Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

December 8, 2010

I finally saw Kenny Chesney’s Boys of Fall documentary last night after it sat unloved in DVR-land. I am an admitted football freak, but there was some great commentary from old coaches and players about life and striving to always reach the dream you had as a child.

The thing that stuck out to me the most was John Madden talking about making sure that you still find the fun in what you do. Once you have lost the joy in what we are doing, you lose the passion, fire, and desire to chase your dreams and goals.

I agree completely. Too often we get caught up in the stress and wear and tear of the daily grind to find the fun in what we do. I am not implying that every day should include uncontrolled laughter and high fives, but we should get enjoyment out of our work.

It also makes me realize how the culture of your work environment can either support and embrace an individual’s goals or completely demoralize and paralyze a person’s path to reach those same goals.

I am personally tired of a culture that simply looks for someone to blame, is blind with arrogance and self-indulgence, and limits other’s ambition by being complacent with their own situation.

I like this quote from James Dean. “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

No one is going to stop me from continuing to reach toward my life’s goals and nothing other than myself will impact that drive. I’d rather die trying than lie dying wishing I would have done more.

 

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A simple thank you can go a long way.

November 3, 2010

I was left a voicemail message the other day from a close friend and fraternity brother, Brett Benson, thanking me for something that I did.  And what I did was not groundbreaking, world changing, or even difficult, but you would never know it by the thank you I received.

Brett is someone I personally and professionally admire. He is every bit as passionate about life as he is quick to crack a joke. He lives to serve and his life’s goals are fixed on giving and sharing to others rather than receiving or focusing inward on selfish wants.

I have seen him get so worked up discussing his desire to help and those outcomes of when he has, that he verges on that laugh/cry mix that is nothing but pure emotion. It is raw, it is real, it is Benson.

That is one big reason why his message left such an impression with me I decided to write about it. And the other reason was what and how he said it. In an age and a generation where it is easy to text, email, or adjust our writing to 140 characters or less, he took time out of his day to reach out. To let me know he didn’t just appreciate what I did, but that he appreciated me as a person. He didn’t thank me for one event, but for things that cumulated over time. And he reminded on how sometime taking the time to say a heartfelt thank you, has become a rarity. And not only from a personal side, but in business as well.

Brett, you are the one we should all thank for your dedication, generosity, thoughtfulness, and daily impact you have on the people around you.

I sometimes end these with a quote and here is one I learned from you: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough,” Meister Eckhart.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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One person can make a difference.

October 22, 2010

I try not to be skeptical, however I am quick to break everything down to a realistic and rationale perspective. So when I hear people talk about how one person can change the world, I tend to struggle with that comment.

I was asked recently by a fellow BSU Delt, Steve Roseman, to sit on the board of The Paul Fangman Jr Foundation that he started over the summer. Steve’s grandfather is the inspiration and Mr. Fangman lived his life stressing the importance of giving your time and talents to others and how precious family and children are to the world.

Mr. Fangman was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 37 yet still raised seven children, managed a successful family business, and loved his time with his 43 grand and great grandchildren. He lived his life with dignity, grace, and a helping hand.

Steve is quick to point out that he only remembers seeing his grandfather walk 10 times and the daily fight he had battling MS. Steve was so inspired by his grandfather’s courage and love of life that he has used it as a springboard to help others.

The foundation was founded on teaching young people to live and maintain healthy lifestyles and to help families manage the cost and the stress of finding adequate health care for loved ones suffering with MS and cancer.

In five short months he has already raised a considerable amount of money, is in three schools working with children, and is lining up more donors, more schools, and more ways to impact people’s lives.

I realized on the way home from our meeting, that when people say one person can change the world, what I was lacking was definition around the word “world.” Steve is living proof. Watching him speak about his work, the children, his grandfather, and the conviction he has to serve others is inspiring. The world in which Steve is creating for himself and others he is helping is making a difference.

In a time when people tend to hold their hands out for help, Steve is holding his out to help. So yes, I do believe one person can make a difference; he has already made a difference in mine.

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Say it ain’t Joe

October 14, 2010

Joe Paterno has been a constant on the sideline at Penn State for 61 years. His life has been spent developing young men into community and business leaders, teachers, coaches, lawyers, and the list goes on. Oh and he has two national championships, five undefeated seasons, and countless All-Americans. He and his wife have donated more than a million dollars back to the University and he still preaches that you need to be good student first then focus on football.

And what I am going to say next might shock you. He should retire.

I’m not just saying this because Penn State is fielding an uncompetitive, boring, and flat out bad football team but because the team lacks leadership. I’m not faulting the players. The same man who used to grab a player’s facemask as they walked off the field, the same man who paced the sidelines barking out orders, and the same man who oozed confidence looks tired, old, and out of touch.

In all fairness I am obviously not at practices, team meetings, or locker room pep talks, but the team has no identity. If his main goal is still to give these kids the best chance at winning both in the classroom and on the field, he has lost the later. You don’t win 397 games with an attitude built around quitting, but it is time to hang up the black shoes.

Joe once said, “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional.”

Sadly, by holding Joe to his own expectations, this is not happening in Happy Valley any more.

I can’t help but think about the parallels in business. The maturing leaders of companies who have lost the pulse of their surroundings, the tenured lifer who is change resistant, and the executive comfortable with status quo. They become gatekeepers for growth and they do so in such a fashion that can literally tear down the walls around them.

I thankfully have only had to fire one person in my career. It was hard, it was uncomfortable, and yet it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the best decisions are the hardest and most unpopular ones. And time and time again those decisions aren’t made. Those businesses who change out of want are the ones creating the curve, the ones who change out of necessity, change because they can’t yet see the curve.

So Coach Paterno, thank you. For a kid who grew up in central Pennsylvania I have bought into the way you run a program. I agree being a good person always comes first, my kids will win and lose with class, and if I ever coach, you better believe we’ll treat our opponents with respect. But it is time. Impart your legacy on a new staff, let them take your foundation and build on it, and when 108,000+ fans cheer, “We are…Penn State” know you had a huge part of that tradition.

 

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What business can learn from athletics

September 23, 2010

I had the privilege to go to a luncheon yesterday put on by the Indiana Humanities Council. The topic was Sportsmanship, Competition and Civility in Athletics and the panel included Chairman Jim Leach, Bill Polian, Dr. Bernard Franklin, and Coach Beth K. Wilmeth.

The panel was asked a question by moderator Clark Kellogg about what one word each panelist would use to describe not only the civility in sports but business, politics, and life.

Chairman Leach went first with team. He used examples of Iowa football players who now play for the Colts and how their journeys weren’t always from point A to point B. His main focus was these players did what was asked of them to make the team better. What a concept for business. Instead of a group of individuals focused on their personal needs, get the team focused on collaborative and collective goals and move as a unit towards the end result.

Bill Polian was up next and picked respect. His examples were around the NFL’s decision to cut back on celebrations and taunting. He also eluded to the fact that after 60 minutes of physically beating on someone, the players leave with a tremendous amount of respect for their opponent, the game, and the product. One of my old bosses always used to stress that above all else you respect the position even if you struggle with the person. After working on numerous communications teams throughout my career this is so true. It takes every person in the agency, department, office, etc. to accomplish whatever goals are set in front of the team. When people start losing respect for each other, trust and the willingness to succeed are not far behind.

Coach Wilmeth was next with integrity. Her story was unique and very inspiring. Her volleyball team decided as a group to challenge themselves to be better, to impact people around them, and to leave a lasting impression. The team decided to call hand fouls at the net if the referees missed the call. In a society where winning is everything these women decided to do what was right, even if that meant it would cost them a win…and it did. Each day we go to work and hope that everyone is holding themselves accountable and responsible for their actions. Yet many times there are instances of pointing the finger, passing the blame or simply delegating work through to the next person. When did we get so far away from taking ownership and pride in our work, even if that means we sometimes have to admit mistakes? In most cases we can learn from them, move on, and become stronger.

And last but not least was Dr. Franklin. His word was character and how he felt it is a byproduct of your value system. I agree completely. I’m not sure why as a society we can spend so much time tearing someone down instead of building them back up. I also believe adversity shows someone’s true character. When the world around you is crumbling do you motivate or devastate, inspire or conspire, or lead instead of follow?

Most sports and businesses are a team concept. From top level management to the rookies, everyone has an active, responsible, and important part in achieving goals and upholding reputations.

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Are you empowered or powerless?

September 3, 2010

I recently had a great conversation about empowerment and what an amazing chain of events that can happen when people are given a voice.

I look at what happens when I teach my three-year-old daughter something new. I show her, let her make mistakes, coach, and then celebrate the small victories until she can complete the task. The first thing she does is run to tell everyone and anyone who will listen what she has done and then shows them how to do it.

The same thing can happen in business. If you provide the support, encouragement, and environment to learn, explore, and develop new skills, your team will find ownership and pride in what was created. That enthusiasm and passion will filter through to clients, other employees, and prospects.

Too many times though we find a wall built, collaboration choked off, and ideas stifled by management styles or co-workers who simply find it easier to deconstruct progress rather than construct success.

I’ve never understood why more employers don’t embrace, listen, and learn from the very people they hired to deliver results and bring fresh thinking to their organizations. Why hire them in the first place if all you want is a doer not a thinker?

Maybe some feel they are doing so, maybe others don’t care.

Are you empowered?

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The power of the Greek system in the business world

August 12, 2010

Everyone, including myself, has perceptions, stereotypes, and feelings about the Greek system. And most of these stem from Animal House, an article in a newspaper, or from your experiences whether positive or negative.

I actually never wanted to join a fraternity. I didn’t want to pay money to be friends with someone, hold my nose in the air at “independents”, or feel entitled because of some letters I could wear on my chest. However after my freshman year at Ball State, it became apparent to me that I found a home away from home at the Delta Tau Delta house on 1001 West Riverside. I am a Delt and always will be.

I’m sure in writing this my wife is afraid I am going to go all Old School (which, by the way, Will Ferrell is a Delt) and do some block trots around Fishers and invite the neighbors over for a Harry Buff party. No, I won’t be doing that… although tempting. Maybe instead I’ll just streak Café Patachou at Clay Terrace; after all they are the “student union for adults.”

No, I am writing this because of the continual job I see the Greek system cranking out more leaders and its ability to stay relevant when social media, text messaging, and creating fake online personas is so rampant. I also know how different of a person I am for joining.

I have been in board meetings that were more unguided, pointless, and childish than running a Chapter meeting in a house of 100 18-23 year old men. Try getting all that testosterone to be serious for four seconds and come to a consensus. But we did it, time and time again. I learned how to work with egos, different backgrounds, and how to succeed. I also learned that if you weren’t striving to be the best, someone else was and would be the first to tell you about it. The statistics don’t lie, check them out.

Even with all of the above, going Greek isn’t for everyone and I respect that. Some of my closest friends and smartest people I know would be repulsed at the thought. I just know how lucky I am to have made that choice. I would never know guys like Biscuit-neck, Blockhead, Dorito-butt, T-Rex, and Patches. And I mention those guys because despite the nicknames, they are some of the finest people I know. I also learned that to be great, you need to be consistent, purposeful, and dedicated to your goals.

Ok, enough of this, who is driving me to Patachou?