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Success is Not Required

So…lots of people will disagree with this but I believe that success is not required of anyone. I also believe that everyone has an opportunity to succeed. That last part there, the part about opportunity, that’s the part that not everyone will agree with.

I understand why, I mean knowing that you actually do have the opportunity to succeed has been known to put pressure on people to try and leverage that opportunity. To a whole lotta people that just looks like too much work.

So instead, they simply say that they don’t have the chance to succeed. 

Let’s talk about those opportunities for a minute. We should all be clear that not every opportunity is created equal. Some people have far more and far better opportunities than others. Depending on where you were born, depending in some cases on when you were born, and sadly, very sadly, even depending all too often on the color of your skin, your opportunities can vary greatly. (yes, I know there are more factors that can come into play but this isn’t intended to be a complete list)

Here’s what all successful people know; regardless of circumstances, regardless of any obstacles, regardless of anything someone else may do to try to stop you, if you want success enough, you can have it.

Hard work, smart work, good planning, and desire can overcome almost ANY circumstance or obstacle. Yes, there are places on this earth where the challenges can make even basic success nearly impossible but “nearly impossible” is not impossible. I should also point out that if you’re reading this you’re not likely reading it from one of those places.

If you’re sitting in Texas, or London, or Rio, or Tokyo and you’re saying “well, what about the people in Syria, (or pick your own place or people) see, not everyone can succeed,” as an excuse for your own lack of success then I have to tell you that’s just an excuse for you not to try and it’s a pretty lame excuse at that.

You have to decide if you’re going to let chance, circumstances, past history and the opinions of others prevent you from achieving the success that is available to you. You also have to decide exactly what success means to you. 

Success is very personal, my success and your success are likely are least somewhat different. You don’t have to do what others expect of you to consider yourself a success but you do have to be honest with yourself. Sitting around wasting your talent and abilities could be someone’s definition of success but most people wouldn’t think it was a good one.

Complaining about what you can’t do has the ability to prevent you from doing what you can do so stop complaining about what isn’t and create what will be…you know you can do it!

There is no requirement that anyone succeed at anything but everyone should know that success is within their reach if they are willing to actually reach for it. YOU are a part of that “everyone” and now that you know you can succeed you have a choice to make. I hope you make it a good one.

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Privileged Leadership

There are many different “types” of leaders today and two of them are privileged leaders. Yes, privileged counts twice because we have those who feel privileged to lead and those who feel leading makes them privileged.

One of those groups have an opportunity to be excellent leaders, the other not so much.

Let’s look first at those “leaders” who believe leading makes them privileged. (I put leaders in parentheses because identifying these people as leaders is a very generous use of the word.)

Leaders who feel privileged separate themselves from their people. They provide themselves with “perks” not available to most people. They somehow have convinced themselves that their title or position entitle them to extra benefits or stuff. They will even brag about their special status to the people they are trying to lead. These leaders build walls between themselves and their people, the walls are built from egos but the “leaders” don’t even realize they exist.

Leaders who feel privileged don’t understand the significance of the words they use…. or maybe they do. When given the choice of identifying their people as “our team” or “their staff” they invariably choose staff so there won’t be any doubt as to who is most privileged. These privileged leaders feel it’s important to keep people in their place.

Leaders who feel privileged have separate rules for themselves. The believe in the adage that “rank has it’s privileges” and that’s how they lead. They expect more from others than they expect from themselves. They hold their people to standards that they talk about but fail to live up to themselves. 

People who believe leading gives them privileges demoralize their people. They tear their people down to make themselves appear somehow better, at least in their own mind. Leaders who believe they are privileged steal every bit of “credit” from their people and leave their people believing they have no true chance at success. 

A leader who feels privileged creates an environment of despair for their people.

On the other hand following a leader who feels privileged to lead is a truly remarkable experience. Leaders who feel privileged to lead feel a responsibility to those they lead to help them succeed. They celebrate the success of their people more than they celebrate their own success. 

Leaders who feel privileged to lead give extra credit for success to their team while accepting more than their share of responsibility for any lack of success. The support the show their people is unwavering. 

Leaders who feel privileged to lead take their people where they couldn’t go alone. They coach, they mentor, they develop and they care about their people. Leaders who feel privileged to lead invest themselves in the success of their people, giving all the effort they have and then giving a little more.

Leaders who feel privileged to lead don’t only build more followers, they build more leaders. They know that ultimately their success is completely dependent upon the success of their people and they extend their leadership by building leaders to leave behind when their own leadership days have passed. 

Leaders who feel privileged to lead create an environment of hope and possibility. They have earned the right to be considered leaders and they hold that title with honor. Watching a leader who feels privileged to lead is like watching poetry in motion and when you see one watch closely because they are the model of successful leadership today.

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The Importance of Decision Making

Successful people make good decisions. “Lucky” people make good decisions. The people you admire make good decisions. Good results are the product of good decisions.

I could make a strong case that everything “good” comes about as a result of good decisions. Perhaps some people could argue that not “everything” good comes from decisions but this much is certain; the quality of a person’s life is directed affected by the quality of their decisions.

Way too many people are virtually unaware of just how many decisions they make each day. You decide, yes YOU decide, who you hang around with, what you watch and listen to, who you believe, where your information comes from, when to go to bed, how much alcohol to drink, what to eat….all of those things are decisions. 

You even decide whether or not you will have a positive attitude. Yes, even your attitude is ultimately your decision and it is likely the biggest decision you make each day.

Perhaps you think you don’t need to make decisions in those areas, maybe you’re a “go with the flow” kinda person and you just let the people and circumstances around you “decide” for you. If that’s the case you should know that letting “others” decide for you often has the impact of making you less successful than you could be.

It’s great to ask others for advice and I strongly encourage people to have a mentor for that very reason but for decisions affecting you personally YOU should be making the final decision. 

You need to make your own decisions because ultimately it’s the decisions you make that make you who you are. There are outcomes, results, and consequences, both positive and negative, to every decision. Everything you say, do, and even think plays a role in determining who you really are. It’s worth investing a moment or two in deciding what’s best for you.

Some decisions will be harder than others. Some may be excruciatingly difficult. When you don’t know what to do just do the next right thing… the next right thing doesn’t have to be a big thing, baby steps are okay, just keep moving towards being the person you want to be. 

Your life is collectively made from all the decisions you make and don’t make. Work hard to make the decisions that give you the life you want. You’ll find that those decisions work just as hard for you!

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How to Determine if Someone is Actually a Leader

Positions don’t make leaders, leaders make positions. I’ve said that thousands of times in presentations and many other people have said it and written it even more. Still, way too many people assume that their position makes them a leader.

It doesn’t! It doesn’t because people only follow other people, they don’t follow positions and for the record, they don’t follow fancy titles either. Leadership can come from any position in an organization as long as the person in the position is a leader.

The question is, how do you determine if someone is actually a leader.

Many people look at a person to see if they have all of the presumed leadership characteristics; integrity, good judgment, empathy, a caring nature, a positive attitude, good communication skills, and passion are some of the most commonly thought of leadership characteristics we use to measure leaders today.

But many good people can have those characteristics and still not lead. So that’s not always an accurate measure.

The bottom line of leadership is always results. If a person is influencing others in a positive manner to achieve the desired results then they are likely a leader. But you can’t really tell any of that by looking at the leader. If you really want to tell if someone is a leader then don’t look at them, look at the people following them.

The first determinant of leadership is whether or not anyone is actually following. It makes no difference what a person’s title or position is, if no one is following then they aren’t leading. When a person demonstrates that they have the capacity to consistently care about others then they earn the opportunity to lead. When you care about people then and only then will people truly follow you.

Look at the followers to determine if anyone is changing. When a person has the ability to influence the behavior of someone else it’s likely they are a leader. When they change that behavior for the better it is likely they are a good leader, maybe even an Authentic Leader, possibly even an Authentic Servant Leader. It’s important to note here that just because someone is a leader doesn’t automatically mean they are a good leader. History is filled with examples of individual leaders influencing people in a very negative way. Those individuals may meet the technical qualifications to be considered a leader but I sure wouldn’t want them leading me.

To determine if someone is leading look for signs of growth among their followers. True leaders help common people achieve uncommon results. They help people reach their full potential, often potential they didn’t even know they had. Authentic Servant Leaders help their followers become leaders in their own right. Leaders can have short-term success by building a bigger following but long-term success requires building more leaders.

So, if you want to determine if someone is a leader then don’t follow the leader, follow the people they claim to lead, their actions will tell you everything you need to know.

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Do you Deserve a Raise?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s the age old question that was actually answered before it was even asked. If you really want to know whether the chicken or the egg came first you can find the definitive answer in the first few pages of the Bible. 

Now that we have solved that one lets move on to another age old question. What comes first, a raise or the work that earns you one. In other words, when should you ask for a raise?

I should probably admit up front that I have no personal experience in asking for a raise. I have never asked for a raise in my entire career. I have always assumed that whatever employer I was working for paid me some combination of what they thought I was worth and what they could afford to pay me. I’ve always understood that the equation was probably more weighted on the “afford” side then the “worth” side. That’s called business.

I accepted that combination when I accepted the job and so long as the workload or responsibility didn’t change substantially and the company kept paying me, I kept working. 

It has never made sense to me to alter the agreement just because I wanted to spend more. I get that a person’s situation can change and they truly need more money to meet their needs. I don’t get the people who think that just because it’s been “a while” since their last raise that they are somehow owed one.

I also know that my personal stance on asking for a raise is just one more way I’m a little different than many people. There are in fact legitimate reasons for some people to ask for a raise. Here’s just a few….

If all your peers at work are receiving raises it may be time to ask for one yourself. If conversations with colleagues and friends have made you aware of the fact the your skills and qualifications are increasing in demand then it’s possible that your compensation should too.

You can do something better than almost anyone else. There are surely lots of people who can do what you can but if you can do it better than most of them then you might consider asking to be compensated better too.

You’re receiving offers from competitive companies that are higher than your current pay. While money isn’t the only consideration it is an important one. There are many valid reasons for staying at your current organization for less money but repeated higher offers may indicate the “market” for your skills has changed. You should strike while the iron is hot and ask for a raise.

You are no longer enjoying your work. NO! This is not a reason to ask for a raise, in fact, it’s a reason to turn one down. If you do not enjoy your work then you are most assuredly not fully engaged. You are still being paid what the company committed to pay you but you’re no longer keeping your end of the bargain. 

If you’re a person of integrity then you must either recommit to your work or you must find another job. Receiving full pay for partial work is basically stealing. I know it’s not often thought of that way but that is what it is. If you’re certain that you’ve earned a raise then ask for one but don’t assume a raise will turn a poor work situation into a good one. 

You’re not doing anyone any favors, yourself or your company, by staying in a job that you are not committed to performing at your full capabilities. Find another place to work where you can be committed and ask that company for a raise.

 
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When Your Boss is a Knucklehead

I, like many people have had the great misfortune of working for someone who just wasn’t very smart. 

Or so I thought. 

The truth is, I had the great misfortune of thinking I was working for someone who wasn’t very smart. It took me longer than it should have to realize that someone higher up in the organization had the ability to see my boss’s strengths, an ability that I had yet to develop.

The thought that you are working for someone who is not as smart, skilled or as effective as you are only leads to frustration and it’s not the boss who is frustrated, it’s you.

So stop frustrating yourself by focusing on your boss’s weakness. Understand that so long as your boss is human they will have their share of shortcomings. Understand as well that so long as your boss is human they will likely possess unique strengths that add value to your organization. 

To limit your frustration find and focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. 

It could also be that you are in fact smarter than your boss but they may possess a quality or characteristic that you lack. Be honest with yourself; it’s unlikely that you are truly perfect and completely devoid of skill or ability gaps. It’s possible that you’re missing a quality or characteristic that your boss’s boss believes is vital for your organization. Learn what you can from your boss to determine your personal development opportunities. It’s nice to have a boss that helps you develop but it’s actually your responsibility to develop yourself, don’t expect others to do it for you.

Lead up! If your boss indeed has “gaps” then accept it as your responsibility to fill those gaps. It could be that you were hired for that very purpose. If your boss is a good leader they likely identified their own gaps and hired you to do what they couldn’t. If that’s the case then being frustrated with your boss’s inability to do everything you can is just counterproductive and downright silly.

If none of this makes any sense to you then it’s possible that your boss is truly a knucklehead. If that’s the case perhaps you should consider making a move to greener pastures. But don’t consider it for long, either move or be quiet and do your job. Don’t, do not, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, hang around and become a disruptive negative force in your organization by constantly complaining about your boss. Move along, you can do better.

One more thing….if you at your third or fourth job and in every case your boss is a knucklehead then perhaps you should take a look at what (or who) all those jobs have in common. I’d suggest you start by looking in the mirror. 

You may not like what you see but at least you will see the real source of most knucklehead bosses. I know that’s harsh but one hard look could make every other look a whole lot easier.