Let Others Be

For John O’Brien, his hope was that we may care enough to love enough to share enough to let others become what they can be; but how do we do this at home, at work, and in the context of our other important relationships? Consider the following strategies. They may or may not work equally well for all of us; but they are definitely worth considering.

Cooperation: Emphasize a helpful, supportive approach to all of your relationships and activities with other people.

Bertrand Russell said, “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” You likely will want to set your sights a little less grandly than redeeming mankind; but you nonetheless get the idea. Cooperation is definitely the way to go and helping others is one of the best ways to get there. What’s more, Charles Dudley promises added benefits for you if you are helpful and supportive with other people, “It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Now, that certainly sounds like the real deal, don’t you think?

Loyalty: Emphasize accommodating to the special needs and interests of people and facilitating the resolution of problems.

It’s easy here to see how that benefits other people which, of course, is the point. At the same time, though, you also benefit. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “The most absolute authority is that which penetrates into a man’s innermost being and concerns itself no less with his will than with his actions.” Sure, if you accommodate to other people and help them work things out, you will feel better about who you are and what you do. It’s like Josiah Royce pointed out, “Unless you can find some sort of loyalty, you cannot find unity and peace in your active living.”

Caring: Emphasize concern for and interest in the activities, successes, and problems of other people.

Maxwell Maltz expressed it this way, “Take the trouble to stop and think of the other person’s feelings, his viewpoints, his desires and needs. Think more of what the other fellow wants, and how he must feel.” The message is simple. Take time to care; and remember Fred A. Allen’s words, “It is probably not love that makes the world go around, but rather those mutually supportive alliances through which partners recognize their dependence on each other for the achievement of shared and private goals.”

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Secrets Of Proactive Leadership

Secrets Of Proactive Leadership

1. Proactive leaders are cautious without becoming paralyzed by the potential downside of action. They pursue their goals continuously but incrementally, testing/evaluating progress toward the goal. This approach assures movement toward the goal without exposing the organization to unnecessary and avoidable jeopardy. They don’t play it safe but do play it cautiously.

2. Proactive leaders focus most of their time and energy on organizational stability and goal attainment. They minimize time and energy absorbed by worrying about unlikely contingencies and maintaining the status quo.

3. Proactive leaders make decisions and take action thoughtfully but quickly. They don’t delay or postpone decisions or actions, try to avoid or defer doing what needs done, and they don’t hesitate or proceed reluctantly. Their actions and reactions aren’t impulsive or ill considered. They are, instead, decisive and timely.

4. Proactive leaders don’t shirk or avoid responsibility and have little tolerance for people who do. They are committed to the welfare of the organization and to its mission. From the perspective of personal responsibility, they do everything they have agreed to do to the best of their ability and accept additional responsibility to the extent necessary to assure the organization’s success.

They may decide that they are unwilling or unable to continue accepting the responsibilities they have agreed to accept. In that event, they will be up–front about their decision and in the meantime, they will do what they have agreed to do at the highest level of which they are capable. The organization always gets their best effort.

5. Proactive leaders take calculated risks and carefully considered chances with hard resources such as capital and soft resources such as political support. Before taking such risks, they first determine the cost to the organization of paying the hard or soft resource bill if their action is unsuccessful. Next, they determine the extent of total organizational resource reduction that could result from having to pay that bill. How much worse off would the organization be if the bill is paid? That is “X” or the downside cost of action. “Y” or the upside benefit of action is similarly calculated in terms of the level of increase in total hard and soft resources if the action is successful. Action then gambles “X” against the possibility of “Y.”

Two additional factors are then considered: the likelihood of getting “y,” and how much the value of “Y” exceeds the value of “X.” They don’t gamble a lot to only gain a little.

For the proactive leader, then, taking calculated risks with organizational resources means that the potential value of attaining “Y” justifies the risk of having to pay the downside bill (X). In either event, contingency plans are in place to manage the outcome.

6. Proactive leaders have a high tolerance for and acceptance of differing personalities, traits and characteristics, personal styles, individual values and beliefs, and for the idiosyncrasies of people. Similarly, they easily manage fluctuations in people’s moods, points of view, and interests. Alternatively, they have little tolerance for sub–standard work, less than complete attention to the task at hand, or lackluster performance. They always give their best effort and expect others to do the same. 7. Proactive leaders expect others to do things correctly, to give everything they do their best effort, to succeed. They are surprised when people make mistakes, give things less than their best effort, don’t succeed. Since they expect success, they assume personal responsibility for mistakes of others, lackluster effort, non–success. Their first take on the situation is that they haven’t been smart enough or skilled enough to effectuate the right outcome. They then work with the person to identify the deficiencies, to modify their (the proactive leader’s) performance so that they better facilitate the person’s success.

Of course, the Proactive leader occasionally determines that a specific person either can’t or won’t perform as expected no matter what is done but typically, the proactive leader assumes shared responsibility for assuring the success of others.

8. Proactive leaders accept people as is. Their goal isn’t to change anyone. Rather, they focus on encouraging and facilitating in ways that enable each person to achieve optimal performance within the context of their skills, abilities, and interests. Concurrently, they expect people to expand and improve their capacities and are ready to help with that process however they can, within the resources and constraints of the organization. People aren’t expected to change but are expected to grow and develop as organizational participants. 9. Proactive leaders aren’t stingy with praise nor are they lavish with it. They are quick to recognize and acknowledge the successes and accomplishments of others but don’t confuse praise with simple good manners. Please and thank you and noting that someone did a good job or was helpful are not examples of praise. They are, rather, merely examples of good manners and are integral to the proactive leader’s habitual deportment. Alternatively, praise is an intentional and thoughtful action which privately or publicly acknowledges and commends excellence. Proactive leaders reserve praise for exceptional or extraordinary performance, never missing an opportunity to praise when individual or group performance meets that standard.

10. Proactive leaders understand that holding people responsible and accountable on the one hand and blaming and accusing them on the other are not the same. Holding someone responsible is a performance standard. Holding them accountable is a performance expectation. Alternatively, blaming and accusing imply negative opinions and perceptions of the individual. To blame someone or accuse them represents a pejorative assessment of them. Blaming and accusing are always subjective and personal while responsibility and accountability are performance elements that can be objectively evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted. Since the individual or group are accountable for their performance, the level of responsibility extended to them may be increased or decreased, depending on their performance.

To blame or accuse are counterproductive and incompatible with proactive leadership. Holding people responsible and accountable are key elements in the proactive leader’s approach with people. It starts with holding himself (or herself) responsible and accountable and then simply extending the principle to everyone else in the organization.

11. Proactive leaders resist the temptation to either focus on what is not going well or on what is. It may be a function of human nature to attend mostly to the negative or to the positive, depending on ones personality. Proactive leaders understand that this is not a simple matter of choice or personal preference. The key to success is seeing that neither focusing on the positive nor on the negative is advisable. At a more fundamental level, the reality is that the organization is continuously transitioning from a past state to a future state. The primary responsibility of the proactive leader is to affect the transition so as to actualize the desired future state. To do this, the task is to reduce and eliminate the disparity between the present and future states, without redefining or compromising the future state. Focus then needs to be collectively on the cluster of elements that affect the future state either as contributors or as Detractors, understanding that neither is more or less important than the other. Focus must be on the gestalt.

12. Proactive leaders demonstrate their respect for and are pleased by the successes and accomplishments of others. The key here is twofold. They both respect the achievements of others and actively demonstrate that respect and the pleasure they experience when others do well. Respect in this context includes holding the person and the action or accomplishment in high esteem, feeling delighted, and actively expressing approval.

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Proactive leaders are cautious without becoming paralyzed by the potential downside of action. They pursue their goals continuously but incrementally, testing/evaluating progress toward the goal. This truth introduces the twelve secrets of Proactive Leadership. This article reveals these secrets and shows you how to incorporate them into your leadership practice.

Real Writers Get With The Program

Real Writers Get With The Program

It would be very cool to be a real writer. I experience the creations of people who are and I usually can’t get enough. Once I get started, I can’t quit. They draw me in and there is no letting go until they turn me loose, satisfied and wondering how they do it. It’s amazing.

I suspect it’s a little like singing. I don’t know anyone who can’t sing. Even I can sing. The difference is somewhere between singing and being a real singer. There is a point in there where it isn’t just singing anymore. It’s music.

That’s the way it is with writing. It somehow moves past writing and becomes a novel or a poem or an article. It’s alive and out there, full of energy and meaning. It tugs at your heart. It causes a shiver down your back. It gets you to thinking thoughts you’ve never thought before. It makes you smile. It makes you frown. It gets you up–and–moving. It’s alive and has inserted itself into your world without so much as a please or thank you.

I certainly don’t want to mislead you. You may be getting the impression that I’ve merely been sitting around hoping and wishing. Nope. I’ve been hard at it. Well, maybe not as hard at it as a real writer but I’ve been clicking those computer keys for many years.

It’s not like I get up every morning and chain myself to the keyboard until I’ve produced a thousand words or even a dozen words. I am more of a potato chip kind of guy. That’s someone who nibbles now and then and occasionally stuffs down half a bag. In a good week, a lot of words flow into the computer and out of the printer but most weeks it’s not worth mentioning.

Real writers are dedicated to their craft. They are self–disciplined. They write an article a week or maybe one every day. They write a book a year and maybe two or three. I’m very serious when I tell you that I think that would be very cool.

It would be at least as cool as being a real singer or a real artist or a real whatever. There are those special people who are world–class at what they do. Writers are among my favorite examples of such perfection.

I have spent a lot of time and energy over the years practicing writing. I was told when I was young that practice makes perfect so I keep practicing. I keep working at it. I write and read and then I try it the other way around, I read and write.

Okay. You got me there. It’s the potato chip thing. I likely don’t write and read with enough self–discipline and consistent attention to the task at hand. I just keep on nibbling and occasionally wolfing down half a bag when I can’t resist the urge. I need to get with the program, equal amounts of writing and reading, every day. That’s the minimum commitment required to be a real writer.

What do you think? Is there any hope for those of us who can’t get with the program and if we do get with it for a while, we backslide? I got to thinking about this today when I was supposed to be writing or reading or doing something else that confirms how productive and self–disciplined I am. It’s not that I spend all of my time pondering these types of important questions. I do write now and then, between important thoughts and whatever else I find to do to avoid becoming a real writer. It’s just that I can’t quite find the key to the perfection they told me that practice would unlock.

What will it take to become a real writer? I don’t know yet but I keep thinking about it. As I pondered that today, I figured out that I have made it up to a million published words and still don’t know what it takes to be a real writer. Yep, that’s about a hundred articles and columns, a dozen or so books for adults and three for children, and even a few training manuals.

I write better today than I did when I started, way back then, a million words ago. Maybe by the time I get another million words on down this writing road, I’ll figure it out. Now that would be very very cool. Perhaps you will decide to join me in my journey. We can write a little, read a little, and maybe even stop to munch on a bag of chips as we think those important thoughts that are so interesting when we don’t quite find the self–discipline to get with the program.

Want To Be a Podcaster

Once upon a time there was a wannabe podcaster. It doesn’t matter whether you insert he or she or perhaps even me. Wannabe was as far as it had gotten so far.

Every day our wanna be podcaster connected the microphone to the mixer and plugged that into the computer, with the recording software ready to capture wise words and clever banter. But the wise words and clever banter never emerged. Our wannabe podcaster was stuck, waiting on an inspiration that stubbornly refused to inspire.

One day, an inspiration of sorts was unexpectedly just there, astonishing our wannabe podcaster. The mute switch on the microphone accidentally or perhaps magically shifted from mute to record. The microphone started serving its intended purpose; the mixer joined into the signal chain; the computer started computing; and the recording software started recording. This all happened when our wannabe podcaster was just getting into what had become a daily rant about how hard it was to podcast and how much easier it would be to just quit trying.

Because of that fortunate bit of serendipity, our wannabe podcaster had an actual recording. No, it did not raise to the level of wise words or clever banter, but it was way more than nothing, way more than all that daily effort had produced so far. Just maybe it was a start down that podcasting road.

Because of that, wannabe figured it was time to move on past the wannabe status and jump into being an actual podcaster. It wasn’t a grand opening or anything close to the splash our wannabe podcaster had fantasized. Even so, it wasn’t nothing. Our hopeful podcaster posted the accidental recording on Facebook where it got 71 likes within three hours of being posted. Okay, a Facebook post is not a podcast, but our happy Facebook poster now knew that at least 71 people actually liked his recording. Could for real podcasting be all that far away?

Sure, there were more actual recordings, more posts on Facebook and more likes, until finally our newbie podcaster figured out what was needed to move those Facebook posts over to a real podcast channel, with a growing group of subscribers and enthusiastic fans. You may run across the podcast one day when you are just searching for something interesting enough to keep your attention for a while. Don’t be surprised that there aren’t many wise words or much clever banter. That’s just not what our more experienced podcaster is aiming for. You will always get straight talk and useful tips from a podcaster who always keeps it real.

Now you know so there you go.

The Very Dickens To Change

Samuel Johnson told us that the chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken; and John Dryden added that ill habits gather by unseen degrees — As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.

The truth of it is that Arnold Bennett got it right when he said that habits are the very dickens to change. Abigail Van Buren was also on point when she added that a bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project. Of course Mark Twain was also there, egar to join in, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Naturally, St. Augustine had a wise caution for us, “Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.;” and as we would expect, Mark Twain inserted his take here on putting too much stock in saints and wisdom, “To have nothing the matter with you and no habits is pretty tame, pretty colorless. It is just the way a saint feels, I reckon; it is at least the way he looks. I never could stand a saint.”

“Habit is a man’s sole comfort. We dislike doing without even unpleasant things to which we have become accustomed,” according to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. We already knew that habbits are sticky and not easily abandoned so aren’t surprised that Georg Christoph Lichtenberg added that habit might be described as a kind of moral friction — as something not allowing easy passage to the mind, but rather so binding it to things that to work loose from them is difficult. A Spanish Proverb puts it like this, “Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables;” and Horace Mann like this, “Habit is a cable; we weave a thread each day, and at last we cannot break it.”

As much as there is to say on the side of giving up our bad habbits, Eng’s Principle advises that “The easier it is to do, the harder it is to change;” and bad habbits are definitly hard to change. At least mine are and I suspect yours are too, so we don’t want to stop short, without reminding ourselves that habbits are not without virtue. Frank Crane said that habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them, either. They keep you. Well that may not be quite the virtue we had in mind so let’s leave it with this from William James, “Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.”

Now you know so there you go.

Forward Toward Success

The psychology of success and failure is complex but not particularly hard to understand. It starts with personal responsibility. Unless you accept the responsibility for failure, you can’t take the credit for success. Either you are the agent of your life outcomes or the victim of people who are pushing you down. Here’s the point. If you blame others for pushing you down, people other than you deserve the praise for pushing you ahead.

Separating yourself from what you do comes next. As William D. Brown put it, “Failure is an event, never a person.” Your success and failure aren’t who you are. They are merely what you do. S.I. Hayakawa expanded on the same theme, “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, ‘I have failed three times,’ and what happens when he says, ‘I am a failure.'” The key is in how you manage life’s events, not in the events themselves. Robert Allen expressed it like this, “There is no failure. Only feedback.”

Now consider what you do with the feedback life provides. Napoleon Hill observed, “The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.” It’s not enough to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and climb back on that horse that threw you. You need a better plan for staying in the saddle. Sure, getting up and starting over is tough. Yes, that damn horse may throw you again. Indeed, your new plan may not work any better than the old one; but it’s like Beverly Sills said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

Thomas Edison managed the disappointment this way, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work;” and Samuel Beckett had a similar persistent optimism, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” With role models like Edison and Beckett, you can hardly go wrong, so long as you keep trying. As Charles F. Kettering put it, “One fails forward toward success.”

George E. Woodberry knew the essence of success, “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” Continuing effort is seldom elegant or easy; but Elbert Hubbard’s simple point may be all you actually need to know, “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” With that said, Mary Pickford gets the last word on the psychology of success and failure, “Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Now you know so there you go.