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If you’re like me, you always have more to do than you can get done. This means some things lose. How we deal with situation makes a difference; specifically, our language makes a difference. We can either say, “I just don’t have time,” or we can be truthful and say, “It’s not a priority.”

Saying the latter reinforces that we have a choice. We are in control, for the most part, of how we spend our time. However, we often say we’re not by using the former line. We are avoiding responsibility, but by doing so we also ignore the power we have over our own circumstances.

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Seth Godin contrasted two views with regards to marketing: behaviorists vs. empathists. While he wrote about it from a marketing perspective, it’s also true with respect to leadership. 

I’ve seen folks who have tried to lead purely by numbers. Numbers may tell you what folks will do the majority of the time. But they won’t tell you what one particular person may do in a situation. That’s where empathy comes in. 

Numbers help, but they aren’t enough. If you’re a leader, you have to relate well to people. You have to get to know them well enough to be able to determine what they are likely to do. This is an investment in time. Some folks don’t want to make this investment. However, I don’t think you can lead without it. 

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Most of us spend a lot of our life at our work desks, whether they be located in an office building or a home office. Simple personalization can make a difference in how we feel. 


I enjoy candles. I have a lot of candles at home that I burn, especially when I am looking to destress. My work doesn’t permit lit candles for obvious reasons. However, the electronic candles serve the same purpose and are permitted. Therefore, I went out and bought these small electronic candles and have them scattered about my desk. 

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From Ken Blanchard:


I know that an immediate “attaboy” has an amazing impact on children and youth. It works well on most adults, myself included. Catching people doing the right things and encouraging them to continue to do so tends to be effective, and in my own experience, more effective than disciplining when someone does something wrong. 

I learned this lesson through the leadership laboratory known as The Citadel, and saw how effective the rank holders were who could quietly praise versus those who only yelled. 

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I firmly believe that leaders can be made. So does every branch of the United States Armed Forces. That’s why there are leadership schools at every major level, both for enlisted and officers. Some would say that people are born leaders and that’s it. In those cases, we’re not talking about leadership, but charisma. They aren’t the same thing. But to play along with that point of view, if leadership can’t be taught, if one is born a leader, then what’s the point of leadership training? And what about all the evidence which shows that leadership can be learned?

The problem is that if one believes that leaders can be made, that means they must be… trained. Too often I’ve seen new leaders fail and end up discouraged. This is true whether we’re talking the military, the civilian workforce, as part of a non-profit, or in a religious institution. However, in the majority of cases I’ve concluded that it isn’t the new leader who is responsible for failing. The new leader was set up to fail. In this series of five posts (including this introduction), I’m going to look at what I think is necessary to build new leaders.

In covering four things I think are often missing, I think you’ll agree with me that without these four things, the new leader is being set up to fail. Therefore, the responsibility and accountability are on those who don’t provide these things for the new leader. To use an analogy, if my child has just started algebra and then I give him the final exam for the class and he fails it, who is at fault? Is it my child, who was never prepared for the course in the first place? Or is it me, the one who put my child in that situation without proper preparation and the necessary tools? When I see new leaders fail, it’s because the people who put them in their new positions did so without the needed training and without the required support to help that new leader be successful.

Tomorrow we’ll start off with Preparatory Training, something the military teaches through organized schools like Airman Leadership School and Squadron Officers School, to name two within the US Air Force pipeline.

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I was in a state where day-to-day life had lost its luster. Family and work were fine. I have an awesome family whom I love immensely. My co-workers are a great group of folks that I like to be around and there are plenty of challenges to keep us interested and engaged. So what was wrong?

After taking inventory of what could be causing this malaise, I realized I was missing creativity. I wasn’t writing as much. I wasn’t dreaming and crafting and designing hardly at all. Outside of work, I wasn’t hanging around primarily creative folks, either. Even at work, most folks I deal with are engineers and primarily analytical people. Nothing wrong with that, except I was missing the high creative side. 

I’ve always been a creative person. I wrote poems and plays before I ever became interested in computers or science. When I was introduced to role-playing games at the ripe old age of six years-old, I was hooked. More stories!

But I hadn’t been involved in many activities like these recently. I was starting to play Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar. However, I rushed through the building of models and getting enough paint on them to meet the “3 colors rule” that you sometimes hear about and get some models on the board. So this wasn’t doing it on the creativity side. 

Then I slowed down. I needed to be more creative. I began taking greater care with my painting, intentionally working on my skills. This figure is where I was about a month ago, about 5 months after my self-search. There’s still a lot wrong with it, but it represents progress. 

Maybe you aren’t missing creativity but there’s something else that is absent. Take the time to take a self-inventory. Think about what you’re doing now. Think about the kinds of things you were doing when life felt more “right.” What’s missing? What are you not doing now that you were doing then? And what will it take to get back to something similar?

For me it’s a bit of cash for the right supplies and setting aside the time. Also, it is about setting goals. This model represents the first time I ever built a custom base. Those foundation rocks that look sort of like slate are actually cork board. Again, there’s a lot wrong, but it’s a start. Each time I intentionally invest, I learn and improve. What will you need to do to regain the luster?

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I’ve written before about the value I’ve found in writing thank you notes to folks, especially when I am in the habit of doing so daily. For this new year, I took this a step further: I wrote a note to each of my immediate teammates. In each note I put something personal, I told them how much I appreciated working with them, and I included that I was hoping for a great 2017 for them personally. 

What led me to do this was seeing a few comics which indicated how people dreaded coming back to work after the holidays. Comics tap into what people identify with. Logically, that meant at least some of my co-workers feel the same way. I wanted to do something to lift them up with the start of the new year, to let them know that their contributions mattered to me as a teammate and that they weren’t just “a cog in the system.” A positive attitude tends to be contagious. I want my co-workers thinking positively about what we do and who we work with because I want those things for myself.

Hopefully I’ve accomplished that. I enjoy my co-workers but I probably don’t tell them that enough. I spend a lot of time around them and they contribute heavily to my happiness and well-being. I want to do the same in return for them, hence the notes. You might give it a try. It doesn’t take a lot of time. 

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