Under Construction

Under ConstructionUnder construction signs magnify to the world around them to be cautious because there is work being done – dangerous work. The phrase “Under Construction” is the time period that exists after a building’s construction starts through the time before a certificate of occupancy is granted. There are potential dangers around a construction site. From heavy and small equipment, that most people don’t know how to operate. To holes, and wood, hammers and nails. There is a lot of things going on around a construction site. Kinda like our lives. There is much going in us and around us. As leaders we have a responsibility for the safety of others – people who are “Under Construction.”

As I drove past a construction site early this morning I saw the connection between a construction site for building a new building and the construction site in the lives of people – leaders and the people we lead. We are all “Under Construction!” Can you see the analogy? Each of us, even the leader is “Under Construction.” Or at least we should be. None of us are a finished work, though we live as though we are. Not so! It can take a small crew or even a large crew of men and women to handle the arduos job of building a building. Beginning with clearing the land so that the work can begin, the actual laying of the foundation, to constructing the frame and hanging sheet rock, to the wiring of the building and setting in windows, laying carpet, getting a roof on and walking through all of the various inspections through to occupancy. Who are you allowing to touch the soil of your life and build?

I want to begin a series of post on the importance of growth and growing. On allowing others to help construct us and shape us into all that we need to become.

Like buildings, there is a purpose for our lives. As a leader, you must grow-up. You must allow others to use their expertise, much like a construction site employs various professionals to oversee and complete specific work, so that the building will pass inspection and we are able to occupy it. In my series, we as individuals will represent the building. We are the final product. As far as I know, I don’t believe a building has ever constructed itself without the help of lots of hands, a community. Yes, I am from the generation that still believes it takes a community to raise children. I also believe that behind every great leader are mentors and teachers and coaches and family members that represent the community that shape us into who we are. We have lost site of that, but maybe I will find a way to speak to that in this series of post. Here are some thoughts to consider as I begin to develop my post over the next several weeks:

1. We ALL need a strong foundation. Without it the building will falter and maybe even collapse.

2. We ALL need mentors, master crafts men and women to help shape us.

3. We ALL have an original blueprint and it is important to ensure we understand the design…

4. We ALL need to be healthy – internally and externally.

5. We ALL need to be inspected…really? Really!

6. We ALL have value – whose life are you adding value to as a leader?

7. We ALL influence, either for good or for not so good!

And there is more. These are some thoughts I have as I develop the idea that we are “Under Construction.” Be open to the possibility that I may be missing something. I look forward to your contribution! Feel free to share your ideas about my analogy. Or if you get it and you know there is an area you would like me to cover as I construct these posts, please share it in the comments. I am off to get my hands dirty shaping the lives I get to shape. More next week!

3 Reasons Leadership Advice is Useless…Or Not

Three Reasons Why Most Leadership Advice is Useless. That felt like a punch to my gut as I attempt to wax elegant about the value of Leadership Advice here at Leaders in Training. Maybe I am naive, even after all the years I have been leading, to think that maybe I can help someone else who finds themselves struggling to lead.

LeadershipIn an effort to be open to the possibility that I am wasting my time downloading my experience and sharing my “wisdom”, I thought I would write about the fact that Most Leadership Advice is Useless. 

Here are 3 Reasons Leadership Advice is Useless:

  1. Leadership advice is useless if wanna be leaders don’t consider that maybe they don’t know. Thereby ignoring advice or wisdom given by those who have been there and done that…Being loyal to your minds conclusion about any given situation both people related or project related is a good way to fail miserably as a leader.
  2. Leadership advice is useless if wanna be leaders don’t understand that ultimately they as the leader or potential leader must be willing to walk their journey. Advice is just that…advice. Advice is not a one-size fits all. Assess the advice, see what fits and take what you can but understand that every situation, project or person deserves a unique solution for their situation. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.
  3. Leadership advice is useless if the source of the advice is only regurjetating theory. Leadership is experiential. Theory is great for a lab or textbook, but at the end of the day, leadership is about getting your hands in the mix. I use my hands and feet when I am actively grooming potential leaders. I am not drawing from some theoretical approach. It is about what is happening right now in any given situation that they are facing.

These are my 3 Reasons Leadership Advice is Useless…or Not…Let me say one last thing on this topic…I Advicemay never be a Steve Jobs or John Maxwell for that matter. However, I do believe that mentoring and grooming is an important, vital responsibility for those of us who have life and leadership experience. I may never be the CEO of a large Fortune 500 Company, but one of my ducklings (this is a Darleneism), might just scale the odds and become great in this nation and even in the world. I have a responsibility to teach, train, groom, mentor and advise those in my sphere of influence that aspire to be a leader. Most leadership advice may be useless, but if I can say one thing to that one person who becomes the next great leader…I may be forgotten, but my influence will live on in the life of that great leader. Thereby leaving a legacy. If that is all I get for my efforts of coaching and developing the next generation of leaders and I am forgotten or obscure, I am okay with that.

I know there are probably more reasons why leadership advice is useless. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Leadership – The Strength of a Man

This man is larger than life. His expectations of those around him supersedes any lofty expectations we could ever have for ourselves and for our life. He is a father, a fisherman, a husband, a prophet, a teacher, a preacher, a friend, a workaholic, a mentor, a businessman, a builder, a bishop and a leader of leaders. I know I am missing some of the other things that describe him. To me, he is my spiritual father. I have attempted to make him my mentor, but that thought has been left behind and I embrace the father that he is to me.

Strength of a Man

Our paths intersected back in June of 2004, though I have been around since, January of that same year. Our paths, our first meeting was in June of 2004. I met with him and I knew I could learn from him after that first meeting. He is tough and has huge vision and expectations and I knew then I needed to be around him. I still need to be around him. Through a series of nudges from the Lord, in 2006 to be precise, I accepted that he was the father I needed in my life. I didn’t think I needed a father. My earthly father, the man that raised me was amazing in his own right and when he died in 1995, I was devastated. I have recovered and lived on with wonderful memories but I wasn’t looking for a replacement. So when God suggested this new father, a spiritual father, I was not readily open to the idea.

Back to him, this man embodies the qualities of a strong leader. Something we seem to have misplaced as a nation – strong leaders. We require very little from those we choose as leaders today. This man, this leader, my father, requires much from himself and those he leads. That’s the strength of this man. His accomplishments over the years are vast and include building a great church, maintaining his marriage of more than 40 years, building a women’s shelter, a men’s shelter, a food ministry that feeds thousands upon thousands of people. Building multiple buildings, rebuilding cars, 3 children that are successful in their own right, and multitudes of spiritual children that look to this man for guidance, and leadership – some on a daily basis.

One lesson of leadership I have learned from him over the years is that we should be a reflection of those that we are connected to. In other words, if he as my spiritual father is successful, then I should be successful too. One of my favorite sayings says, “successful people, model themselves after successful people.” I know that my spiritual father had great men around him and he was willing to submit himself and learn from those men. He is wise, he is a learner, a reader, a tinkerer, a teacher, a listener, a lover of God, a man of prayer, a man of worship, a man of God, and my spiritual father. These are the things – the strength of this man!

I am forever grateful that our life journey, in the economy of God, intersected now 10 years ago. I still have much to learn, but I know this, I can’t help but to be successful. By continuing to observe his life, learn the lessons he so freely teaches, and apply myself by working hard every day, I will be a builder too. Maybe not buildings or cars, but I will build the things, that God allows me to build – people. That is the strength of this man, this leader. He builds people. He calls himself a people mechanic. What a great moniker! He is still tinkering in my life. Yea!

Writing Challenge: Lost Love Letter

Hmmm, what is this? Oh my, it is a letter…but who uses snail mail these day? As I reach for the letter I see footprints, mud splotches and it looks like it may be torn. I am curious…someone took the time to write this letter and it is obviously lost. I peel back the pieces of the envelop that are left and there is one fold in this letter. A stale aroma of perfume wafts off the letter as I open it. There are incomplete sentences due to the tear, but the majority of the letter looks like it is still in tact.

Love LetterAugust 31, 2014

My Darling!

I enjoyed our time last night. The restaurant you selected…

I am amazed that you remember how much I love…

After all these year’s we’ve…

I spent hours preparing for our date night. Thinking of you and all that….

I love you so much! My passion for you is stronger than I really can put into…

I am forever yours! Just thinking about you makes my heart flutter! How can that be?

I pray you never stop loving me. I know I will never stop loving you!

All my love, your Darling!

This love letter is precious for the one who lost it. I wonder if there is anyway I can get it back to them….

How Long Do You Carry a Poor Performer?

What if you had a poor performer on your team? How long is too long to carry them on the team?

What If?One of my ducklings is leading a project. He has someone who is not performing and we are 2 weeks from the go live date on the project. As a mentor coach, I have recommended he remove the person from the project. The individual is not committed to performing at a high level (based on performance to date) and their poor performance will impact the project significantly. What would you do? How much longer would you attempt to coach this person through their obvious lack of commitment? Would you remove them? If so, how?

This post is a response to yesterday’s post, “What if you have a Poor Performer?” When you have someone who is not performing, it is critical that you handle the situation with some urgency. Too many leaders, including the one I am writing about today, make excuses and justifications for the poor performance of those they are leading. That is not good leadership.

When you are dealing with an issue, you must do something different. You must see the problem from a different perspective then maybe the perspective you were at when you made the decision to select this leader or when the project was assigned. Don’t expect that the problem will go away without your intervention. Without you making some hard decisions about the project and those who are handling the project, including and especially the project leaders. Here is one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein

“The significant problems we face today, can’t be solved at the same level we were at when we created them.”

Too many times Novices and Experienced Leaders alike will put off making the hard decision because they are afraid of hurting the person’s feelings. They are afraid the project can’t possibly go on without that individual. That is just not true. Ultimately, it is critical that you make leadership decisions that ensure the best result for the project and  the people or persons. And sometimes removing the person is the best result for both. Fear will kill your leadership. Being fearful to make a decision will put your leadership in question. Leaders make hard decisions. Period.

When success is in jeopardy, assess the situation, identify potential options and solutions and make a decision. Yes, there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. Yes, you should consider all the players, and the expected outcome of the project. But don’t let the project fail because you are afraid to remove a poor performer (project leader or otherwise). If you are two weeks out from the deliverable date on a project and the leader is the primary reason the project may not be successful – FIRE the leader and get someone else in there that can help the project be successful.

What If You Had a Poor Performer?

What If?What if you had a poor performer on your team? How long is too long to carry them on the team?

One of my ducklings is leading a project. He has someone who is not performing and we are 2 weeks from the go live date on the project. As a mentor coach, I have recommended he remove the person from the project. The individual is not committed to performing at a high level (based on performance to date) and their poor performance will impact the project significantly. What would you do? How much longer would you attempt to coach this person through their obvious lack of commitment? Would you remove them? If so, how?

I am looking for serious advice. I will add an aside tomorrow morning with my recommendations for novices and experienced leaders. Today I am looking for your input. Help me help my young leader. I look forward to your recommendations.

On A Personal Note: Listen to Learn

Larry King said, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” There is strength in learning to listen to the world around you. Too many times in my life I know I have been too busy moving about the cabin (that’s a Darleneism), to just enjoy my world.

Recently I made a change in my life and I am not working right now. I have been moving for about 6 and half years and I have learned in the last 6 weeks I have been home that I have missed a lot. I don’t have any regrets. I loved my job and the people I had the privilege to lead and support. But it felt like more than I could handle and as a result I walked away. Right or wrong, ultimately, I needed a change. I needed to see some things. I need to learn some things. I have stopped moving so fast. I seem to hear my thoughts a lot clearer than I have and I am enjoying just being…Listen to Learn

  • Being alive and writing again
  • Being a wife and a mom
  • Being a woman
  • Being a leader
  • Being a coach
  • Being…

What I have learned in the last 6 weeks is that there is still much for me to learn. I don’t know it all. Not that I ever thought that, but it is very easy to assume you know enough to live and move forward in your life. I am only scratching the surface of what I am suppose to be doing in my life. I am VERY clear about who I am and what I can offer to the world around me. I am clear that I am valuable and that there is much for me to continue to pour into others but I have also learned the importance of being a life-long learner. My mom actually demonstrates this every day of her life. I know I got that lesson, but sometimes in the busyness of life and living you forget.

As leaders it is critical that we learn from those around us. My students taught me something every day over the last 6 years. I know they did. The problem is that I am not sure I always embraced the lessons – the learning. ‘Be teachable’ is one of my values. In the quietness of my life today, as I have listened – to my thoughts, to my God, I know that I am embarking on a new journey, a new season. I have no idea where it will take me but I am up for the journey and look forward to the learning. It feels like I am stepping off a cliff with no apparent path or footing, but if I am right, the road will come and meet me as I step out and begin.

Novices and Experienced Leaders: Who is around you that you are learning from? I am not talking about your mentor(s). They are great and you should have one if you don’t. But who else do you listen and learn from? I am talking about the 2 year olds who are just discovering the world around them. What can you glean from the simplicity of a child? When is the last time you discovered something? Or, what about that employee who gets on your last nerve? What about your leadership team? Do you listen to them or do you have all the answers?

These are just a few people we can sometimes take for granted and miss what they are saying. Slow down and take in the scenery…LISTEN! Enjoy the quietness of the early morning. There is so much to hear in the quietness of a morning. But be careful not to allow your mind to be at work. Settle your thoughts and just experience what’s going on with the people around you. There are lessons waiting for each of us, every single day, if we will stop long enough to listen and embrace them.

Did you hear that? The bell just sounded and school…I mean life is in session! Enjoy!