There are many things to admire about the British, the most obvious being their attractive accents which somehow make them sound much smarter and far more commanding than their American colleagues. It doesn’t matter how disheveled their appearance might be, or how dry the subject is, those darn accents can captivate even the most insolent audience.
Aside from that, another thing I greatly appreciate about the Brits is their great facility for doling out words of praise. This doesn’t come so easy to us Americans, as we’d rather avoid giving our employees or co-workers too much praise for fear that they may get a big head, or suddenly ask for an inappropriate raise, or get promoted behind our backs and then take advantage of us later. No, we’d rather keep it to ourselves and keep those people in their places.
But the English seem to have freely mastered the art of accolades. For instance, upon completion of the most mundane and insignificant task, my British colleague will go so far as to tell me I’m brilliant. Not just, “Okay, thanks,” or “Hmmphh,” but he suddenly endows me with brilliance, a quality generally reserved for Nobel Prize winners and virtuoso concert masters.
Me: “Bob, I went ahead and rescheduled that meeting to the larger conference room, like you suggested.”
I beam in the glow of my great accomplishment. Read more…
Last week I attended a meeting where a very famous sports broadcaster gave a motivational speech. Generally, I am not very motivated by motivational speakers. This gentleman, however, was sufficiently non-motivating in a way that was actually inspiring.
Let me explain.
Rather than hyping up the audience with animated clichés and pithy anecdotal stories that I’ve already heard before from other motivational speakers, this gentleman spoke mostly about the highs and lows of his career. The twenty minute speech was delivered in a very low-key, humble manner, and purposefully included mistakes and lessons learned in getting to where he is today (the status of which, as I mentioned, is, “Very Famous”).
You would think by now this seasoned professional should be coasting on the fumes of his previous two decades of success. Instead, he spoke with great personal conviction about his ongoing obsession with the quality of his work.
“Every night after the game, I go home and review the tapes of my broadcast,” he told us. “I pick apart what I did well, and what I could have done differently. Did I use proper grammar? Was I prepared well enough? Did I clearly describe the plays? I then take notes and try to incorporate them into the next day’s work.”
This amazed me. Here is this smooth, polished, successful professional, a guy who literally has made it to the top rung of his chosen profession, and yet he is still thinking about what he could be doing better, how he might improve his performance.
Even if he is the only person who notices.
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Every great story, every hero, every inspiring moment is born out of adversity and perseverance. Conflict and battles are the stuff of myth and legend, and we love these stories because we can relate. Our personal and work lives are filled with mini-versions of this stuff: Pushing through. Overcoming obstacles. Fighting.
I am not necessarily talking about fighting in a vicious, mean way, but in a way that says, “I am responsible for my future. No one else is going to do this for me.”
Think of your life as an epic battle.
There are those who will roll up their sleeves and take it on. Others find themselves caught in the middle with no choice but to stand up for themselves. Then there are those who observe life happening all around them and choose to shrink back in fear, always remaining a spectator.
Every time I faced a transition in life, some sort of struggle invariably ensued. At certain points, I became uneasy, unsettled, like the bottom was going to fall out and my life would roll out in ugly pieces onto the floor. During these times, a part of me always wanted to run to the comfort and familiarity of negative thinking – catastrophizing the future, convincing myself of the worst possible scenarios as they played out in my head.
It’s okay to indulge in the downward spiral for a time. For a spell. Perhaps that part is necessary for survival, the pre-phase of fighting through, a requirement in order to come to grips with the reality of the situation. But then, once you’ve sufficiently festered in the mire, it’s time to get a grip, and get going.
Here is where you must be prepared to fight.
Some may not set well with the idea of a good fight, but anything worthwhile, anything good and true, whether for yourself or for the greater world around you, is going to involve a slugfest of sorts. Growth and progress do not happen by chance or by accident, whether it is your career, your health, your marriage, or your mission. Even when you have a plan – a good plan! – it will take a great deal of determination and unpleasant effort to move it forward.
You will run into resistance.
You will have multiple setbacks.
There will be strong, intimidating forces whose shadows loom large over you.
The voices in your head will make you crazy.
But know this: Every great leader grows through adversity and persistence. Stephen Snyder, author of “Leadership and the Art of Struggle,” says this:
“A leader with a growth mind-set is consciously aware that ability is not innate and unchangeable but instead a malleable quality that can continuously be augmented through practice and persistence…You seek out new learning opportunities by pursuing challenging assignments instead of taking safer and easier routes.”
In other words, you are not stuck unless you choose to be.
If you’re not fighting for something, you’re not growing. Playing it safe is never a path to growth or fulfillment, to finding your true potential.
The question, then, becomes this: what is going on deep within your soul? What kind of convictions have you gathered? What are you made of way down there?
Lift up your head and take a good look at the ominous darkness staring you down. Will you crumble, or fight?
The answer is, to fight.
Fight back, with all you’ve got, draw strength from God, and trust Him for the outcome.
Believe it or not, He’s given you this fight in the first place.
The other day I received an email from a complete stranger, asking for advice on a business plan: “Dear Mr. Wood,” he blurted forth. ”I saw your name blah blah blah and I have this wonderful idea blah blah could you please take some time to review and give me feedback blah blah.”
Like most of you, I am quite busy and under intense pressure at work. As a result, I have become fairly adept at a handy management trick known as filtering, which loosely translates in plain English to, “blowing off loser requests that do not further my own productivity.”
Seriously, if I entertained every obnoxious intrusion out of the blue, there wouldn’t be much time left to do what’s important. Would there?
Not so, according to Adam Grant.
Grant is the youngest tenured, highest-rated professor at Wharton School of Business and author of, “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” His research says the secret to both happiness and productivity at work is in giving back to people.
Grant’s work in the field of organizational pyschology and workplace dynamics focuses on how companies can get the most out of their employees and how employees can get the most out of their jobs. The common denominator in this equation is, strangely enough, the ability to frame every task as an opportunity to help others.
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A couple weeks ago I received a royalty check from the publisher of my e-book, At Work as it is in Heaven. It wasn’t much – enough to buy a couple tanks of gas for my SUV. But the point is, there is now hard evidence that some wretched working souls somewhere on this lonely planet have actually punched their way through enough mouse clicks to actually purchase the thing.
We’re not talking about thousands of people, so calm down. But we can safely count in the hundreds, which I consider a miracle in and of itself.
Although, truthfully, I probably could have raised as much money with far less work by holding a bake sale.
But really, friends, it was never about the money – even though getting a surprise royalty check in the mail is great fun, if nothing more than to hear yourself while spreading out your arms in a great stretch and a casual yawn say to your friends, “Oh, yes, another royalty check arrived in the mail today.”
I had always dreamed of saying those words.
Those same friends hardly need to know, of course, that my daughter made as much from her last two babysitting gigs. Better to keep them guessing. Read more…
If we believe someone has management potential, we will intentionally put them in a situation where they will encounter extreme conflict, opposition, or just plain ambiguity (which in and of itself can be very stressful). Then we will watch closely to see how the candidate responds.
How will they handle an impossible situation where there is no right or wrong answer, but a decision has to be made?
How will they manage conflict and difficult personalities?
How will they weather through a thorny issue that may take a year or two to work its way through to resolution?
Our hope is that the painful, difficult experiences will help mature the person in question, and that through the experience they will gain wisdom, as well as a measure of trust and respect from both the executives and their peers.
It’s counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing to help us grow is to be put into a really difficult, challenging situation. God does this to me all the time. He doesn’t care what I think, because he knows better. He sees my potential, way beyond what I think I’m capable of.
I picture Him, rubbing his hands together with this glint in his eyes as he gathers the archangels around him, saying, “Hey guys – check it out: This Mr. Wood here is getting far too comfortable. Let’s beat the crap out of him for a while. He’ll thank me later.”
If these experiences don’t do you in, they usually provide an excellent opportunity to grow in maturity and stamina. In my company’s case, it also allows the prospective manager to experience the practical realities of leadership, with all the messy employee issues and market chaos and unexpected crap hitting the fan. And we can’t really trust a manager to make major decisions or handle significant responsibilities without having observed them live through some of these situations, and eventually coming out the other side in tact.
I don’t know why the difficult, gut-wrenching experiences are so crucial, other than they somehow test us – our will, our strength – and humble us at the same time. And that’s how we grow in wisdom and confidence.
Now, there’s a great formula for leadership: wisdom, confidence, and humility.
Will you also feel like you got beat up a little along the way? Sure you will.
Join the club.
Last Easter Sunday was not only, well, Easter Sunday, but it was also the final episode of Mark Burnett’s series, “The Bible” on the History Channel, culminating in a gritty and inspiring dramatization of the crucifixion of Christ. The five-part mini series managed to generate ratings of biblical proportions, and a spin-off is already in the works.
Burnett is best known for his stints as producer of Survivor, The Apprentice and The Voice – certainly not your typical Sunday School fare. However, these prime-time reality shows are exactly where Burnett cut his teeth, establishing his reputation in the television industry as a star producer who knows how to deliver what matters most to the network: results and ratings.
So, I thought it was interesting that Burnett, along with his wife Roma Downey (of the tear-jerker, “Touched by an Angel” fame), felt compelled to use their clout to bring forward such an oddity as (cough) - a bible show - to prime time television. I mean, in our super-fresh new millennial age of Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo, you would think Hollywood would be the last place to parade around a show like this.
Hats off to Burnett for leveraging his success into something more meaningful than reality TV. “It was the right time to use the currency of that success to want to make something very important,” he told Focus on the Family.
Wait a second. Did you notice the way he accurately used the word “currency” to describe his previous success? Now the question is, what to do with that currency? Burnett’s hope was to help people emotionally connect to the great story of the bible. Read more…