Is Your Mind “in the Boat”?

Is Your Mind "in the Boat"?I just finished reading a thoroughly enjoyable book: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I didn’t love it quite as much as I loved The Perfect Mile, but that may have to do with the fact that I am a runner, not a rower. I first listened to this book on audio but then picked up a paperback version. I am really glad I did, because the paperback had pictures that really helped me understand the scale of the details discussed in the book: the size of the shells, the size of the rowers, the vibe of the times in which they lived.

Mind in Boat

What I really, really loved, from this book was the passage about the team’s mantra that got them through challenging times and, ultimately, to the outcome of their race for an Olympic medal in 1936. This mantra was “mind in boat.” The University of Washington team began using it in 1934 when the inability of individual team members to focus threatened to throw off the unity (and therefore productivity) of the entire team. The coxswain, George Morry, would, according to author Daniel James Brown, shout, “‘M-I-B, M-I-B, M-I-B’ over and over to the rhythm of their stroke. The initialism stood for ‘mind in boat.’ It was meant as a reminder that from the time an oarsman steps into a racing shell until the moment that the boat crosses the finish line, he  must keep his mind focused on what is happening inside the boat. His whole world must shrink down to the small space within the gunwales. He must maintain a singular focus on the rower just ahead of him and the voice of the coxswain calling out commands. Nothing outside the boat — not that boat in the next lane over, not the cheering of a crowd of spectators, not last night’s date — can enter the successful oarsman’s mind.”

Why Trusting Your Team Matters

There is a passage in the book when George Yeoman Pocock, who built the shells used by the University of Washington (and a significant number of championship teams) from 1913 until the early 1960s, is speaking with Joe Rantz, one of the team members who has been struggling. Pocock is so much more than a builder of shells; he loves the sport and understands it (and its competitors) intimately. After discussing a few pieces of technical feedback about the way Joe could improve his mechanics, he got to the heart of the matter: he had observed in Joe a tendency to act like he was the only oarsman in the boat. While explaining why this approach was detrimental, as Brown writes, Pocock said: “When a man rowed like that, he was bound to attack the water rather than to work with it, and worse, he was bound not to let his crew help him row.”

[Note: if you obtain the book, this passage is on pages 234-235. It’s too long to quote in its entirety here, but it’s profound.]

Pocock went on to explain the concept that rowing is like a symphony, with every player having a role. If one player’s volume or tempo is out of sync with the others, even if it would be lovely as a standalone piece, it destroys the beauty of the piece as a whole. He ends the talk with these two gems:

If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him. It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.

AND

Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.

LGB

One point at which the team’s progress threatened to unravel was when they lost sight of their “MIB” approach. One particular group of rowers, when vying to be the team selected to compete for the national championship (and the eventual opportunity to compete in the Olympics), changed their mantra to “LGB.” When asked, they told people it meant “Let’s Get Better” but in actuality it meant “Let’s go to Berlin.” The problem with that choice is that it took their minds exactly OUT of where they needed to be: in the boat.

Is Your Mind "in the Boat"?

Photo Credit: ClipArt Panda

Why This Resonated With Me

I have always been a little bit sentimental about boats and nautical themes. Maybe it comes from growing up as a Navy kid. I incorporated a “ship’s wheel” into Wayne Kevin’s baptism banner:

Is Your Mind "in the Boat"?The one post I have written in the almost-year since I left my job had a “boat” theme.

This “boat book” carried messages for me, including the beauty of teamwork and the importance of not relying only on your own talents and strengths to make a project successful, but learning to be in sync with others.

Most of all: the “MIB” image spoke to me. As much as I tried to find my focus in the last few years at Healthy Kids, it eluded me. Although I think everything happens for a reason, I can’t escape the idea that it is possible to find yourself in the totally wrong boat. My body was in one but my head and heart were either back on the dock or in a different boat entirely.

This book is not a suspense novel. The full title basically gives away the ending (from the standpoint of the Olympic outcome). The Perfect Mile, that other book I loved so much, wasn’t a suspense novel either. Who knew hours upon hours of audiobook about men going 4 times around a quarter-mile track could carry so many non-running messages?

For me personally, suspense infiltrates my journey to find a boat my mind and heart can occupy simultaneously, fueled by the gift of a team I can trust while I row toward a power beyond me.

Have you ever experienced a life voyage with “MIB” moments? Tell me about it!

Becoming #BetterThanBefore

I was intrigued recently when a friend and co-worker shared Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” Quiz. The quiz is intended to give us insights into our tendencies, which can then help us develop “habit strategies” which can help us improve our lives.

I find these types of tools interesting, and I especially find them interesting when coworkers map their results. When I have done this in the past, it has given me insight into the allegiances (and tensions) I experienced in work situations.

According to Gretchen’s post introducing the quiz:

In a nutshell, it [the quiz] distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

Four Tendencies

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations 
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

 

I will tell you that although this week had its tremendously affirming high points (like being a part of the #CYCLEFORFSUTLH team that raised more than $31,000 to benefit Ronny Ahmed and the family of Deputy Chris Smith), there have been multiple instances personally and professionally where I thought I could be a recurring subject of this twitter account:

You Had One Job

It came as no surprise to me that my quiz result was “upholder” (respond readily to outer and inner expectations) but in all honesty, there’s a lot of “obliger” (meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves) mixed in as well.

I suppose it is not uncommon to be more highly motivated by the things we want to do rather than the things we have to do. I have been fortunate since leaving my job in May 2014 to be able to change up the “want to/have to” mix, but the mix is constantly in flux and I suppose we never stop wanting to improve (this is why I like the hashtag associated with this quiz and Gretchen’s upcoming book: #BetterThanBefore).

A few observations from my detailed “upholder” report resonated with me (and a few didn’t).

Most Powerful:

Upholders may struggle in situations where expectations aren’t clear. They may feel compelled to meet expectations, even ones that seem pointless. They may feel uneasy when they know they’re breaking the rules, even unnecessary rules. There’s a relentless quality to Upholder-ness, which can be tiring both to Upholders and the people around them.

Why this resonates with  me: oh, the relentlessness. While I don’t feel apologetic about the things I choose to be relentless about, my execution sometimes could use refining and relentlessness can be pretty hard on a person’s energy budget. For the unnecessary rules, here’s an example. Back when our Healthy Kids offices were moving from one building to another, something was going on in the new building that had led management to say “don’t use the elevators.” The moving staff, who had a truckload of heavy furniture to get up to the second floor, laughed when I repeated the sign’s instruction to use the stairs instead. I am pretty sure I am recalling their words correctly when I quote: “Well, feel free to do it yourself then if the elevator isn’t available.”

The Big Big “But”

Gretchen Rubin points out that Upholders are actually somewhat rare and are frequently mistaken for Obligers, who struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves:

She writes: Upholders and Obligers are the two Tendencies that readily meet external expectations, so they have much in common. In fact, Obligers sometimes mistake themselves for Upholders. If this description of Upholders doesn’t quite ring true to you, as a description of yourself, you may be an Obliger. (Also, very few people are Upholders, and many, many, people are Obligers.) The key difference is: How do you respond to an expectation you impose on yourself?” If you readily meet that expectation, you’re an Upholder. If you struggle to meet that expectation, you’re an Obliger.

Take a stroll through my head (ha! have fun in there!) and you just may agree “obliger” is a better fit.

I know the point of Gretchen’s work is to understand ourselves better and then to change our lives by changing our habits. I frankly am not sure how to process the habits piece of it all right now, but am going to take a quick stab at it. There are three types of habit strategies Gretchen recommends:

  • Strategy of Scheduling
  • Strategy of Monitoring
  • Strategy of the Clean Slate

The scheduling strategy, I can see. Being a telecommuting worker and a caretaker makes my day feel like Swiss cheese often, and I think there are actions I can take to help make more sense of out my days even though there are some commitments that are inflexible.

The monitoring strategy — yes. At least in my fitness world, I love being accountable to my KR Endurance teammates, my fellow #Fitfluential ambassadors, and Gareth, who I run for. I think there are some concrete actions I can take regarding monitoring my own work responsibilities that may help me feel more in control.

The clean slate strategy. Well, leaving my job in May 2014 accomplished a piece of that. My daughter’s move away to college created a bit of a clean slate because it changed our family’s day-to-day dynamics so much. I have a fantasy of doing a spiritual retreat that will give me 24 hours to sit with all the thoughts in my head; maybe doing that would be a way to create a mental clean slate.

In closing, I am not being compensated for discussing Gretchen’s book. I do plan to read it when it becomes available in March (details here). I was simply intrigued by this particular way of looking at personalities and the role of habit in becoming the best people we can be.

If you are interested in your results, you can take the quiz here.

What are your thoughts on the four tendencies? Let me know in the comments!

better than before

Books, Shams, and Beauties

Hello everyone!

My “main” post for this week will run tomorrow. It has to post on April 7 or later.

However, I haven’t missed a Sunday in years so will share a couple of quick updates and ask you to come back and visit my Shot at Life-related post tomorrow.

It was a frenetic week for the Spin Sucks Ambassadors and me as we supported Gini Dietrich in her efforts to get Spin Sucks (the book) onto the New York Times Bestseller list. We won’t know the results for a week (at least) but it’s so much fun to be “with”  (virtually, not in person usually) enthusiastic, energetic, bright people working together for a shared goal. Click here for one of the book’s many reviews (by Adam Toporek) or here for my Amazon review.

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

I also reviewed another fantastic book, The Idea Driven Organization, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder. Click here for my Amazon review of it.

idea driven org

The saga of the sham ended!!! Thanks to Linda MacLeod and several dedicated SteinMart employees, Tenley now has a completely matched bedroom linen set. Thank you, SteinMart!

sham

Tenley went to her Leon High School Senior Prom. It took everything I had not to come home from the send-off and post sappy, sentimental quotes all over social media, but I (mostly) refrained. She and her friends seem to have moved warp speed from elementary and middle school little girls to self-assured, beautiful young women. They all make me proud (and wistful).

TK Prom Solo

Senior Prom
April 5, 2014

 

Tutus, BS, and Crisis Management (A Book Review)

monika tutu

Monika Allen (right) and her friend run as superheroes.

My social media stream was flooded Thursday (3/27/14) with the story of how Self Magazine offended a runner (Monika Allen) by putting a picture of her, running in a tutu, in its “BS” section which ridiculed the growing number of tutu wearers in races. Self had secured her permission to use the picture, but had not explained that the picture was being used in a piece that derided her choice. The final straw on the back of this ill-fated situation was the fact that the runner (who creates tutus as her business, Glam Runner) was wearing it as part of a Wonder Woman costume to demonstrate an intent to vanquish her brain cancer.

Having recently reviewed Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation in the Digital Age as a “Spin Sucks Ambassador,” (my review available here) I thought I would see what principles I learned in the book that could have made a difference in this Self Magazine situation.

To skip ahead to the “punch line,” Self wouldn’t be in this position had there not been a lack of understanding of the magazine’s mission among the staff who prepared the “BS” piece or perhaps Self simply didn’t have a clear mission at all. As Gini Dietrich writes when discussing the ways in which communication has changed:

“In the good ol’ days … every person inside your organization was trained to say the exact same thing when talking to anyone about what you do. Your customers believed what you had to say about your product or service because you were the only one telling your story. Now all it takes is for one person to have a bad experience doing business with you, and you’re finished. No amount of PR messaging can counteract that one person’s negative experience.”

It’s good that a staff member contacted Monika for permission to use her picture but what about the internal climate, mission, and vision at Self led anyone to believe that a runner would willingly let her picture be taken to make fun of runners who love running (in tutus, in fishnets, in military fatigues, in whatever the heck they want to run in?).

In the case of the Self/Tutu issue, it wasn’t just one person having a bad experience. It was one person with a legion of fellow runners racing rapidly and vocally to her defense. What could Self do?

In the chapter on Crisis Communications, Spin Sucks details tips for managing a crisis. Gini Dietrich writes, “When the media finds out about your issue and they tell your story, you almost always end up with a crisis.”

Act Swiftly I saw the story early in the morning of March 27. I did see an apology the afternoon of March 27 (maybe six hours later?). Although six hours is better than six days, the preponderance of coverage I was still seeing 24 hours later was the accusation, not the apology.

Address The Problem The first “clarification” I saw regarding the tutu crisis stated, “we didn’t know Monika was doing this for her health” (the original text ridiculed runners who “think tutus will make them run faster”). Ultimately, the editor’s apology was longer, clearer, and announced that Self Magazine was making a donation to Monika’s charity. The editor’s announcement itself was, I thought, well crafted.

Back Down When You’re Wrong Self was wrong with the choice to publish this picture, in this way, in this magazine. They did eventually concur that they were wrong. Time will tell whether or not their readership embraces that.

In Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich writes, “Customers are now in control. They control how they interact with your brand, what they tell their friends and families about your brand, and even how they give you information about their experience with your brand. Sometimes it’s annoying , and other times it’s pretty enlightening.”

In the case of Self, a legion of worked-up runners rose up almost immediately to control the message: Ridicule a runner for her choice of costume, especially when she is doing it in support of the disease she is fighting (and when she is donating her profits to a good cause) and lose subscribers. Were there annoyed Self Magazine staff when the pushback started occurring (and the “tutu” issue was uniformly plastered all over their Facebook page)? Probably. That annoyance was a warning flag. Is Self now enlightened enough to avoid a similar situation in the future?

Time will tell. Self hasn’t cleared all the hurdles in this race yet.

Have you ever been responsible for responding to a communications crisis? What would you have advised the Self management?

4.1.1

Spin Sucks is available at Amazon (via this link) among other book retailers. If you buy the book by April 5, send Gini Dietrich your receipt (gdietrich (at) armentdietrich (dot) com) and you’ll receive free content such as eBooks and webinars)!

There’s also a great giveaway going on until April 5!! Click this link for the opportunity to win fab prizes including a 1 hour consultation with Gini Dietrich, a free webinar, and other Spin Sucks swag!

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

Note: I received advance galleys of this book for review purposes. The opinion here is all my own!

 

For This Customer, A “Sham” Would Be Relevant (A Book Review)


blasingame

Jim Blasingame has news for businesses: it’s a new age in the business world. Control in the marketplace is shifting from the seller to the customer. In “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance,” Blasingame stresses that timing, access, and convenience are prime relevance expectations in the new customer-driven age.

In January, I received an item I had ordered from a retailer. Well, I didn’t receive the item I had ordered. I had ordered a pillow sham and ended up with a throw and socks. The package included this lovely note from the CEO:

steinmart

Although I am grateful for the note, I’d be more grateful to get the right product, and this vendor’s timing, access, and convenience have been lacking.

The Email Exchanges with SteinMart

1/13/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Questions & Comments:  I received an entirely different item than the one I ordered (I ordered a pillow sham and got a throw/socks) :-). I would like to get the item I ordered originally, and can I return the throw to my local Steinmart (b/c I don’t want to spend $7.50 to ship it back to you …..). If you could let me know how to handle, I’d surely appreciate it!! Thanks.

1/14/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the recent difficulties you have experienced with your order 0004100004687701.  A prepaid return label will be sent to your email address within 48 hours, so the throw may be mailed back at our expense. Please print this label out, and affix it to your package. Items can be returned online for a refund within 60 days from date of purchase. Once received by our warehouse, the credit for the order will be issued back to your PayPal account within 5-10 business days.

In order to receive the Luxury Sham – King, a new order will have to be placed. We will be more than happy to provide free standard ground shipping on the reorder. to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at 888-STEINMART (888-783-4662) for assistance with replacing the order. We are available Monday-Saturday 8:30AM-Midnight EST and Sunday 12:00PM–9:00PM EST for your convenience.

Unfortunately, the land based store will not be able to accept the return for the throw due to the item not being on the invoice.

Again we would like to apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. We greatly value all of our customers and look forward to our next opportunity to serve you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

This is not a pillow sham!

This is not a pillow sham!

1/31/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

I appreciate your help.

However, I am still having difficulty.

I got the prepaid label so I will return the throw for credit — thank you.

However, I can no longer find the sham I originally ordered online.

Can someone check and see if it is still available somewhere?

I know this is kind of a “first world” problem but having a complete set was important to my daughter; it was the main part of her Christmas gift.

Thanks,

Paula Kiger

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize again that you did not receive the sham you ordered from order 0004100004687701. Unfortunately, we are sold out of that sham on our site. We regret that we cannot check store inventory, however you can have a local store check for you. Please click the link below to view our store locator.

http://www.steinmart.com/storefinder

Our retail stores can check the inventory of all Stein Mart stores for the item you are looking for through their merchandise locator. Our retail stores also have the ability to bill and ship most items directly to you.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

2/1/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Guys, I am sorry to be a smart aleck about this because again, I know it’s a small thing in the scheme of things but of course I know where my local store is (so I don’t need the store locator) – the whole reason I ordered the sham in the first place is because it was not AT my local store — where we went ahead and bought the rest of the set.

Thanks for the help; I wish I could say I was very very pleased but I’m honestly not at this point.

But I do appreciate the prompt response.

Paula

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize that we did not have the information you needed regarding the sham. Unfortunately, we are not able to check store inventory, as they use a different ordering system than the online store. If the item is not available at the local store, they can check all of the stores, nationwide, to see if any store has it. They can then place the order for you and have that sham sent directly to you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

Subsequent Activity Post 2/1/14:

I did call my local store (Tallahassee). They were very helpful and gave me phone numbers of several stores that appeared to have the sham still in stock. I called a store in Jacksonville and the representative asked me several times what color I wanted (I replied that it is only available in one color, and what that color combination is). The representative kept asking about the “Mandala” sham and I kept repeating “Magnolia.” I eventually came to the conclusion that they didn’t have it. Then I tried the Ocala store but it appears to close around 8:30 p.m. so I couldn’t speak to them. Then I gave up, returned again to the state of having no time to resolve this, no access to the solution, and the utter inconvenience of having to make all these calls myself.

Is this a routine customer service gone wrong story, or is it an example of the switch Jim Blasingame describes from the age of the seller to the age of the customer? I still have to believe Steinmart can send an email blast to all their stories to see who has this in stock (technology) and combine that with old fashioned customer service to delight me and maintain a forever customer. That would be a highly relevant solution, if you ask me.

Jim-Blasingame-Headshot-243x300

 

Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google. President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997. As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language. A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM, launched on January 27, 2014.

**I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

EPILOGUE:

The sham was delivered to me on March 31! Here’s my Facebook screenshot thanking Steinmart!

sham

It’s Not About The Money (A Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em Post)

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em

I am happy to share my thoughts on Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans.

I find it so fun that the concepts in this book are presented as “ABCs” of leadership. For instance, “A” is for “Ask” which reminds leaders to ask themselves, “Do you know what they really want?” The book leads us through “D” for “Dignity” (In how many ways do you show you respect them [your employees]?), “P” for “Passion” (Do you know what gets them up every morning?”) through, finally, “Z” for “Zenith” (How will you sustain your commitment to engagement?).

I could write an individual post on each letter of the alphabet and its related leadership parallel, but based on the comments to my post last week, I think it’s best to expound tonight on the idea that money isn’t the primary reason people stay at an employer.

One of the first exercises I participated in when I began the Certified Public Manager program was one that focused on ranking my personal values. Once I had done that, the group compiled all of their responses to this exercise. Although our “number ones” differed from one another, in almost all of the cases, “money” or “salary” was five, six, or lower. Most attendees were surprised at this answer.

In this book, Kaye and Jordan-Evans cover the topic of pay in the “A” for “Ask” chapter. They note that “pay” is number seven on a list of reasons people give for staying in their organizations (exciting/challenging/meaningful work is number one)*.

LoveEmOrLoseEm_1

This is certainly true for me. You know those people who say, “going to work doesn’t feel like going to work because I love it so much”? There’s something to that. I see it in the acting community … in the people who show up, completely for free, to volunteer on a set, to be an extra, to do a favor for a producer who needs a certain line said or role played. Sure there are actors who make big money, but in many cases I dare say they would do most of what they do for free, just because it brings them joy. It’s why I get up early and connect via Twitter as “The Optimism Light.” It’s why I write blog posts for various causes I love, not because I get compensated financially but because it brings me joy to “connect the dots” between people, causes, and themes.

I’ve heard it in organizations. If only we got a 5% raise this year. If only my performance were recognized with a bonus. A person with two degrees is making more than me even though she does half the work. It’s not fair. People in private industry have so many more perks. Or, conversely: People in public service have the thrill of a cause to work for. In my opinion, although there is some truth to all of those statements, a “Love ‘Em” leader can dig a little deeper and find some other motivator that would retain the individual or at least to understand what issues are behind the person’s “if only” statements. And a manager who becomes adept at doing that is a manager who is less likely to “Lose ‘Em.”

What keeps you at an employer? If you are a supervisor, what strategies have you found to ascertain what makes employees “tick”?

It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.

-George Lorimer

*For the complete “what kept you” survey data, visit www.keepem.com and click on the “What Kept You” link.

I received a complimentary copy of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

The Heart of Leadership (A Book Giveaway)

cropped HOL

Three weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Mark Miller’s new book, The Heart of Leadership (you can read the post here). I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but the book follows a young man named Blake through his own process of figuring out what makes a leader. He discovers five traits that represent the “HEART” of leadership:

H   –   Hunger for Wisdom

E   –   Expect the Best

A   –   Accept Responsibility

R   –   Respond with Courage

T   –   Think Others First

I have encountered three things that especially highlight the heart of leadership over the weeks since I wrote the original post.

For “A” (Accept Responsibility), there is a phrase I heard in the heat of a tense conference call that demonstrated why quiet and measured can be as effective a leadership technique as loud and aggressive. The context doesn’t matter so much — just picture clients unhappy with vendors and very worried about goals that had not been met and the very real possibility of children being adversely affected. When one party wanted “pants on fire panic,” the other party responded, “If we panic, we probably won’t solve it as efficiently.” For 19 years, I have been the client and not the vendor, which is almost certainly “easier.” I respect a vendor who had the discipline to not sound defensive, but to sound responsible.

For “R” (Respond With Courage), I read a concession message by Noam Branson, a candidate for political office, that really vibrated with courage and selflessness. The closing paragraph states, “And if I can leave you with just one request, it is not let the disappointment of a single evening discourage you from remaining engaged. For all the superficiality and theatrics of politics, there is also at its heart a majesty that is worth fighting for. Our values do not rise and fall on one victory or one defeat, they endure and take new form in every season and every debate. And the cause for which every one of us worked will be just as important tomorrow as it is today.” (Read the full statement here.)

For “T” (Think Others First), I would like to share the efforts of a young man here in town named Garrett. He and his mom Robin are working together to make a difference this Thanksgiving with “28 days of Thankfulness.” They are collecting items for Second Harvest of the Big Bend as well as for a local nursing home.  For Second Harvest, any non perishable food would be appreciated but canned fish and meats are especially good for the protein as well as whole grains (white/brown rice, steel cut or rolled oats, and whole grain pastas). For the nursing home, Robin (who is familiar with this population) recommends light blankets, socks, puzzles (can be used), sweatpants,  costume jewelry (like from Country Dollar), and stuffed animals. Please contact me and I will either get items from you or provide you the information regarding how to deliver them directly to Garrett. (Donations have been lagging a bit and we really want him to see that people will step up!) Kudos to Garrett for, as a young person, “thinking others first.”

Garrett  Bag

This Bag Is Ready For Donations!

As you can see, I didn’t list an “H” thing or an “E” thing. Would love to see your contributions in the comments regarding ways you have seen the heart of leadership exemplified.

For every comment I receive, I will enter you to receive a copy of The Heart of Leadership. It’s a great read! I will choose the winner next Sunday (11/17/13) at 10 a.m. EST. 

*I received a complimentary copy of the book The Heart of Leadership for the purpose of this giveaway.

Invisible No Longer (A Book Review)

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Jericho Books. I received a product sample to facilitate my review.”

My morning yesterday started with two “first world” traffic situations within a half hour of leaving the house. There was the motorist who tailgated me even though I was already going 50 in a 45 mile an hour zone. Then there was the motorist who threw up his hands at me because we were in a relatively unmarked lot and I was coming toward him. I was tempted to tweet my frustrations away.

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In her book, The Invisible Girls, Sarah Thebarge introduces us to two decidedly UN-First World problems and leaves the reader appalled, empathetic, hopeful, and dumbfounded. This was the first book I have been unable to put down in a long time.

In “The Invisible Girls,” Sarah encounters Hadhi, a Somali refugee with five young daughters, who had been abandoned by her husband after the family had arrived in the United States (they had fled the political instability of Somalia and spent time in a Kenyan refugee camp before an aid organization helped them fly to the United States where, according to Thebarge, “they were allowed to stay as political refugees.”)

The circumstances that brought Sarah to be on a train in Portland, Oregon, where she ended up making eye contact with a young Somali child (Hadhi’s daughter) with a heart for play despite her difficult situation, were not simple. She had battled breast cancer at the age of 27 and after being broken up with by her boyfriend and simply needing a new start, had decided Portland sounded good.

The two points about this book that stuck out to me (and there were many more than two) were:

  • How utterly daunting it must be to be plopped down in the United States after a lifetime in a culture such as the Somali one. Hadhi’s struggles reminded me of Ping Fu’s story about her entry into the United States when she was ordered to leave China.
  • I especially related to and loved Sarah’s observation that the Somali family’s processing of things was very complex (whereas their inability to communicate in English fed the assumption that they were “simple). Sarah writes, “It was easy for me to make the atrocious assumption that because they couldn’t articulate sadness, helplessness, discouragement, or other emotions in English, they must not feel them.”

The only disappointment of this book for me is the inability to know more, to “fix it,” to see the girls and their mother flourish and to know Sarah’s health stabilized. For the girls, it is possible to contribute to their trust fund by utilizing the information in this link: http://sarahthebarge.com/theinvisiblegirls/. (But seriously — I have to admit I want (perhaps selfishly) to know more — did they assimilate into their American schools? Are they still crazy about Justin Bieber? Did their father end up supporting them emotionally and/or financially once he came back into their lives? Not sure if those questions will ever be answered but I like the idea of a whole community of readers wanting them to have the means to go to college).

And as for Sarah, I was almost gaping-mouthed at her descriptions of her medical experiences, and at the disappointments her support network handed her (especially the ex-boyfriend). I have to hand it to her for the way she continues to share about her experiences with breast cancer at such a young age (such as this post about The 31 Ways To Help A Friend With Breast Cancer). I want to take her out to coffee and do some of those 31 things.

In closing, hopefully I’ve conveyed my enthusiasm for the book. When Sarah was being interviewed at Yale for their Physician Assistant program, the admissions committee asked her why they should let her into the program. She responded “Because I’m going to change the world. And I’m giving you the chance to say, ‘We knew her when.'”

I think she’s well on her way to making that change. At least one mom and five little girls think so.

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From www.fineartamerica.com

Resources

Sarah’s Website:  www.sarahthebarge.com

To Purchase the book on Amazon, click here.

Sarah can be found on Twitter by clicking here.

Sarah can be found on Facebook by clicking here.

Information about the issues facing girls and women in Somalia can be found here.

 

The Heart of Leadership (A Book Review)

This week, I am happy to join other readers in discussing “The Heart of Leadership,” Mark Miller’s new book about “becoming a leader people want to follow.”

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I enjoyed the way Mark structured the book, following “Blake” through a journey of transformation that starts with a performance review in which Blake’s supervisor tells him that he is not performing to his potential. Although he is tempted to react angrily, he takes the time to think through his supervisor’s contention that “leaders are different” and decides to seek help in understanding what it is that makes leaders different.

As he speaks with various people who volunteer to help him navigate the path toward being a more effective leader, he is given some truly valuable pieces of advice. One of my favorites was:

Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation.

They are, however, cumulative.

This is an area where I have struggled. When I supervised people, I know I lost opportunities to address issues when they were small. Dealing with a big issue that has mushroomed takes away time from getting the organizational mission accomplished and harms morale.

Another principle that is a thread woven through all of the people Blake speaks to on his path toward deeper understanding is “Think Others First.” I saw this concept in action last night when I watched Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston being interviewed after FSU defeated Clemson (a very big win!). I have been somewhat out of the college football pocket for a good bit of this season and had missed seeing any of Winston’s performances this year. I had seen the social media frenzy touting him as Heisman material, the best thing to hit our football field in years, a phenom. I have to say he made that impression on me last night as I watched the game. But it was the post-game interview that really caught my attention.

After citing his religious faith, Winston repeatedly spoke of the support of his teammates, of what a great job they did, of the unity this team felt. There was not a single word in which he bragged about his outstanding performance. Jameis Winston echoed what one of Blake’s leadership mentors said: “Leadership character, once established, is hard to hide.” Winston’s leadership was shining through his words and his demeanor. (Here is another interview after the game that captures much of the same tone.)

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The Heart of Leadership is a manageably brief book to read, and it’s packed with great ideas. Aren’t you curious to know how Blake worked it all out? If so you can purchase the book through Amazon here.

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Mark Miller, well known business leader, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow with those who are ready to take the next step. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

*I received a complimentary copy of The Heart of Leadership for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Lean In (A Book Review)

I finally read Lean In.

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After refraining from commenting on the book until I had read it, I’m ready.

After reading the book, I jotted down the first four things that had stood out to me. They were:

  • Lice
  • The concept of “bringing our whole selves to work”
  • How I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out
  • The necessity of having a global perspective

Lice

Let’s just get the lice issue out of the way. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the time she was traveling to a conference with other corporate executives, and the chairman of eBay offered for her and her young children to fly with him on the corporate jet. After enduring a 2 hour wait while some mechanical issue was handled (and keeping the kids shushed during the wait), they boarded the plane. Within minutes of boarding the plane, Ms. Sandberg’s daughter pronounced, “mom, my head really itches” while furiously scratching her head. Ms. Sandberg was mortified, somehow managed to conceal the issue of her daughter’s newly diagnosed lice infestation, and made a hasty detour to a pharmacy for the proper lice treatment rather than joining the others on the way to the hotel after the plane landed. I have been there and done that (the lice issue, not the private jet). Years after dealing with a lice outbreak at our house, I still remember crying in my car when for the third day in a row the school nurse thought she “still saw something.” Our county has a “no nit” policy and calling my boss to advise that I wouldn’t be coming in (again) was a call I hated making. (Wayne was in the middle of legislative session and couldn’t help at the time.) This little scenario made me feel like Ms. Sandberg may be able to relate to some of my working parent stresses.

The concept of bringing our whole selves to work

Ms. Sandberg says in Lean In:

It has been an evolution, but I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work. I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That type of separation probably never existed, and in today’s era of individual expression … it makes even less sense.

I wholeheartedly believe that our workplaces will be more humane and more productive when we recognize that the men and women who walk through the workplace doors (or log in to the workplace remote system) bring the joys and stresses of their personal lives to their desks. And while some people may manage to leave the work joys and stresses behind, speaking only for myself I can say my work is with me (emotionally) on Saturday afternoon and in the amalgam of things that parade through my mind as I fall asleep. I am concerned about the messages my children have gotten about “what work is” through the things I have said, the “vibes” I have given, the “frame” I have put around “what work is.” Perhaps more universal acknowledgement of “the whole self” will change the image we portray of work to our children (for those of us who have kids).

I’d rather stand straight up than lean in or out

I understood how the admonition to “lean in” made sense in the context of Ms. Sandberg’s book. Female executives should take advantage of an empty seat at the main table instead of settling for a seat against the outer wall. If an opportunity comes their way, they should assume themselves worthy and chase it. I really, really loved her description of the decision to go to work for Google. She talked about how it was a small, disorganized organization with unimaginable potential. Although the position she was offered wasn’t a perfect match for her skills, “When you get a chance to ride on a rocket you don’t ask your seat assignment, you get on the rocket.”

The thing that kept reverberating through my head listening to the audiobook of Lean In was “why does there have to be ‘leaning’?” For me, it’s often more a matter of standing up straight, for myself at times; for coworkers at times; for ideas that matter that do not have champions yet.

When faced with an executive director who proposed to me, “I just am not sure you aren’t more committed to your family than to your job,” the challenge wasn’t whether to lean in or out, it was to stand up straight, look him in the eye, and say, “my family will always be my primary commitment. Can you show me in a measurable way how that commitment has detracted from my performance? Because if my performance is not an issue, then bringing the topic of my commitment to my family into the discussion wastes valuable time when we could be planning how to make our organization its most effective.”

The necessity of having a global perspective

Of all the people I know who have read Lean In, the demographics are somewhat homogenous: well educated people, working people, Americans and Canadians (for the most part). While I don’t expect Sheryl Sandberg to solve global women’s issues in one book, I can’t forget the woman in Guatemala who met with our group when we visited in July 2011, who had no shoes. The child we sponsor in Guatemala who is trying to learn Spanish to augment her indigenous language, who will be way ahead of the game if she makes it past 3rd grade. The question my teenager asked about the women in Guatemala (“why do they keep having babies if they can’t afford them?”) and my fumbling attempts to explain cultural pressure to procreate. The men in Guatemala who struggle to feed their growing families in a “work a day eat a day” society that is getting more and more complicated as large corporate interests make the environment harder for the lesser educated. These people have an issue different than “will my employer create close parking spaces for pregnant women?”. Until girls around the world can literally survive and be educated, our “first world problems” remain exactly that.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

My daughter Tenley meets our sponsored child Estela and her mother in Guatemala.

I am glad I read “Lean In.” I believe that, like people who commented about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother without reading it, we owe each other the effort to read before ascending any pulpits. Except for the “get on the rocket and then figure out your seat assignment” line, nothing in the book made a light bulb go off over my head. I did feel a little bit of “I can relate to that” (with the lice, with some of the work/life balance scenarios) and a lot of “wow we have a long way to go still.” Kudos to Sheryl Sandberg for her professional achievements, for being a wife and mom to a family she treasures, and for championing the idea that we all bring a “whole self” to work.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of Sandberg’s concepts that proves itself to be truer and truer as our world hurtles toward its next configuration:

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

I’ve already written almost 1300 words without really getting into how I wanted to be a stay at home mom OR the “fun” of responding to emails one-handed while keeping a breast pump suction cup firmly affixed to the correct body part. For a great discussion of the jungle gym analogy, I encourage you to visit Gini Dietrich’s post about Lean In.

*Note: I read the book on audio, so it’s challenging to go back and obtain direct quotes. If I have paraphrased anything incorrectly, I apologize!