Why Memorial Day?

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Today in the United States we pause to remember our war dead on a National Holiday known as Memorial Day. The intent of Memorial Day has always been about honoring the brave men and women who have given their lives in service to their country. It has somehow expanded over the years to include honoring anyone one who served and today it seems to be more about anyone who ever lived. But that’s NOT what Memorial Day is about. It is about remembering those brave people who died in service to their country.

Sadly, research shows a surprising number of Americans know it more as the “start of summer” or the opening of public swimming pools.

Here’s something else the vast majority of Americans appear to have no idea about…

In 2000 Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act. This act, signed into law by the President proclaims Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as the time to join in prayer and to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

The act was needed, Congress stated at the time, because “we need to reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that that day is intended to be.”

Today, while we “celebrate” Memorial Day only a tiny percentage of Americans will actually take time to join in a formal remembrance ceremony of any kind. We’re a busy bunch we Americans, we need to make the most of this “long weekend.” I’m like that too! I’m embarrassed to admit it.

But this day is not about us! This is not “our” day, it’s a day for those whose sacrifice on our behalf is immeasurable. It’s a day for those who made, and continue to make, the United States what it is. Every accomplishment, every success, every opportunity we owe to them.

So, no matter how full our schedule today, no matter how much we “have” to get done, let’s stop and remember their sacrifice, let’s honor them by giving them a bit of our time. We can never repay them or their families but we can we genuinely appreciate them.

Are you with me?

Yes, You Are Indeed Biased!

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I had the opportunity a few years ago to participate in a leadership development seminar. The seminar was put on by a history buff / leadership speaker. He used great events in the history United States to provide examples of good and bad leadership.

The event that he used on this particular day was the Civil War and in particular the battle at Gettysburg. He used as his leadership example General John Reynolds, one of the first generals present as the battle began. This union general made the decision to lead from the front, to deploy with his forces in the initial charge against the rebel troops.

This union general was one of the first soldiers on either side killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. There is plenty of debate on how he died, sharpshooter or sniper? Enemy or maybe even friendly fire? But this much is certain, his death put the Union forces in disarray and set back the battle plans immensely.

Upon sharing that story this seminar leader asked if the general had made the right decision, that is, should he have lead from the front or would have been best if he had stayed back.

So I’m sitting in this room full of people that were skilled leaders, people that make big decisions on a regular basis, and I’m surprised by their answers. What surprised me was that they had an answer at all. About half seemed to think it was a huge mistake, that he should have “stayed back” to be able to respond to the changing dynamics of the battle. Others thought he “sent a great message” by risking all with his troops.

There is a part of me that says since the union eventually won he made the right call but here’s the fact… I don’t have enough info to know if it was the right call or not. Did he have an identified second in command, well versed in the battle plans and able to take over leadership? Did he evaluate the various risk/reward scenarios before deciding or did he just “rush” in?

We need to know a lot before we can make an informed decision about whether he was right or wrong. Or do we…..

As I sat there listening, I realized that we were in the middle of a teaching moment, and it was a teaching moment that the seminar leader completely missed.

As you might imagine, I spoke up and I asked how could anyone in the room possibly know with the scant bit of information we had whether it was the right decision or not.

I made the point that they were answering that question based not on facts but on their own life experiences. That those life experiences, good, bad, or indifferent had created a bias within their decision-making process.

That was the lesson from the story, that we make decisions as leaders every day, short of information, and we use our own life experiences and own biases to fill in the gaps. That that can be a very dangerous thing to do.

The best leaders understand their bias and look to fill those gaps with the life experiences of others and the opinions of others realizing that there is value in the diversity of opinions. An authentic leader does not relinquish the ultimate decision making responsibility but they have the confidence and courage to use a wide variety of sources to ensure it’s an informed one.

You are most certainly biased, and that’s not a problem, the problem is not realizing it and using your bias effectively.

Successful Leaders are Enthusiastic!

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Do we absolutely have to be enthusiastic to be a successful leader? Probably not, we can likely find cases where a somewhat unenthusiastic person has become a success. What would be much more difficult to find however is an enthusiastic person who is not a success.

Dale Carnegie said that “enthusiasm is the little recognized secret to success.” I believe that statement is as true today as it was when he made it 70 years ago. It is true for anyone but maybe there is a bit more truth in it where leaders are concerned.

Think about it, you’re trying to convince a someone that your idea is best, so much so that it is worth taking a risk to implement. That’s hard enough as it is, it becomes almost impossible when you have the enthusiasm of an autopsy subject. How can anyone become excited about what you have to offer when you appear not to be? Would you follow someone just going through the motions?

Successful leaders are excited by what they’re doing and that excitement is contagious. They draw people to them because these people want to work with them, do business with them and just be around them. Are you that type of person? Many Dale Carnegie classes begin with a “warm-up” that has participants shouting “act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic.” I’ve seen that “warm-up” many times and I know that statement to be absolutely true.

Sometimes it is as simple as acting enthusiastic, because you see, you can even catch enthusiasm from yourself.

Fun Facts Explained

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It’s Saturday! In the LeadToday Twitter Stream that means it is a day full of the most worthless info I can find. This nonsense has been going on each Saturday for over 2 years.

Sunday through Friday 99% of my tweets are original quotes. I simply write about what I’m working on at the time. If I’m working on sales training, something about selling will show up. If I have a frustrating conversation about leading you might see a tweet that starts with “never” (a sure sign someone has gotten under my skin) and I’m always thinking about leadership so there are lots of leadership tweets. Most of my “motivational” tweets are really just me talking to myself and letting people “listen” in. Some tweets are scheduled and many are spontaneous but either way, I invest a good amount of time sharing what I hope is worthwhile information during the week.

Saturday is a completely different story. I have several sources for the worthless info that appears on Saturday but I don’t spend much time on research and I verify absolutely nothing. The Fun Facts are supposed to be that, FUN!

One of my biggest surprises during my few years on Twitter is the emotion that the Fun Facts bring out in people. I get tons of reactions, both in the public stream and through DM’s, each Saturday. The majority of them are positive and it’s obvious that most people think of the Fun Facts just like I do.

Some people tell me they share the Fun Facts with their kids. I try to tweet more “kid friendly” stuff early in the day because I can envision parents sharing the worthlessness around the breakfast table. (just my over-active imagination) I know the Fun Facts bring a laugh to lots of people and that’s my only motivation to keep them coming week after week.

There is however a very vocal minority that just hates the Fun Facts. They do verify them and love to catch me in a “mistake.” Some are furious that I “wreck” my stream with this “garbage” and that I am destroying my credibility by not verifying that every fact is accurate. I usually lose a couple hundred followers each Saturday and kind of feel bad that some people get so upset. I do understand how someone can be a little surprised if they started following me early in the week and see normal stuff for 5 or 6 days and then get bombarded with the nonsensical Saturday junk.

But as I say Saturday after Saturday, we’re just having FUN. It is not my goal to offend anyone or make anyone mad. I know some of the stuff is pretty bad, kind of gross and very occasionally, inappropriate. But hey, we’re just having FUN!

To that vocal minority I would say this: The Fun Facts are going to continue, if they bother you that much just don’t read them. I would hope when you look at the full stream of an average week that you would agree the value outweighs the messing around on Saturday. If not, the very best advice I can give you is to find that unfollow button and let it rip!

When I started on Twitter I could never have imagined the numbers of followers I have now. I appreciate each and every one and I am honored by every single RT and #FF recommendation. I have declined several opportunities to monetize the LeadToday Twitter because it’s not really for me, it’s for the people following it and it’s my chance to give back, to share information with others that has been shared with me through the years. I’ll continue to do that too!

So I guess it’s time to hop on over to the LeadToday Twitter stream and enjoy the worthless Fun Facts for another day. 🙂

Why ARE You Doing That?

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Don’t reinvent the wheel! For years that has been one of my favorite sayings. I don’t, or didn’t, believe in reinventing something that works just fine. I believed that right up until a friend of mine pointed out that if the wheel had never been reinvented we would all still be driving on stone wheels.

So maybe we need to start thinking in terms of “just because it works doesn’t mean it couldn’t work better. Which brings us to the above question, “why ARE you doing that?”

We need to be able to answer that for every action we take, there is not one of us that can afford to mindlessly go through the day doing something just because we’ve “always” done it that way. In fact, doing something simply because we’ve always done it that way is the absolute worst reason for doing anything. It almost guarantees waste. Challenge yourself and your behaviors, make certain you know why, exactly why, you’re doing what you’re doing.

Push yourself to find a better way, never assume an idea is the best idea simply because it is your idea. Successful people know what they are doing, the most successful people know why they are doing it.

Which one are you?

What’s the Plan Man?

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Success is no accident. Success is the result of hard work, perseverance, help from those around you and a solid plan. The more solid, the better. Developing a plan for success increases your chances of success 100%. Yep, a plan doubles the likelihood of success. I find that statistic very interesting but here is one even more interesting, or scary depending on your point of view. 80% of people operate with with no actionable plan for success. 80%!

I’m pleased that everyone reading this has a real plan for success, one that will truly drive their behavior every day of the year. I must admit however that I am a little suspect that everybody reading this is indeed among that 20%. So let’s see if it’s true.

First let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve the success that they are willing to work towards:
1. Clear picture of current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going
2. A clear understanding and vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here
3. Development of short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change
4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important
5. The investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment
6. Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success
7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action
8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

So there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me tell you something else: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a real plan.

Your plan is not work, it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. So, what’s the plan man?

The Kobayashi Maru

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When I was growing up I was a big Star Trek fan. My middle name is Kirk so you can imagine who my favorite character was. But it wasn’t just the people; I loved the gadgets on the show too. The communicators, the food replicators, and even the transporter.

It is amazing how much of the “Sci-Fi” stuff from the late 60’s we now take for granted. My favorite of course is the communicator. (Anyone for a flip phone?) I read that NASA is now actually working on a food replicator for use on long-range missions.

The gadgets aren’t the only thing from the show we can use today. The philosophy of the always knowing Captain Kirk can come in handy today as well.

As a student at Star Fleet Academy young Kirk was faced with the Kobayashi Maru. The Kobayashi Maru offers two solutions to an impossible dilemma, both of which lead to terrible results. It is an un-winnable scenario designed to teach prospective command students that sometimes you simply can’t win.

Kirk became the only cadet at the academy to defeat the Kobayashi Maru because he refused to accept that only two solutions existed. There were in fact, only two, until he “invented” a third.

Throughout the TV series and the 3 movies that followed, Kirk always refused to think in terms of either/or. He always demanded a third option. That philosophy served Kirk well in his fictional life and it can serve us well in our professional lives.

Call it whatever you want, thinking outside the box, green light thinking, whatever you call it the point is the same. In challenging times we cannot be limited to either/or options when both lead to some kind of un-winnable scenario. We must have that third option, even if we have to invent it.

The message of the Kirk’s Kobayashi Maru is clear; we don’t have to accept defeat. There is another way, there is always a third option if we are willing to work hard enough to find it. And yes, sometimes you may have to create a solution that doesn’t seem to be there. When we decide that defeat is unacceptable those unseen options suddenly appear and defeat fades off into the distance. I’m ready to win – Beam me up Scotty!