Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013 Reflections

As we start the process of closing 2013 out, we also take the time to reflect on family, our lives, our blessings, and take stock in our friends and our faith.  I love this about this time of year!

We've had some blessings this year...plenty of family time at sporting events, watching Jade enter into her last year before high school, she cheered her football team to a championship, we added a young cat to our family, and so much more!

We faced a few challenges this year as well...I lost all ability to hear in my left ear, we lost some loved ones from our lives, and have many others in our lives struggling with their own personal struggles we pray for and about daily.

However, what we know this time of year...each day we're given is a blessing.  I love every day I get to wake up to my family knowing I love them and they love me back.  Man, what a feeling!  Life has been such a struggle in the past for me, but this past year has been so much closer to "normal" than I've had in almost ever.

May God bless each and every one of you and hold you close to him while you travel to and from to visit family and friends.  Have a most Merry of Christmases and remember why this season exists and take a moment or two on Christmas morning to reflect on that fact before digging into all those presents and such.

Bushels and Barrels to all in 2013!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013 Reflections

A band of brothers and sisters?  Most definitely!  Lifetime memories and stories of places visited...many of which were not of our choosing?  Again, most definitely.  An honor that we all chose and would do again in a heartbeat?  Absolutely!

1995 - 2011 were years of my life where I gave freely, but gained so much more in return.  As I go through my daily life, service to our country is a linkage to many of the most honorable of my friends and family.  The uniform of a military service member, the scrubs of a hospital employee, the dedication of EMT's, firefighters, and police offiers are all signs of what is right in our country today.

As I still struggle with what being a veteran means two years later, I am so proud and humbled to have served with some of America's finest sons and daughters.  I've raised drinks with perfect strangers all because of this bond.  I've given business to small companies simply because of this bond.  I've come to understand that we are a breed that is sought after and desired.  We are trustworthy, we are honorable, we are veterans.

Thank you so much for all those over the years whom had my six, and my friends and family of veterans whom still do.  I will always be here to do the same.  In a day set aside to remember us and what we've done...I come with a challenge.  Pay it forward...honor those whom served, yes...but also find someone about to join and ensure he or she understands the signficance of this day for them as well.  They will be the future, and the future looks good on them.

I would list out some of those most special to me, but I would most definitely forget someone along the way and that is a risk I will not take.  Thank you to all whom served before me and paved the way with your sacrifices, thank you to all whom served with me over the years and helped mold me into whom I am today, and thank you to all those whom choose to served after me, for it is you whom we shall look up to in the years to come and will support you as we've been supported.  We've got your Six!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Golden Nugget #2: Motivation vs. Inspiration

Have you ever heard the question, "what motivates you?"  Better yet, have you been part of a leadership team which is tasked with motivating others?  Getting the best out of a group of skilled individuals is an essential and necessary part of what a leader does, but is it honestly motivation we need to focus on?  Think about this for just a second.  If we motivate someone to perform a task very well, once the task is completed, so is the motivation.  If we give financial incentives to motivate, what happens when the money runs out?

During my recent leadership conference, we had the absolute pleasure to have a keynote speaker by the name of Nicholas Boothman.  He posed a question that caught me off guard and then provided the answer and reasoning for the answer.  (Also a positive leadership technique, by the way!)  He asked, "why are there so many motivational speakers out there?"  Well, as it turns out, he went on to explain that motivation just "bloody doesn't work."  If you're a leader and striving for a short burst of energy or focus to complete a specific task, then motivate away.  If you're looking for engaged, productive, and excited work forces, motivation is an ingredient in what you really need, not the full recipe for success.  What do you need?  Inspiration, my friend, you need inspiration!

If you inspire people, they will motivate themselves!  This is a novel approach.  Now the hard work must begin, how do we inspire those whom we must lead?  Those we want to lead?  Those whom in return want to be lead?  As I stated, motivation must come from within, so the first step is finding a group whom has the desire to work, engage, and be part of this thing you are trying to accomplish.

Once those people are found and included into the group or activity, the second step is to be clear in your communications.  Huh?  What does this have to do with anything?  Everything, that's what!  You have to be clear in what you are doing, why you are doing it, when you are doing it, and where you are doing it, and most importantly, how you are doing it.  With clear communications on the who, what, why, when, where, and how's, you've started the process off with a clear goal, procedure, and expectation.

Now we have the people and they know the details, we need to motivate them to get the activity done, right?  Wrong!  We need to inspire them.  If we provide them with inspiration, we open up the entire process to suggestions for improvements, empowered employees whom what to be part of this, and a continual evolution of successes.  If we empower those whom want to be there and are clear in our communications, they will want to be part of this.  We must inspire.

Motivation is essential, yes.  It is essential for short term goals or activities.  If someone whom is having a rough day or facing a daunting task, we must utilize motivation to help them over the hurdle.  Then use the success to help build them, this will inspire them to do it again.  Motivation is a needed tool in the leadership toolbox, but inspiration should be the belt with which we carry it.

How about you?  Would you rather be motivated by your leader or would you rather be inspired?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Golden Nuggets #1

I once heard someone say that information that can help you improve who you are and develop you professional and/or personally is called golden nuggets.  Here is my first installment in sharing my golden nuggets from the past few weeks.

Over the past week, I've had the pleasure of going to a leadership conference and obtaining feedback on the previous six months of my work in my new career track.  All of the information obtained has given me a reason to pause slightly and think through where I've been and where I'm going.  Yes, it's good...no, it's great to be back on a professional path!

The leadership conference allowed me to be exposed to our senior leadership and hear from them where they think the company and industry is headed and how they approached their careers along the way.  The largest thing I learned is there is no singular pathway to success within our company, you simply have to have two things, the desire to work hard and well and possess an open mind willing to learn new perspectives and approaches.  Now, those are not the words spoken, but the overall message was just this.  The theme of the conference was Building Connections.  I believe the year prior was Making Connections, but since I wasn't there, I could be wrong.  Now, if the theme-line continues, I would love to see next year's become Managing Connections.

Now, back to the two items needed for success, let's focus there for today.  The desire to work hard and well seems simple enough, right?  Not really!  Everyone has the ability to work hard, but the desire has to come from owning a drive...a drive to succeed, own your work, take responsibility for your results, and a drive that comes from within.  No, it's not that simple really.  Own your work and take responsibility for your results.  That sentence right there is perhaps the simplest, yet most difficult to do as a human.  Human nature allows us to own everything that produces excellent results.  However, owning those failures is not quite as fun or rewarding.  What I've learned over the years is that even failures build leaders and success.  If you never fail, how hard are you really trying for success anyway?  You are following a path already blazed.  If you try something with great intentions and for all the right reasons with sound logic and it doesn't pan out...well, you learned what doesn't work and are that much closer to what does work.  Simply because something you did failed does not mean you are a failure, that only happens when you give up!  So, think about this and ask yourself if you really have the desire to work hard.  I can honestly answer I do!  I have much to learn and will continue to strive to learn every day in this new venture I'm in, by doing so I become better and more valuable.

The second item was never spoken out loud either, but the messages all pointed back to here.  The intent of the seminars were well received and carried the absolute right messages.  However, when combined together, the related thread and requirement was possessing an open mind willing to learn new perspectives and approaches.  Human nature also provides us with this little thing called comfort in routines and patterns, they make us comfortable.  Yet, stepping outside this comfort is where the real work gets done.  In order to be successful, change is where it's at!  Doing the same things over and over and refusing to change has been at the heart of many previously successful companies either at the brink or over the edge of collapse.  Be excited by change, this means you are being challenged and get to learn.  Change can bring new, easier, better, and more successful things and processes into play.  For the most part, these changes are already tested and ready to implement.  Take charge, take the horns, drive the change, own the change...be the change.  If we change and are excited about where it is going to take us, then so will those around us.  Step out and step up!  This is where leaders are born and reside.  What's your address?  Out of the two tokens to take away here, this one is harder for me as well.  However, having recognized this, more of my energies are focused on this...I shall overcome my resistance and answer the challenge as well.  I am a firm believer leaders have traits unique to them, but without development, they never come to light or are honed.  It's my time to see what I've got!!

Life is a journey, not a destination.  The same with success.  After the feedback I received this week, I feel I'm on the right road and heading in the correct direction.  How many milestones I pass won't be fully known until retirement, when I reach the professional destination point.  In the interim, I'm travelling this road, it's what I am meant to do.  You in?

Monday, August 19, 2013

How Did This Happen? Life is Speeding Up!

When I first started writing again 5 or 6 years ago, I wrote every week...sometimes more.  I wrote about things I was feeling, experiencing, or simply thinking.  But, I wrote.  When I was looking for my next career after I left the military, I wrote even more.  I channeled my time and energies to ensure I remained sane.  Writing was my therapy.  And now?

It seems that I stay so busy these days that to sneak a few moments to write is stealing from something else needing to be done.  How did life become so busy that I forgot to record events, feelings, and dare I say, happiness?!

I do believe that is simply what has happened!  Family events, work events, and life events simply have taken up the empty spaces in time.  Yet, I must try harder to remember what got me through those times when things weren't so good.  Writing was easy when life was hard.  Now, writing seems to be hard now that life is easy.  I need to accept this challenge and return to the pages, document this happiness, and reflect on the journey.

I shall do better!  Life deserves documenting and life is indeed good.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spring Cleaning Our Lives

As we go through each year of our lives, we tend to pick things up.  We pick up new friends, new favorite places, clothes, music, and even bad habits.  We add them all to our lives and we carry them with us into each new season.

Well, spring has finally sprung.  With spring comes the ritual forever known as spring cleaning.  This is when we review our lives and our dwellings and try to make them cleaner or less cluttered.  In my life, we are doing some remodeling on our home and I'm forging into the second half of my first year in my new career.

This year has brought so many blessings, but has also brought some heavy heartedness within our lives and those of some around us.  We carry with us the fondness of the memories, but we also still struggle with the grief at times.  During our own spring cleaning, perhaps we shed the grief and celebrate the memories and the mere presence these individuals had in our lives before we lost them!

Within my career, I have learned so much and continue to know and grow more every day.  As with any career and position, there are those days with challenges.  However, the chance to grow, help others in their own career journeys, and the friendships formed with my peers have forged a continuous striving for improvement, both within myself and for my team.

So, as we forge into the summer months, let's lose the heaviness of those things which burden us and embrace the chances given to us to grow mentally, physically, and spiritually!  My life is pretty great as it is, but can always use a little cleaning as well.  How about yours?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness or Life Madness?

As we all hurry to complete our brackets and pick the winner in this tournament beginning in the next few days, we rearrange our lives to ensure we capture the experiences of these young men.  They are embarking on an adventure that so many boys dream of in back yards and parks across the country every summer.  A champion team will be crowned out of many teams who began their seasons hoping for a chance, just a chance, to hoist the trophy.  Only a handful will rejoice as champions, but they all will get to live the chance.  How awesome does that seem?  In the searing pain of defeat, young men will be hardened to try harder, work harder, be smarter, and grasp opportunity out of ruin.  Life lessons will be forged.  Seek opportunity in defeat and rejoice in the journey!

Looking at my life these days, I can say I rearranged my life in the same manner.  I can't ever say I have experienced anything like what these men are about to embark upon, but I've had my own adventures and lessons in life.  Not all were enjoyable or happy, but all were worth it.  My life journey could not have been scripted in any better manner, but such an unpredictable path it has been.

Yet, in all the crazy days, a sense of peace is abundant these days.  Yard work is upcoming, yet I can't wait.  My new career challenges me every day, yet I find myself growing into it and loving the challenge (well most days!), and my family...well, there is so much I can say here.  I am challenged every day to be the best I can be.  I find myself working to make life easier for them, yet I'm in total amazement when they do the same in return.  A dusty home is a great reminder that life is lived on the go, home is where you come to shower, change clothes, and go at it again.

So, as March Madness becomes about the game of basketball, take a few moments and look within your life and appreciate the madness in your march through life.  There may not be a trophy or nets to cut down at the end of our tournament of life, but the simple joy of getting to be part of it makes it all worth the work.  Don't you agree?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Springtime in Our Lives!

As we enter into spring from the winter months, we all start to shed the heavy clothing and rejoice in the lighter, warmer days of spring about to arrive.  We start thinking about cleaning out the closets and finding new outfits.  Spring and summer plans start to come to the forefront of our minds and we start to get a spring, pun intended, into our steps.  We emerge from hibernation and see our neighbors again, smile and wave.  Winter is part of the annual seasonal shifts and brings us Christmas, snowmen, and the Super Bowl.  Yet, its time has come to move along for 2013.  Let us get back outside and start living life to the fullest again!  We do this every year, but do we take the time to do this in our personal life as well?  Do we clean house and declutter our internal selves?

In "Bushels and Barrels," I speak of Spring as the renewal of life.  Our lives also have seasons and spring is when we renew ourselves and are full of energy.  We need to remove the "old" things in our lives which are holding us back from the eternal joy of living.  Shed your "coat" which you wear covering up who you are.  Be true to yourself and those around you will see your light shine as the wonderful human being, friend, family member, etc you are.

Winter was our time to catch our collective breath from going full steam during the spring and summer months and to reflect on our lives.  Now it's time to act upon those reflections.  I've seen some friends make significant life changes to improve themselves and I've been inspired.  Reach your arms out and upward...stretch them.  Reach as high as you can, then aim for higher.  By reaching outside your comfort zone, you grow.  By reaching upwards, you seek, and receive, guidance on how to grow and live a righteous life.

Outward and upward!  Reach.  Stretch.  Grow.  Live life!  I'm excited, are you?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leadership Styles and Culture Shifts

Greetings and welcome to 2013 folks!  I hope the new year has been kind to you all thus far.  I've seen some challenges and some hardships faced by people I know and I ask for prayers for them and hope their year turns around and becomes one of happiness, fruitfulness, and love.

Now, to the topic of this particular entry...the art (and challenge) of leadership and the performance of such in differing environments.  I chose this topic as I have definitely been challenged as of late and wanted to find a way to express my thoughts in a generic way.  Having been educated via military training, bachelor and master degree programs, and simply work experience in leadership, I can concede there are multiple leadership styles and a person can, and should, utilize multiple styles depending on certain situations.

For example, if you have an employee, or a group of them, who performs at their peak or at least their highest level of effort, the coaching aspect of leadership comes into play.  You try to support that employee, help identify and tweak their minor mistakes, and become the cheerleader when they do quite well.  These employees are the ones whom make your job easiest and the most enjoyable.  Yet, unfortunately, it is these employees whom get such a small percentage of your time.  They are doing well, so their needs are not as great as other groups.  As leaders, it is our job to recognize this, take the extra moment or two, and ensure the efforts, results, and contributions are noticed to ensure the feeling of apathy does not settle in and we lose the valued employees to greener pastures.

Then on the entire opposite end of the spectrum are the employees whom take up the majority of your time...those that really don't want to be there.  This group is my struggle in my transition from military to civilian.  The military is made up of a large group the same as a large corporation, yet the approach and culture is completely different.  In the military, should someone display behavior which is detrimental to the advancement of the unit or the branch of service, it is dealt with swiftly.  I'm not saying the individual is dealt with, per se, but the behavior is.  If the military deems the individual has qualities which can contribute to improving and becoming a meaningful member, the "punishment" is much different than for those whom show no desire to belong...those members are also helped along to their desired outcome, discharge.  However, in the civilian world, things are so much more gray than the black and white I'm used to.

Within the civilian world, there are many more concerns and impacts to a decision when trying to figure out a course of action for an employee not displaying the attributes of a model performer.  Here, items such as length of employment, history of behavior, severity of actions, and (sadly enough), threat of legal actions come into play.  While there are some similarities between the military and civilian worlds, the differences are noticeable, yet not so different that the gaps catch you.  The very fact that policies, procedures, and avenues for both sides provide protection and clear-cut expectations close the gaps.  If the leader maintains impartiality, follows set and written procedures, and chooses his/her leadership style to properly match the situation, the "company" will be better for it.

Patience is a test which can be difficult to master, but is necessary in these situations.  I'm learning that all over again...and again.  Those whom want to be in the corporate "family" will follow the expectations.  Those that don't want to follow expectations will eventually find somewhere else to be.  The patience to deal with the situations in the meantime is a quality I need to learn to develop and hone.

I wanted a career which would provide me with a challenge in order to develop me personally and professionally.  The challenge is being presented in a fashion I did not forecast, yet it is what I asked for (sort of).  I have been given this challenge because it is my test to pass.  This is my opportunity to rise above the fray, face the challenge, lead the team through this, and leave those whom choose not to join by the way side.  The organization will be better for this renewed focus, the team will be better, and I will become a better, stronger, and more productive leader as well.

Now, to enjoy the weekend, regroup, refocus, and enter the fray again on Monday!