Tag Archives: lessons learned

We all are Leaders and it is Past Time for Leadership

Each and everyone of us is a leader in some form or fashion.  How you lead is your choice.  This past week has seen some examples of leadership or lack thereof across the board.  Here are some of the events of the past week:

1) Ferguson, Mo.

2) Twitterverse #shirt firestorm

3) Hagel – Yes Man or obviously not a Yes Man

4) What Constitution?

Four very different events, and four varied examples of leadership.  For those of us old enough to have witnessed various aspects of the Civil Rights Movement – I lived in the deep south in the early seventies and can tell you from experience that there was a double standard – there still is – but it is more hidden.  The events this past summer were tragic – from both sides.  What is sad now is that people have become so entrenched in their view – they can’t see the other side’s point.  So, what happens?  We have leaders exploiting a situation to make a point, but is it really the point that needs to be made?

There are good and bad people.  There are good and bad situations.  Having not been there – I can’t say what exact the case was.  But, what I do know – is that destroying a city is not the correct response.  Congratulations for the community members that are helping to cleanup (which the news hasn’t shown).  Congratulations to the leaders who have spoken out against how various individuals have reacted.  But really, demonstrations across the US for this incident?  What about the tragedy that happens every day in poor neighborhoods? What about the daily violence by neighbor on neighbor?  It isn’t about race, it is about lack of opportunity.  It is about lack of understanding.  It is about how we as individuals treat each other.  We as individuals have to stand up and say – no matter what, the behavior exhibited was intolerable.  Several of the historic Civil Rights Icons would be appalled at this behavior.

This leads to the #shirt firestorm.  For those of you not familiar, the Mission Leader for the Comet landing made a poor choice in attire for an on camera interview.  It was a retro shirt, that was deemed offensive to women in the workplace.  An example of creating a hostile work environment for women in Science, and Technology.  From my perspective, over 25 years in a male dominated science environment – and in the oil patch, come-on get real.  If this is what you are holding up as evidence of a hostile environment, you really haven’t seen one.  Yes, there is a double standard.  Guess what, there is always going to be a in-crowd and an out-crowd.  It may be gender, it may be philosophical, it may be educational, it may be attitude, etc.  The gains that have been made in science are huge for some disciplines – for others not so much.  Critical mass has been reached in chemistry, chemical engineering, and other areas.  Physics, electrical engineering, and others the numbers are pretty stagnant.  As female or male leaders, it is our responsibility to ask questions.  To look for diversity, of all kinds thought, gender, backgrounds, race, etc.; as one of my students recently put it – “it wasn’t until we were placed on teams that I really learned that working as a team we were able to do something beyond what I thought could be done.”

Our responsibility as leaders is to ask why the general physics class  is 75% women and the engineering physics class is 90% men.  At least this year, it is because that is the perceived career path of medicine versus engineering.  I can remember a day when both classes would have been 90% plus male.  Next springs engineering class looks more 50-50.  It is our responsibility to have diversity in the teams, in the funding groups, etc.  OK, it was a poor choice of shirt (for a variety of reasons) – but is it really a hostile work environment?  I have seen worse on the internet media related to who do science by organizations who are pro-actively promoting women in science.

Then there are two events from the administration within the past week.  The resignation of Chuck Hagel – who was presumed to be a yes man.  Congratulations to him – as it turned out he was not.  No matter what your job is, or your politics.  Each and every one of us has to make some personal decisions. What are my beliefs, and when do I draw the line?  I don’t have any inside information, nor have I followed this series of actions with in the administration to determine which way it really went, but as an outsider looking in – it appears that line was drawn and he had the integrity to stand his ground.

The other issue was the Executive Order.  First, I need to go on record saying that yes something needed to be done.  Yes, our immigration policy needs fixing.  Yes, there are situations that no matter how you address are not ideal solutions, and we need to exercise compassion.  But, the how is important as well.  There is a question as to why – if other Presidents used the Executive Order – why is this different?  Here is the reason – the other Presidents used the Executive Order to implement the will of Congress – not defy it.  Additionally, this Executive Order was contrary to what our Leader had previously stated he could not do – you can find numerous sound bites, clips, interviews, etc. that indicate that at least up until a few weeks ago, our President did not feel that he had authority under the Constitution to do what was done.  I am not debating the underlying issue – what I am concerned with is the lesson in Leadership that was presented.

It is my belief that this was an example of poor leadership. Yes, there are times when a leader needs to take action, but was there such a crisis on this issue that as a leader, he could not take time to work through the issue given the confines of our governmental structure?  I don’t believe that there was such a crisis, at least on this particular issue.  In fact, I believe that this action, may have created a critical crisis for those individual impacted two years down the road.  I believe that this action has made a bad situation for them even worse.  Yes, there is temporary relief – but what happens in two years with the Executive Order expires?

As a leader, do you really want to create a feud with the other branches of government?  History is filled with examples of this, and none of them turn out well.  One of the beauties of our system is that we can have debate, we can reach consensus.  Yet, this action is the result of what appears to be childish behavior.  Why was this necessary?  Because of refusals to put various items up for vote – be it in Committee, the House or the Senate.  All are cases where our leaders appear to be acting as spoiled children, and not Statesman. (Please forgive the wording as there currently not a politically correct version of this word, yet.)  The words of the writers and debaters of the Constitution are coming true.

Leaders need to step forward and address these issues.  We need individuals to step-up and take stands.  For many this may mean, taking the time out to debate the issues.  But, we need to start at home, by teaching respect.  Respect for each other, respect for others property, respect for others views, and respect for the history that is shared.  We all have differing view points – we all see similar problems, just not the same solutions.  We need to respect each other to give individuals a chance to listen – you may find out you have more in common with them and their ideas than you thought.  A group with diverse viewpoints might just happen to create a better and more elegant solution than anyone ever thought possible.

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Random Leadership Orts

It is a Friday afternoon in July, which is a perfect time to jot down those strange little thoughts, mind orts.  These are just a few brief scraps of leadership knowledge/experience that have been floating around my desk for a while.  Not a single one of them is lengthy, but they have merit.

Recognize someone. It only takes seconds, but it can mean a great deal. Even a small thank you to the mail person, or to the parking attendant makes a huge difference for both of you.

Act.  Most of us have an idea that has been lingering, a job we don’t want to do, a task we have been putting off, or even a conversation that we have been dreading.  It gnaws on you.  It takes away from the present.  It erodes your energy.  It makes you grumpy.  It is time to act – do something about it.  It is counterproductive to let it continue to fester in its current state.

Pay it forward.  We have all seen the benefits.  We have had mentors.  We even know how it makes us feel.  Have you ever had a bad day, and when you go buy your cup of coffee – you don’t have the right change – but the person behind you says – here take this nickel?  How does it make you feel?  It changes your entire perspective.  We get into the habit of thinking that to make an impact, it has to be big.  It doesn’t.  Most of the times, it is the little things, like helping a mom pick up something she has dropped when the kids are pulling at her for attention.  Recognizing that your office mate’s coffee is empty and bringing back and extra cup.  Speaking to a young family with children at a restaurant when their children are well behaved.  Sitting with an elderly gentleman and letting them tell you about that time when….  Our society, workplaces, and homes have gotten so wrapped up in electronics, our daily tasks, and other stuff – we have forgotten simple acts of kindness.

Learning is necessary for survival and it isn’t easy.  If you don’t learn, you don’t progress.  Learning is hard work.  You have to be observant.  You have to be open.  You have to accept that you may not be perfect.

– Everyone has their own style, and it may not mesh with yours.  This is something to remember when dealing with others.  This little tidbit is responsible for more miscommunications, disagreements, misunderstandings, and conflicts.  People have always said that you need to see the others perspective or be able to put yourself in their shoes.  You need to understand that we don’t always see the same thing the same way.

– Take some time to reflect, refresh and rejuvenate. This leads to more productivity, fewer errors, and innovation.

A few scraps to get you to thinking before you start preparing for the next week.

Lessons learned – from unusual places

As a blogger, instructor, and just a generally curious person; I do a lot of reading from a variety of sources.  One of my favorites is from a public relations (PR) source (yes, you never know when those PR skills are going to come in handy).   Throughout my career, I have been involved in PR efforts more than I ever thought I would. It is truly one of those things they never taught you in school type of revelations.

So, today when I ran across this blog – “Clients are the best teachers: 3 lessons learned”, I clicked and read.  The three lessons were:

The time to act is now.

My company comes first, yours second.

When in doubt, trust your gut.

The writer of the blog was coming from the perspective of a PR consulting firm.  But, the examples that the author uses really hit home with me.  And, with a slight tweak, are three very valuable leadership lessons.

The Time to Act is Now – Or, Make a Decision and Follow-through

My grandfather always said make the decision or someone will make if for you, even if you have to flip a coin.  You have to act, if you don’t someone will act for you and it may not be in your best interest.  Procrastination is a means of not making the decision.  Procrastination or failure to act puts you behind and you are loosing ground to your competitors.  You are not making progress toward your goals.  You are essentially stuck or “dead”.

My company comes first, yours second – My Goals have Priority over Yours

In the consulting world, yes your clients company comes first; you are just a consultant.  But, this is not just in the Company/Client relationship.  Think about yourself as “You, Inc.” to use the phrase from Fast Track Magazine.  The goals of the company or even your boss have priority over yours.  And, these may not fit with your sense of how to do business or your priorities.  This may mean you have to take drastic steps like changing jobs within the organization or outside the organization.  But, the sooner you learn this valuable lesson the better prepared you are for a conflict at some point.

When in doubt, trust your gut – No modification needed.

A lot of times we intuitively know what the best course of action is.  Trust your gut.  There are a variety of reasons why that course of action is correct and you may or may not be able to articulate them at the instant you have that feeling but they are there.  Stand up for your belief.

As you can see – leadership lessons come from everywhere.  To be an effective leader we have to be constantly learning.  And, borrowing or learning from someone else’s lesson is better than making a similar mistake on your own.