we keep the door to the bedroom shut, so the dogs can’t just wander in and out at will. Over time, all of them have started making peace.

I had no clue what was going on when he began throwing up once or twice a day. He’s always had a bit of a vomiting problem — when he gets a big enough hairball, he will eat until his stomach rejects everything. When it was most frequent, it happened once or twice a month.

So, I kept watching my baby, hoping he wasn’t getting sick. He didn’t look sick, so I just kept watching. About the fourth day in, my cat was looking pretty bad. His eyes looked a little bit sunken, his stomach was caving in a little bit, and he jumped at everything.

Somehow, my brain pieced together that it could be the new dog. I picked him up, about that time my brother’s dog popped up into the window. The cat nearly went bonkers. I took him over to the window and showed him that he was perfectly safe. By morning, he was fine.

I thought that he had learned that the window kept him separated from the dogs. He had actually learned that the other two dogs wouldn’t come through the window to get him.

Points to Ponder

  • Do I have worries and concerns that may be like the window? Have I tried to see other perspectives? Have I sought the perspective of others that I trust?
  • Is it possible that my frustrations with others — whether it be my kids, my spouse, my coworkers, etc. — is caused by something as simple as a difference in focus or perspective?
  • How often do I look for the root of a problem with others and try to solve that, rather than focusing on what appears to be the problem?

 

 

“Ruining America”: Classism

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I read an interesting blog article a few weeks ago, and I lost the URL. Sorry about that!

From what I understood, the author was essentially trying to make the case that the upper middle-class has protected itself from outsiders by creating a culture that makes those who are not familiar with it feel like they don’t measure up. To avoid shame and embarrassment, those who don’t “belong” to the upper middle-class retreat to safer, more familiar grounds.

I heard reference last April to the idea that we are living in a shame culture — a culture that bestows a sense of worth based on how well you are liked and accepted, or in other words, how well you conform to society’s norms.

I have felt this frequently in my life, and I am still struggling to embrace being an outlier. I grew up in farming country, and I feel most comfortable around “salt-of-the-earth” people. However, life has taken me on a journey that has led to a master’s degree and suburban living. I struggle with what appears to be an over-emphasis on appearance and owning “status symbols” in suburban culture. But, I have adopted many other habits and patterns found in suburban life. In the end, I don’t really fit in with either group.

In my opinion, the problem isn’t the upper middle-class.  This idea of culture and belonging to a group extend as far back as we can trace the history of people. The tendency to mistrust and exclude those who don’t belong goes back just as far.

So What Do We Do About It?

The serenity prayer mentions accepting the things we cannot change and courageously changing what we can. I doubt that we will ever change this quirk in human nature. We are wired to want the familiar.

We can, however, decide how we will react:

  1. Walk away. Sometimes, belonging isn’t worth the effort, and there is no shame in taking the time to evaluate whether or not you truly want to be part of a particular group. Every person has a right to choose their friends.
  2. Fake it until you make it. The truth about culture is that it is simply a set of learned behaviors. Go to places where you can read a book and people watch at the same time. Look up things on the internet that you don’t understand. Watch trends on social media. Show up at open social events, be friendly, and make new acquaintances. Learn what this particular culture values and why. Eventually, you will feel comfortable in your environment, and you will have the friends you seek.
  3. Embrace being an outlier. While this is the hardest route, this is the only way to be part of a group and stay true to your nature. It does mean that you will not be readily accepted and that some may never accept you at all. It also means that you need to show a little tact and “give in” on things like dress and grooming when it doesn’t violate a personal (or moral) code.

In the end, there are no easy answers to being human. It’s a nice idea that everybody loves everybody, but it’s not a realistic goal. Just trying to get everyone to agree on what it means to love everybody would be impossible.

So, in the end, let us accept with grace the things that we cannot change, and courageously change those things that are truly worth the effort.

Questions of Religion

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I often run across news articles that cause me to seriously reflect on what I believe to be the state of the world. Recently, I paused over an article, “Christian Slapped with $12,000 ‘Shariah Fine’ for not Removing Shoes.”

It’s a short article, and it was written with some fairly obvious Christian bias. That’s my first pause. I suppose that if the publication is by Christians for Christians, I could cut the journalist a little bit of slack. Even so, I have a hard time understanding how to justify what appears to be an attempt to stir hard feelings against another religious group and/or the government. Sure, I believe that Christian rights should be honored with equal protection under the law (yes, I’m very American), but fear mongering isn’t helping the cause.

I am concerned about a system (and yes, I know this happened in Canada), that financially supports the side making the claim without providing an even opportunity for the party who has to be defended against the claim. Having only the article for information, it does look like the government is siding with minority groups without reasonable checks in place, putting a heavy burden on those who are accused — and opening the door to outrageous abuses of the system.

I am concerned that there was a breakdown in communication that became a legal incident. From the article, there is no telling if one side or both sides behaved badly as they communicated. But, it seems like adults should be able to be civil and transmit information to each other. How simple would it have been to remind your landlord of your beliefs and request that he and other visitors please remove their shoes when they enter your home? Shouldn’t a good Christian honor that request as a show of respect and Christian love?

Finally, my biggest concern is how touchy we all seem to be lately. Can a Christian say, “God bless you” without someone of another faith (or no faith) crying to social media that Christians are trying to force them to adopt their beliefs? Shouldn’t a Muslim woman be able to wear a hijab without fear of being called a terrorist? How can governments help ensure that all citizens have equal rights without getting into the business of religion?

Is there a way to make room for us all?