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What’s Really Impossible?

When I was a kid growing up I was a big fan of the television show Star Trek. Okay, so maybe my fascination with the show has lasted a little but beyond my kid years. I still like the show and the movies it spawned. 

One of the more amazing things about the TV series, the original Star Trek and it’s successors, is just how much of the science “fiction” turned out to be not impossible fiction but real technology that is actually in use today. 

Think about it.

In several episodes, we were amazed at the universal translator, which decoded what aliens said in real-time—and in the later shows, it was integrated into the communication badges (which explains why basically everyone, regardless of home planet, spoke English). Now, there’s an app for that. Voice Translator by TalirApps understands 71 languages (no Klingon yet, though). You speak in your native tongue and the app translates your phrase into another language. 

Lieutenant Commander Geordi Laforge used a tablet computer (what they called Personal Access Data Devices, or PADDs) to punch in coordinates for the next star system. Other Starfleet personnel used them to watch video and listen to music. Sounds a lot like an iPad to me. 

In the Star Trek universe, you can talk to a computer (voiced by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, Trek creator Gene’s wife) in casual conversation. Today we use Apple’s Siri and Google Now, and while they aren’t fully developed yet, they are first steps toward technology like Star Trek’s computer, which has a complex understanding of context. Google even codenamed their voice-based service “Majel,” in honor of Barrett-Roddenberry.

Captain Kirk was pretty handy with a phaser, and he didn’t always set his to stun. We’ve been using something similar since the first Iraq War. Known as a dazzler, the directed-energy weapon sends a pulse of electromagnetic radiation to stop someone cold in their tracks.

I could keep going with more examples but I think you get my point. Most of that fiction on Star Trek was impossible right up until the moment it wasn’t.

So what is really impossible? 

Apparently nothing! At least not until every person living today, and every person who will live in the future agree that “it” is impossible. That’s a whole lotta people.

The lesson of Star Trek is simply; don’t let people tell you that “it” can’t be done. Don’t let other people limit your potential with their small thinking. Do what you think you can do and if you think you can’t do something think again. If someone else can do it then you can do it too. You only need a strong enough desire to make it so.

If no one else can do it then make yourself the first. Most of what we take for granted today was once considered impossible. It was impossible right up until the moment someone decided to make it possible.

Are you the person who will turn one of today’s “impossibles” into tomorrow’s “possible?” 

You are if you decide you are.

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Everyone Wants to Feel Worthwhile

Everyone wants to feel worthwhile. There is little doubt about that fact. Everyone knows that. I suppose there is someone who might be surprised by that but they must live in some alternate universe. 

Leaders know that their people want to feel as if they matter. Great leaders know that it goes beyond a want, it is in fact a basic human need. 

But knowing that and doing something about it are two very different things. Knowing your people need to feel worthwhile is useless unless you use that knowledge to actually take specific actions that help them feel worthwhile. 

Specific actions. Strategic actions. Intentional actions. Consistent actions. 

Showing your people that they matter, that what they do makes a difference, is not a once a year, or once in a while activity. Ensuring that your people know that they are worthwhile and demonstrating exactly how they are worthwhile, requires a high level of intentionality. 

I literally recommend that leaders put a reminder in their calendar to stop whatever it is they are doing and at least once a day connect with one or more members of their team to show them how they are worthwhile to the team. To explain to them how their skills and abilities add value to the organization. Human beings need to know that they matter. They need to know that they, and what they do are worthwhile. 

I think almost everyone reading this knows that, the question is what are you as a leader doing about it? 

I’ve spoken about this often enough in front of groups and with individual leaders to know that there is actually some hesitation with revealing a person’s true value to an organization. I’ve had “leaders” tell me that if my people know how much they are really valued by the company they will want to be paid more or they may leave. 

Yep, that’s possible. Here’s what else is possible, actually more than possible, it’s even likely that if your people don’t think they matter, if they don’t know that they are valued, they WILL leave. Often, they will leave for less money. 

But here’s the real reason for helping your people feel worthwhile: it’s the right thing to do. 

If you need a more compelling reason for helping people feel better about themselves and what they do then this isn’t the blog you should be reading. But I wish you luck in your leadership endeavors, you’ll just find them much more challenging than they need to be. 

 
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When Resources are Too Few

One of the biggest “problems” I hear about from people in businesses big and small is that they have too few resources to accomplish what they want.

That statement either directly follows or precedes a word I pretty much despise. That word is “can’t.” It doesn’t matter if it’s “we can’t” or “I can’t,” the word itself becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. 

Lack of resources may be a true statement but so what. It doesn’t mean you can’t, it just means you need to find a different way. Lack of resources has become the easy way out, the easy way to explain away a lack of initiative or creativity. 

Now, some people reading this are already getting mad. To you I would say stop looking for reasons why you can’t and start looking for ways that you can. If you have to get mad then don’t get mad at me for telling you the truth, get mad at yourself for not accepting it.

You indeed may not be able to accomplish every single thing you would like but never use that as an excuse for not accomplishing every single thing that you can. 

A lack of resources can make it harder to begin; when we don’t know how to get past a roadblock 3 miles down the road it can make it harder to take that first step. Take the first step anyway. The first step builds the momentum that can carry you past obstacles that you thought were impossible to pass. But you must take that first step for it to happen.

Make certain that “lack of resources” isn’t actually “lack of priorities” in disguise. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s likely that your ultimate success won’t be either. Do what you can do today and worry about what you can’t do tomorrow.

Priorities come from goals and objectives. If you don’t have goals, solid, realistic, written goals, then it’s likely you’ll find it nearly impossible to prioritize. So set goals. Develop a plan to reach those goals. Most importantly, implement the plan. 

When you as a leader hear “we don’t have enough…. your reply should be “enough for what.” Every person and every organization has enough to do something, that something may not be everything you want it to be but it will get you closer to it. 

Remember, more often than not limited progress comes from a lack of creativity and initiative, not a lack of resources. Do everything you can with everything you’ve got and you may just surprise yourself. 

But your success won’t be a surprise to me.

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Who Really Won the Election

As the United States celebrates it’s Thanksgiving holiday this weekend all Americans have much to be thankful for. Starting with the results of the recent election. 

It doesn’t matter who got the most votes, it doesn’t matter who won the electoral college. The real winner of the election is the American people… they won because they had a choice. They won because they are free to support the winner or protest against him. There are a whole lot of places where that is just not the case.

That’s a privilege that should never be taken for granted. 

We Americans tend to take a lot for granted so here’s an idea on one of the biggest “taking” weekends of the year.

While you’re out chasing the good deals on Black Friday and helping out the American economy, keep a little cash in your pocket to give to those who can only imagine the freedom and prosperity we regularly enjoy.

Give a little back! Most Americans have so much that sometimes we forget how little it can take to make a really big difference. 

Be thankful for all you have as we begin this holiday season and do what you can to provide someone else with something to be thankful for as well. You’ll be glad you did, that much I can guarantee!

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Managing Stuff, Leading People

Generally speaking, people get promoted because they did something good. Salespeople get promoted to Sales Manager because they were good at selling. A marketing associate gets promoted to Marketing Manager because they had proven themselves to be good marketers. An engineer might get promoted to manager because they designed stuff that worked well and was marketable.

All three of those individuals were promoted to leadership positions and none of them were promoted because they were skilled leaders. Now, they may be good leaders…or they may not, only time will tell.

Here’s a reality of leadership: the vast majority of people are promoted into leadership positions without having demonstrated even a slight ability to actually lead. Many are promoted into leadership positions because they have demonstrated some ability to manage but leading and managing are two entirely different things.

You manage stuff like budgets, inventories and buildings but you lead people. The skill sets are different and more importantly the mindsets are different, in fact, they are completely different. Some people can master both skill sets but that’s less common than many people think.

The biggest mistake a person newly promoted to a leadership position can make is to believe that just because they were good at selling, or marketing or even because they were good at managing, is that they are automatically good at leading.

The saddest thing is that even people who have occupied leadership positions for years still sometimes believe that.

Your position or title doesn’t make you a leader. Even being a good manager doesn’t make you a leader. Running a business, effectively managing every detail, and making money at it, doesn’t make you a leader.

Only leading makes you a leader.

Leading requires that you fully understand the value of people. Leading requires that you understand the unique ability of every individual you would lead. Leading requires that you actually care for those individuals.

This is kind of an aside but here’s one way to determine if you’re talking to a manager or a leader: When you’re talking to a manager you get the feeling that they are important; when you’re talking to a leader you get the feeling that you are important. That “feeling” makes all the difference in the world.

Leading requires that you have the vision required to see the consequences of the consequences of the consequences of every decision you make. It can sometimes seem as if a good leader can see into the future but the truth is, they don’t see the future, they create it.

Let’s be clear, I am not minimizing the importance of good management in any organization. Good management is essential to the stability of every kind of business but management does just that, it keeps things as they are, stable. 

Leadership is not about stability, it is about growth. Leadership is about change for the better. While managers can fall into the trap of believing that strong management can improve a business, leaders know that nothing improves without something changing and they drive that change.

Many more businesses fail due to lack of leadership than fail due to poor management. Think about it, do you really think that businesses like Montgomery Wards, Blockbuster Video, Circuit City, Howard Johnson’s and Borders Books, (to name just a few) suddenly lost the ability to manage their business? 

They didn’t lack sound management, they lacked the vision that a true leader brings to an organization. They lacked the ability to rally their people to a cause. Their people couldn’t commit to the leadership because they couldn’t find any leadership.

I could write forever on the differences between managing and leading but for now I’ll just say this: the first step to understanding the difference between managing and leading is to understand that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. The difference is not just semantics, the differences are real, concrete and definable. 

Once you understand that basic fact then and only then to you have a chance to truly lead.

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How to Grow Yourself

Generally speaking I like people. My challenge is that I like some people more than others. 

The people I like most are the ones who are most like me. They think like me, they have the same interests and hobbies as me and they even sort of look like and talk like me. 

But I also have this almost insatiable need to learn and to grow, to be challenged and to push myself. As much as I love being around people who are just like me I don’t learn that much from them. They seldom challenge my thinking and they rarely cause me to change my opinion. 

So I force myself to talk with people who I disagree with. I read the darnedest stuff written by people who are clearly off the wall with their thinking. I listen to people who are obviously wrong.

Except sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the people who I disagree with are right. Once in a while that off the wall “junk” is invaluable in helping me see another point of view, and sometimes it’s me who is wrong. (Just to be clear, that doesn’t happen often but sometimes…)

I’d never know any of that if I just hung around people who were just like me. 

My friends and family, who I truly cherish, provide me with a stable, supportive, and caring environment which I and every other human on the planet absolutely needs. But our “group think” does little to help any of us grow.

It’s the people who wouldn’t be my first choice to spend lots of time with, the people who come from different and varying backgrounds, even the people who I outright dislike that frequently help me grow the most. 

IF I’m willing to listen and IF I’m willing to change. 

Those two “if’s” are often the biggest challenge most of us face on the journey to reach our full potential. If you’re willing to listen, to consider that you could be wrong, to believe it’s possible that someone has a better way of doing something, then you have a chance to truly grow. 

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this.

 
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I’m Coming for You

(This is first ever guest post on the LeadToday blog. The writer is incredibly well-known and has been around literally forever. This writer has touched the lives of every single human being who has ever lived. They have truly seen it all. Everything this writer does makes a difference, whether or not the difference is a positive one or not is often determined by you. I am really honored they they have agreed to write for my blog; I think it’s about time they were allowed the opportunity to speak their mind.)

You have two choices where I’m concerned; you can invite me in or I’ll simply bust down your door and let myself in but one way or another I’m coming into your life. Many people have tried to stop me but I’ve never been stopped, I cannot be stopped, I will never be stopped.

Before I go any further I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Change. While we may have never been formally introduced I’ve been present your entire life. I’ve been your best friend and your worst enemy but in either case it was you who decided which one would I be.

Every good thing that’s ever happened to you happened because of me. I suppose I’ve had a hand in some bad parts of your life too but you let me do it.

The truth is I’m not good or bad, I just am. It’s what YOU do with me that will determine the positive or negative impact I have on your life.

I always try to do what I’m told. But if I’m not given direction I just do my own thing, once in a while it works out but I must admit that’s not very often. Given the fact that I follow direction so well I’m always surprised when you don’t give me any. If I were you I’d be the boss of me, that much is absolutely certain.

I take great offense when you tell people that you hate me. Why would you possibly hate me? Every improvement you’ve ever made was made with my help. Every new thing you’ve ever tried you tried because of me. You should love me. 

You most certainly shouldn’t blame me when you don’t make a plan for how to use me to your benefit. Yes, I said use me for your benefit. I’m perfectly willing to let that happen, I even want that to happen.

I can’t promise you a better life, I can just promise you the opportunity to have one. It all depends on what you do with me when I’m hanging around. 

I knew a guy a while back, his name was Winston. He said I was always good so long as I was heading in the right direction. I guess I’d agree with that but I wish he would have added that it’s you, not me who determines my direction in your life.

When I say “I’m coming FOR you I mean just that. Let me work FOR you, if you don’t, you just might find me working against you.