Tag Archives: leadership

The Top Eight Things That Tick Me Off…

This article was originally published on my blog The Difference Between A Duck on May 5, 2010.

Dan Rockwell over at Leadership Freak asked a potent question on his blog this morning:  What ticks you off as a leader?  And what ticks you off about leaders?   It was an awesome question with a lot of answers.  I find his daily blogs to be thought provoking and succinct.  You might check it out.

I work long hours in the volunteer world where you often learn a person’s true caliber.  There are times the drama really ticks me off.

So with the encouragement to take a day and have a healthy rant…

Here are my top eight things that tick me off.

1) Don’t Lie – Those who claim credentials and experience they don’t really have. A PhD and a DD are not the same thing. Nor are a myriad of other credentials alike.  This also goes for those who claim illness or tragedy they’ve never experienced too.

2) Know Your Limits – Those who refuse assistance when they are running behind, “no I’ve got it” and then ultimately fail the deadline or project altogether when it could have been fixed if they had accepted help (or delegation) when offered.

3) Know Your Facts – Articles, reports and claims promoted arbitrarily as fact and w/o references or proof. “Statistics” that have no source. Using the phrase “we do it all the time” as proof that something works, is main stream, or should continue to be allowed, etc. (and gripes me even further when once or twice in reality becomes “all the time” in a debate).  Then there are those brand newbies who do the opposite arbitrary claim “it obviously wasn’t working” to justify disrespect to loyal employees and a complete policy make-over, when the claim is simply untrue, illogical and unsupported by any research or facts.

4) Embrace Maturity – Drama in a professional environment drives me crazy, along with those who would rather start WWIII than accept criticism, difference of views or simply admit “Ok this could have been better.” Those who are more concerned with “winning” an argument than taking care of a customer.  This also includes taking things personally for no apparent logical or professional reason.  More time is wasted trying to undo assumptions made about non-existent intent.  Really, it’s not all about you.

5) Communicate – Leaders who fail to communicate and then suddenly freak-out and look for the nearest scape-goat.  On the other side, leaders who don’t know how to deal with a situation or person, so they literally hide from them. That would go for volunteers/employees too. You don’t have to be a naturally great communicator, just at least try!

6) Listen – Not reading emails/reports even when they are simple bullet points and then having to email/call them again and again.  Refusing to take phone calls.  Not asking questions.  Assuming without logic or basis.

7) Be Responsible – Own and take credit for mistakes as much as successes. It’s part of life.

8 ) Armchair Quarterbacks – Those who sign up to volunteer, can’t be reached when it’s time to work, and then complain about how things were done.  That would also include those who sign up, can’t be reached when it’s time to work, and then take credit for being there when they weren’t, knowing people they don’t, doing things they didn’t and including it on a resume or in a job interview.

So what about you?  What really ticks you off as a leader?

Thanks again for the therapeutic whine Dan……!

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Filed under Editorial, Writing

Your Smarts Can Make You Weak

This touches an arena that I feel rather passionately about.  The attitude of expertise that says “I’m the head authority on this and do not need to learn anything else.”  “No one like you could possibly teach me something about the world I’m already an expert in.”  This attitude in life does not operate from a place of strength. It makes you weak.

This is especially dumb in leadership roles.  And it pretty much rejects assistance altogether. If you’re an expert in parenting, why read books on the subject? If you’re an expert in marriage, why ever consider counseling or a “marriage building” event? If you’re an expert in education, why explore new ways to reach a struggling student or improve the educational experience for everyone? If you’re an expert in business, why consult a coach? Why do anything to push your current boundaries? Yada.  Feel like you never get any help?  Umm, maybe check yourself here.

I’ve seen it in religious as well as philosophical circles. It’s present in the educational system. Even witnessed it to my surprise in the field of mathematics. And it’s so prevalent in politics (what I call the new religion) today. The idea in general that my way is the right way. Or my way is the only way. There is nothing else outside of that. It’s like being in a cage and it can become a difficult barrier to break through.

This doesn’t just plague leadership roles. Ever know someone who is an expert in everything, even in fields they’ve never touched? I’m reminded of a conversation with someone once about selling the home they’d lived in for 25+ years. The owner voiced many concerns over the idea and work she wasn’t sure might need to be done or even the paperwork involved. “Have you talked to a real estate agent? They could really help you know what you need to do and talk to you about the market right now,” I said. “No,” she said, “I already know everything I need to know about my house and this neighborhood. There’s nothing worthwhile an agent could ever tell me.”    Seriously?

In my mind, this type of mentality is the very source of division and stagnation. There is wisdom and growth at the center of many approaches and views. Thank goodness for the experts in my life who can give me other viewpoints and ways of seeing things. I am not eternal enough to contain all the truth and insight of the universe.

I have expertise, experience and a perspective that is very useful in many ways. But it ain’t everything.  No one’s is.

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts

When There Isn’t Enough “Me” To Go Around…

Sometimes You’ve Got to Say NO

I lead a rather busy life.  Seems I’m one of those people.  The ones who wear a sign that says – “Ask Julia,” or “Follow me.”  And people do, for all kinds of things.  The old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” certainly applies.  The thing is, it catches up to you after awhile.  And if you’re like me, then what I’m analyzing could probably apply for you too.

Being able to say no graciously is a very important skill to me, on a personal as well as professional level. It’s the heart of successful delegation and mediation. And as near and dear to my heart as mediation and communication is, I still struggle to say no to someone really in need.  Since I’m known for organizational skills, charity work and friendly information, I receive a lot of requests.  However, there’s only so much I can personally take on.

I am passionate, but not infinite. And I feel people’s desperation and disappointment deeply.

"Talk to the Hand" Crochet Cabled -Evergreen Gloves- designed by Kim Driggs of Maru Designs. Click the photo above to purchase this pattern on Kim's website.

To help me strengthen my communication skills to be able to gracefully and compassionately say no and yet not leave someone feeling devalued or neglected, I’ve ramped up my studies on a variety of communication skills. This is as much for my benefit as for others, as I also seek solutions to still help, without “helping,” if you get what I mean.

Along the lines of how to say NO, I’ve been listening to the audio book, “The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship and Still Say No,” by William Ury.

Mr. Ury’s method is essentially what I was striving to learn better on my own. He takes you through a variety of scenarios from parenthood and divorce to hostage negotiations and international relations and promotes a framework of a clean and simple Yes-No-Yes framework. Yes to your foundational needs, no to the request, yes to the person (not the action) or another way. It is simple in nature, though there’s more to applying the principles in a variety of ways. The fact that this book presents so many scenarios of applying these principles is really helpful. I do recommend Mr. Ury’s book as an effective communications resource.

What If “No” Isn’t Really The Answer You Seek… What If It’s Cloning?

My business coach is having me lay out all the things that I am involved with, as well as those I could be involved with (including those things that I am contacted for and asked to be a part of and haven’t made a decision on yet).  I am to prioritize and allocate hours a day or week that they require.  And I’m finding it helpful to take that to the extreme of allowing for every single activity, no matter how small – even brushing my teeth.  We take things like that for granted at times, but it requires part of our schedule.  To truly see how much time you are spending and where, you’ve got to get to all the details.  Not too unlike analyzing a financial budget, this is analyzing a time budget.  Time is the one non-renewable commodity we really have. We are all equally allotted the same amount of it each day and once spent, it is gone.  Spending it wisely is truly important.

My findings so far?  Ummm…. Let’s just say I’m living on the wrong planet for all of it to truly work, even if I didn’t have a family.  So I’m in the process of sorting through.

This exercise is helping me to prioritize and say “no” where I need to.  But I’ve found it’s doing something more.  It’s also helping me define what’s important to me, but instead of hanging on to it or letting it completely go, what I’d like to delegate to an enthusiastic colleague instead.  And if needed, in a sense, I’m in the process of training others to replace me, so the gap for a need will be filled (making it less likely I’ll be sucked back in).  This is in part due to requests from others who will say things like, “Do you have a clone? I don’t know anyone else like you,” when I do have to turn them down.

Similarly, I recently met someone moving to my area who is an old hat at social and online marketing since before it’s beginning.  He’s also taking the time to train others to have them then turn around and take on a whole segment of his business needs – so he can then become their client!  That, I think, is brilliant.  Talk about being the solution you seek.

When people turn to and rely on you because you have the vision or expertise they seek (or maybe it’s just the force of will), and yet it’s not physically possible for you to “do it all,” sometimes the answer is no.  However, I think sometimes the answer is to “replicate yourself.”  To teach a man to fish.  After all, we all wish we had clones!  Spear-head the project, lay the foundation for the organization, so you can then turn it over to someone else to run.

I’m seeking to do this in many areas of my life, including areas as simple as what I do for my kids’ school.  The main elements that competent people often lack besides experience are confidence and coaching/training.  I am aware that I can help others find a foundation to then soar ahead on their own.  Advising is not near the amount of time commitment as the actual driving.  And the more of us to go around, the better.

So that’s food for thought for the day.  See where it might apply for you!


Filed under Business, Editorial

I’d Rather Calm Down a Geyser Than Have to Jump-Start a Mud Hole…

“I’d rather calm down a geyser than have to jump-start a mud hole,” is a quote that I have loved for many years, because I think it puts things into a very appropriate perspective.

I have the opportunity to lecture or speak on a semi-regular basis. For my work, for the service I do, for the kids’ school when we needed to talk to the city counsel, meetings, when I teach… yada. Sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s impromptu. And generally whatever the reason, it is for something I am passionate about.

However, I also recognize that my passion can cause me to speed up. This is exhibited not just in my language, but my heart rate and breathing too and internally I feel myself winding up like a guitar string on its last leg. And when you are keyed up, everyone around you picks up on it too and communication is often not as effective.

So my tactic to deal with this before each occasion is to take a few seconds and breathe. And if I can, meditate even for just a moment. Deliberately slowing your breathing also calms your heart rate. It’s a useful technique as a mother to calm a restless baby. But for speaking, I do not abandon the passion – I transform that fire into a slow calm burn, even visualizing it to help my mind, and body, comply. And I pace my words. Allowing for the occasion in the process for punctuation, fueled by that passion, to come through at the appropriate time.

I do this because that passion is the fuel. That passion is what allows me to do what I do best to communicate a message, whatever it is, to others.

Public speaking, and I think likewise leadership, is often like a musical performance. To truly capture interest (and understanding) from beginning to end, there must be a marriage of elements. Being calm and controlled in action and delivery is part of it. And all through that is a chord of passionate fuel that maintains the process and carries it all through. There has to be a source of passion that peeks through part of the time and punctuates your audience’s experience of your communication. Whether your audience is your boss, the planning group at work, the students you teach, or the business owners considering your fundraiser.

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Filed under Business, Editorial