Leaders Who Listen

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Take a moment and think of a leader you admire. Focus on how he/she interacts with their audience.

Does the leader listen and provide undivided attention? Or, does the leader at times cut off the other person in the middle of conversation?

Not to take any sides in politics, but former President Bill Clinton has the gift of captivating the attention of the person he is talking to by looking at the person intently like no one else is around them. By doing this, he makes the person feel special.

As Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I personally have done this many times; I listened to respond, instead of listening to learn. As I became aware of my mistakes, I put an effort to listen carefully. At that point, I learned that I was indeed listening, but not understanding, when I experienced that I failed to remember some of the points that were discussed.

I decided to understand the different barriers to listening to help me avoid them: distractions, for example, such as anyone doing something and making noises; emotions that affect effectiveness; inattentiveness; and lack of clarity. By understanding these barriers, I’m able to focus.

A leader listens to receive, retain, process and translate the message. You’ll notice that great leaders are good listeners because they are not afraid to repeat what they heard to ask for confirmation. They also look into non-communication forms like facial expressions, gestures, and body language to get a complete picture.

How Does A Leader Demonstrate Effective Listening?

A leader:

  1. Always maintains eye contact (most important).
  2. Uses body language to demonstrate that he/she understands what is being communicated by nodding.
  3. Asking questions to clarify the points.
  4. Repeating the message to receive confirmation.

To be a good leader, one must master the art of listening. By developing this skill, over time you’ll slowly head in the right direction.

Let me know your thoughts on my post. Do you agree? If you don’t, please share your thoughts.

Tell me about a time when listening impacted you!

Leadership in Action

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Coworkers discussing a fileI find it interesting seeing people wanting to be leaders like it is the first-place position in a race.  Each one is vying for that coveted position to be able to lead and tell people what to do. A position that has an aura of power and authority that is bestowed upon them, that enables them to give commands that their people have to follow and carry out.

Such demonstration of intense focus to gain power is akin to purchasing a house, thinking that once the house is purchased it is the end of the journey. But that is far from the truth. While the initial act of purchasing a house requires a huge financial outlay, the work that comes after that is even bigger and more demanding.

After the purchase one has to tend to the needs of maintaining a property, like mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, trimming the bushes, planting and caring for the plants, raking leaves, shoveling the driveway during winters and the overall upkeep of the house inside and out. All the ensuing activities are often not clear until the purchase is completed because the intense focus of acquiring it shifts the focus to the house itself.

As John C Maxwell said, “Leadership is action, not a position.”

Most folks fail to realize that there is a lot required of them after they arrive at the destination and are given the opportunity to lead others. They have to serve their constituents; they need to spend a great deal of time and managing people is not easy. As a result, they fail at it because they don’t have a clear picture of what they need to do.

Therefore it is important for leaders to educate their constituents about the work that is ahead of the folks who desire to be leaders. Just like purchasing a house, the single act pales in comparison to the commitment you need to dedicate time to serve and lead others. Until you realize the effort needed and learn what lies ahead, it is best to take the time in your journey to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to make it happen.

I make it a point to mentor my people of the importance of the work that lies ahead and the commitment that is needed to get there.

John C. Maxwell said that as we move up, we have to give up and do more time with and for our people. Unless one realizes the work needed ahead, they will certainly fail in leading their people. If you’re willing to sacrifice your time and develop people, that is when you should contemplate being a leader.

One must develop the heart of serving others and growing talent around them. It is the best gift they can give to their constituents to help them grow and develop.

Writing is a labor of love, if you agree with my post let me know your thoughts. If you disagree, let me know your perspective, I look forward to learning from you.

What are your thoughts regarding the demands of leadership?

Developing Confidence

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I’ll begin with this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

It is a great quote which reminds us that without our acknowledgement no one can put us down. However, it is easier said than done.

Confidence, although it sounds simple, is not simple at all. It is complex and it is not biased. Many people from all walks of life suffer from lack of it. Some find their way while others continue this lonely journey until the end.

Many folks go through life failing to realize their potential because they lack confidence. These people are not dumb or inept; they are bright and have achieved great marks in their academic pursuit. However, confidence is still lacking. Why?

Confidence is something that is shaped by your environment. The people you’re around and those who influence you. It is also attributed to life events and things that occurred in your life.

Growing up, I had my fair share of suffering lack of self-confidence. In my situation, it was the people close to me who affected me the most. I was not the brightest or the smartest amongst the children of my parents. The strong emphasis on academic achievement was the key measure used by my parents.

I was told repeatedly that I wasn’t smart like my siblings, that I would not be able to accomplish things in life and that my future would be bleak. People around us, including teachers, often made comparisons that I wasn’t as good as my siblings. It did not help at all. People’s perception becomes your reality when things seem to be falling into place which further reaffirm everyone’s perception. It took me many years to snap out of it.

How Do You Develop Confidence?

    • Loving Yourself – Acknowledging that you have a unique talent and abilities, that you exist in this world for a specific reason. Seek to find that meaning and be at peace with it. It is a journey and the more you do the more you get to know yourself. It is like peeling an onion; each layer enables you to know more about yourself.
    • Believing In Yourself – We are all born with unique gifts and talents. No one knows you better than yourself. Remember when you say you can’t, you’re really not able to do it. It is worth noting that world records are not created because people who said I can’t.
    • Take Stock, Start Small, Go One By One – Take Stock of things you cannot do. Then start small and tackle one of them. According to William Jennings Bryan, “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.” This is exactly what I did. Now, instead of thinking “I cannot do it,” I go ahead and do it and challenge myself. If I used to study three hours, I add one more hour and examine the outcome. If I can’t learn it one way, I ask someone for help and offer to help them too. Little by little you start to develop the competency and strength to improve your self-confidence.
    • Don’t Wait – Do It Now – Don’t wait until everything is just right to start. It will never be perfect and the more you wait the more you’ll fall deeper in the hole of lack of confidence. Remember, building something requires you to start somewhere. Do it now even though you’re afraid. Remember that for each positive outcome, you’ll develop confidence. No matter what happens, life always has challenges and obstacles.
    • List Your Strengths & Weaknesses – Continue to showcase your strengths and create an action plan on how you will address each of your weaknesses. By turning weaknesses around, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself. Remember that preparation is your friend. Waiting and doing nothing is your enemy.
    • Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself – There is clearly nothing accomplished by feeling sorry for yourself. You start feeling sorry for yourself, hours and even days elapse; nothing changes and you’re still in the same situation. Therefore, what is the benefit of spending your precious energy in an unproductive exercise? Pick yourself up and dust things off and get back on the saddle. You can do it only if you do something about it.
    • Ask For Help – We are not alone in this world, although we might feel that way sometimes. Ask for help, seek guidance and don’t do it alone.
    • Celebrate Each Small Win – Learn to recognize that a big accomplishment consists of daily habit and practice. Therefore learn to enjoy your accomplishments and uplift your spirit.

I’ll close with this:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be yourself and overcome the fear of what people will say about you, because chances are they are not paying attention to you. Do not cloud your mind with worry when you can spend the same amount of energy making yourself better and achieving things you otherwise thought you could not accomplish.

In the end, when we conquer our fears, we will come out of our cocoon ready to tackle the world. Writing is a labor of love, share this to your friends who you think need a pick me up and a catalyst to jumpstart themselves.

No. 1 – Burning Desire with Definite Plan

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I’m an avid golf fan and during Tiger Woods prime years 2002-2008, I was amazed by his discipline, training and mental toughness that enabled him to stay on top for a long time. He revolutionized golf by incorporating physical training as a big part of it. Before Tiger joined the PGA, it was not common to see chiseled men playing golf, in fact it was the opposite, big men with protruding bellies playing golf. Tiger had three major impacts on golf: 1) Integration of fitness as a daily regime, 2) Increase in prize money, and lastly 3) Increase in fan base, as more young people started to think that golf is cool.

When Tiger was young, he set a goal that he wanted to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors. He still has a long way to go, having won 14 by age 40, but he has won more tournaments than any active golfers out there. Back then, setting that goal and articulating it was a bold statement. Many people might have wondered who he was and if he could be out of his mind. Because he has a burning desire and a definite plan to succeed, coupled with the fact that he surrounded himself with people that were there to help him along the way, he was able to make progress and make an impact in the sport he loved.

On September 20th, 2015, Jason Day supplanted Rory McIlroy as World No. 1 golfer. Jason Day started golf at 13, which is too late for modern golf standards when kids are starting at 2, 4 or 6 years old. Tiger Woods was his idol. When he was 20 years old, he talked about his desire to overtake Tiger Woods. In 2007, Tiger was at his prime. Because of Jason’s statement, he suffered some backlash when people questioned his capability to achieve such lofty goal. He spoke to his coach and asked what he said that was wrong. Jason was really upset.

What people don’t know is that Jason’s burning desire is intense to be the world’s number-one golfer. He also had a definite plan. He surrounded himself with people like long-time coach and caddie Colin Swatton. His plan consisted of four categories: technical, tactical, physical and mental. Mental was the last stage. This year he had a couple of close calls at Saint Andrews. Over the last three months, he finally gained mastery of the mental aspect of his game and that started a series of wins, including the PGA and subsequently two Fedex cup tournaments by a large margin. The plan called for being number one at age 22, however he made it at 27. What’s the lesson to be learned?

  1. Do not deviate from your plan – if you’re making progress. It might take a long time to get there, but each step is part of the overall journey.
  2. Continue to believe in yourself – no one knows you better than you do, so if you believe you can do it, prove everyone wrong and make it happen.
  3. Don’t be afraid – declare your plan and challenge yourself to get it done. When people know your plan, you have nowhere else to go, but prove to them that you can get it done.
  4. The right people – choose the right people to be on your team who have your best interest at heart. Do not let other people use you. Make sure you trust your people to have your best interest at heart.
  5. Patience – we all want to achieve our dream yesterday. We can’t wait to make it happen, but it does not work that way. It will came when the time is right. You need to be persistent and make it happen.
  6. Winning mindset – you need to have a winning mindset. Yes, you cannot win them all, but you cannot go out there and play for the sake of playing. Just like my daughter’s golf Coach Jun Espiritu always said, “Practicing is not about hitting many balls. It’s about making the most of each shot. Imagine each ball is costing your dad 20 cents. Each time you hit the ball without going through your routine, it’s like throwing away 20 cents at a time. Are you willing to throw away your dad’s money?” Since then our driving range practice consists of 68 balls (medium bucket).

 

Everyone has dreams. The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the burning desire and having a definite plan coupled with the discipline to make it happen. I find Napoleon Hill’s quote appropriate, “Success requires no explanations; failure requires no alibis.” When we dream and don’t do the work, we have no one else to look to for the result. As long as you work on your plan and be persistent, you will eventually achieve your goal. Throughout your journey, you will be tested. It depends on your courage and determination to see your dream through. Decide what is important to you and dig deep to make it happen.

To close, I’ll leave you with this saying by Napoleon Hill, “If you don’t conquer self, you will be conquered by self.” If you have no discipline, you will never achieve your dream, because your current habit will rule your life.

Doing the right thing

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Play-nicelyI’ll start my post with a quote from Oprah Winfrey, “Real Integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”     In life, we are often faced with challenges such as meeting people and stakeholder’s demands.   This creates a complicated situation in which some people will do certain things just for the sake of satisfying the majority but going against their personal values and beliefs.

In my over 24 years in the workforce, I’ve seen a myriad of things that people do just to make things happen. Some people do whatever it takes to get it done, like doing it at all costs. These sacrifices at times affect people’s life as they have to give up a lot to get things done. But just like anything else, you’re only as good as your current performance.   Prior performance is often forgotten; sadly yes, that is the reality we live in.   Furthermore, we see heads of public organizations and government figures getting in trouble because they did something they should not be doing.   This is also pervasive in the athletic world, where some athletes think they are above the law.

In sports, it is often a challenge when coaches focus so much on wins that it becomes the be all end all. When win becomes a measure of success instead of learning the skills to get better and improve future chances.   Because of the need to win, players at times play hurt or the coach will put in players who are hurt.   In doing so, you could sacrifice the future of the player.   In recent weeks, I’ve faced the same situation, my team was off to a slow start and our shots were not falling. In addition, my strategy was not working, coupled with one of my best player being injured.   A few days after the injury, we had another game.   I thought about playing her since she was available. In the end before I drove home from work, I made a decision to seat her.   As it turns out, our opponent never showed up and I ended up asking my team to have a scrimmage.

As I look back at that situation, what helped me make the decision was to think about the long term health of my player. I’d rather take a hit now than to risk my player having a further injury.   It goes back to doing the right thing regardless of the situation.   I’m thankful for the opportunity to be challenged and came out with an experience that further strengthens my commitment to doing the right thing.   As Ms. Winfrey says, doing the right thing is doing it regardless of anyone looking at you.   In essence it is a commitment that makes sure you stay true to your core values.

Writing is a labor of love, if you like my post, please share with other. If you don’t agree, let me know your viewpoint as I can always learn from you.

An Example of Poor Leadership

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client-relationshipsAt the recently concluded Ryder Cup tournament, the U.S. was not able to stage the comeback needed to win the cup.   Win or lose, I’m still proud of our players.

I’m writing in reference to what transpired throughout the event, especially when the U.S. fell behind on Saturday. I certainly don’t question Tom Watson’s decisions, because as the leader of the group you have the prerogative to make the decision that you see fit.     The U.S. lacked energy and fell behind 10-6 going into the Sunday match play.     My memory is still fresh that the European team was able to stage a comeback from a similar deficit so I was confident that we could still make it happen.

After discussing and setting the stage for Sunday, the team presented Mr. Watson with a gift: a replica Ryder Cup trophy signed by all the players.   As noted by Yahoo news, Mr. Watson scoffed at the gift, suggesting that it meant nothing unless his team completed the comeback the next day.   Here is where his leadership fell short. While he is entitled to his frustration, he needed to continue to engage and inspire the team and promote an environment that helped the team uplift their spirits.

A leader is a tough position.   If it were easy then everyone could be a leader.   Often a leader is looked to as a source of inspiration and energy. When the chips are down, your constituents seek your guidance to keep them going.     When a leader says the right thing, no matter how bad the situation, the players listen and continue to do their best.   I’m by no means saying that the players lost focus because of what transpired, but it certainly did not help.

As I reflect on my experience, I vividly remember the 2012-2013 season when I was coaching St. Elizabeth’s 4th grade girls’ basketball team.   We had a great season heading into the playoff.   We faced some challenges in the semi-final, but we buckled down and pulled through.   Before we started the championship game, I told the girls to enjoy the moment and leave everything on the court. I mentioned that this was our moment and this was what we worked so hard for the last four months.   We started strong, leading by 4 by halftime; we played well, but had a hard time scoring in the second half.   Our opponent shut us down and our girls faced the adversity of trying to make things work. My assistant coach told me to let the girls know that it is okay to lose.   I told him that I refused to do that because there was still time on the clock and as long as there was time, we would never give up. With two minutes and 47 seconds left we were down by 4 points; I called a timeout.   I told my players that I believed in them, the question was did they believe in themselves. They yelled “Yes”. I told them to forget about what happened leading up to that point that the most important time was the next two minutes and 47 seconds.   One of my players named Maura went for a shot and was fouled. She calmly sunk the free throw. At last, we were down by one. I told them to play good defense to get the ball back.

We made a stop and executed a perfect fast break from my point guard Molly to our center Lauryn and the gym erupted with cheers from the parents of St. Elizabeth. We were now leading by one. I told my players not to foul, but continue to play good defense. We got the ball back and Selena threw the ball to the back court to Lauryn and the game ended.   I always look back to that last huddle and it brings a smile and joy to my heart. As the coach and leader of the team, I know it was tough to be in a situation where my team could lose the game, but I refused to quit, because I wanted the players to learn how to work through adversity.

Granting my experience is nothing like Mr. Watson’s, I still understand that a leader plays an important role in helping the team set up the tone and atmosphere.   As leaders, we are responsible for the team no matter what happens.   At the heart of leadership is sacrifice that is necessary if we want to lead others.   In the end, Mr. Watson wrote an open letter to everyone, but it was a bit too late.   The next time PGA picks a captain, I hope they consider the person’s leadership capabilities.   There is a saying that not all smart people can teach; sometimes they cannot make the subject simple enough for a layman to understand. The same is true in the workplace. The best technician does not make a good manager.   Therefore, the best player who has won many tournaments is not necessarily the best choice.   They need to take a page from Mr. John Wooden’s book on leadership that says, “People want to believe you are sincerely interested in them as person. Not just for what they can do for you.”

Writing is a labor of love; I’ve blog for 26 weeks in a row. I’m aware that people who read my post need to learn something therefore I do my best at all time. Feel free to share my post to your friends.

 

Humility in Leadership

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Humility is defined as the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people: the quality or state of being humble. I’d like to focus on the words quality and humble because those two words are the essence of what true leadership is all about.
I’m amazed to read stories of how people who rose to a leadership position start behaving differently and end up mistreating their constituents. Here are some of the examples in recent times:
1) Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading French politician, was arraigned on charges of sexual assault.
2) Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd resigned for submitting false expense reports concerning his relationship with a contractor.
3) US Senator John Ensign resigned after covering up an extramarital affair with monetary payoffs.
4) Tiger Woods extra-marital affairs that caused his decline.
5) Just last week, Bubba Watson was in the news for his behavior on how he treated his caddy and his boorish attitude at the PGA.
One can argue that the degree of severity is different, but the root cause of their behavior is the same. They all starting feeling they are entitled and are above everyone else. I understand that there are a lot of demands on a leader day in and day out, but it is not an excuse to lose their humility. Here are some methods I believe would help you stay grounded:
1) Practice self-reflection – this will enable you to step back and reflect on your activities for the week and see where you did not do well and identify room for improvement.
2) Ensure you have an inner circle – your inner circle will be your confidant. They will be the people that guide you through the process.
3) Prune your inner circle – make sure none of your inner circle are pushing you in the wrong direction and giving you the wrong information. If they do, let them go. Make sure you’re surrounded by “yes man”.
4) Make tough decisions – leaders always make tough decisions. Sometimes it means letting someone go because you don’t share the same vision.

As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It means focusing on others and practicing the servant leadership. True leaders always aim to serve rather than be served. Sometimes what causes us to stray from our path is our thinking that we need to act tough. As Simon Sinek said, “Great leaders don’t need to act tough. Their confidence and humility serve to underscore their toughness.” It is important to be yourself and not lose yourself.

Writing is a labor of love. If you like my post, please share it with others. In addition, I also would like to hear your perspective.