Ownership

Who’s to blame when things go wrong in your company, organization, relationship, marriage, life? Whose fault is it that your team failed? Who will you blame when profits decline, your team doesn’t meet expectations, your children resent you, your marriage fails? These are tough questions, but the answer is pretty simple. There is only one person to blame…YOU. Yup, those are the true, hard hitting facts. The only person to blame when things go wrong is yourself. If what I have said has ruffled you up a bit, good. Then you need to hear this.

The easiest way to lose, is to blame. That means when things go wrong in your company, and your profits fall, and you give your team a tongue lashing, the chance of you growing your profits, or even keeping your team, is slim to none. Jocko Willink said it best when he wrote, “Leaders must take ownership of everything. There is no one else to blame.” When you point fingers, you create more problems. When you take ownership, you create solutions. Ownership is realizing that you’re to blame for the faults of your team. You’re to blame for the lack of communication, the lack of support, the lack of direction, the lack of understanding. Ownership means you humble yourself and look in the mirror first.

“Yeah, that sounds good and all, but when things go wrong in a specific department, it’s their fault, right?” No. As leaders, we own everything. As a company owner, you own everything. Your people are only as good as the time, effort, and energy you invest into them. Their failure is your failure to provide support, training, help, communication, etc. A team’s failure can always be traced back to the lack of leadership from leadership. “But I’m not responsible for the work ethic of the team.” Really? Where does the expectation for work ethic start? Leadership. When the team sees you make excuses, show lack of discipline, or choose not to show up, what does that communicate to the team? A leader’s life is a sign post for others to follow. It will either lead to success or utter failure. 

“Okay, you make some good points, but the problems in my marriage can easily be traced back to my partners lack of…” I wonder if your partner does the things they do because you lack doing the things that your partner needs from you. Relationships are a two way street. It takes two to keep a relationship alive. “Yeah, I get that, and I have worked and tried and suffered many days only to be treated like s#!t. How can I be responsible for how someone else treats me?” Great question. You are not responsible for how someone treats you, you are responsible for how you treat others. My guess is that the relationship started to deteriorate a long time ago, and there are some deep seeded issues that need to be worked out. I would also guess that you have created a pattern with your partner that has led to rifts in your relationship, and it is now having an impact. The only way out of this, without walking away, is to have a serious heart to heart with your partner and decide, together, to take ownership of your faults and restore the relationship you once had. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. 

“You said that my children resenting me is my fault, and I should own it.” Yes I did. How is it your fault? Because resentment stems from not having needs met. These needs are not things like food, shelter, and clothing. I mean these are important, but resentment isn’t usually built from the lack of these needs. I am talking about unspoken needs. Needs like time, investment, being present, showing love through word AND action. These are unspoken needs from children, and children only hint when they are not getting these needs met. If we, as parents and leaders in our home, are not attuned to our children, then they will build walls of resentment, and unless we make corrections sooner than later, the wall will keep us out of their lives. Being a parent means owning everything. There is no instructional manual or playbook for parenting, but this, I guarantee, is a must for parenting: choose time with your children over time with friends and your job; choose to be present as often as possible; speak words of love and affirmation to your children, especially after they have seen how angry you may have become with them. Own your mistakes and your choices, and make corrections before it’s too late.

Takeaways:

  1. Leadership is about owning everything. When things go wrong, no matter the situation, leadership must take ownership. This means you reflect, understand, and take steps to correct the mistakes you made as a leader. 
  2. Leadership is to blame when things go wrong. Everything can be traced back to a failure in leadership if things go wrong. Whether it’s a lack of communication, support, training, time, whatever it is, leadership must take time to reflect on the “Why?”, and make steps to correcting their failures. 
  3. Pointing fingers creates problems, not solutions. Leadership is about creating solutions to problems and not creating problems through dismissal of responsibility. Leadership and ownership go hand in hand. When we take ownership, we begin to create and establish solutions without destroying the team.
  4. Relationships are two way streets. It is imperative that we own our mistakes and do what is needed to correct the errors we have made. We need to invest, be present, and seek restoration through sincerity and ownership. Ask questions, take ownership, and move toward restoration. 

Leadership is a way of life, which means we must take ownership of our life.

Boss vs Coach

Is there a difference between a boss and a coach? Does one have more power than the other? Is one a more effective leader than the other? When you dive into the idea of what a boss is, it might surprise you that most people would rather work for a coach. But why? Because the characteristics between the two are drastically different, and one would rather lead from the side, while the other leads from within. One considers their people employees, the other considers them teammates. How we lead has a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of our company, organization, and team.

How many of you can say that you have worked for, or currently work for, a coach? I am going to wager that very few have actually worked for a coach, or better yet, WITH a coach; as a coach is someone who works alongside the team. How often have you worked for someone you rarely see; someone who spends the majority of their day behind a desk. Actually, that is the perfect definition of a boss. “But, Wallaert, that’s their job.” Is it? So you’re telling me that leadership’s job is to sit behind a desk and delegate. Do we think that because that is all we have seen or all we have witnessed? I would argue that effective leadership is rarely, if at all, behind a desk. Effective leadership is among their people. 

You see, it’s easy to sit behind a desk and tell people what to do. It’s easy to look at peoples performance based on numbers on a piece of paper and determine if they are good enough or not. It’s easy to never invest time and energy into the people we lead. But what do we know about easy? Easy leads to nothing. Easy is the antagonist to progress and success. Easy is what the majority of people choose. To become better, to become smarter, to become healthier, to become more aware…that takes effort, the very opposite of “easy”. Being a “boss” is easy. Being an actual leader takes effort, time, energy, and hard work.  

As an employee, the odds of me working hard and dedicating myself to the company, when I only see my boss every now and then, is pretty slim. I will do as little as I have to, but just enough to stay off the bosses radar. I will not make waves, I will say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am”. I will make it look like I’m working hard, but in reality I am doing very little. In other words, I have no passion, no drive, no direction, and no support to be better. If my boss doesn’t care enough to invest in me, why should I invest in my job.

Now, is the previous example a little far fetched? Maybe. Nevertheless, I bet you would be surprised to find the majority of working people who have bosses feel this way. If they are earning a paycheck and not being called into the office, then they will only put in the effort it takes to keep it that way. However, being a coach creates an atmosphere of pride, hard work, effort, and a willingness to try. Coaches are seen. They are present for their team. Coaches don’t lead from behind a desk. They are on the floor with their team. They are investing time and energy into encouraging their team to be the best they can be.

A boss is usually clueless as to what is wrong and what needs to be fixed until it is too late. Bosses are reactive rather than proactive. If they are never part of their team, listening, observing, and investing their time into their team, then problems become headaches, roadblocks, and hiccups in a companies efficiency. On the other hand, a coach, having invested time and energy into their team, is more proactive. They can anticipate issues and cut them off at the pass. They are attune to what is going on with and among their team. They listen and observe. They have built a rapport with their teammates. Problems, for coaches, are few and far between. And if a problem does arise, it is usually dealt with quickly and efficiently.

The success of any company or organization lies in the effectiveness of its leadership. If leadership chooses to lead from behind the desk, choosing to not invest in their people, or be present and work alongside their people, then don’t expect your company to go far. If leadership chooses to be in the trenches, sit behind the desk only when needed, and invest in their team, expect great things. Coaching is a way of life. It is about genuinely caring about the people you lead. It’s about seeing their value and worth and encouraging your team to never settle for okay, as you work alongside them.

What role are you going to take in your leadership? Is it time for a change in the way you lead? Will you decide to see your people as teammates and come alongside them, or will you sit behind your desk and bark orders? Only one of those will lead to value, both intrinsically and extrinsically. So what’s it going to be? Coach or Boss?

When It’s Time To Let Them Go

I believe a company shouldn’t have employees, they should have teammates. I also believe that leadership should invest time, money, and energy into their team. I believe leadership should focus on helping each team member see their value to the company or organization. I believe a successful company has a team that works toward common goals and is passionate about said goals. However, what happens when there is a teammate that just doesn’t seem to want to get on the winning train? How much investment do you do before you just cut team members loose? In the real world, not everyone will be as passionate, as goal minded, or as focused as leadership or other team members. So when is it time to let people go?

I believe leadership establishes the culture and atmosphere of their company or organization. If leadership is not passionate, does not have set goals that are shared among the team, or does not invest into their team, then the company will be mediocre at best. Leadership plays a critical role in creating an environment where the expectations are set and met. When leadership doesn’t take these important steps, apathy will set in, and a team will dissolve into separate islands. This is why it is essential for leadership to take every step necessary to be invested leaders.

But what if leadership is doing all of this and there are still individuals who won’t put in the effort or work ethic needed? First, it is important to take notice of these individuals right away. Do not reprimand these individuals, but rather work with them and alongside them to encourage change. Place them on a performance plan. Sit down with these individuals, express your concerns and observations, and explain what they need to change in their performance. Listen to what these individuals say. Don’t tell them what you want them to do, work together to create a plan that you can both agree on. It is important to give a voice to your team. If an individual is told to change, but isn’t given the opportunity to express themselves and what might help them make the change, don’t expect anything more from that person. Leadership is about one life impacting another. It is at these crucial times that leadership can come out on top with a winning team, or find themselves struggling to get anywhere. 

Once the individual is placed on a performance plan, and all expectations are laid out and agreed upon, continue to make observations of their performance. After a few weeks, come back together and discuss how their performance has changed or stayed the same. However, don’t be the first to speak. Ask the individual what they think. How do they see their performance? If they feel they have gotten better, and you feel they haven’t, this is a great time for a constructive conversation. Through the conversation determine if the performance plan has been followed, and determine if the individual has taken the necessary steps to improve. If leadership and the individual do not see eye to eye, leadership needs to take a firm, yet humble stance and express the expectations for the team member. It is at this junction decisions are made.

If the individual refuses to comply with the set expectations, it is time to let them go. On the other hand, if the individual asks for another opportunity to improve their performance, I would encourage leadership to allow the individual to prove themselves. Again, this is about creating and establishing a team environment. If someone is wanting to prove they can be part of the team, and are genuinely wanting to make improvements, it is leadership’s job to come alongside them, mentor them, and encourage them on their journey. However, if the individual refuses to make changes, let them go. They do not share the same beliefs, vision, or goals as the company. 

A company who invests in their team, creates a team centered culture, and works alongside their people will establish a successful company. Team members who refuse to get on board with the vision and goals of the company or organization, or who aren’t as passionate about the direction of the company, need to be let go. These individuals will create issues and hiccups in the overall success and performance of the company. However, do not just throw them out, give them the opportunity to make the changes to be part of the team. Work together to encourage and strengthen each team member in the company. And as always, never forget that leadership is about one life influencing another. Let your influence build up and encourage your team.

Employees or Teammates

When you look at the people you lead, how do you see them? Are they employees who come to work to earn a paycheck, or are they teammates passionately working toward the same goals? This question is essential to consider when determining how successful you want your company, business, or organization to become. People who find little to no value in what they do, and are seen as employees rather than teammates, will invest very little into the company for which they work. How we see and perceive the people we lead has a direct effect on the success and overall well-being of the company.

For centuries, an individual who worked for a company was and still is considered an “employee”. They were employed by the company to do a specific task or job with the chance of advancement dependent upon quality of work. Unless the “employee” had personal drive and passion to advance, there was little to no encouragement to work hard. Employees were and are expendable. They come and go without a hiccup to the company’s business. Employees are just people who need a job, right? I believe that depends on you, as leadership, and how you view the people that work for you.

Yes, people work to earn money to pay bills and earn a living. However, how they do that is dependent on how they are viewed and perceived by leadership and how they themselves perceive leadership. As someone who has had multiple jobs growing up, the ones where leadership took interest in me, worked alongside me, and made me believe I was part of something bigger than myself are the jobs I remember most. And truthfully, very few jobs made me feel this way. What was it that leadership did that made me feel like I was part of something big? They considered me a valuable asset to their company. I was a teammate. 

As a teenager, I worked as a busser in a restaurant. It was one of my first “real” jobs where I worked more than 20 hours a week. There was a manager at that restaurant that I was a bit intimidated by. However, one day the feeling of intimidation changed to respect and admiration. One afternoon, I was doing my job, walking around the restaurant, cleaning off tables, and preparing tables for new guests. As I was working, I was being watched. My manager was watching my work, how I was working, and noting the care I was or wasn’t giving to my job. When I got to a table near her, she said, “Take a moment and watch me.” She took my towel and my buss tub and went down an entire section and started bussing tables. She was in the mess of dirty plates, half drank glasses, and ketchup stains on the seat and table. Her hands were getting dirty. As I watched, she coached me in what I should be doing. She showed me what my work meant, why it was important to put effort and energy into my job, and how my place in the company impacted the rest of the restaurant. 

You see, I could have been taken aside, talked to, told I need to do better or else, but that’s not what happened. I watched as my boss, my leadership, did my job. I was coached rather than told what to do. My leadership invested their time and energy into me. My manager made me feel important. I was more than just an employee;  I was a teammate. I was a crucial piece to the success of the company. From that day on, I no longer saw my work as a job, but as an important role within the company. 

Teammates push each other, encourage each other, and work alongside each other. A boss leads from a desk and sees his people as expendable. A coach leads from within the team and gets their hands dirty alongside his team. Leadership who sweats alongside the people they lead will leave a lasting impact. Leadership who is willing to step down from the ivory tower, be part of the team, and work alongside their people will create a culture of value, meaning, passion, and purpose. Show your team that they are valuable, and that each person is a key component to the success of the team.  

So what’s the moral of the story? How you treat and view the people you lead will determine the overall success of your company, business, or organization. As Dave Ramsey states in his book EntreLeadership, “If you want employees, then boss them around; if you want team members, explain why you do what you do.”  If you want to see your company be successful, create a team centered culture.

TRUST

Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, once said, “He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.” Trust is an interesting thing. There are many beliefs, ideologies, and teachings about trust. Some say trust is earned, some say give trust until it’s broken, and some even say, “Trust no one.” The idea of trust can be a touchy subject for some. Either way, I want to ask you a question, do you trust your people?

Even though my question may bring a simple “yes” or “no” answer, the intent is to make you think beyond the here and now. Let me re-ask the question this way: Do your people know and believe you trust them? You see, the context has changed. With the re-asking of the question, you are forced to look at you from the shoes of another. This question, you may come to find, is not as easy to answer. You see, when we put ourselves in the shoes of those we lead, or as I like to call them, our teammates, we are forced to look beyond our outer shell and focus on our inner self. 

Trust is not something most people give freely. Many people have trust issues due to bad relationships, bad circumstances, or even bad upbringings. Even when we say we trust someone, do we really? How do we show others that we trust them? How can we become more aware of how our trust is being perceived? Trust in the company, organization, or what have you, is just as important as respect. In fact, one might argue that trust and respect go hand in hand. If I respect someone, wouldn’t I trust them? 

Let me try and explain this using a personal story. I worked on a volunteer fire department for a little over 7 years. When I first got on the department, the fire chief was unlike any other leader I have ever worked under. In fact, it was through him that I learned, “If something goes right, all praise goes to you. If something goes wrong, all blame goes to me.” He was a humble man, and someone who freely showed trust and respect to his crew. Sadly, after 3 years, there was a situation in the department that led to the chief resigning from his position. To make a long story short, his resigning had everything to do with his character. He was and still is a very good man. 

After a year or two of an interim chief, the city hired another full-time chief from within the department. The department was split on the city’s choosing of the new chief. Within a year, everything that we once knew as a department had changed. New rules, new regulations, new ways of doing things. I mean, sure, all of this is part and partial of change. However, how it happened is where the story changes. The new chief only trusted his close circle of officers and firefighters. It was clear, if he didn’t like you, he didn’t trust you. What’s more is he didn’t have any reason not to like people, he just chose not to like them. Needless to say, trust in the department dwindled to almost nothing. The environment became extremely toxic. Only those who the chief liked, and those who kept their heads down and never questioned or challenged the status quo, were welcomed in the department. 

I decided to resign just three months ago due to the overwhelming lack of trust, respect, and leadership from within the department. I say all of this to express the importance of trust. When a leader shows or expresses distrust for his or her team, the team will fall apart, or at most,  the team will be nothing more than mediocre. Trusting your team is vital to its success. However, there is another side to this coin.

Leadership should be trustworthy. Let me go back to the question I proposed in the beginning: Does your team know and believe you trust them? Ponder this for a second. Now, answer this question: Does your team trust you? How do you know? Do people trust you enough to come to you and share ideas, thoughts, or even concerns they might have? If you answer yes, is it the same person or few persons that do this? Again, if you say yes, I would wager that there are some trust issues happening within your team. 

A leader should be trustworthy. If you find that only a small handful of individuals on your team are bringing concerns, ideas, or thoughts to your attention, I would suggest asking yourself “Why?”. Why are only these few people willing to communicate with you? Granted, some team members may be shy or would rather not stir the pot. To that I say, your investment in your team may be lacking. How do you treat the information that your teammates share with you? Are you open, respectful, and keep things confidential, or do you become offended, throw your title around to keep people in check, or worse, share what was discussed with others? Are you trustworthy?

Trust is a two way street. And as a leader, trust must start with you. If you want to see your company, organization, business, etc. flourish, it needs to be built on a foundation of trust. Not only does your team need to know you trust them, your team needs to know they can trust you.

Be Someone Worth Following

There are a lot of people in “leadership” positions that really aren’t worth following. They might talk a good game and say all the right things, but their actions tell a completely different story. How a “leader” leads him or herself will determine how effective they are as a leader. If a “leader” leads hypocritically, their leadership will be ineffective. A “leader” who leads themselves first, holds themselves to high standards and expectations, follows through with what they say, and will have a leadership legacy that will stand the test of time.

In Dave Ramsey’s book, EntreLeadership, he talks about an activity he has his audience do at the beginning of his seminars. He has everyone write down as many one-word characteristics they feel a good leader should have. He goes on to show, on average, the words that are consistently repeated. Take a minute and think for yourself about one-word characteristics you think a good leader should possess. The words that are repeated at Ramsey’s conferences are at the bottom of this blog. How many words match the words you came up with? 

One of the most important characteristics any leader should possess is that of integrity. I define integrity as doing the right thing no matter what,  or doing the right thing no matter the cost. It seems like no matter where you look or what channel you turn on these days, there is always some “leader” being called out for their hypocrisy. They tell their people to do one thing, but turn around and give special privileges to themselves; ignoring what they told their people to do. This shows a significant lack of integrity. I have always said, lead in a way where morals and ethics are a habit, not a choice. If you have to pause and determine if you will be morally or ethically right, then your leadership qualities are lacking. If you hold your people to a different standard than you hold yourself, your leadership qualities are lacking. If you choose to only do the “right” thing when people are watching, your leadership qualities are lacking.

You must first lead yourself before you can expect to be an effective leader for others. As a leader, you should be holding yourself to a high standard. You should expect nothing but the best from yourself. Leading yourself means never settling for okay, never giving excuses for not giving your best, and most importantly, living in a way that does not put your character in question. Anyone who holds a leadership position will be talked about sooner or later. Your goal should be to have those conversations focus on only the good qualities that you possess. How do you do that? By holding yourself above reproach and living in such a way that integrity, morals, and ethics are a permanent staple of your character.

Your effectiveness as a leader is dependent on how you choose to live your life. This world is filled with “leaders”, but I believe that very few are actual leaders. Many may hold titles and positions of a leader, but their choices, decisions, and actions show a lack of true leadership qualities. Some lead through fear, some lead through manipulation, and some lead through hypocrisy. There are very few leaders in this world that lead with integrity.

Those who lead with integrity are usually leading from the rear of the pack or from within it. They are rarely on stage spouting rhetoric and cheap words. Leaders who lead through integrity lead by action. They do not see themselves as someone of importance, but rather a member of a team. These leaders are servants to their people and never expect to be served. These leaders understand that their weaknesses become the weaknesses of their company/organization. They are in a constant state of reflection and growth; always trying to improve themselves to be the best version of themselves. Real leaders are the ones who will admit mistakes, take ownership of said mistakes, never point fingers, and understand the importance of self improvement. Real leaders lead through integrity. 

So, I have a question for you. Would you follow you? If people dug into your life and looked at your words and compared them to your actions, what would they find? Would they have conversations that rip you apart and call you out on your hypocrisy, or would they talk about your upright character? Would the people you lead see you as a team player and say that you hold yourself to the same standard as you hold them? Ultimately, are you someone worth following? 

Characteristics that the majority of people believe good leaders should possess:

  • Integrity
  • Servant
  • Humble
  • Visionary
  • Decisive
  • Disciplined

  • Passionate
  • Loyal
  • Listener
  • Influential
  • Driven
  • Charismatic

Reflection

“Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous”

~Confucius~

At the end of each year, I try to make it a habit to reflect personally and professionally over the past year. Needless to say, 2020 is a year unlike any other. Life has definitely not been the same this year, which means there is much to reflect on and much to learn. The quote from Confucius at the beginning of this post is one that should be taken to heart. I encourage you to take a reflection inventory of your year, but don’t stop there. Learn as much as you can, change what needs to be changed, bolster what needs to be supported, and let go of what shouldn’t matter. No matter how hard or challenging 2020 might have been, there is something that can be learned.

A personal note before I begin: These are my reflections that are focused on my personal and professional life. By no means am I saying that my reflection should be yours. I believe you should take inventory of your own work and your own life and determine what your next best move should be. I invite you to message me or comment what your reflections have led you to learn this year. 

Reflection 1

Humanity has lost the art of love and respect. Throughout this year, I have seen humanity forget the power and importance of loving one another and respecting each other. Whether it’s politically driven or fear driven, people tend to overstep their boundaries. Politics and fear bring out the ugliness within humanity. We have turned into a society hell bent on control. Instead of “Live and let live,” we have become a society of “Live how I tell you to live.” This is where we have lost respect. Disagreeing has become a war rather than a discussion. Having differing opinions has led to broken relationships rather than the opportunity for collaboration and learning. 

What to learn:

Respect is NOT overrated. Respect builds relationships and encourages diversity. Respect is something that should be given no matter the beliefs and opinions of others. Just because I disagree with someone, doesn’t mean I should respect them less. Not everyone will show respect, but that shouldn’t determine if I show respect. What I believe is right should not determine how I treat others. Everyone deserves respect; do your best to give it!

Humility is better than pride. Being willing to listen is better than having something to say. Being willing to learn is better than thinking you’re always right. You are not always right, and being willing to admit this is the first step to personal and professional growth. It’s okay to stay quiet, unless what you have to say is uplifting and encourages others.

Opinions should not determine how I treat other people. Everyone doesn’t have to agree with me, and it would behoove me to listen to others and try and understand their point of view (this will be a challenge). You don’t always need to have something to say, and keep your opinions to yourself unless asked to share them. I may not always be right and being willing to learn is the most important aspect of personal and professional growth. 

Reflection 2:

There is power in being still. A pandemic has shown the importance and need for slowing down. We have become a society of hurry. Taking time to slow down has shown the value of removing excess hurry from our lives. Slowing down encourages time for reflection. It also provides time to learn. The more we rush, the less time we have to learn. Rushing keeps us from growing, learning, reflecting, and changing. Hurry is a force that leaves us with nothing. Taking time to “stop and smell the roses” is not just a saying, but one that has merit. The more we hurry, the more we miss. Slowing down relieves anxiety, stress, worry, and weariness. Slowing down is good for the heart, mind, and soul.

What to learn:

Take time and be still. Carve out time in your schedule for quiet. Do not allow the rush and hurry of work, friends, appointments, or what have you to keep you from being still. When you are still, take time to reflect and learn. Don’t pass up the opportunity to learn. Being still gives us the opportunity to read. Reading opens our minds to new things and gives us ideas to learn and consider. Set a goal to read one book a month, as we know that you are a slow reader. Practice the art of being still. 

Reflection 3:

Social media is not what it’s cracked up to be. I have seen more hate speech on social media this year alone than I have in the past. Social media has too much influence on our lives and has caused us to become a society of opinions and haters. Social media has taught us that speaking up is good, but being challenged is hate speech. In truth, speaking up is good, and being challenged is needed for growth. When someone can post their opinion about a topic, but then blocks people and refuses to have a conversation about that opinion, nothing good has come of the post. Social media affirms feelings and allows users to ignore facts. Social media gives a platform for agendas, movements, and vendettas. I have seen nothing good come from nearly every social media platform.

What to learn:

Remove social media from your life and learn to communicate properly. Have conversations that are meaningful and worthwhile. This kind of goes back to my first reflection; just because you have something to say doesn’t mean you need to say it, post it, or whatever. Now, you could argue that your blog is doing just what you said not to do, and to that I say, my blog is not meant to tear down, destroy, or force an agenda. My blog is meant to encourage, challenge, support and bring to light some truths that are quickly being forgotten. There is more to life than scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or whatever platform that suits your fancy. Go do something important. Go read, spend time with family, children, or friends. Go for a walk. Take care of your health. Stay away from the drama and be more mindful on how you spend your time. 

Reflection 4:

Fear hinders progress and growth. It has been amazing to see how much fear has changed society. Fear has created entitlement, shaming, disrespect, and destruction. Fear has created a society of haters and manipulators. Fear preys on the weak minded and weak of character. Fear has raised up warriors of destruction and malice. Fear breeds ignorance. 2020 has been a year filled with fear, and there is nothing good that has come from it. There is much to learn when reflecting on the fear of this year.

What to learn:

Fear has no place in your world. Fear is the opposite of humility, open mindedness, and learning. Fear hinders growth. Fear destroys all that is good in the name of nothing good. Fear nothing, and instead do your best to understand. We usually fear what we do not know or understand. Seek to understand. Be open minded. President Roosevelt was right when he said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” There is nothing to fear, but everything to learn. 

Come back to these reflections often. Do not just write them once and tuck them away. Remember what you need to learn and how you need to grow. Be honest, be real, be courageous, be strong, be humble, and most of all strive for selflessness. Let your character be the topic of conversations in such a way that people speak only of what is good. Hold yourself to high standards, but do not allow yourself to become haughty. Be meek and humble in all you do. Learn to be still and speak only when needed. Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on these things.

Leave A Legacy

Every year, my wife and I sit down and watch White Christmas. I will admit, this is one of my favorite Christmas movies ever made. I enjoy listening to the music in the movie and the premise is wholesome. However, this year, I watched it and noticed something unforgettable. 

In the beginning of the movie, we are shown a wartime scene with military men gathered around watching a show. A jeep pulls up with the current general, General Waverly, who is leaving, and the new general who will be taking over. The new general complains and makes a remark to the old general about the men watching a show during wartime and not being ready for battle. General Waverly does his best to agree with what was said, and when General Waverly is dropped off, he tells the driver to take the “shortcut” to headquarters to get the new general signed in. 

There is a distinct difference in leadership qualities in each general. The new general is shown as being a rule follower, strict, by the book, and has an all-work mentality. General Waverly, on the other hand, is much different. As the jeep speeds away, Waverly slowly creeps into the back with the group of soldiers. The soldiers who see him start to get up to salute and show respect, but the general quickly dismisses them and tells them to sit down as he finds a place to sit in the back. As the show comes to an end, Crosby’s character starts talking about the general and how they will all miss him. He expresses his fondness for the general and the gratitude he has for him. At this point, General Waverly stands up, yells everyone to attention, and starts to play the part of a general. He walks through the men giving them grief for being a “sloppy outfit” and “unruly”, and then he finishes by giving them all a compliment and telling them how much he will miss them all.

Fast forward to near the end of the movie, and Crosby’s character wants to give General Waverly a surprise. The general has put all that he owns into a ski lodge in Vermont, and due to the lack of snow, the lodge is losing money. Crosby goes on national television and invites all of the 151st Division to the lodge in Vermont that the general owns. When Crosby finishes, the next scene shows the train station in Vermont bustling with all the former members of the 151st Division.

By now you are either reliving the movie in your mind, clueless about what I’m talking about, or you’re asking what any of this has to do with leadership. Even though General Waverly is not the main character in the movie, his actions and characteristics show what true leadership should look like. General Waverly cared about his men. In the beginning of the movie, it was very clear that General Waverly knew his men. He trusted and respected them. He never saw himself as a person greater than his men because of his rank. He sat with troops, enjoyed time being in community, and became strict only when needed. However, his strictness was met with kindness and sincerity. He truly cared about his men and would do anything for them; even allow them much needed Christmas Eve cheer in the middle of a war. 

What can we learn from General Waverly? Kindness and sincerity means more than rules and policy. Understanding your people and showing genuine care for them creates an environment of trust and respect. Putting your people first builds loyalty and respect among leadership and their staff. A leader willing to see the people they lead as important members of a team will establish a culture that is committed to mutual respect. Leadership is more than a title. It’s one life influencing another. General Waverly created and established a legacy among his men due to his leadership. His men, in turn, honored, respected, and supported their general years after the end of the war. 

As a leader, what legacy are you establishing? Are you building a community of trust, respect, honor, and genuine care? Will the people you lead stand with you when times get hard? Do your people see you as someone worth following? Do your people feel genuinely cared about and respected? At the end of the day, when you are in a difficult spot, will your people come together and help you, or will you be left to fight alone? Your legacy will depend on how you treat those you lead. More importantly, your legacy will depend on how you treat those around you. 

Leadership is not about titles, the corner office, or the big paycheck. Leadership is about seeing the people around you as people of worth and value. You are a leader if you choose to be. True leadership is a choice. I encourage you to see yourself for who you really are. Don’t follow the crowd, don’t succumb to social media antics, treat people with respect and dignity, and leave a legacy of honor, respect, and appreciation.

Live Fearlessly

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”

~Rudyard Kipling~

Disclaimer: What you are about to read may not sit well with you, but I encourage you to read it anyway. You never know what you could learn, if you’re willing.

Leadership is about one life influencing another. As 2020 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on what I have seen society become. Fear has gripped the heart of humanity, and because of this, society has turned on its own. Everything that has occurred in 2020 has created a society hellbent on control through fear, hate, anger, and disrespect. In other words, dignity, kindness, love, and acceptance are no longer staples in society. Why? Because society has bought into the lies that fear has indubitably fed them.

Fear is a menace that leads to a life filled with anger, malice, and depression. Fear is a monster that waits in the shadows and plays on the minds of the weak. Fear is a thought or idea that stifles positive growth and movement. Fear is the master that wants to control everyone and everything. Fear, dear reader, is a LIAR!

I must confess, I miss the days where people were allowed to live their lives without others telling them what to do and how to live it. I miss the days where people could have differing opinions or stand on different political spectrum and still be peaceful toward each other. I miss the days where people didn’t have to share every single thought that came to their mind and knew when to keep their mouth closed. I miss the days when people would be willing to listen more than speak. I miss the days where life was not about controlling the person next to you, but accepting the person for who they are. I miss the days when people were decent.

2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. From it, the ugliness of humanity has shown itself. Everything is offensive, everyone has to be right, and hypocrisy is law. But this can only happen under one condition: Fear. Our society has bought into the lies that they are fed on a daily basis through social media, news, and politics. It took an election, a “scary” virus, and police “brutality” to initiate the self-destruct sequence for society. It has taken the incessant pounding of fear to destroy life.

Fear has established a precedent that has allowed humans to treat other humans poorly. Fear has allowed shaming, name calling, needless arguing and fighting, and the destruction of relationships. When all is said and done, what will be left is a society no longer capable of the simple act of respect, acceptance, and love, because fear has manipulated the heart’s and mind’s of humanity. 

With all that said, I want to challenge you with something. I want to challenge you to stop living your life so consumed in the lies and manipulation of fear, and realize life is too fleeting to worry about what will happen tomorrow. Stop stressing over things you can’t control. Live your life in a way that leaves a positive impact on the people around you. Be kind, be respectful, be accepting, and most of all, love. There is nothing in the world more powerful than the simple act of loving others. After all, one of the best books in the world says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”

 Also, it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to not know the answers to everything. In fact, there is nothing in this world that says you must have the answers to everything. Educate yourself, and not through news and social media. Take the time to read (multiple sources…yes, even ones you might not agree with), research, and formulate opinions based on fact and not on opinion. Keep an open mind and be willing to learn. Think for yourself and not because someone told you how to think.

Finally, and this one might hurt just a little, everyone dies; how, when, and where is a mystery. Stop trying to avoid the unavoidable and live every moment as if it were your last.  Prioritize what really matters in life. Death is inevitable, and we will never escape it. Fearing death just makes it come quicker. Living fearless of death opens the doors for a life filled with joy, happiness, and excitement. Instead of focusing on the potential of death, which we all will die, focus on the legacy you want to leave behind when you say goodbye for the last time.

2020 is almost over. 2021 can be an incredible game changer for you, or it can be just as horrific, chaotic, and fearful as 2020. Personally, 2020 was a year of learning, growing, and prioritizing. 2021 will be a year of growth, learning, goals and accomplishments. Fear is nothing worth believing in. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” My hope for you is that you choose to live fearlessly and no longer listen to fear’s lies, and that you choose to live in a way that positively influences those around you.

What Matters Most

Ring, ring…”Hello?”

“Hey, Hon. I was just calling to let you know I won’t be home for dinner tonight.”

“Again? John, this is the third time this week. The kids miss you, I miss you, and I miss our family dinners.”

“I know you do, but look, Cheryl, I have a deadline on all this work I have to do, and if you want to keep living where you are and drive the cars you do, then I need to focus on what matters.”

“And what’s that, John? What is it that matters?”

“Cheryl, I don’t have time for this. I will talk to you later.” Click

“John? John? Argh, I see what matters to you, John. I just wish it was your family.”

Too often this is a familiar conversation had all over the world. Also, this doesn’t happen with just men; women are just as guilty. In today’s society, we tend to invest so much of our time and energy into what we think matters, and by doing so, we are destroying what matters most. We tend to get caught up in the idea that business, money, status, things, and so much more are what matter. Sadly, our values are placed on things that matter the least. Families are hurting, children are placed on the back burner, marriages are ending, partners are left alone, and the list could go on. Why? Because what we think matters most is what is destroying what matters most of all.

Please don’t get me wrong, I understand that business and leadership are hard. I understand that the higher your status in a company or organization, the more work and responsibility you have. I also understand that many would say that there just isn’t enough time in the day. To that, I say, where are your priorities. You see, time is what you choose it to be. As humans, we tend to complain about something, but refuse to change our lifestyle to fix what we are complaining about. Time may not be something we can physically control, but what we do with the time we are given is absolutely in our control. This is why the saying goes, “Make the most out of the time that you have been given.” 

We need to determine what really matters in our lives. What holds the true worth and value? Money is fleeting. Status changes. Businesses fail. Yet this is where we put the majority of our time and energy, but at what cost? Now, if you are in your twenties and you have no other responsibilities outside of your career, then I encourage you to pour yourself into your work. However, do not create a box for yourself that is so tightly constructed, that when and if you choose to have a family someday, you are consumed so much by your career that your family suffers. To those of you in your mid to late thirties, what is your endgame? To those of you in your early to mid forties, what have you lost because of your misplaced value?

If you are in leadership, or in a position where a company or organization is demanding so much of your time that your family is suffering, it’s time to re-evaluate where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Here’s the bottom line. Your family needs you. Your children need you. Your wife or husband needs you. They are what should matter most. The relationships that you build with them are what matter most. If you find yourself missing family dinner time, put down the pen, close the laptop, grab your keys, shut off the lights, and GO HOME! There is nothing in your office or work life that could matter more than the people around your dinner table. 

Work will always be there. Time with your family will not. It doesn’t matter if you are a father or a mother, your daughters and sons need to know they are important to you. They need to see you in their lives. They need to know that Mommy and  Daddy made them a priority. However, it doesn’t stop there. Your marriage should matter to you. Your relationship with your spouse should matter to you. How your children see you treat your spouse will have a lasting impression on them. When they see you not caring to spend time or not making an effort to invest or grow in your relationship with your spouse, the only example they have to look at for their future relationships is yours. 

So what matters most? Something that can be easily lost but regained, or something that can be easily lost and gone forever? Is it something that determines your wealth, power, and status, or it something that determines your worth, happiness, and joy? It’s time that we place our value in what matters most. If leadership is about one life influencing another, then the first lives that should be influenced are the ones around the dinner table. I hope you find yourself choosing to invest your time and energy in what really matters.