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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. 

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.

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?

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. 

I hadn’t gone out with a friend in longer than I could remember. When opportunities presented themselves, I always had a reason to beg out. Some was due to my health. But mostly it was me avoiding people. I had this realization over Thanksgiving. 

In Japan, it’s a stereotype: folks who shut themselves away from society as much as possible and have no human contact except through electronic means. I was becoming that stereotype. I have seen such examples in real life and realized I was on my way. I don’t want that. 

As a result, I’ve decided that it is time to rebuild and strengthen relationships. I’m extremely introverted and shy on top of that (they aren’t the same thing). This is going to be hard. But I don’t want to look back 5 years from now and realize I don’t have anyone I could call, anyone I could hang out with, anyone outside of my immediate family I could have drop in and say hi. 

If you’re anything like me, consider the long term cost of isolation. Regardless of how valid the reason is for your separation, it’s often not worth it. I know there are always exceptions, but those are rare in this case. I hope in this new year you’ll make an earnest effort to reconnect, to strengthten relationships, to build ties and bonds with others again. Even if you don’t have a problem connecting with folks, try to make those friendships deeper. Build, build, build. We need each other. 

I know I’ve written about this before, but this is as much a reminder to me as it is a post to anyone who might be reading.

I used to be in the habit of writing a thank you note to someone each day. I have gotten out of that habit, but I’m restarting this simple gesture. Each day in our lives people help us. Sometimes the help we receive is big and sometimes it’s small. However, we do receive help. It’s good to acknowledge when people make a positive difference in our lives.

I found that when I wrote thank you notes, I would often receive an email or the person would stop by to tell me how much that thank you note meant. A couple of times I had the person’s supervisor come by and say something about how that note brightened the person’s day. The reality is that most folks don’t feel appreciated like they should. A simple note let’s them know that they are thought of and that their contributions make a difference.

With the Thanksgiving holiday behind us here in the United States and the Christmas season approaching, would you consider making this a habit as well? While the holiday season can be a happy time, it can also be a sad one for a myriad of reasons. Your note might make an important difference in a person’s life by reminding them that they matter, that they are thought of, and that there is a reason to smile and laugh. 

I would be neglectful if I didn’t point out that we do feel good when we do something nice for someone else. There is that intrinsic reward, even if we don’t hear directly from the person we’ve helped. So not only will you be brightening their day, but yours as well. Also, the process of deciding who to write a thank you note to will likely stir memories and recollections of when people have done you a kind deed. So not only will you feel good about the deed you’re doing, but you’ll also be warmed by the memory of deeds folks have done for you.