You Are Who You Are

You are who you are.

You are not who you say you are. You are not who you are pretending to be, nor are you yet who you want to be. You are not the sum total of all of all of your worst weaknesses nor are you the best of all of your greatest strengths. You might be a work in progress, growing and heading in a great direction, but please tell us, who are you TODAY?

You are who YOU are.

And, why will you fail in your current role? Because, as hard as it is for me to agree with pop-culture counselors, you must be you. Sure, go ahead and be your best you, but you MUST be you. If you don’t know who you are and if you can’t communicate it effectively to others, then how can you expect the people leading you to do better than what you offer them? A leader, boss or coach can’t be expected to employ someone into their best possible role if they don’t know really who they are dealing with.

Countless partnerships and business relationships have been doomed to failure for this one simple reason, “you aren’t being you”.

“But, they are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook! - Dennis Green, Oct. 16, 2006

So, will you candidly, with a zeal for honest evaluation, tell the people who are counting on you what your best skills and attributes are? Then with the same measure of honesty (not more, not less) be sure to carefully and honestly describe the types of roles you should not lead up and outline areas where you would certainly be least effective. Don’t hide out in fear, hoping to survive. You and the people around you will enjoy life and work more when you are thriving in a leadership role that fits you best. Every job should have some margin for growth and new opportunities, but the entire role shouldn’t be one humongous fantasy bet on “best case” and your dreams at night.

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Key Ingredients For Being Mentored

So you want to be mentored?

In search of self improvement or a desire to move forward professionally, you have landed on the idea that you need a mentor. Wanting a mentor is easier than the process of being mentored. Here are key ingredients for being mentored and developing in leadership.

Go look for a mentor. It sounds too absurd, but it is all too true that most people want a mentor to come looking for them. ANY individual that you would want to have as a mentor is not just sitting around bored. They have things going on and lots of people who want their time — that is in fact the reason that you want them! They know something that you don’t about your job, about life or about how to lead their families. If you want some of their time, go ask for it. Don’t sit in your office crying about the fact that no one will invest in you. No one will invest in you because you haven’t asked them to.

Make the relationship a priority, not a leftover. Since this is more than likely something you are doing outside of the scope of your paying job, there might be a tendency to treat this like a personal friendship or a hobby — don’t do that. Treat this like a meeting with your boss who’s opinions should have significant impact on your reality. For starters, Show up ON TIME or EARLY! If you are unavoidably running behind, at least call. Next, get the appt. on your calendar as a ‘can’t miss’item; do not treat it as something that you will wipe out if some other meetings come up. Pay attention, this is your personal & professional development we are talking about, don’t let this become a third tier item. Also, bring at least one discussion item to the table each time for them to weigh in on. Don’t expect your mentor to lead every conversation; bounce stuff off of them that is important to your situation.

Don’t play games with reality. You aren’t ready to be mentored if you aren’t ready to be honest; about yourself, your situation, your work ethic, your morals, your finances, your family, your priorities, your ambitions —- ALL of it. There is no bigger waste of time on this earth than to trying to mentor a person who is blowing smoke about who they really are. Don’ bother meeting if you can’t be truthful about your reality. Mentors aren’t afraid of your reality, in fact they embrace it. Helping you move forward is why they are there.

Be ready for some pain. Once you have been honest, brace yourself for to hear things that no one else is telling you. Your gut reaction will be that “this guy is wrong and/or mean”. Not so. What is going to take place when you have found a good mentor are a series of questions, reality checks, performance penatrating observations and soul searches. After that, they will also tell you the truth in a way that likely no one has before. You want them to do this… trust me. If they didn’t do this you wouldn’t need them. If others were doing this, you wouldn’t need a mentor. Don’t shy away from what they need you to hear. Don’t flinch. Don’t whine about it to others. Take it. Think on it. Watch to see if what they tell you isn’t truer than you first thought.

Practice the advice you are given. Nothing up to this point matters if you don’t TRY THE PRACTICAL ADVICE that this person gives you. You might as well go talk to a therapist if you just need someone to talk to and are interested in hearing back some reflections. In fact, I will go so far as to say that you don’t need to meet a second time until you have practiced and tried some of the practical advice from your first meeting with them. Here is a  test of whether you have found a good mentor = they will give you some pratical things that you can implement into your life. Nice people are great, but far too many people operate in the land of ideas. You want someone who will practically help shape your life in the most important areas. When you find this person and the challenge you to do something, for goodness sake and the sake of their sanity, DO IT!

Invite feedback. You can practice this without mentors + this is a sure fire way to get what you really need to hear. Don’t just simple ask, “how am I doing?” but ask more detailed questions about specific performance related areas of your life. Let trusted people know that you want to grow, how your trying to grow, that their critique is welcome, and then don’t get defensive when it comes. For your mentor, invite them to ask follow up questions about the advice that they have given you (hopefully you have earnestly put it into action). Ask them follow up questions that get you more specific data on the areas where you know you need to grow. But, DON’T, DON’T, DON’T get defensive! You don’t need to win a mentor over because they are already on your side. So, when the feedback comes, listen, take notes, and then go at it again.

Pay for lunch, but nothing else. Professional coaches are helpful, but they’re also motivated by the money that you are sending their way. You know you have found your mentor (we will look at “qualities of a mentor” at some other time) when they are motivated by helping you grow – period. However, practice the old axiom, who ever has the agenda for the meeting ought to be the one buying the breakfast, coffee or lunch – so in this case, that means YOU!

Do you have what you need?

Do you have what you need in cycling and in leadership?

Yes, it is a basic question. One asked over and over again on the trail or on the road from one cyclist to another. It is a question of necessary assistance, not one of extravagant desire. This phrase typifies one of my favorite aspects of cycling, the goodwill that is available to all who are stranded with a flat, a broken chain, an injury or a broken spirit. Cyclists stop for other cyclists who are in need. This is a commonly understood and nearly universally applied.

How does it work?

If you are stranded, and another cyclist passes and asks if you have a need, you only ask for the basic thing that you might need. If you are the one who is riding with supplies, you are duty bound by community etiquette to offer assistance if you can… your ride is not more important than helping and your supplies, while purchased by you are not your own. You must pay-it-forward, because the more you cycle, the more you realize that one day it will come back to you.

Leadership should be this way also. As one leader works with or passes by another, why don’t we more often ask the question, “Do you have what you need?” And when we are in need and offered basic assistance, why aren’t more of us willing to accept help when it is offered? Why are we all too often stubborn or proud, wanting to tough it out on our own?

To be sure, there is a difference asking someone if they have all that they need versus asking them if they have all that they want. There is also a difference between asking others for what you need versus asking them for extras, things that would merely be helpful or nice, instead of focusing on what is necessary for the tasks at hand.

Not Every Skateboarder Is A Loser

But default thinking might lead you to believe that most kids who spend endless afternoons at the skate park are wasting away valuable time and have nothing but aimless futures in store for themselves. Every time I go to the park I see…

physical exertion
a hunger to acquire new skills

Perhaps the next and most important breakthroughs will be birthed by teens who are currently grinding away and pursuing excellence in the park?

A Hunger to Develop Leaders

My mind is boggled by the leaders who are unable to identify and develop the leadership hunger within their young employees. Leaders of any worthwhile effort want and NEED to surround themselves with more and more capable young / new leaders. Like in sports, only a very rare and small percentage of individuals have raw, latent talent so rich that they will rise to the top regardless of coaching, instruction and practice. Take note. If you crave more leaders, you and your organization must invest in developing them in their rawest state. The formula is this simple.

Have a desire to identify them.
Be willing to challenge and coach them.
Remain patient as they flounder.
Avoid being so rushed in your own duties that you fail to bring them along with you for critical moments of development.

I saw that craziest thing last week. An organization was offering a “how to” class to teach it’s employees something that would be far more succesfully taught in the field. The employees already had learned and seen the technical information associated with the task (they did all have at least B.A. degrees). What they really needed was hands-on experience, a leader willing to involve them in real life leadership opportunities. Instead, they were being stuck in a dark, boring room going over procedure and ‘how to’ information that won’t help them perform any better. The organization should not be surprised when these potential leaders A) fail or B) quit because of a lack of hands on, real life, in-the-trenches coaching being done by experienced and inspiring leaders within the org.

The Thrill Of The Challenge

I love competition. And even more, I love leaders who step up to a challenge.These are the kinds of people who say, 
“Push me!” 
“Go ahead, run your smack talk at me! I am going to prove I belong.”
“Notch it up just a bit I want to see if I can compete… to see if I can keep up.”

I love my friends who love a challenge. One guy rushes to the front of my mind. Time and time again, in multiple areas of his life, he has stepped up to new levels of excellence when we have confronted opportunities together. I have seen him rise to meet new challenges in his leadership, in his marriage, in his personal life, in athletics. It must be a thrill to him to discover new areas where he can grow. Deep down I can see he desires to be a better person. He’s hungry. He’s striving. He wants something more… so he works his ass off for it.

I have another friend who is as tough as nails. She is at least 5 years my senior (I don’t ask… because you know that isn’t a polite thing to do with women). I love to go running with her because she kicks my ass and she talks a bit of smack about it. She does this in multiple areas of her life. Some people might find her intimidating… I don’t know, I just think it’s awesome. This week I asked for a heavy dose of speed work at the track. I want to get faster and so she pushed the throttle down and challenged me to “go!” On my last lap she came alongside and paced me to a strong and demanding finish. It was fun. It was exhilarating. It was hard. And of course… it was rewarding!

Are you this kind of person? Are you looking for a challenge or are you backing away from opportunities? Do you lean into it when someone calls you out? How do you react when someone calls you to a next level of competitive excellence?

Put it out there! Let’s GO!

Why You Hate Tim Tebow

It is easy to hate optimism. It is even easier to hate a cheerful winner. Add in to the mix, “well, he’s not even that good”, and then you really need to hate Tim Tebow.

Sunday’s game was awesome! And yes, Tebow needs to be thankful that Marion Barber lost the game for the Bears. But as good as the game was, if you watched the post-game interview with Tim Tebow, you enjoyed the whole thing even more. Tebow’s smile was contagious. His appreciation for his entire team was authentic. His belief is unflappable (at least while he is winning). Why wouldn’t you want to have this guy as your teammate?

 Bottom line: Tim Tebow provides great drama and controversy AND he does it all from a positive perspective. His team rallies behind his leadership AND he wins. This is excellent leadership no matter your religious perspective.

* The hokey sort of Christians will make too much out ‘the message’ that they believe God wants to tell the world through Tim. Settle down. I am pretty sure God already sent the Messiah. #Christmas

Read the whole post game interview.
Consider Frank Bruni’s thoughts on Tebow’s optimism.

Occupy this you silly people

Try as I might, I can’t figure out the main point of “Occupy Wall Street“. It just so happened that I was there on the day the riots started and nearly 200 people were arrested.

In all my research these two videos best highlight what I think of the situation as an observer who actually is trying to understand this collective of odd individuals.  (exhibit #1exhibit #2)

Beyond the politics, the point and the methods, I can’t help having a strong opinion about the individuals who make up the majority of those spending day after day at the park. At best, a majority of the people in this crowd are aimless. They possess no obvious signs of the drive, ambition and the true grit that will be essential in bringing about the ‘change’ that they claim to so desperately want. Collectively they are excellent at looking so silly as to garner national and world wide media coverage.  Most days there are more media people covering the story then there are actual people who make of the ‘movement’.

Change has to come from more than words and media hype. Actual change comes from sacrifice, hard work, strategic relationships being formed, intellectual genius being applied. My hope is that this rag tag band of park occupiers will stop occupying the TV with their silliness and start occupying jobs, dreams, ambitions, hard work and a shower. Then they can occupy real leadership and then they can make some real change.