Leadership for a Lifetime: Vision

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.

~Lawrence J. Peter

For those of us who grew up in the Sixties, July 20, 1969 will go down as the most inspirational day of our lives. We gathered around our TV sets in wonder as Neil Armstrong spoke these immortal words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Our nation was brimming with pride.

A mere eight years earlier, America’s new and charismatic president had a vision. As far-fetched as it seemed at the time, JFK challenged Congress to support an initiative to put a man on the moon (safely returned) by the end of the decade. Amid a pool of skeptics, the vision was cast and NASA would successfully achieve this unimaginable mission with months to spare. It was one of the greatest moments in world history.

Question: would this have played out as it did if JFK hadn’t offered his bold vision? Not a chance. It illustrates so well why history’s greatest achievements and admired people are guided by an inspiring vision or purpose.

We might not be in the same league as JFK, Lincoln, Jobs, Disney, Edison, Franklin, Columbus, Mandela, MLK, Gates, Graham, or Mother Teresa, but in our own ways, we can all live with vision, too.  And when it comes to training our younger generation, it’s one of the most important leadership lessons of all.

During the high school and college years, a young person’s focus is clearly on the next step and specifically, on their eventual careers. While this is understandable, it can be argued that a more holistic approach to vision casting is essential. After all, a career is only one aspect of our lives and many if not most people change careers several times.

Is vision just one of those things that you either have it or you don’t? Not necessarily. Environment, training, and role modeling can have a huge impact on a young person’s inclination or ability to live with vision. Here are some suggested topics for parents, educators, and mentors to cultivate vision-mindedness in the young people we’re influencing:

The Big Picture:

  • What difference would you like to make in this world? Describe your dreams.
  • How would you like to be remembered? (The eulogy/tombstone ideas might be a little morbid!)
  • What does “success” mean to you?
  • Whose lives inspire you the most?
  • How can your passions and interests intersect to have the greatest impact?

College:

  • How will you define “success” in your college years?
  • What will you like to have accomplished in terms of academics, career, credentials, experiences, skills, relationships, and personal growth?

Career:

  • Knowing that the career decision needs to be one of the most well-researched in life, describe your 1) interests and passions, 2) natural skills and strengths, 3) personal preferences (on the job and in the working environment), and 4) ability and willingness to fulfill training requirements.
  • What perspectives can help determine that the careers you’re considering would be a great match for your skills and interests?

Service:

  • Reflecting on your passions and talents, what are some ways you can serve humanity?
  • What problems, community needs, and people groups do you feel most drawn toward?
  • When have you felt most fulfilled when helping others?

Family:

  • What are your hopes and dreams when it comes to family?
  • What do you consider the most important elements of a strong, healthy, and purposeful marriage and family?
  • What qualities will you be seeking in a lifelong partner?

Personal Growth:

  • Knowing that great leaders play to their strengths, what are your greatest assets and areas for improvement/growth? (A recommended resource for discovering your assets is this personal balance sheet assignment.)
  • Who do you admire most and why?
  • What are the traits of the person you wish to become?

As the young people in your life develop answers (and some guesses!) to these questions, it’s important to emphasize that our vision evolves over time…few are cast in stone. The key is cultivating a visionary mindset that reflects their entire life and recognizing that each vision is uniquely valuable. No one’s vision is their vision and no one can impact this world like they can.

Great leaders live with vision.

The Power of Dependability

How do you and the young people in your life rate when it comes to following through on your promises? As any parent or manager will attest, dependability is one of the most valuable qualities of successful people!.

Imagine it’s your summer vacation (especially my Northeast friends!) and you’ve had the pleasure of reading two great novels. Upon finishing them, your inner book critic rates them each four out of five stars. However, prior to reading them, you expected the first one to rate three stars and the second a perfect five. Question: did you experience the same level of satisfaction from both books? Interestingly enough, probably not!

If you’re like most people, you felt more satisfied after the first one. That’s because it turned out better than you expected. In contrast, you were probably a little disappointed with the second one because it wasn’t as great as you thought it would be.

This illustration demonstrates the importance that expectations play in our lives. The gr

eater the expectations, the greater the risk of disappointment. It also explains why it’s so important to keep your promises. After all, if someone promises you something, you’re entitled to expect they’ll deliver on their word.

Some people habitually overpromise and underdeliver (hello politicians!). They promise the moon because they aim to please or inspire.. They say what people want to hear and feed off of their enthusiasm. However, all they do is create false hope when they can’t deliver on their promises. After a few of these incidents, people wise up and sense the manipulation, It’s a surefire reputation buster…

When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it messages that we don’t value or respect them. Rather, we prioritized something else more highly than abiding by our commitment. Lacking follow-through communicates to others that they cannot count on us. This takes a heavy toll on our relationships—personally and professionally. And, it’s probably one of life’s most common sources of frustration and disappointment.

If anything, it pays to underpromise and overdeliver. By doing so, we’ll pleasantly surprise others by exceeding their expectations. (Interestingly, one of the greatest predictors of an outperforming stock is whether its earnings beat Wall Street estimates!) Here are some proven ways to master dependability:

  • Before committing, honestly appraise what you’re realistically able to do and by when.
  • Allow yourself a “fudge factor” – estimate a slightly longer deadline, slightly higher cost, etc. That way, you can provide at least what you’ve promised, if not more.
  • If the project takes a little longer or costs more, you’ll still be able to come close to your original estimate. And if you’re able to deliver sooner or under your original estimate, you’ll look like a hero!
  • If something unexpected threatens your ability to keep your promise, let your manager (or parent!) know as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the deadline to spill the bad news!

Do yourself and others a big favor. Only promise what you can deliver. It’s a true sign of integrity, and it will greatly benefit you in your professional, academic, and personal lives!

How have others reacted when you failed to deliver on your promises? It’s one of our greatest learning lessons, isn’t it? How are you training the children in your life to be dependable? We’d love to hear from you!

Enthusiasm – Your Secret Ingredient to Success

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

What does it take to land a great job, make wonderful friends, open doors in your career field, or land lucrative accounts for your employer? Go on; think of the qualities that might help you get ahead in these situations. Knowledge and intellect? Advanced degrees? A great skill set?

 

Not necessarily. Did anyone say enthusiasm?

 

Enthusiasm may seem like a lower order attribute compared with other qualities such as knowledge, skills, and abilities. However, many times a job candidate’s  enthusiasm is precisely what influences a hiring manager to favor one of two equally qualified applicants, or what sways a potential client to give his or her business to one of several possible companies.

 

I believe that enthusiasm is a secret ingredient for accomplishing great things. During my investment career, I gave countless presentations to multi-billion dollar sales prospects. After careful observation and coaching from our company’s best marketers, I developed quite a reputation for telling our story. I was told it was my enthusiasm that set me apart from my peers. I passionately believed in our company and its services, and I made sure our prospects could tell! Ultimately, it made a significant difference to our sales success.  

 

People who exude positive energy and enthusiasm are infectious. They inspire others with their spirit and obvious love of life. They motivate everyone around them to do and believe the best. It’s an incredibly helpful quality to have in your business and your personal life. 

 

How can you demonstrate your enthusiasm on the job? Here’s a sample:

 

  •  in a job interview, sit up straight, make eye contact, smile, and ask lots of questions demonstrating your interest in the company and the position
  •  always discuss work-related issues in a positive and upbeat way
  • show up on time—early even!
  • show interest in expanding your skill set to add more value to the company
  • always demonstrate your willingness to listen, seek constructive feedback to improve, and try new things
  • approach customers proactively and focus on exceeding their expectations
  • seek out extra tasks and projects when there is down time
  • suggest new ways to improve sales, reduce costs, develop new products/process, and add value to clients
  • always project that you are someone who wants to be there and who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done
  • seek opportunities to mentor and encourage others


When you’re with others, be positive and enthusiastic—and be sure to smile. Whether it’s simply enjoying the company of others or interviewing for the most significant career opportunity of your life, show your enthusiasm. It WILL make a difference!

                                                                     

How differently do you feel around people who are positive and enthusiastic versus those who are negative and critical? Why do you think this is so?  We’d love to hear your feedback; please comment below. And share us with a friend!

Don’t Whine – Just Do It!

  How do you react when you don’t get your way? What’s your typical response when you’re asked to do something you’re either not in the mood to do or that is outside your comfort zone? How about when someone in a position of authority makes a decision with which you don’t agree?

            Nobody likes to be in these situations but they happen a lot in life, especially in the workplace…or at home growing up!

            When you are in that position, you can take one of four approaches:           

 

1         1.      Push back or passively disregard. Argue with your supervisor and leave him with the impression you think he or she is        incompetent. Or, take the passive route and just ignore or procrastinate responding to emails, assignments, and deadlines.

           2.     Stuff, stew, and spite. Suppress your irritation and maybe hold a grudge. Withhold any pertinent information you have that may help the boss make a better decision. 

3         3.     Cheerfully comply. Remember this is what you get paid to do. Consider that your supervisor (or parent) may be working with information and a bigger perspective that you do not have. Keep in mind that your future could depend on your ability to be a cooperative team player.

          4.     Respectfully request consideration of your input. If you are quite convinced there is a better option, look for a private opportunity to ask your supervisor (or parent) to consider your suggestion. Phrase your concerns as questions, such as, “Have you thought about …” or “Might it be a better solution if…?” Frame your concerns humbly and in such a way that it is clear your intention is to be helpful, not willful.

 

            If you are an employee who can express your disagreements respectfully, knowing how to stand your ground while remaining open minded, your value will multiply in the eyes of your supervisor. On the other hand, if you are an employee who always has a different idea about how to do things, can’t be counted on to follow directions, or who has an “attitude” about being told what to do, your value will quickly diminish. You may soon find yourself looking for another job!

            More often than not, you won’t have a choice in the matter when given a direction at work (and at home). So here’s a word to the wise: handle it as one of life’s inevitable unpleasantries. Take a page from Nike’s handbook, and “Just do it!”  Not only will the Nike approach prevent you from irritating and even alienating others, but chances are that things will turn out fine after all—and you’ll earn a reputation for being a trusted and valuable employee 

                                                                    

What’s your attitude when things don’t go the way you want? Are you someone who tries to make the best out of difficult situations and be a team player? What advice would you give to a young person who is new on the job and in this situation?  We’d love to hear your experiences and ideas!

Demonstrate the Qualities Employers Value

  When I was young, jobs for high school and college students were plentiful. Whether it was restaurant, mill, or gas station work, most of my friends were able to pay at least part of their way through college. More recently, however, jobs for teens and young adults have become tougher to come by.

            One reason is that in this current job market, employers are preferring to hire older applicants over younger. (There are plenty of older ones available these days!) Employers say the reason is that older candidates tend to be more reliable and have a better work ethic.

            We hear it all the time. Many students are not leaving high school with the personal leadership foundation and marketable skills required to succeed in the real world.

            What does this mean for young people who want to get a job? 

           

            There ARE jobs out there for young people who are able to demonstrate the qualities that employers value. By knowing these qualities and focusing on applying them in your own life, you’ll increase your chances of getting hired and advance more rapidly. Here are the traits of a true workplace MVP in the eyes of employers:


Reliable 

Enthusiastic

Honest

Innovative

Courteous

Accurate

Adaptable

Positive

Globally Aware    

Motivated

Timely

Independent

Team player

Excellent Communicator

Leader 

Good humored


            These characteristics were drilled into me from a young age. By my senior year in college, my two summer jobs consisted of grocery stock boy and a paper mill worker. Those jobs were simply a means to funding my college education rather than long-term career interests. Although I didn’t care much for the work, as long as I was reliable and my work was of high quality, my bosses were happy. It was valuable experience and enabled me to pay my way through college. A worthy cause!

            No one scores an A+ in all of these worthy qualities. Understanding this, how would you and the people who know you best rate you on these qualities? What are your strongest areas? Which need strengthening? Take the initiative to convert your weaknesses into strengths. You’ll be that much more valued by your employers and co-workers down the road.   

                                 

How do you stack up on the most valuable employee qualities? In which areas do you see the greatest room for improvement? Please share your stories, comments, questions, and insights with our online community. We’d love to hear from you. Forward us to a friend!