Tag Archives: action

Chance encounters and lasting impacts

MVC-015SWe have all had them; those little chance encounters where everything seems to have aligned, and things are never quite the same.  For example, you missed your connection and you end up sitting next to a person you’ve never met, and begin a discussion about what you do for a living, and that person turns out to give you a lead on your next job.  Or, you are at the grocery store, and run into an old friend that you have been thinking about lately.  Or, you pick up a book or magazine and read an inspirational story that seems to be exactly what you needed at this particular moment.

These encounters are part of our lives, and we never know when they will occur, and you may never know if you were the source of one of these events.  Some may refer to these events as fate, or karma.  Others may see them in a different light.  But, fundamentally each and every one of us has these types of events.  And, may not recognize them at the time they occur.  And, sometimes these particular events may or may not happen to you directly, but may be transmitted via family or company lore.

Examples of dramatic impacts via company lore are prevalent.  Think about the stories surrounding the invention of the light bulb – why was it such a passion for Edison?  Or, the development of the electric grid?  There was the race to see which was best DC or AC between Tesla and Edison.  How about the development of Facebook?  Or, the naming of Phillips 66 – it was supposedly a random comment about how fast they were going or could have been a confluence of that comment or being on Route 66 at the time.  Lore has a tremendous impact on an organization’s culture, and it is a lasting one.

While it is known that company culture impacts an individual’s leadership style, family lore and chance encounters can also have a lasting impact on our personal leadership style.  In my family, there is the re-occurring theme of “got mad about something” and its ultimate consequence.  The thing that the person got mad about may be lost, but the consequence is long lasting.  Question my grandfather about why he left a particular job, he might have said “I got mad about something, so I quit and went to school.”  The stories in my family are legendary, the getting mad caused a move to California, joining the military, running for office, speaking out, and the list goes on.  The fundamental lesson from this lore is that it is OK to get mad about something, but you have to do something about it.  It wasn’t acceptable to let the situation continue in its current state. You have to act.  This lore has greatly impacted my personal leadership style and my life in general.

Additionally, I can point to chance encounters that have changed my perception or have changed how I approach a particular situation.  For example, I have met individuals that have a mystic or aura about them – famous scientists, well-known politicians, etc.  In my case, had the opportunity to meet them as individuals rather than in their well-known role, and got to know them as person rather than as an icon.  By encountering these people in this fashion, you don’t have the barrier of thinking “there is no way I could be… because they are smarter, or have a certain connection, or more resources, etc.”  Because you have seen or share something in common with them, you saw them as a real person, not as something bigger than life.

These types of encounters have an impact.  They change our point of view or provide a hidden driver for a particular course of action.  How many times have you witnessed a situation, where you have thought to yourself – I don’t want to handle a similar situation in that way?  Or, say to yourself, “I don’t want to be that kind of leader.” We all do it.  We all are the products of our particular environment.  We all need to understand that these events may have just as much of a lasting influence on us as something we have worked on for years.  These are life changing events.

We as leaders have to also understand while these events happen to us; we may be the source of the event for someone else.  We need to show ourselves as real.  We need to spread a kind word or encouragement to someone.  We may be the connection that someone else need.  We may be that spark for “getting mad about something.”  Thus, we need to ponder our actions and be good role models.

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Transition & Re”creation”

According to the calendar, it is May.  And, May generally is a time of transition – end of a school year, graduations (high school or college), weddings may be in the air, and people are beginning to thing about a summer vacation or recreational activity.  For some the weather is finally starting to feel like the grip of winter is leaving and you can transition from indoor to outdoor activities.  So, there are lots of things that are vying for our attention. 

May is also a time where your leadership skills may be challenged, dusted off, or reach a new level.  Because May is a transitional month, you may have to rely on your personal skills to help you through the transition.  If you are graduating, you may be transitioning to a new job.  If you are in academia – you may be preparing for a sabbatical or a summer research push.  If you are industry, you may be thinking about summer field work, manpower issues, or interns.  You may also be facing personal life changes moving from a single person to a married one.  Transitions imply change – and successfully navigating change requires good leadership.

Even if you are not facing a significant transition – chances are there is someone close to you who is.  Thus, you may be called on to mentor that person.  Mentoring requires good leadership.

May then is a great time to think about your leadership in transition.  What are you specifically doing to improve your leadership skills?  What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?   How are you progressing on those goals?  Have you grown as a leader?  These are questions you may want to take a bit of time to think about.

On May 3 – I had a chance to sit in on a graduation ceremony at two year college, which led me to think about these questions.  And, I also began to think about how I personally could make an impact as a leader.  What actions – not just thoughts or words – could I do to bring about the change that I wanted to see?  In that graduation ceremony, I noted a number of things.  One was demographics – while there were some significant positives – the number of older students, the number of students in general and the support group present – the demographics were not what the should have been.  The group should have been even more diverse.  This means there is still work to do – and we as leaders need to do something – to see real change.

Second – was the concern that each and every individual there was facing a transition. Some where going straight to the workforce.  Some moving on to work on higher level degrees.  But, the fundamental question was – were they truly prepared?  As leaders, it is incumbent on us to help, encourage and mentor individuals through these significant transitions.  We have to be the role models, and the support groups.

Third – was the meaning of this transition. For some of the students, this was just a brief stepping stone or a mile marker.  But, for others it was a sign of achievement, sign of determination, a huge accomplishment.  I saw graduates that were the first in their families to ever receive a degree.  For one student, it took 14 years to get her Associates. She took one or two classes at a time – got her girls through their Bachelors before she finished her Associates.  She is a role model for the next generation.  Each story behind the graduate is different.  Each spark that drove that particular individual was different.  But each one had someone behind them that said – you can do it.  As leaders – we need to spread that spark a bit more.  We need to think about those little conversations that provide the encouragement.  You never know if it is the one thing that gets that individual over the hump and help them achieve.

Leadership is not just a hypothetical topic in a book.  It is not words on paper.  It is not a speech.   It is a push, a prod or an extra fifteen minutes.  It is a practice.  It is action.

So, as you plan your summer – think about what actions you as a leader can take to help the person next to you.