Monthly Archives: April 2014

50 Excuses

My mom used to say, “Presence is a virtue”. What she meant by that is that sometimes you go to things because it is the right thing to do. We went to all the reunions. We went to all the First Communions. We went to all the Baptisms. We went to all the Birthday parties. We were at everything. I have a recent example to share.

My great uncle, “Skinny” Martin, died. My mom’s Uncle, Skinny was a great guy who seemingly outlived everyone else. He was the oldest living fireman in Omaha when he died at the age of 95. Skinny’s sister Mary was my grandma, and she died nearly 30 years ago. Both my mom and her brother are also deceased. So Skinny was literally the last living relative on that side of the family. I know my Dad was close to Skinny and his death was significant for my Dad because it closed that chapter of my Dad’s life as well.

So the funeral was in Omaha, on a Tuesday. It was my 40th birthday. I have 4 children in school. 2 of my children were in after school sports that day. I had to work. I had meetings and statuses. Omaha is 400 miles away. We couldn’t leave until after work the day before. What about birthday cake and presents? My kids had tests and homework. It would be expensive. I was tired. My wife was tired.

I thought, “There are 50 excuses not to go and we’re going anyway.”

We went for my Dad. We went to show that side of the family that they were important. We went because going was the right thing to do. We went despite 50 excuses to not go.

How did it feel? It felt really good to see everyone, make my Dad proud, have older relatives meet and interact with my young children wearing their little boy suits, and just being there.

Sometimes being present means more to other people than to us. Do you ever decide to be present “just because” someone else will get satisfaction and fulfillment from you showing up? Maybe the next time you should. Continue reading

Leadership Impressions–Why Stop Short?

A year ago, I was sitting in a meeting and the speaker was telling a story. She did a great job of capturing the attention of the audience, including me. The story was about her son and his baseball team. I won’t go into the details, but at the core, she was story telling about how proud she was of her son. She showed vulnerability, and to be honest with you, she connected with me.

I don’t work with this person on a day-to-day basis; I just was lucky enough to be sitting in that room, on that day, listening to that story.

She created a Leadership Impression on me.

But what if I physically had not been there? Well, there would not have been a Leadership Impression made. I envisioned applying for a job in the future where she was the hiring manager. In one story, I recalled word by word her story, immediately reciting it back to her, impressing her with my memory skills, and getting the job because of this connection. In another version–the one where I had not attended the meeting–we went through a mundane interview process and I didn’t get the job. No connection.

I bet she’s done a great job of creating Leadership Impressions this way throughout her career. These ways have been effective at establishing authentic connections with people. She’s been successful.

I demonstrated the courage to plant the seed that if she were to just write down stories like this, she could exponentially increase the number of Leadership Impressions she was creating, with a broader base of followers than she had today. While she liked the idea, she’s written nothing in about a year. The baseball story was the only one I’ve been able to hear her tell. I’m sure she’s told more stories, but only the few who were present were able to get the value.

At some point in the future, however, her ways might not scale. Her teams might not always “be in the room” to receive her messages. She’ll have team in multiple buildings–heck, countries–just waiting to follow her. But if she does not start to change the way in which she works, that is, start to lead in a scalable way through the use of enterprise collaboration tools, soon her followers won’t hear these stories, or her voice. People might start to wonder why her team is not connected to her. In short, she might not be seen as a relevant leader in the future. All because she stopped short of creating the most number of Leadership Impressions possible by not only telling her story, but writing it down as well.

Using Collaboration Tools to Create More Leadership Impressions

Marketing uses the concept of media impressions as a way for us to understand how far a particular ad campaign or message has reached its intended audience.

It dawned on me at my Company’s Spring National Meeting:  Media impressions are to Marketing what Leadership impressions are to connecting with my team.
How far have my own campaigns or messages (i.e., my Leadership impressions) reached my intended audience, and am I using all of the potential tools available to me to be effective?
I know for sure that earlier in my career, my Leadership impressions were not as far reaching as they needed to be.  I used strategies like 1:1 status meetings and spoke to groups of employees once in a while, but things needed to change as my teams got bigger and my job got more complicated.  But, as was pointed out in the Spring meeting, I needed to have “an unwavering commitment to learn new ways to lead and work.”  So basically day 1 in a new job, I just tried some new things—like blogging.  Please understand I had never blogged before—ever.  But people had always told me that I had a “different voice” when I write than what can come across in a first impression in person.  I took that as code for perhaps in person I could be a little too intense for some people in person, but when I wrote people could really get an understanding of who I really was, allowing me to establish a connection with them—a Leadership impression with my real voice that they would not have experienced otherwise.
Finally, I got it.  For me, blogging allowed me to generate more Leadership impressions with a broader group than I was reaching previously.  Now I see that as part of my role as a leader, where I am supposed to share my thoughts and opinions on things to establish authentic connections with my broader team and not be as anonymous.  Blogging now had value–value though creating more Leadership impressions.  Needing new ways to lead and work, blogging became another vehicle for me. 
Are you up for the challenge?