Well, I had another one of “those” dreams again last night. Now and then I have one that clearly is sending me a message. Last night was one of those nights. I guess I should backup and explain what I mean. Or at least try. I’m not sure how many people out there get these things besides me. I have some other friends who have freaky intuition, but theirs comes to them much differently than mine does.
Some of my dreams make me realize that we are all connected in some non-physical way. There is an energy of sorts that binds the life force in our world. I don’t know what to call it, but if you are paying attention to it, it clearly is there. Some people may call it God, some people may call it our souls, some people I know would just call it rubbish and that I am delusional. It’s all open to interpretation but I couldn’t quite get this out of my head without writing about it today…
I don’t typically remember my dreams. I used to remember a lot more of them, but as I grow older they seem to fade away in the early morning light just like the fog on the marsh does. Now and then I wake up with a complete recollection, or if not that, then a realization that I had a vivid dream about someone that I haven’t seen or talked to in a while. These dreams are ones that make me contact that person that day. Something always seems not quite right in their world when they show up out of the blue to me. In a lot of ways I hate those dreams. I’ve had a dream about a distant friend only to find out that he had just had surgery the day before. I’ve also had a dream in the early morning on the anniversary of the death of someone very close to someone else. These are just a few of many examples.
The most vivid dream I ever had involved my late husband’s grandmother. She was riding one of those motorized scooters in a field of blue flowers. Funny thing is that she never had a scooter. She was laughing and smiling and turned to me and said “don’t worry about me, I’ll be just fine!” My husband and I found out the next day that she had a stroke and had passed away. Jaw drop. I have no idea why she picked me of all people to visit, but maybe I just happened to be the person most open to the message that night. I never mourned grandma, because she told me that she was just fine!
Last night Jim came to me in a dream. He’s been in my dreams before, but they’ve always been the echo of my brain trying to process his time in the hospital. In those dreams it was him, but it wasn’t him. Hard to explain, but the person “he” was never was in those dreams, it was more like a replica that looked sort of like him. Last night was different. In my dream I was looking for him, and when I found him, he looked like he used to look when he was healthy and fit – and not like a cancer patient. He turned to me and said “You don’t need to look for me. I’ll always be right here with you.” The words aren’t quite right, but the feeling I received was one of pure love and support. I guess I always knew that, because he’ll always be in my heart no matter how my life changes as I move on. He’s been gone nearly six months now and I am looking more and more toward my future. I think that this dream means that he’s happy to see that and that he’ll be watching out for me.
I always find it extraordinary when I meet someone who is overwhelmed by passion for their favorite interest or sport. I’ve always been sort of scatter brained in this regard. I’m interested in a lot of things, but I never really go whole hog on any one thing.
A while ago I was looking for a place to donate some old mountain bikes so that they didn’t end up in the landfill. I decided to contact Cape Fear SORBA (Southern Off Road Biking Association) that is based in the Wilmington area. I was contacted by their communications director and we struck up an e-mail and text message conversation about mountain biking and he also put me in contact with a cool charity that does bike repair clinics for kids in poor neighborhoods.
Not only that, Don managed to convince me to get back on my mountain bike. Since I was not familiar with any of the trails in this area he said that he would give me a tour of Brunswick Nature Park. I’ve never had anyone offer to give me a personal tour of new trails (to me) and I thought that was really nice of him. He said that was one of the things that he enjoys doing most in his role in communications.
On Labor Day Don and I rode the entire trail system at Brunswick Nature Park, chatting the entire way. I did ok – considering I haven’t been on a bike in 2 years and haven’t been on single track in much much longer. I made all of the climbs and I didn’t hit any trees or take any falls. Whew! After our morning together on the trail I totally get why he is known as The Trail Mayor. That is exactly what he is! He is so passionate about mountain biking and sharing his knowledge of the local trail system that he took time out on a holiday that he could have spent with his family and went out biking with me. I continue to be amazed by the people that I meet on my journey through life. AWESOME!
I had a delightful week catching up with some of my friends. One of them was a very old friend that I haven’t heard from in over 20 years, the other was a new one that I met at my last full-time gig. The former found my blog and sent me a message, the latter I invited to lunch since she was going to be in town. There really isn’t much that I enjoy more than connecting with someone that I haven’t had a chance to talk to in a while. The extraordinary thing is that in both cases the more that we talked, the more that we found in common with one another.
All I have to say here is –
Has the busy-ness of your life caused you to lose touch with someone that you remember fondly? Is there someone that you’ve been thinking about recently – wondering how they are doing? Contact them! Just do it. It will be worth it.
If there are any more lurkers out there reading my blog that are old friends – shoot me a line, I’d love to catch up.
Today I am going to do something that I’ve totally shied away from while I’ve been looking for a job. I’m going to write about an interview that I had this week. Yes, really. Part of my brain is still screaming “NOOOO don’t do it!”, but I’m going to override that. Hopefully that’s not a bad idea, but here goes.
First off, this is a position that I really, really want. Since I’ve been interviewing it is one of only a very few that I have been very excited about. This isn’t pretend excited, this is chomping at the bit to get started excited. I was beginning to wonder if such a job exists or not… well, it does.
The reason for this post is because I learned something completely new and different. I’ve done a lot of interviewing. I mean a LOT. I’ve probably personally interviewed well over 100 people. I’ve asked technical questions, I’ve asked behavioral question, I’ve made people really squirm. On the other side of the interview table, I’ve learned to answer questions with stories about my past rather than general feel good statements. This week I learned an interview technique that applies extremely well when you are interviewing for a role that has many different interpretations. Ask the interviewee to present what the role means to them in 10 minutes or less. SO Simple. Duh! I should have thought of this!
Actually, it’s a little more than that:
- Describe what you think that this role is
- Describe how you’d approach this particular role in this company
- Describe what makes you uniquely qualified for this role
So simple. But yet, so effective. I put together 8 slides and presented them to a panel of interviewers who then asked me questions about my background and my presentation. It was a quick, effective way to get to understand how a person would approach a job. I’m going to remember this for when I am interviewing to fill positions again.
So, you’re probably wondering… how did my interview go? I’m cautiously optimistic. My one regret is that I wasn’t able to sit down with everyone individually. It is much harder for me to make a connection with people when I am talking to a roomful. I don’t know how much that hurt me.
Unlike a lot of folks, I’ve never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I typically address issues as I go throughout the year – it’s easier that way – at least it is for me. I’d rather quietly make small changes in my life on an ongoing basis than try to do a big bang, make a lot of noise and fail. Besides, I already eat pretty well, I work out 5-6 times a week, and I floss my teeth regularly. After about 10 years of effort to make many small changes in these areas I’ve got most of the typical resolutions covered.
However, that strategy isn’t a lot of fun to blog about this time of year. BORING. There is one new thing that I have been working on lately – I started it the week after Christmas and I found that it is helping me get more focused on the things that I want to do with my life going forward. I’ve decided to make a list of my 100 dreams. You might call it a bucket list, but I’d rather be more positive than that. As I cross items off the list I plan to add new items to it. These are things big and small that I want to accomplish in my life. The big ones were easy. I want to be financially secure, I want to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, I want to climb Machu Picchu, and I want to run a successful company. These are things that will take time and a bit of planning. Just putting them on the list gives me permission to start the investigative phase. How? When? Where? What skills and resources (time, people, money, equipment) do I need to collect first?
I’ve come up with 31 out of 100 so far, and I am turning over rocks for some of the smaller ones. Some of the smaller ones are subgoals of the large ones. Some are just things that I want to be able to do. I’d like to be able to deadlift 200lbs. I’m probably not that far off on that one, just been lazy. I need to learn how to roll my kayak at some point. I would like to have a successful vegetable garden – so far I’ve had dismal failures. This time my plan includes getting my soil tested by the agricultural division at NC State.
From a blogging perspective I have a lot of ideas. The biggest thing that I plan to do is to get more involved with other bloggers. I’ve signed up on blogher (women bloggers), I’ve guest blogged for The Mad Peacock Perfection is the Enemy of Good Enough. Very exciting – my first guest blog!
I’m also putting out a request for guest bloggers on my site. Do you have something that you want to say about leadership?
Today I’m going to defer to a terrific paper I found on organizational trust from the DDI group.
“How do you promote open communication with employees to gain trust? Here are five easily adaptable behaviors:
- Be positive.
- Seek others’ ideas.
- Don’t shoot the messenger.
Each of these behaviors helps to build bonds of trust between leaders and employees.”
Click to see the full monograph.
See you on the other side in 2010 – Happy New Year!
I thought that a great way to finish out the year would be to talk about my top 10 really important things in more detail. Today I’m going to hit on transparency. Some of the key concepts required to be a transparent leadership team include the following:
- Regular, consistent dissemination of information. Create a schedule of all hands or team meetings and stick to it! This needs to be done in good times as well as in bad. One of the worst things a management team can do is disappear when times get tough.
- Share the good news as well as the bad. It’s ok, people can take it, especially if you hire “grownups” and treat them that way. Don’t overhype the good news and don’t spin or omit the bad news. People are smart and they will see right through your attempt to obfuscate the truth.
- Clearly articulate what is confidential. There’s two points here. The first is to make sure people know what part of the information that you are sharing must not be repeated outside the walls of the company. The second is to trust the team enough to actually share that confidential information with them. Giving people your trust in a straightforward manner almost guarantees that they will not break it.
- Be willing to address less than positive feedback. There are times when leaders do things that don’t seem to make sense to the rank and file. Sometimes these things make everyone’s job tougher and can hurt morale. Make sure to address why painful decisions have been made. Talk about the alternatives and how the leadership team came to the decision. Just understanding why a decision was made will lead to a much greater acceptance of it.
- Let people share their accomplishments. It is wonderful to have a team member be able to demonstrate or talk about a significant achievement that has occurred. This is a morale booster across the entire organization. For example – demo new product capabilities, talk about a new marketing campaign, share a story about closing a major customer. Knowing that the company recognizes and appreciates these milestones is key.
For more reading about transparency see Transparency and Open Communication by Beth Steinberg on Rypple. Beth and I worked together a few years back and she’s got some great thoughts on leadership.
Continuing on my book review binge – today I’ll talk about “The Inspiring Leader” by Zenger & Folkman. This is a followup book to their Extraordinary Leader tome that I recently read. I have to say that I was a little bit disappointed by this book. On the whole, it wasn’t bad, but it was very predictable. There was really nothing in it that made me go “AH HA! That’s the key!” I found it to all be common sense and many of the studies and literature that they referenced were things that I have already read. I do think that this book has value, especially for someone who hasn’t been in the management trenches for a long time or for someone who really isn’t big on reading management theory or self-help books in this area. It’s a good concise read that gathers a lot of loose ends together.
I do think that one thing really bears repeating. Extensive studies show that positive communication is critical to high performing teams. As in marriages, the ratio of positive comments (approval, praise, support, compliments etc) to negative ones was one of the highest predictors of success or failure for a team effort. The best performing teams received positive-negative feedback in a 5-1 ratio. The worst performing teams received 1 positive for every 3 negative comments. As a leader you have a lot of control over that. You set the stage. You are the role model that the team follows.
Have you ever worked for a leader who was critical of everything that you did? I have. That sure didn’t make me want to work harder because it really didn’t matter what I did, it was wrong, bad, not good enough. Maybe I am a little sensitive, but it made me want to curl up into a ball and go into protective/defensive mode. On the other hand, when I had a leader who recognized the difficult things that I did, or pointed out specific – very concrete – behaviors and accomplishments that they appreciated I would double my effort to help them be successful.
Another thing that I thought was valuable and too infrequently used is leader visibility. If you want to drive certain behaviors in your company you need to walk the talk and you need people to see that you do that. There should be no double standards for you versus them. Hold all hands meetings and be transparent to your employees. Allow them to interact with you and answer the tough questions honestly, don’t dance around issues. Practice management by walking around. Talk to your employees, show and interest in what they are doing, ask how they are. If your organization is divided across multiple locations – visit – FREQUENTLY. Out of sight = out of mind. A visit from a leader can have a strong positive motivational impact. Of course this depends highly on the leader’s behavior while in the remote office. Even though you are the leader, you are still a guest in that office. Show up on time based on the local conventions – do not force the entire office to bend to your whims and time frames when you are there. Be a true role model.
“The ability to make a person feel that, when you’re with that person, he or she is the most important (and the only) person in the room is that skill that separates the great from the near-great.” from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
I have to say that this quote is what really made an impression on me in this book. I can see so many applications of this in my day to day life – both at work and in my personal life. For the curious – the workplace habit to break in this instance is Habit #16 – Not Listening.
I think that many people are attentive only when they think it is in their best interest. Who wouldn’t pay close attention to the CEO or to a key interviewer? The power of a conversational partner will make a lot of people turn up their skills a notch. I think what is really impressive is when someone does that regardless of who they are talking to. This is clearly a way to make everyone, from a receptionist, to a new hire, to a difficult customer feel valued and respected.
A key aspect of this skill is the ability to focus and really hear what a person is saying. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes reading the non-verbal is much more important because it will provide clues to what the person is really thinking.
This level of focus can be very difficult. Most of us have a running dialogue in our heads – formulating what our response will be. Many times we are concentrating so hard on what we should say next that we stop listening to the other person. Other times we are worried about something else entirely and we just want the conversation to end quickly. I don’t know about you, but I can tell if someone is not really listening to me. It doesn’t encourage me to continue sharing information.
The next time you’re talking to someone try this. Ask a question – and really listen to their answer. It might surprise you. Stay engaged.
On the whole – I enjoyed this book. I was surprised by how much the author suggested that to become more successful as a leader that you need to talk less and listen more. I tend to agree.