Reflecting on the Legacy of Sen John McCain

“We are taught to understand, correctly, that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears.” – Sen John McCain

“I don’t mind a good fight. For reasons known only to God, I’ve had quite a few tough ones in my life. But I learned an important lesson along the way: In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.” – Sen John McCain

When Sen John McCain passed away last week from brain cancer, our country lost a national treasure.  There is simply no other way to put it.  There are few men or women in our time who have made the impact that Sen McCain had on our country.  Courage, compassion, respect, integrity – all of these are words that are often used when describing Sen McCain.

So if you will allow me, I would like to dedicate this leadership blog to John McCain, pay respects to the qualities that made him such a great leader, and offer parallels on how we can live our lives in the spirit John showed in his own.

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Are You Set Up For Success Tomorrow?

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

Several years ago when I was working as an executive at a large national technology staffing provider, we undertook a project to find the silver bullet for evaluating and hiring the best sales and recruiter staff members. We had developed a culture of performance, and up and down the leadership ranks we were obsessed with hiring the best talent we could find.

In our business – like so many others – hiring the right talent made all the difference whether your company would outperform the competition. That meant you had to hire sales resource who could consistently find, qualify, propose, and close profitable business day in and day out. You also had to hire recruiters who understood the technical market, could source and qualify top talent, match them well to our clients’ needs and culture, and bridge the expectation gaps often created around compensation.

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A Servant Mentality…

“The happiest people are those who care more about the happiness of others.” – Father Manuel La Rosa Lopez

“Before you are a leader, success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” – Jack Welch

What in the world do these two quotes have to do with each other? One is a clear reference to a personal state of mind, while the other is a reference to a professional mindset. Two completely different topics, so why try and blend them into one message?

In truth, they are exact mirrors of each other. Let me explain…

First, let’s examine the quote on happiness. My daughter recently graduated from high school and was fortunate to be awarded one of the Ronald McDonald House Charity academic achievement scholarships. To recognize the recipients the Houston chapter of the Ronald McDonald House held an awards breakfast in late May of this year. As part of this event, they brought in several speakers to share wisdom on both the importance of education and the necessity of hard work and effort in achieving long term success. Continue reading

If You Plant Corn, Corn Will Grow

“If you plant corn, corn will grow” – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching

I ran across this quote a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. I did a little research to find out the source and underlying meaning, only to discover its tie to Buddhism. I have always appreciated the teaching of Buddha, largely given its context of the internal reflection and conflict we must overcome to gain both enlightenment and fulfillment in our existence. This isn’t an article on Buddhism, but the connection is helpful.

I love this quote because of its profound simplicity. “If you plant corn, corn will grow”. Sounds like something you would hear on a Hotels.com commercial from Captain Obvious, right? But its meaning is deeper than what you see on the surface. Perhaps similar to the verses in the Bible – “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians) and “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”. The connection with corn, or farming as is referenced in the bible, is a simple yet effective metaphor to illustrate the long term effect of near term actions. Continue reading

What your Ch’i says about you…

“Your energy introduces you even before you speak”

[Unknown]

Recently I was visiting one of my branch operations when a team member made an interesting comment to me.  “Are you OK?” she asked.  “Yes, why?” I responded.  “Because I’m sensing a vibe with you right now that suggests otherwise”.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  A vibe?  What kind of a vibe?  What in the world was she talking about?  Heck, I came in to the office clean shaven and sharply dressed.  I was composed, professional – like I always am.  And I didn’t think I had any type of scowl or frown on my face.

And yet she sensed a vibe.  She sensed a negative energy that stood out clearly in me.  My energy introduced me well before I even spoke a word.  And had I not been given the feedback or a chance to reframe, I would have left a completely different impression than the one I hoped to leave with my fellow team members.

So when I saw this quote pinned to the branch leader’s wall in this very same office, I had to take note and reflect on its importance.

“Your energy introduces you even before you speak…

In the study of martial arts, many of the disciplines emanating from the Asian continent speak of a term called “ch’i”.  Ch’I (or qi) is described as an individuals “life force”.  Other ancient cultures have a similar concept – “ki” in Japanese, “prana” in India, and “Great Spirit” in Native America.  It is an energy within us that differentiates a corpse from a living body.  This energy de and is as real as the physical bones and muscles we can touch and feel.

What these cultures also believe is that this energy can be channeled to create a healthy mind and body, or if left unmanaged, can lead to unhealthy outcomes.  The ancients believed so fiercely in this that many rituals and practices were tailored to nurture and channel ones Ch’i.

You have no doubt seen examples of small framed men and women with less than impressive physiques breaking boards, bricks, or other hard surfaces with their bare hands – and left with no damage to their bones or muscles.  They achieve these feats by channeling their Ch’i – their life energy.

Now, this is not a message designed to encourage you all to become martial artists.  Rather, the reference is designed to help illustrate both the importance and power of the energy we all carry in us.  Our life force.

In leadership, and in our own pursuit for personal success, this same energy can be used.  It can be channeled and controlled as long as we have an awareness of its existence and a willingness to feed it.  And as they say, what goes in, must come out.  Positive energy channeled within exudes positive vibes to others.  No doubt you have heard the term “he/she lights up a room”.  How?  Well, in many respects, its their energy level.  Its their output.  Their energy introduces them before they speak.

So, what does your energy say?

Purpose Matters in Business

“Lean in to Purpose”  – Jonathan Mildenhall

I was recently at a conference where Jonathan Mildenhall was a key note speaker. For those of you who don’t know Jonathan (and I don’t expect you to), he was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Coca Cola and is now the Chief Marketing Officer at AirBnB. His marketing pedigree is not the topic of this message, but his passion for building “purpose driven companies” is.

His presentation was fantastic. In fact, as he took us through a journey of his career and some of the hallmark marketing campaigns he has overseen with Coca Cola and AirBnB, you could clearly see the impact that purpose has on those two organizations. And its not that these two companies are charities – far from that. But their commitment to purpose helped drive both to notable growth and brand success. Consider the following elements of Purpose from each of these companies:

• Coca Cola: To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
• AirBnB: Creating real connections/friendships between likeminded people

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Actions Speak More Loudly Than Words

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about that quote for a moment – “What you do speaks SO LOUDLY I cannot hear what you say”. Simple yet prophetic. Truer words have never been spoken.

While researching quotes specifically for this leadership message, I thumbed through dozens, but this one struck a chord. An artist with a pen, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a master at communicating thought. A poet, lecturer, and essayist – his writings often centered around key ideas such as individuality, self-determination, self-reliance, and the capacity of the individual.

That’s why this quote caught my eye. I, too, believe in the capacity of the individual & our ability to achieve great things, when we put our mind to it. I believe both in the importance of self-determination and self-reliance. But, I also believe in something more – our ability to influence the action and behavior of others (both positively and negatively), and the significant responsibility it accompanies. Continue reading

No Substitute for Hard Work

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi

I’ve been pondering this message for some time – writing about the importance of hard work. It seems so cliché these days to write about the obvious benefits of hard work – and even more cliché to start a leadership blog with such well-used quotes as those from Vince Lombardi. What’s more, I’ve worried about whether my message will offend those who might interpret this message as an affront to their work ethic.

But this message is important. It’s time to put the softer elements of leadership aside and speak to the heart of the matter – and quite simply it is this…most people don’t put forth the effort that is truly required to be successful in their life pursuits. Whether that’s at work, with family, with friendships, or in our hobbies, too many of us think that we can shortcut that process and still succeed.

Newsflash! Nothing in life comes easy. More importantly, nothing in life is worth having if it isn’t earned. “No pain, no gain” – isn’t that how the saying goes? Why then do so many people long for success (professional, financial, etc) but fail to put in the effort required for that achievement? Continue reading