leadership

Explaining the affirmations – part 5

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 6-8 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with these:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

I will be a positive leader. Adversity will come, lots of it. But it won’t stop me from encouraging, listening to, and appreciating others.

I will build rapport and relationships with others. I will put myself “out there” to the point where I am uncomfortable.

Relationships are what matter. I will learn more about those around me, and share my story with them.

In my last four posts, I explained why I came to do affirmations, and how I came up with the first set of affirmations.

Today I will discuss my fifth (and final at this point) affirmation:

I will ask, not tell: I will ask questions so others learn; I will not give them the answers or do the work myself.

This affirmation is about me becoming a multiplier. I have always been a good teacher, but many times I miss opportunities to teach by taking on work myself, not involving others in “higher level” processes, and missing teaching moments when time seems short. These each are incredible chances to teach others:

  • Not doing the work myself. I got this habit in college, always doing too much of the work in group projects. The better way is through collaboration, proper explanation of the vision of the work, proper project planning, and accountability. Work can take longer, but it gets done better because it is a team process, not an individual process. And for this affirmation, importantly, those involved in the work LEARN.
  • Not involving others in higher level processes. Particularly at the start of a complex initiative, I need to get others up to speed quickly and not take any meetings alone or hold information to myself (confidentiality and other factors of course to be taken into account). If I keep the info close, this one becomes related to the first one – I get so far in by myself that it seems inefficient to get others “up to speed” and I will just keep going on my own.
  • Missing teaching moments when time seems short. It’s “easy” (or at least easier) to ask questions when you know you don’t have any more meetings for the day, or there is a break between meetings. It’s harder to ask questions when time is short. But I have to focus on asking some threshold questions, getting folks going on some work, and then ensuring regular check-ins for more questions. In this way, they get the learning and I don’t give them answers – but I also don’t set them up for failure by sending them off without enough guidance.

I feel like a lot of leaders have issues in this area, because we were once functional “experts” who got promoted because of our speed, quality work and dependability. But we have to give up some of that to be truly better leaders. I also tell newer leaders they will learn this lesson the easy way now or the hard way later, as it only gets harder to delegate effectively when you have more responsibility.

leadership

My Personal Leadership Essay

This is my personal leadership essay, for the first exercise in the book, “Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow” by Joshua Spodek. This is meant to be 800 words or so of my leadership philosophy, and how I came to that philosophy.

I am following the “instructions” (or advice) in the book to do this before reading any farther. I am intrigued about what is to come. But I am grateful for the stern direction, it is forcing me to document something I have spent a long time reading about, studying, thinking about. Something I’ve tried to put into words several times, but have never felt like I was terribly successful. So hopefully this time will show progress.

I think of leadership first and foremost as a set of skills. That is what captured my attention when I first read Joshua’s material on twitter and otherwise. I feel like they are harder skills to learn in some cases than functional or technical skills, but I balance that view with a realistic perspective on how much time we actually spend learning leadership. We spend 12, 16 or more years in school learning other things; we might spend an hour a month trying to become better leaders.

I admire leaders who can tell stories, who allow their people to flourish, who teach with a seemingly endless reservoir of energy when the task is building others up.

I have always loved to teach. It gives me a sense of worth, worth that I don’t often find in other parts of my life, particularly other parts of work. I generally move quickly from success to the next “thing” – not stopping to enjoy the success. Doubling down on that, I often wallow in losses or setbacks longer than I should.

In the early years of my career, I learned from leaders who had some pretty serious flaws. One yelled at pretty much everyone below him, except those he knew were actually smarter than him. Another was too aloof and never got to really know his teams. Another was socially awkward and way too prone to be the smartest person in the room, intimidating others which often squashed their ideas, dialog, etc.

I had a great, but unconventional, leader for most of my time so far at my current company. He and I are both with the company still, in different roles. He is still a mentor, more important he is a great friend. If I hadn’t of had a great dad he would certainly be a father figure also. He taught me the value of waiting, and of thinking, and of silence, and calm reactions. I still struggle with several of those things based on my nature, but I reflect often on his teachings, which he wouldn’t have even been conscious about.

So now I only have a few hundred words left to summarize my leadership philosophy. Here goes:

  • Teach your team everything you know and give them opportunities to learn way more than that. Work side by side with them so they can “see” the work develop and learn from the process.
  • Give your team exciting work to do, put them in spots where the work they do can make a difference.
  • Acknowledge those around you, and be honest with them.
  • Tell those around you what is going on, and the role they play in the team’s success.

I get in my own way when I do things that inhibit the ability to fulfill this philosophy. Most leaders have a different leadership philosophy and do different things that get in the way of that philosophy. In poker we would call these “leaks” in our game. In golf, we talk about movements that drain power, like a flying elbow or not getting our weight through the swing. My flying elbow in leadership is things like impatience, lack of self-control, and not listening enough. We all have them; will we work on them? I try to prove to myself every day that I will work on them. That I will become a better leader and live up to my own leadership philosophy. I try to ensure those around me know I am working diligently to grow as a leader.

That is why I am reading this book and doing these lessons. Doing a course of exercises like this is valuable because it keeps leadership skills front and center. It reminds us that they are indeed skills. That we have to continually practice, learn new tricks and techniques, study.

I hope to be a better leader because of it.

leadership

Explaining the affirmations part 4

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 6-8 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with these:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

I will be a positive leader. Adversity will come, lots of it. But it won’t stop me from encouraging, listening to, and appreciating others.

I will build rapport and relationships with others. I will put myself “out there” to the point where I am uncomfortable.

In my last three posts, I explained why I came to do affirmations, and how I came up with the first set of affirmations.

Today I will discuss my fourth affirmation:

Relationships are what matter. I will learn more about those around me, and share my story with them.

Obviously this might look similar to the third affirmation above. The third affirmation was all about getting “out there” and building relationships with others and being comfortable in social settings.

This one is about getting deeper with individuals, primarily co-workers (my team members, peers, etc.). It fits with one of our key employee and guest service standards – we strive to “hear their story.” So I want to share my story, tell my “why,” and hear the same from those around me.

This affirmation and the third one played together very well two weeks ago when I went to New York for a work event where I was with totally new people and some folks I knew well (ranging from relatively well to very well). I tried to focus on listening, and asking questions. I also shared my story as it related to the subjects we were discussing throughout the day.

My leadership coach uses the exact phrase “relationships are what matter.” Just the other day I saw an interview with a leader who said the same thing. I didn’t used to think this was the case, but I am seeing it now, and doing my best to learn and grow n this area.

 

leadership

Women leaders

Many of the best leaders I know are women. At all levels within my company and when dealing with other companies, I find that women leaders are doing great things.

I have begun really relying on several female leaders within my company, to help me in all sorts of ways. Sometimes for the simple act of having someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of, blow off some corporate politics steam. I think we call that “mentoring” but maybe we need to change the name to “womentoring” – ok maybe not. Anyway, I have always been a proponent of advancing women as leaders and have spent a decent amount of time developing women that work for me or others looking for some guidance or advice. But this is the first time I consciously remember leveraging female leaders for my own benefit in such a holistic way.

Of course, I’m cherry picking slightly, as I’m currently able to “selectively” work with those leaders I think can have the biggest impact. It’s not always like that, so I certainly recognize there are bad female leaders, just like there are bad men leaders. It’s like the old story where you know a minority group has “made it” when they can be fired from a job just like a white male. But I’ve noticed a few things – nothing groundbreaking if you follow the literature on this subject – that are meaningful to me that these women bring to the table:

  • Reliability. My mentors are very good at doing what they say; sticking to agreements we had, not getting swayed by the mood of others or who they talked to last. And if something does need to change, I more often hear it from them directly and quickly than from my male counterparts; where I often hear third hand and when I ask I get something like, “Oh yeah, sorry about that, we just couldn’t do it the way we thought so we went a different direction.”
  • Empathy. The conversations I have with these leaders often have a more 360 degree view of the situation. We think through and talk through the impacts of our work on more stakeholders than when it’s just the guys figuring it out. This leads to more “win-win” decisions and better plans to actually implement our ideas.
  • Honesty. The women around me give me great feedback. They are not afraid to tell me what I can do to be better, or when I really do a good job. They build trust through the first two items above, and leverage it for what it’s good at, helping others.

Given my earlier statement that I’ve been interested in promoting women leadership, but just realized the power of it, now I’m motivated to get even more engaged. I am lucky that our company (and me) recognizes the need to develop women leaders (we have many of them, host an annual women’s leadership conference, and ensure our policies and practices allow for women to succeed). But there is always more to do, and I am seeing the benefits of involving myself more with women leaders.

A big salute to women leaders, you have a lot of advocates and if we haven’t said it enough, then “thank you” for all you do.

leadership, personal

Explaining the affirmations – part 3

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 5-6 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with these:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

I will be a positive leader. Adversity will come, lots of it. But it won’t stop me from encouraging, listening to, and appreciating others.

In my last two posts, I explained why I came to do affirmations, and how I came up with the first two affirmations.

Today I will discuss my third affirmation:

I will build rapport and relationships with others. I will put myself “out there” to the point where I am uncomfortable.

This affirmation is relatively simple, I am an introvert who is sometimes socially awkward. There are a couple of things to unpack there. On the introvert/extrovert issue, I highly recommend you read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. Many folks who know me, especially only casually, don’t believe me when I say I’m an introvert; but I’ve taken the personality profiles and I am. And Susan Cain’s book helps explain the disconnect – being an introvert or an extrovert isn’t strictly about whether you are “social” or “good around people,” rather it is about energy. Introverts get their energy from time alone, in thought. They lose energy quickly when around others. Extroverts are the opposite, they get their energy from those around them. So I can “perform” well in public, for a time. But afterwards I will be drained and just want to “be alone.”

I am also sometimes socially awkward. Luckily these skills can be learned. All I’m talking about here is a combination of not knowing best tactics for engaging in conversations with new people, topics to discuss or avoid, how much time to listen versus talk, where to focus my attention, etc. So sometimes at events I feel like the odd person out of conversations, or I feel like I can’t interject into a small group, or I get distracted instead of focusing only on the person I’m engaging with.

My affirmation simply pushes me to embrace that uncomfortable feeling, because like any skill or discipline, you don’t grow when you are feeling comfortable. Like learning a new technique in golf, for example. So if I put myself in uncomfortable situations, I will get a little better; I won’t change who I am, just show up better in all situations.

I strategically posted this affirmation when I was traveling at a conference, a typical “uncomfortable” situation for me. And you will likely know I’m engaging in similar activities every time you see this affirmation.

 

leadership, personal

Explaining the affirmations – part 2

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 5-6 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with this one:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

In my last post, I explained why I came to do affirmations, and how I came up with that first affirmation.

Today I will cover my second affirmation:

I will be a positive leader. Adversity will come, lots of it. But it won’t stop me from encouraging, listening to, and appreciating others.

This affirmation covers a few things I am focusing on.

  1. Positivity. As I referenced in the previous post, the genesis of affirmations for me is negative self-talk. And some lack of resiliency and bounce-back from setbacks. So starting with being positive is important for me. I have to be intentional about this; my natural state is somewhat pessimistic. I’m not sure where that comes from, but I know everyone falls on a spectrum of how they come at things with initial reactions. It’s not good to be always positive or always negative, and in fact responses should be calibrated based on context. But generally speaking, I look for problems, and that initial lens can lead to less than ideal behaviors and interactions. Perspective is a huge piece of this, I have written about that before. I find myself saying the old trite phrase “we’re not curing cancer here” a lot – so that even when I see “problems” I can react better. Good thing I don’t work in healthcare… (haha)
  2. Facing adversity goes along with the reaction to setbacks I referenced above. My affirmation tries to accomplish two things. First, be prepared for adversity, not caught off guard. Assume bad things will happen so you can be prepared to react calmly and with poise. Second, fight through the adversity and don’t let it push me back towards an insular/introverted reaction; rather stay the course and show true leadership/set the example – no matter what happens around us, we will not let go of our core values and behaviors – we encourage each other, we listen to each other, we appreciate each other. If I/we can do that in the worst of times, during adversity, then I/we will build a special team.

I think this affirmation is more universal than my first one, as I think a lot of leaders struggle to show up well when times are tough. It’s often easy to be a “great” leader when things are good, but what happens when financial results aren’t meeting expectations, or a few people quit all at once, or an external event impacts your business? Do we panic, and freeze up? Do we revert to trying to do everything ourselves? Do we start blaming others instead of taking ownership? These are the times we need to be most intentional about our leadership.

leadership, personal

Explaining the affirmations – part 1

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve noticed a daily post for the last 5-6 weeks (if you want to see them, go to @realrickarpin on twitter). It started with this one:

Today is the day that matters. Today I will treat others w/ kindness, respond w/ patience and mercy, and above all clothe myself w/ love.

There are others, and I continue to think about and work on them. I thought I’d take a moment to explain these affirmations.

The genesis of doing affirmations in the first place was a combination of advice from my leadership coach and some events in my leadership journey. My leadership coach helped me identify negative self-talk as an issue. I do a lot of thinking, a trait I get from my mom. I dream at night pretty much constantly, often about work or other events in my life. I ruminate on “losses” or setbacks, something I’ve written about before, most recently here: https://rarpin.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/athletes-and-injuries/

I’m sure many of us who do a lot of thinking and self-talk tend towards the negative side of self-talk. So my coach thought I needed to be intentional to balance things out, hence affirmations.

I also had suffered some leadership setbacks, for example discussed here: https://rarpin.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/squeezing-problems/. So I put the two together and started a daily affirmation to focus on what I want to be (a positive look forward) and what I need to work on to be the leader I want to be.

The first affirmation was inspired at the same time by a message I saw at Central Christian Church, also written about in the post cited above. You can see it here: https://www.centralonline.tv/media/subpage/?sid=78&mid=253&vs=teaching

The idea that you can choose what clothes to wear, and you can clothe yourself in kindness, humility, love. One of my common self-talk items is blame, and excuses. This reminds me that it is my choice. My reaction to what happens around me, I own that.

Tangent – at the same time I was reading the book “Extreme Ownership” which I highly recommend and will write a review of it soon. But it contains a similar concept, as a leader everything is your fault that happens within your team. No excuses, extreme ownership.

The other thing I really wanted to capture was the notion of focusing on what is in front of me. Right in front of me. So not yesterday, for sure. No looking back, if I made mistakes yesterday let’s learn from them and move on. But also not too far ahead, so that I miss the moments that matter. So the word “today” seemed really important to me.

Finally the idea of patience and mercy, I am often too quick and not being empathetic, not thinking of others because I am whizzing through the day. So these words resonated as words that would remind me how to behave for the whole day.

If you don’t suffer from negative self-talk, I salute you and maybe this post isn’t that useful. If you do suffer from negative self-talk, you will have to think through your own call to action, how to frame an affirmation that will help you find balance. Hopefully you can get some great advice like I did, or some divine inspiration by seeing a message that was timely or reading a book that resonates. Best of luck, and stick with it. I will write about my other affirmations in future posts.