Dear Cam,

Dear Cameron,

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 22: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers drops back to pass during their game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The purpose of my letter is to give you some feedback. Albeit, you didn’t ask me for it but I still feel compelled to speak up and to write this letter. Your team lost the Super Bowl on Sunday night. It wasn’t all about you, though you are a huge component to the team. And your performance as the quarterback can make or break a game. Your performance matters both on and off the field. Which leads me to my letter….

The loss on Sunday was a defining moment for your team and for you as a leader. How you handle the loss will follow you for the rest of your life. Losing hurts, PERIOD. There is no way around the mental gymnastics we play in our heads when we lose. The embarrassment, the frustration we feel, the second guessing, and the list goes on. I am glad you don’t like losing but you better figure out how to lose, because more lost games among other things are headed your way. You failed the test on Sunday at the press conference!

“When winning and losing affect you the same way, you will know you are beginning to mature.” The fact that you can’t figure out how to be civil with the media speaks volumes about you, not your team…you. The problem is you represent your team. Your immaturity is overshadowing the lost game. That is foolishness.

There is a reason your team lost the game. Denver’s defense played extremely well. Denver did their homework on the Panthers… Beyond the technical X’s and O’s, your team lost and each of you, you and your teammates have lessons to take away, individually and collectively. Grab the lessons, and reset, and begin again. The work begins today towards getting yourself back in contention to win the Super Bowl again. Acting like a spoiled brat doesn’t serve anyone. Especially you.

I am not a fan of the North Carolina Panthers but you sure had an opportunity to win me over this week. I watched the game on Sunday. I was cheering for your team with a bunch of young men who were die hard fans. They were very disappointed in the loss. What are you teaching those young men about how to handle themselves in the face of loss? What are you teaching the young ones who want to immulate you? Who want to be Cam Newton when they grow up? I would tell them to find another role model. So far you have failed as a role model. That matters!

You made it to the big game, the world stage…over 112 million viewers were watching. Many are still watching. You are a leader in training. You needed to lose the game on Sunday. Your behavior since then confirms that. You are not ready to win. Is it too late for you to redeem yourself? Absolutely not! You are a winner! Getting to the Super Bowl proves that. The fact that you don’t know how to lose will define you unless you figure out how to win or lose with grace. Neither of them should move you to the point where you can’t be civil, polite, and gracious in the face of losing.

“I have won, I have lost, I got it right sometimes and sometimes, I did not, life is a journey, I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret…” 

We all have lost. Maybe we haven’t all had public losses on the same scale as the Super Bowl but losing is losing. I dare you to rewrite the script. The lost game on Sunday doesn’t have to define the rest of your life. But you have to make an adjustment. You get to…if you plan to continue to play on the big stage of the NFL. Somebody raised you better. Your coaches taught you better. You know better! Get it together and move forward! I look forward to watching your journey!

Sincerely,

Darlene Marshall

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What If…They Don’t Like Me?

What If…They Don’t Like Me? So many would-be leaders struggle with this question of how people feel about them as leaders. “What if they don’t like you? Is that so bad?”

Before I get into the meat of what I want to say on this topic, let me give one disclaimer – I believe that the principle of liking is critical to the success of leaders. In other words, people do business with people they like (that’s the principle of liking according to Robert Cialdini). Consider this statement about the Principle of Liking I found at Influence People, “actually, it may surprise you to learn that the key to the liking principle isn’t so much about getting others to like us; it’s really about us coming to like them. Too often people are concerned with doing whatever it takes to get people to like them, failing to realize if they genuinely like the person they’re with, that person will sense it and naturally reciprocate.”

As a leader it is important that you are likeable, but getting them to like you or worrying about whether they like you is a waste of time. If you genuinely care about people, they will know it, even if they don’t like what you are doing or saying in a given moment or within the scope of a project. That being said, “What if they don’t like you?”

If as a leader you are moved or immobilized by what you think people think about you…you are dead in the water before you even get started. If your leadership is contingent upon them, and what you think they are thinking about you, they are leading – not you – and that’s not leadership.

What If…They Don’t Like Me? This question has nothing to do with leadership. It has nothing to do with results and accomplishing the tasks you may be working towards. Whether they like you or not, if you are the leader, you’re responsibility is to lead. You are not leading them to win a popularity contest. You are not leading to win their love and affection. If you are a leader, you will be leading with confidence, vision and purpose. You will inspire others and they will want to follow you. Your leadership should transform people and processes. Leadership is about influence and impact. And strong leaders have both qualities. It’s not about whether people like you…

For Novices & Seasoned Leaders: The question, “What If…They Don’t Like Me?” is birthed out of selfishness. It’s really not about the people…it’s about you looking at you. Stop and think about that for a moment. It might be a hard pill to swallow, but the fact remains, that when you ask this question, or you allow this question to swirl around your head when you should be leading people, you are being selfish. And leadership is not about you, it’s about the people who are suppose to be following you.

The Value of New Seasons

I wonder how many leaders just lead. Every day, day in and day out without a thought about the season they may or may not be in. Good leaders have vision, strategy, goals, accomplishments, failures and the beat goes on. But…one day in the middle of life, living and leading something happens and they are forced to stop the madness…

Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall

When life happens and you are forced to stop, it’s probably an opportunity to reassess and begin to embrace a new season. That’s my current status. I am laying on my back as I write this blog post. I was living my life and then I jumped up and in a moment – with a pop – my world has seemingly shifted and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have entered a new season. A season of introspection, a season of evaluation, a season of transition, because as surely as any season we walk through, this season will pass and a new season will be waiting for me on the other side. So I am embracing this new season…a season of stillness, a season of allowing others to HELP me, a season of rest (for my mind, my body, my spirit), a season of ….

The value of these seasons becomes evident through the journey. If you are anything like me, I resist these kinds of seasons and yet, they can be the most valuable season for a leader who is wiling to learn the lessons, apply the lessons and move forward. I can’t tell you the value of this current season I find myself in, but I know it will become clearer as I navigate the waters and resist fighting the process and see the goodness of my God in the midst. I am alive, not that it was ever a doubt through my injury…I just acknowledge that there are worse places to be (like 6 feet under) rather then in my current spot – my bed! And I am grateful for this place.

For new leaders or novices – When the season is obviously changing in your world, don’t fight it. Like the sunshine, the wind, the rain, and the storms of life, you can’t stop them from happening. That is God’s business. He determines the seasons, the length of the seasons and daily lessons within each day of the season. Embrace the season and you will find the value.

For seasoned leaders – When the season is obviously changing in your world, don’t fight it. Embrace it! Go with it! Move with it! Learn from it! So that in the due season of your life, you will have a testimony of the lessons learned and you will teach another how to walk through the new seasons they will inevitably experience in their lives.

Whether you are seasoned or a new leader, remember that ultimately you will determine the value of each and every season you walk through in life. No one can define it for you. By definition the word value (verb) means to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness or importance. So the value you place on the new seasons life has to offer will help you traverse the potentially treacherous terrain or difficult lessons. But if you can find value in the journey and the lessons think how much more valuable your life will become to you and others around you!

Fear Will Kill Leadership

If you are a leader or you wanna be a leader but you operate from fear, it will kill your leadership. You are not a credible leader and you have no business leading others. By definition fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Another definition says it is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; As a leader, confidence is your friend, fear is your enemy. Even if you are uncertain about the decisions you make, fear has to be squashed or people can’t follow you.

I have begun another year of working with potential leaders. Training them for full-time ministry. Each one of my students has the opportunity to be the student leader throughout the nine-month program. Many of these new, young leaders are afraid. I’m not sure they are afraid to lead as much as they are afraid to make a mistake. They want to get it right if for no reason but to avoid correction from me. Yet correction is good. Especially when you are being trained. There is no safer place for a novice leader than to have a teacher, trainer, coach to guide them through the speed bumps and train wrecks that often come when you are leading, whether you are a novice or not.

As I remember all that happened 10 years ago on September 11th, one thing was sure, the leadership in this country had resolve and determination that we as a nation could move on and that our enemies would be more fearful of us in the days to come than the fear they evoked in this nation. I am not sure about the fear we evoke in our enemies 10 years later, however I am hopeful for us as a country. I remember when nations feared America. They had a healthy respect for us when I was younger. I’m not so sure today – but I am hopeful.

As a leader the best options you have when fear creeps in – and it will – is to face it head on. Running from it or pretending it is not real for you, won’t save you. Facing your fear means acknowledging that you are afraid. Where and how you acknowledge it is important. Those you are leading should rarely see it, if ever. Trusted advisers and mentors are my recommendation. What ever you do, don’t push it down. Fear like many other strong emotions has a way of leaking out of us when we least expect it. So face it and then move forward. Action is a great equalizer and has a great way of helping you move past fear. Do something…, Make a decision…, but don’t sit in your fear and allow it to paralyze you.

I tell my students, “I would rather you make a wrong decision, than no decision.” Do something, say something even if it is the wrong something. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next thing. That is leadership. I don’t always have the right answer. I don’t always know what I should do in any given situation I find myself, however I am very good at assessing my options, engaging others to give me input so that I can make an informed decision and keep things moving.

Fear of Failure is a huge obstacle for leaders, whether you are a novice or a seasoned leader. Failure isn’t fun, but it is a great place to gain experience so that you become more effective in your leadership. If you are afraid to fail, you can’t lead. Failure is part of the leadership diet. You aren’t going to get it right all the time, however, you can gain a ton of experience that goes a long way when leading people. Inventor Roger Von Oech says “the benefits from failures are twofold: first, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”

For Novices or For Seasoned Leaders: When fear creeps in and you don’t know what to do – Take Action! Being paralyzed with fear will erode your credibility with those who are following you. Talk to a mentor or trusted adviser and then take action. If you stop moving because of fear it will be hard to begin again.

Lastly the Bible tells us that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. A sound mind is the key. Most fear is born in our minds, whether the fear is real or imagined – it hijacks us none the less. Get your head in the right place, develop a clear plan of “attack” and move forward! Enjoy your journey!

Politicians – Kids in the Sandbox?

As I have listened to the news over the last several weeks, I am disappointed as an American citizen. On many levels our immediate future hinges on a group of men and women in our nation’s capital playing nice in the sandbox of the Senate, the White House and the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, they have forgotten they are there to serve the people of this nation and not their political agenda.

The press conferences over recent days looks like children throwing sand at one another and there seems to be no adult supervision for either side to reset and begin to listen one another, to play together – to work together. We as a country, a great country I might add have lost something over the years. We have lost our patriotism. We have lost our ‘fight’, that innate thing that drives us as Americans to play to win, to live to win. Instead of ensuring the success of this nation, we have settled for infighting. It’s not about the success of a nation, it is about the success of individuals. It’s about being right rather than doing the right thing for this nation.

What happened to our elected officials serving the American people that elected them to their respective offices? What happened to working together for the good of this nation, for the union? The issues that we face as a nation concerning the debt is not a simple issue. It’s not. I am not sure how much of it I truly understand. But what I do know is that we can not allow the elected officials in this country determine our future because they can’t work together. We are better than that as a nation. This country was founded on unity – uniting for a common purpose. I am weary of the finger pointing that I see coming out of Washington, D.C. Where is the leadership?

Leadership is about serving, not about blaming.

Leadership is about accountability and ownership for the results we have in our organizations both good and bad. I don’t see ownership or accountability, I see men and women more concerned about what they want, rather than ensuring that the needs of this nation are met. It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. It doesn’t matter whose idea it is, it only matters that we work together to handle the challenging issues facing this nation. It’s possible for kids that disagree to find peace in the sandbox. It takes choosing to share, choosing to listen, and choosing to play nice. If kids can find their way past their differences, how much more should the politicians in the greater sandbox of D.C. find their way to peace through learning to work together so that we can move forward in this nation?

Thought For The Day! – “Spend Your Day!”

The day belongs to you and what you do with it will determine whether you were productive or not. For leaders, productivity is everything. Another word for productivity might be results. What did you set out to accomplish when you woke up today? Did you achieve those results? If not, you didn’t win the day.

Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.” By Carl Sandburg

As I sat with parents yesterday afternoon, one of them, a dad shared that he lost 40 pounds in one month! WOW! That is impressive. When I asked how he got those results, he began to share the price he paid to have those results. He said “no” to some food items that most of us eat without thinking, like breads and pastas. I don’t know about you, but I like both of those items. He is able to walk away from them and select fruits and vegetables for a season in order to get the results he wants to get. He also exercises a lot. Back when he was losing the 40 pounds he didn’t give himself options for walking. He went every day. When excuses rose up, he chose to push them aside and go walking anyway! That is determination to get results!

As aspiring leaders or even as seasoned leaders it can be easy to allow challenges, issues and even things we like, to get in our way of the results we say we want to have. I was challenged to hear the price this parent is willing to pay to have the results he wants for his health. He said to all of us a the table enjoying a pizza, “every meal is a battle and what you do (your choices) will determine whether you win.”

I believe that thought applies to choices and decisions that leaders make everyday. In your organization, even in your personal life. Your day belongs to you – at the end of the day did you get the results you intended to have when you began the day? If not, what got in your way of winning the battle for that day? Assess it, and make the adjustment and determine that tomorrow is a new day of opportunity and you get to win! Enjoy your day today!