Thursday, May 29, 2014

If you want to lead, you have to master self-leadership

If you want to lead, you have to
master self-leadership
Tim Connor

I am amazed at how many people in positions of leadership can’t even lead themselves effectively, consistently or with integrity.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s your local church, school, the government or a small or large business.  In the end if you want to lead others regardless of your position, roles or responsibilities it is necessary that you are effective at self-leadership.

What exactly is self leadership?

There are dozens of traits, attitudes or skills when it comes to leadership, but I believe that there are four vital ones that when they are a part of a person’s makeup they will lead with success.

But first – There are over 450 definitions of leadership here is just one - the position of being the leader or being in charge of an organization, country, etc.  But I believe this definition is limited and only views leadership as a position.  I feel strongly that leadership is a mindset and not a title. Anyone – a parent, teacher, nurse, administrative assistance or laborer can have a leadership mindset even though they might not lead anyone – yes they might influence them – for better or worse – but in the end we all lead in some way in an area in our life.

For over ten years I have been a volunteer greeter at my church.  I don’t lead anyone but I can choose to interpret my role as just someone who says good morning to everyone or I can see my role in a far more important way; I can contribute to whether visitors ever return.  I can make people feel welcome or not and I can create a relationship that is grounded in respect or not.  Here are the four traits.

Consistency – When we vacillate we create confusion.   When we hesitate we contribute to a lack of trust.  When we fail to decide we lose the respect of others.  When we fail to admit mistakes we send the message that we are perfect or insecure.  Leaders want agreement but not at the expense of their values, beliefs and personal philosophy.  They are not afraid of conflict or confrontation.  Yes, they want others to buy in to their actions and decisions but not at the cost of a loss of self-esteem. They are not driven by political correctness but respect for others.

When they decide or act - they follow-through and stick with a plan or action until it is successful or has proven to be inferior or it lacks long term value. Their messages are always the same and don’t depend on their audience - whether a customer, employee, member of a board or anyone else.

Integrity – Integrity and trust go hand in hand as a quality for self-leadership.  The question we must ask ourselves when we consider doing what is NOT right vs. what IS right, is - can I handle getting caught?  Is the price worth it?  How will I react to getting caught?  Wouldn’t it just be easier to deal in truth?  All the time?  The answer is yes, so why do people misrepresent, lie, tell little innocent fibs etc.?  I don’t know.  We are all guilty - at least one time in our lives and most of us many times - of shading the truth with what we feel is a justifiable cause. Is this wrong?  I am not a moralist. But I do believe that character and integrity are related and that anyone who hopes to lead must have integrity.

Passion – Passion is the great equalizer.  It can make up for a lack of experience and knowledge.  I am not suggesting that you not develop your knowledge or experience - only that until you do, your passion will be questioned by others as a weak belief in yourself, your mission and/or your purpose.

Passion is different from enthusiasm.  The old outworn cliché says “Act enthusiastic and you will become enthusiastic.”  I have never subscribed to this philosophy.  The reason is that if enthusiasm is an act which you use when things are going well, how do you behave when your life is falling apart? Are you just as enthusiastic about failure, more problems than you deserve and any number of disappointments, frustrations and adversities?

Passion is not an act.  It is a way of believing.  It is woven into your cellular structure just as much as you’re DNA

Resolve – What is resolve?  Is it persistence, commitment, dogged determination or just plain old self-motivation?  Don't have an answer to that, folks.  I do know, however, that it costs more to fail than to keep on keeping on.  There is a point in every relationship, career, project or goal where our resolve to go on is tested. 

Leaders realize that they have to break through this barrier before they can enjoy the real fruits of their labor.  Quitters, on the other hand, give up at the first sign of resistance or adversity.

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person by person. “
Mother Teresa

Friday, May 23, 2014

Are You Swimming Upstream

Are You Swimming Upstream?
Tim Connor

More than once in my life I have been accused of swimming upstream. Let me ask you, ever been accused of the same behavior?

Consider that maybe everyone else is swimming in the wrong direction and you are the only one with the courage to go against the grain.

Nothing new happens until someone challenges what is known or considered normal.  Inventions, medicine, travel – whatever – everything new is because someone had the willingness to weather the criticism, scorn or judgments of others implying that because they were different or unique in their thinking or actions of others.  Been there?  I know I have, whether it was a new book or way of presenting my ideas.

One of the things I have discovered during my life is that none of us are wrong – we are just different, unusual or dissimilar but this doesn’t make us deserving of others criticism.

Think of political correctness that is really getting out of control.  It’s getting to the point where we can’t say anything to anyone about anything without earning their wrath.

Think of creativity whether in art, music or any other area.  I’m not a fan of Rap music  but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong unless in my opinion it has a lot of caustic or swear words that are included that disparage others in some way.

I’m not a fan of opera but that doesn’t mean I lack class or sophistication. I don’t like jumping out of airplanes or rock climbing, but that doesn’t mean that those who do are strange or bizarre.

Swimming upstream often takes courage and conviction and the lack of the need of others acceptance.  Upstream swimmers over the years in many ways have changed society in both positive and negative ways, but ask Bill Gates, Mark Twain or Albert Einstein if they think they are strange and guess what – they will or would have looked at you as if you were the one that was strange challenging what they felt, believed or how they acted.

Mark Twain and Will Rogers have always been two of my heroes and I think this is because they both swam upstream.

Are you too concerned about how others describe you or feel about you or their opinions of you that prevents you from expressing who you are?

Do you sometimes live on the edge; just because you can or are you what Batterson (a great author by the way) calls “Rim Huggers”?

Swimming upstream will often earn you the scorn, ridicule or criticism of someone or some group, but in the end if you allow them to prevent you from being you – what a shame.

As I have been guilty of many times saying to an audience,” I would like you to like me, but it’s more important that I like me than you liking me so I am who I am – take it, leave it, accept it, like it, don’t like it, hate it, love it etc. it’s up to you, but in the end I’m not going to let you determine who I am, what I believe or how I think, feel or behave.”

My intent is not to hurt anyone in any way with my writing or speaking but as soon as I let you determine who I am – I lose who I am.  Mark Twain once said, "If there is no malice in your heart there can’t be any malice in your words.”  And I believe this is true.

Too many people let others determine the quality, creativity and ultimate outcome and value of their life – let me repeat – what a shame.

So, why not start swimming upstream more often.  I can tell you from experience the river is not as crowded upstream.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

More Time or Money? And the winner is?

More Time or Money?
And the winner is?
Tim Connor

Let me ask you a simple question . . . at first glance you might not think it’s that simple but here it is anyway – if you could have more money or more time which would you choose?  You can only have one.

Did your response come quickly or did you ponder it longer considering all of the consequences?

For example if you had more money but no more time – what could the outcomes be?  If you had more time but no more money – again lot’s of options here as well.
But, consider for a moment the larger scale of this question and how it would impact your future if you could choose one or the other.

If your answer was more money and not time.

How much money does it take to be happy, successful and/or contented?  Research over the years has indicated that very few wealthy people are really happy, so it would seem that money doesn’t buy happiness.  Yes, it can buy lots of stuff - some necessary and some just because you have convinced yourself you want it, need it or deserve it.  But, in the end relying on money or even more money won’t give you what you hope it will – contentment, satisfaction or even inner peace.

If this research is true, why do so many people spend so much of their time in life chasing after more money?  Is it ego, insecurity, control or some other emotional driver or attitude?
Security is a wonderful thing unfortunately money doesn’t guarantee it and never will.  You can lose everything in a heartbeat.

Relying on money or more money in my opinion is a senseless goal.  I’m not implying here that we should not work hard, save, invest or spend wisely to ensure that our needs are met.  What I’m saying is that it takes more than money to live a life worth living.

Having said this, if your answer was money, what would you do with it once you have it?  Spend it, invest it, give it away or hide it under the pillow?

If your choice was more money and not time, what would you do first with more money?   

Keep in mind you don’t know how much time you have left here.

If your answer was more time and not money.

We get twenty four hours a day – no more no less, but if your answer was time – the question is why?  Have you put things off during your life?  Do you need more time to see it all, do it all and learn it all?

Keep in mind I didn’t say how much time you will get – that’s just an arbitrary figure.  It could be weeks, months or years but does it really matter if you are wasting the time you have now?

No matter how hard you work or play there will never be enough time to do it all if your priorities or agendas are not in sync with your life goals, plans, dreams or desires.

I would like to have more time to travel, but I know I will never be able to see everything I want to so the questions is – what are the most important places I want to go and things I want to see?

This is the issue when we choose the more time option – what will you do with it?  Just continue to spend the extra time as you have in the past or get more focused and dedicated to doing and seeing what matters to you.

In summary – We all get the time we have – no more no less and none of us know how much time that will be so why do we wait to do some of the things that matter whether it is travel or just time with friends and family.

If more money was your answer ask yourself – how would this change my life, not your circumstances, but your life?

“This time, like all times , is a very good time-if we but know what to do with it.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is your focus on what you have or what you have lost

Is your focus on what you have
or what you have lost
Tim Connor

Sooner or later we all lose something during our life – a job, a loved one, our health, our resources or any number of life’s things.  Loss is just a normal part of living even though we don’t want to lose anything that we love, like, have, value or are attached to.

Just think for a moment how many people each year lose stuff due to floods, hurricanes, storms, accidents or fire – the number would stagger you. Did they see these coming?  Probably not.  Were they devastated? Most likely.  Did they survive? Yes. Did they have to begin again? Yes. Was it easy? Probably not.

But when loss strikes - we all have a choice – stay stuck in the grief, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear or uncertainty or move on with courage, hope, 
gratitude, yes gratitude, and a positive life outlook.  Is this easy, no and I know as I have lost a great deal during my life, but moving forward always seemed like a better approach than letting circumstances dictate the rest of my life.

Loss gives us a simple choice – focus on the loss or be filled with thanks for what we still have and believe me, I know the difference and the ongoing pain and discouragement that the first one can bring into your life day by day, even minute by minute.

If you lost your home but you and your family are still alive – blessing? You betcha.  Are you filled with sadness and remorse for what you lost?  Certainly, but life must go on.

If you have lost a loved one – and I know the pain of this loss as many of you have as well, but should we let this loss destroy what we have in life or should we take the memories of this person and their life and what they meant to us into every day that we are given?

I am by no means trivializing loss but I have known many people who let their loss ruin what time they had left.  I have also known many people who have lost a great deal or even everything and moved on with courage, optimism and faith.

I’m not talking here about a tree falling in your yard destroying your lawn or a car that has served you well for many years but it just wore out.  I’m talking about stuff that we loved, were attached to or felt we deserved.  These losses can be catastrophic and filled with grief and even traumatic outcomes but in the end, if we are still here we need to ask a few simple questions that will help us move on with dignity, hope and courage.

-Were we too attached to some stuff?
-Did we feel that our life was this stuff?
-What can we learn from our loss?
-Have we taken stock of what we have left?
-Have we felt blessed because of what was not taken from us?
-Are we feeling guilt because of some unspoken words, lack of  
  forgiveness?  Or some action we didn’t take when we had the chance?
-Has our loss caused us to rethink what really matters in life?

These are just a few of the questions we might ask when we are faced head on with an unplanned for or unexpected loss.  In the end life is a gift and everything we own we really don’t own it is on loan to us from life and God while we are here and when we lose something, it may have been for some very good reasons, reasons that we are unable to comprehend while going through the grief and/or disappointment of our loss.

Loss can be a wonderful teacher but in order to learn we have to be a good student.  We have to find the will, attitudes, confidence or skills to overcome our loss and move on with positive expectations taking the lessons learned into the rest of our life.

This my friends always takes resilience, belief and effort but in the end moving forward is always a better life choice than choosing to remain stuck or a victim.

“Even in the common affairs of life, in love, in friendship and marriage how little security have we when  trust our happiness in the hands of others.”