The Horror of Newtown

IMG_0689I arrived at my hotel around 3:15pm on Tuesday, December 11th. I had just made it to my room when I heard the sirens. I looked out my 10th floor window and saw a line of police cars going past, it was a long line. Lots of police cars and then, then came the ambulances. I was in Portland, Oregon and a nearby mall, full of Christmas shoppers had just been shot up.

The local news in Portland last week was centered around the mall shooting as you can imagine it would be. Many stories on the victims and the shooter. It was a strange feeling being so close to that.

At 5:30am PST on Friday we drove past the Macy’s that I has seen on the news so often that week. I couldn’t help but wonder where and when the next horrific shooting would take place.

I didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

As I boarded my flight to Minneapolis news reports began to pop up on my phone about a shooting at a school somewhere in Connecticut. I stayed up to date on the events in Newtown through the WiFi on the plane and as we were landing in Minneapolis the absolute horror of what had happened was just coming into focus.

27 dead at an elementary school, most of them kids. I can only imagine how terrible it must have been in that school. We are still learning the details but this much is clear, there is a sizable portion of the U.S. and world populations who will use this crime for their own political purposes.

I tweeted on Friday evening that this shooting was worse than others because the victims were so young, so innocent, with so much before them. Almost immediately some ignorant person from Brisbane responded that the U.S. deserves it because the U.S. slaughters 1000’s of kids a day. Another from the middle east thought is was funny that Americans only care about American kids. Yet another was “disappointed” that more “future murderers” weren’t killed.

I blocked them all immediately but my disgust couldn’t be blocked. I was furious with those responses and saddened that some in the world could actually have that kind of view of my country.

I heard that Governor Mike Huckabee, a host on Fox News, said that we shouldn’t be surprised by “these types of things” since we (the U.S.) have been working to systematically remove God from schools.

I know exactly what Governor Huckabee meant by that and I’m sure there was great emotion behind what he said. But the quote as I heard it made it sound as if God had turned his back on the kids and teachers at the school. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We will never “legislate” God from our schools or anywhere else. God goes where He wants and God does what He wants. Now, having said that I’m sure what happened in Newtown was not God’s doing. He didn’t want it but the free will He gives us allowed evil into Newtown. He grieves with the parents of the children killed and the families of the adults who died trying to protect them.

I can’t imagine how this horrible crime fits into God’s plan but I know it does. I have no idea why He would allow it to happen but trust that He will make it clear to us one day.

But make no mistake about this; God did not abandon those kids, He was there and He is there.

I know all too well the horror of losing a close family member to gun violence. I will never ever forget the moment I heard that my big brother was dead, killed by four shotgun blasts from close range. It’s a feeling that’s simply impossible to explain and it’s a feeling that never totally leaves you.

As the families struggle to find answers, they don’t need is the rest of us fighting over the whys and hows of how this happened. What they need is our support and prayers. What they need is for us to listen, they need for us to be there, just be there.

We can’t fix it for them, we can’t ever make it better and it’s very likely we will never be able to explain it to them either. Just because we can’t make it better doesn’t mean we should make it worse.

So no fighting, no politics, no blaming.

We can be there in spirit and in prayer. Be there!

Leaders Set the Tone

If IMG_4204you’re a leader in your organization then you’re setting the “tone” for the entire organization. Now, you can be a leader because of your title or position or you can be a leader in your organization because you influence other people.

The “tone” you set will likely determine the success of those you lead and if your influence is great enough, perhaps the entire organization.

Sometimes we forget we set the tone for those we influence but usually, we are at least a little aware of the fact. What we often don’t realize is “how” we set the tone.

As a leader it’s very possible for you to say all the right things and still set the wrong tone. How you ask is this possible? Well, it happens because our people do what we do, not what we say.  If what you say to do does not match what you actually do then you can be assured that your people will do what you do, not what you say.

You and me, along with everyone else we know are “watchers,” we watch what people do and that’s how we know what they really believe. The “saying” part of leadership is easy, it’s the “doing” part that separates a pretend leader from an authentic one.

Here’s why being an authentic leader is such a challenge: we can’t act the part, we actually have to be the part. We can’t fake anyone out forever, they will “watch” and they will see who, and what we really are.

If you’re a leader in your organization and you don’t like the tone, feeling, atmosphere, whatever you want to call it, then look in the mirror for the source. The change you are looking for in your organization most likely must begin in you.

As a leader you set the tone, the only question is, will it be music to your ears.

How Coachable Are You?

They say that in football (okay, in American football) defense wins games. That seems to be the case, especially in the big games.

It’s a very different story in the game of self-improvement. Defense loses. Loses big as a matter of fact. The more defensive you are when someone is giving you advice the harder it will be for you to succeed.

Every long-term successful person I know has had or does have a coach or a mentor. It’s usually someone that they admire. Perhaps it’s someone they aspire to be like. Whatever the case, it’s always someone they trust and they trust them enough to let their defenses down and really listen to what they have to say.

If you’re going to be coachable enough to accelerate your chances at success you’re going to have to accept that pretty much everything your coach or mentor tells you is possible.

It’s possible you’re not as good as you think you are in some areas. It’s possible that other people see some things in you that you don’t see in yourself. It’s even possible that you’re better in some areas than you think you are.

If you’ve chosen the right coach or mentor then LISTEN to them. Not only is it possible they are right, it is likely that they are right.

Here’s a little test to determine if you’re really listening – after you’re offered advice do you respond with a quick “yes, but?” That quick “yes, but” is a good indicator that you’re not listening. Now, you crafty people that never say that – if you’re thinking it then that is another good indicator that you’re not really listening.

Coachable people are great listeners. They are willing to learn from anyone. They consider all advice; even the advice they eventually discard was considered for it’s possibilities.

If you are fortunate enough to have a coach or a mentor then follow their advice. They have your best interests at heart. Listen to them, watch them, learn from them. You can take years off your journey to success if you’re willing to accept the fact that other people may just know some stuff that you don’t.

One last thought – some of those people that might know something you don’t…. well some of those people might just be people that you don’t trust. They might be people that you don’t like.

If you’re open minded you can still learn from those people. They may not intend to help you but if you pay close attention you can learn from them. You may learn what to do or you may learn what not to do but either way you learn. All knowledge is useful when you’re striving to succeed.

The most successful people learn something everyday and they are willing to learn from anyone.

Are you coachable enough and successful enough to do that?

Racist Rants? Not Exactly!

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I posted the following tweet to my LeadToday Twitter on Sunday morning:

You’ll reach your goal sooner if you begin today instead of tomorrow. There is likely no real reason to wait, go for it!

Lots of people ReTweeted it and many made positive comments about it. One comment most certainly wasn’t positive. One person replied by saying, “it was spoken LIKE a true Republican who got courage from a suit but knew nothing of getting their hands dirty doing real work.”

I made a mistake by deciding to engage this person in a conversation (as I sometimes do) and replied by saying something about it not being a political tweet and that I had to go wash my hands…. I included a smiley face so they would know I was kidding.

Her response bitterly stated that I shouldn’t tweet humor after the shooting in Colorado. In subsequent tweets she said she could tell I was the typical white racist republican that made money off the poor but knew nothing of real work.

It was at that point that I blocked the person.

All that from a basic Sunday morning tweet that was simply supposed to make people feel better about themselves.

I like to learn from my interactions on Twitter but I’m struggling to see the lesson in this one. My instincts told me I was heading for trouble before I responded to her original tweet but I ignored them and replied anyway. Maybe the lesson is “listen to your instincts.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have blocked her at all. Perhaps I should have stayed engaged and maybe helped her see a brighter side of life. Maybe the lesson is “don’t bail on difficult conversations.”

Perhaps she is more insightful than thousands of other people and my tweets are really insensitive racist rants. Maybe the lesson here is…. Nope, no lesson here. My tweets are anything but racist rants.

It could be that the woman was struggling with something in her life and it manifested itself with harsh thoughts directed randomly at whomever crossed her path. She was certainly one of the most bitter people I’ve ever come across, on Twitter or anywhere else. The lesson here must be to not take Twitter comments too personally.

I suppose it’s also possible she’s just an unstable person in which case it would be a mistake to take any lessons from our encounter.

So…. Help me out, what’s my lesson here?

Why I Decided to Blog

So… My first blog post! I’ve delayed starting a blog because I just don’t have time for this. I tweet a lot as @leadtoday and I invest a fair amount of time there. But time or not I decided to start this blog because sometimes, okay often, 140 characters just doesn’t get it done.

I’ll be blogging about the same things I tweet on, leadership, sales, motivation and just building a better you. I’ll try to respond and reply as often as I can but sometimes I may seem a little slow. I don’t know how often I post but I’ll try for a least one “major” post a week.

We’ll be starting soon and I’m already looking forward to your comments!

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