Seasons Change. Do You?

Here in Northwest Arkansas, the seasons have definitely changed!  It went from being hot to cold, then back to “really nice outside” then to cold again.  So I guess I need to accept the fact that summer is gone and that fall is here.  It’s time to pull those cold weather clothes out of boxes and put away the shorts and flip flops.  Nature is forcing me change with it – or else freeze to death.  J

Our lives are similar, are they not?  We have a myriad of changes that occur all of the time around us.  Work changes.  Family changes.  Priority changes.  Political changes.  Environmental changes.  Health changes.  And so on. 

Some of these changes we control and some we don’t. 

How well do you accept or react when seasons of change enter your life?

I know for me that it depends upon the change.  I generally think I am pretty adaptable, but honestly, there are some places that I struggle more with change than others.

A good example for me is this blog.  When I started it, I had this grand vision of sharing leadership tidbits with folks like you on a pretty consistent basis.  It is something I enjoy doing very much.  I told myself that I was going to devote a certain amount of time to blogging and even went as far as to list this as one of my key priorities. 

I did pretty good for about a year, but then some seasons in my life started changing.  Work priorities increased significantly and some other priorities emerged in my personal life.  Things had changed.  But I was still hanging on to the blog as a priority even though I didn’t have time for it.  I would stress myself out when I didn’t get a post out on time and was worried about when I would get to the next one.  I wasn’t changing with the season in my life.

So, I finally had to let it go for a short while.  And when I made that change, my ability to adapt and devote my energy to the things I needed to improved significantly.  This reprioritization simply was adapting to my environment.

Seasons come and go in our lives.  Some are short.  Some are long.  Some require us to change a lot.  Some require us to change a little.  Regardless, there is one thing you can count on and that is that change is inevitable.

Recently I was reminded that one key characteristic of good leader is a “low resistance to change.”  And this is definitely true as I look across the leadership landscape of the company and organizations I work around and with.  If you can’t handle change as a leader, you might as well hang it up and pass the baton to someone that can.  Handling change properly and adaptability are critical components of a leader’s skill set and responsibility. 

How do you do that?  Here are three actions you can take to be a better leader when it comes to change.

Recognize It.  Leaders have to be able to discern change.  They need to understand the environment that they are in and when change is afoot or is required.  Leaders need to anticipate change.  They need to get ahead of change and prepare for it.  This isn’t always possible, but leaders should always be on the watch so that their reaction is elegant and they are un-phased in the eyes of their troops by what’s about to happen differently. 

Own It.  Leaders are required to understand ‘what’ change is required and ‘why’ to the very best of their ability.  This means that you may have to dig in and research or ask the right questions to clearly understand the direction or situation.  Sometimes things happen rapidly that require an immediate change in direction that the leader can’t explain, and at those times they have to have conviction in their decision making.  They must be unwaverying and not wishy-washy.  This does not mean inflexible.  It means that when your followers look in your eyes, they can see that you believe it, own it and can feel your sincerity and credibility.

Champion It.  Every day, changes are communicated and followers look to their leaders for guidance and understanding.  They are looking for subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) clues as to whether a change is good or bad or if they should support it or rise up against it.  It is not enough for leaders to simply understand and own the change.  They have to advocate it.  They have to lead the charge and do so in a way that is reassuring to those following that “without a doubt, we’re headed the right direction.” 

This also means that they need to be cognizant of the environment around them 360 degrees and encourage and influence others to own and champion the change.  This may mean that you have to take a peer (or even their own leader) aside that is being counter-productive and help get them on the right track.

Being a leader is an action oriented role.  It’s easy to lead when the boat is sailing in a straight line with good winds behind it on smooth waters.  It’s a testament to a leader’s abilities when any or all of those factors change.

As for me and this blog?  The good news is that sometimes the tides come back and the seasons in our life change back.  J

How well do you handle the seasons of change in your life?  What do you do to lead change?

Reach Out!

I was able to witness something awesome recently.  At the Walmart Shareholders Meeting this year, there was a brief moment that they were celebrating a young man named Tim Kerfoot from Canada that was named the International Associate of the Year.  Tim works at a distribution center.  Tim is also wheel chair bound.

Why was he the International Associate of the Year?  Well, when you listen to him (video below), it will take you about half a second to realize that this guy radiates positive energy and motivates others to be excellent.

Here is a man that has faced a huge adversity, could easily give up, or be ticked off at the world because of his lot in life, but you would never know it.  This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have troubles or struggles, it just means that he chooses not to let them dictate his attitude.  – which is absolutely awesome.

In fact, while they were recognizing him he said something that I thought was incredibly profound.  He said, “In the midst of a challenge, find people around you that can support you through it.  And then…..find people around you that you can support.

Think about that for a moment.  

What a great leadership lesson!

In the first half his statement, he basically says, when you need help – seek out those that can help you.  Ask for it.  Don’t go it alone.  Rely on others.  Get support.  Reach out!

This is such a fail point for so many leaders.  Often we think that we need to define ‘being strong’ as ‘doing it ourselves’ and ‘not showing weakness’.  There is nothing further from the truth!  We – you and Ineed other people.  That’s how we’re wired as human beings.  There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it may show greater leadership maturity if you do.   And quite frankly, we need other people to offset our own flaws, lift us up when we’re down, and strengthen us when we’re weak.  I’m sure that you’ve heard the old adage that a single stick is easily broken, but a bundle of sticks cannot be broken.   We need each other in order to succeed.

But, the coolest thing about what Tim said followed next.

“…then….find people around you that you can support.”  Wow!  This is POWERFUL! This simple statement brings the first half full circle.  It’s not just about asking for help when WE need it.  It’s about helping others when THEY need it.  This is very symbiotic and brings the whole concept of reaching out full circle.  When I hear this I picture someone reaching down in to the pit to help pull us out, but just as we’re about to be pulled out, we reach back and extend our hand to someone else.

Something important to point out here is that he used the word “FIND”.  This is an action word that we should pay close attention to.  When it comes to helping others, we shouldn’t wait for them to come to us.  We should FIND PEOPLE AROUND US THAT WE CAN SUPPORT.  Good leader’s don’t sit back and wait.  They take action to proactively and positively impact the lives of others.  This requires us to sharpen our skills of discernment and be aware and sensitive to what is happening around us.

REACH OUT – when you need help.

AND

REACH OUT – to help others.

As leaders, I challenge you to do both!  Both are healthy.  And if you are the kind of person that reaches out to help others more often than you ask for help, I guarantee you that someone will always be there for you when you need it.

Tim also made another neat statement.  He said, “Life is better with a team, with family and with friends.”  I couldn’t agree more.

With an outlook on life like this, it’s no wonder that Tim Kerfoot from DC 3059 in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada was Walmart’s International Associate of the Year.  Way to go Tim!

I’ve attached Tim’s acceptance video below.

Who needs you to reach out to them today?

Suck It Up, Get a Helmet, and Drive On!

It’s been just over a month since the last Leader’s Locker post, but for good reason.  It’s not because I’ve been lazy or had no desire to post, this last few weeks have just turned out to be pretty crazy busy.

Crazy busy to the point that these old adages have been floating around in my head for days.  You likely know them well enough to complete them…

When it rains….

When life gives you lemons….

When the going get’s tough…

What doesn’t kill you….

Did you get them all?  Apparently, when it pours your supposed to make lemonade and get going so you can be stronger!  Right?

My favorite saying though was one that I used often when I worked in Emergency Management when things got really crazy – Suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on.”

So what do you do as a leader when it’s raining heavily in your life and the demands are coming at you faster than you can count them?

Here are 4 things to consider:

  • Project Confidence!  When the ground shakes and the skies grow dark, the troops look to their leader for strength and direction.  If you appear rattled it can have a devastating impact on the morale of the team.  They need you to be calm, even-keel, and steadfast.  This is the time to lead and provide direction – regardless of how bad it gets.  If you get rattled, they get more rattled.  If you get scared, they get more scared.  If you stand strong and are unwavering in the face of a tough situation, you may be the one thing that keeps them going.  They look to you.  They need you.
 
  • Lean in to it!  Have you ever stood in a strong wind?  What happens if you lean backwards?  The wind either pushes you backwards or knocks you over.  BUT, if you lean forward, what happens?  You can usually endure whatever the wind dishes out at you (unless you’re in a tornado – then it’s just plain bad unless your name happens to be Dorothy).

So what can we learn from leaning forward?  When things get crazy – lean in to it so the situation or demands don’t knock you off of your feet.  Approach the challenge head on, get a good look at it, and quickly determine how you’re going to approach what’s coming.

  • Prioritize!  The faster the demands come in a short period of time, the higher the stress, the more likely that you are going to miss something – which is why triage becomes an important activity.  Looking at all the tasks and asking – What is it?  How important?  How long will it take to accomplish?  Where does it rank in all of the other things I need to get done?  This means that you may have to decide to delay some things and/or not to do some things at all, but at least you are making a conscious and calculated decision as to what demands your precious time and where you spend your energy.

Quite frankly, this is why I haven’t posted in a few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t love blogging, rather it’s that I had to prioritize increasing family and work responsibilities over blogging.  ….and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

  • Fight the good fight!  This is where the phrase – ‘suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on’ comes in.  Some times you just need to double down on your resolve and dig deeper to get things done.  And as a leader, you often need to take people with you, which means you need to ratchet up the energy throughout the tough times.  Not only will you need the energy to stand on your feet, set priorities, and make decisions, but you’ll need it to feed your people.  Your example, your direction, and your ability to inspire will be key to charging your troops’ batteries to keep them going (in the right direction) when the chips are down and demands are crazy.   They will literally feed off of your energy – so you need to make sure that your energy output is at the right level.  Perseverance and tenacity are key words that comes to mind here.  This is the time that your true leadership colors are on display.

The good thing about crazy busy times?  They don’t last forever.  Sometimes it may seem like it – but eventually the craziness subsides.   And I know that I can handle anything for a short period of time.  And so can you.

So when the  raining turns in to pouring – suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on.  Be the leader that your people need you to be.

 

What do you do when times get crazy?

There Is Hope!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Mi Futuro mentoring program graduation. 

For those of you unfamiliar, Mi Futuro (which means My Future in Spanish) is an 8th Grade mentoring program that was started three years ago spawned from an idea shared by a couple Walmart Associates.  Volunteer mentors from  Walmart/Sam’s Club spend one hour a month with a group of handpicked students over the course of their school year.   They discuss topics ranging from goal setting, to public speaking, to high school prep, to college prep and beyond.  The goal is encourage the students to think broader and more positively about their future.

This is the third school year we’ve done this.  And the program has grown extensively, much to some Associate leaders’ vision and dedication.   The first class started with one school and 26 students.  This year, there were 8 participating schools with 13 mentoring groups and over 300 students participating in the program.

Initially, the program was targeted at Hispanic students that showed promise, but were at risk (whether due to family situations, social influences, etc.).  The program now represents total school demographics, but still targets those same promising students that are at risk.

Next year, the goal is to reach over 1,500 students and have over 50 schools represented across the United States.

The reason I write all of this comes down to a couple statements made by students during the program.

First, the self awareness of these students was a little surprising to me.  While talking about the program and her future, one of the students said, “I don’t want to get lost in the crowd.”  Then she continued on to talk about her dreams and how she was going to succeed.  Her determination was admirable!  It was a proud moment for every mentor in the room.

Second, and perhaps more impactful, was a statement made by one of the students from the first year of the program.  We had three students from the first year (now sophomores in high school) talk about the impact of the program on them and the lessons learned from their two years of seniority over the kids in the audience.  This student, who was the least formally dressed of the three, who started every sentence with “I guess…” said something incredibly profound.  He said, “I will be the first to go to college from my family.”  Then he said, “I want my little brother to follow in my footsteps.

This statement took my breath away and made tears well up in my eyes.  Here is a sophomore in high school that was mentored and is now mentoring and setting an example for his little brother.   This is what it is all about.

In that moment, it was clear that this precious investment of time that the mentors provide these students is making a difference.

Often when we talk about mentoring at work we’re thinking about either our own professional development and/or how we are developing others in their positions or skills (which is important!).  Rarely though do I hear about people developing our next generation on a continuous basis.

But, as we get older, we realize how fast the time goes and we start to see the bigger picture.  If we don’t take the time to mentor, develop, grow, shape, and inspire our future generation what will the future hold for our society?

The good news?  There is hope!  I saw it and heard it yesterday.

My challenge to you is to find time to invest in the upcoming generation on a continuous basis.   Whether it’s Mi Futuro (for you Walmart/Sam’s Club associates), the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, a church youth program, or some other youth program – INVEST in the future of a child.  If we all joined in this investment just imagine what the future could hold.  There is great hope in our future!

Will you rise to the challenge?

4 Steps to Doing the Right Thing

Do you do the right thing?

I want to revisit where we were last time – talking about Integrity.  This is a timeless topic, but in recent days is timelier than ever before.

Before we get to far away from it, I also want to revisit the example we were using previously in talking about the University of Arkansas Head Football Coach situation.  While I don’t want to draw too much attention to this situation I do want to take a different look at it – this time through the lens of the actions and decisions of the Athletic Director Jeff Long.

While the coach’s actions brought about a very public ethical dilemma, Long’s response/reaction mitigated a lot of the negative that the coach had created and may have created an even greater positive focus on the integrity of the program that will have long lasting positive effects. 

He showed that the university valued ethical behavior over a winning coach, which is a lesson in and of itself not only the players, students, coaches, faculty, and fans, but for us as well.

How often do we focus on the results over how we achieved the results?  This plays out in business all the time.  Our job as leaders with integrity is to ensure our people understand the importance of the ‘how’.

Most interestingly for me was the ‘how’ in the way that Jeff Long tackled this ethical dilemma.  I’ve categorized these in to four distinct areas of action that were taken.

  • Acknowledge.  Houston, we have a problem.  Have you ever tried to avoid a negative situation because you know that it’s going to be painful and energy consuming?  I have.  But when it comes to ethical dilemmas we really can’t just sit on the fence and wait for things to blow over.  We need to deal with it.

When confronted initially with the situation, the first thing that Long did was acknowledge it.  While this was a very public situation for the university, he didn’t try to hide it. Instead, he stood in front of reporters and told them what he knew.  More importantly, he also said that he didn’t know everything and didn’t succumb to the requests to speculate. 

  • Set Expectations.  Okay…so we know have a problem.  Now what?  You need to define what needs to happen next.  And whether that is simply for your own benefit to organize or to publicly let others know what your plan of action is, definition is important because it gives you structure for dealing with the situation.  Jeff Long did this very well. Once he acknowledged the situation, he said, “Here is what I’m going to do next.”  He didn’t paint himself in to a corner either by setting artificial timelines.  He simply said, “Here is what we are going to do.”  And more important than setting the expectation for himself and the public, he followed through on what he said, which improved his credibility significantly.
  • Consult.  Do I need to shoulder all of this responsibility myself?  Absolutely not.  While I don’t possess a PhD in human psychology, I have a hard time believing that humans are built to handle tough decisions alone.  We have a safety net of people that make up our social sphere that help guide us along the way.  This may be your parents, or a sibling, best friend, pastor, boss, career mentor, legal resource, counselor, or other source.  The fact is, gaining other perspectives on tough decisions is a great idea.  I know that I use a network of trusted people in my life to help give me perspective all of the time.

In his statement, Long stated that he sought counsel and perspective from others.  Undoubtedly, there were very different perspectives presented, but in the end, he had to take in all of the information, filter, and then make the best possible decision.  The same is true for all of us.

  • Decide and Act.   Making tough decisions isn’t easy.  Acting upon them is sometimes even harder.  As I looked at these two actions, I thought about splitting them out in to their own points.  But as I looked closer, I believe that you can’t separate them because they are absolutely interconnected. 

As a leader, you can’t decide and then not act. If you don’t act then you really didn’t do anything, now did you?  Leaders make and act on tough decisions.  Don’t forget that.  If you can’t, then being in a leadership position may not be for you.

At the end of the day, Long made a very tough decision.  He made the right decision (in my opinion).  But he didn’t stop at the decision.  He followed through with action.  He terminated the coach, he started a search for a new coach, and then hired a new coach.

One other side note and observation that I wanted to cover is the compassion that Long exhibited in the handling of the situation.  Not only was he sensitive to all that were impacted in the words that he used and privacy he maintained,  but his tone, demeanor, and delivery conveyed that he really cared about all of those involved (including the coach).  Following the above steps in a sterile manner may get you through the situation, but what people will remember is your sincerity and how you made them feel about it.

Every ethical decision that you come to in life may not be hyper-complex.  Some may be much more black and white and easy to quickly determine.  However, I’m confident that you will experience at least one or more difficult, complex, ‘gray’ decisions to make in your life.

Having a framework to approach and deal with these situations will be very important to your success.  Just remember to be sincere and compassionate as you face these challenges.

As leaders, we all have tough decisions to make.  Many may not be as public or complex as the one that Jeff Long faced, but tough decisions nonetheless.  While none of us are perfect, having the right tools in our toolbox will help us when those tough decisions come along.

My questions for you are:

  • Will you step up when it’s your time? 
  • Will you make the right decision when no one else is looking? 
  • Will you act with integrity? 
  • Will you teach integrity to those that look up to you?

Leading and Living with Integrity

Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s good to take advantage of current events to drive home a point. A great colleague of mine, Matt Martin, sent the below email out yesterday morning touching on the recent negative press around Arkansas Razorback’s Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino and used it as a learning opportunity. How bad was the press? I’ll put it this way. It was bad enough that it was trending nationally near the top of the list Thursday night on Twitter.

Integrity is foundational and critical to every leader’s success! Matt’s reminder about acting with integrity is not only appropriate today, but appropriate every day. Matt also forwarded a great piece by Michael Camp on Leading and Living with Integrity. Please see both below.

While Camp talks through a couple definitions of integrity below, one of my new favorites comes from Jeff Neria on my team. She says, “Integrity is the moral courage to make your actions consistent with your knowledge of right and wrong.

Above all as leaders it is important not only to act with integrity, but to teach the importance of integrity to others. Don Soderquist, one of the great former Wal-Mart leaders has said repeatedly, “Mentor your leaders; assume they know nothing about professionalism or integrity. Teach them before they fall and impact others.

Are you living and leading with Integrity? Do you teach the importance of integrity to others?

Matt’s note is below.  You can also follow him on Twitter @samsclubmatt.  Michael Camp’s piece on integrity is below that.

____

Team,

With the news around Bobby Petrino surfacing last night, I was reminded of the importance of integrity in leadership. I was also reminded of how quickly trust and credibility can crumble with one lapse of judgment. I was specifically reminded of a document that recently came across my email written from a peer on the Walmart side.

In the attachment (printed below) he talks about how we must protect and guard our integrity and compares it to an eggshell saying “Once an eggshell has even a slight crack, the structure can no longer be depended on to handle the pressure of the environment. It is simply a matter of time before the egg is completely compromised”.

Take a minute to read it and feel free to share with others. Our associates deserve to have leadership they can trust and respect every day and the attachment is a good reminder for us all.

____

LEADING AND LIVING WITH INTERITY

By Michael Camp

Someone can easily say they are ‘leading with integrity,’ but the challenge lies in actually following through. I believe the majority of us have been told the importance of being honest since we were children. Unfortunately, some people struggle more than others to live with integrity, no matter how many times they hear it.

What does the word integrity actually mean? Most of us could easily define the word integrity and have a pretty good idea of what that really looks like; or could we?

Integrity is not a characteristic you can demonstrate sometimes, or even 99% of the time. Leading with integrity means demonstrating it ALWAYS! Integrity can be defined most simply as “being honest” or “following moral and ethical principles.” Integrity has also been defined as being when “a person’s behavior is the same whether someone is watching them or not.”

I like to consider integrity to be like an eggshell that must be protected at all times in order to keep the egg (or your integrity) whole. Once an eggshell has even a slight crack, the structure can no longer be depended on to handle the pressure of the environment. It is simply a matter of time before the egg is completely compromised. A leader’s integrity (or eggshell) is the exact same thing. A leader can do the right thing 100 times, but on the 101st time, they choose to deviate from their behavior; therefore, their integrity comes under scrutiny from those around them. Even though we may live a life of integrity during the first 100 situations, if we choose to act incorrectly the 101st time, the way people perceive us can change forever.

If we want people to follow us there MUST be a strong level of trust. Keeping your word and living with integrity are two critical pieces to this process. Trust is not something built overnight; however, it can be lost instantly. The easiest way to come across as not being honest is when we say something but do something completely different. When people choose to follow us, they need to know the words coming out of our mouths are genuine and that we will not deviate from what we said we would do. Some people believe if they always handle the big issues with integrity, the little issues don’t always need to be handled the same way, especially if no one will know. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. A person who leads with integrity will ALWAYS keep their integrity untarnished and will not waiver, regardless of the size of the issue at hand or whether or not people will ever know what they did.

There is nothing worse than listening to someone speak about what they plan to do when we know their actions will not match what they said. This type of dishonest behavior is what usually creates the first crack in what I call the “TRUST FOUNDATION” that the leader – follower relationship is based on.

As a leader today, the challenge is for us to live the true lifestyle of a leader with integrity at work and outside of work. When people see us acting differently in public than we act in the workplace, our genuineness becomes questionable, as does our integrity. Show the people who choose to follow you what kind of leader you are by keeping your word and living with integrity ALWAYS.

I would ask you to take the LEADING AND LIVING WITH INTEGRITY pledge with me……

“This year I will commit to doing whatever it takes to:

Become a leader trusted by my co-workers, my family, my community,

Demonstrate outstanding servant leadership,

As I LEAD and LIVE WITH INTEGRITY to build trust with those whose lives I influence.”

“As Wal-Mart leaders we MUST live in a manner so that when our Associates think of honesty and integrity, they think of us.” – Michael Camp

When I Learned the Most

I had a great opportunity this week to listen to two fantastic CEOs talk about both their businesses and experiences.  One of those was my CEO, Mike Duke (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.).  The other was Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM.

Rometty is a dynamic figure if you’ve never met her or heard her speak.  She is down to earth, to the point, and fascinating to listen to.

At one point in the conversation, Rometty was talking about the times that she learned the most in her career.

She was straightforward and clear in her answer, “When I took a risk.”  She elaborated that when she tried something completely new like her move from GM to IBM she learned, grew and stretched tremendously. Rometty’s career progression exposed her to a number of facets of business that broadened her perspective and provided her with lots of different experiences.   And between her ‘student of the business’ mindset and hands on approach to driving the business, it’s no wonder why she’s in the role that she is.

Picking up where Rometty left off, Mike Duke commented on his own career progression.  And I’m sure it’s no shock for you to know that the same type of story was revealed.

Duke took advantage of a number of career opportunities to experience different parts of the business.  This was evident both in his early career in retail as well as his later career at Walmart.  Mike came to Wal-Mart via our Logistics Division, which he headed shortly after arriving to replace then Logistics head Lee Scott (who also went on to be Mike’s predecessor as CEO).  Mike then made his way to become the Chief Administrative Officer of the company, led the Wal-Mart Stores US business unit, and then led the International business unit prior to becoming CEO of the whole company.

Mike recanted a story about when he was asked to go lead the International group.  He said that he hadn’t traveled outside the US as much and didn’t have a background in running international operations, which made him a little apprehensive.  But like each role before, he learned quickly and grew significantly with each step.

Mike said it best, “The time I learned the most was when I was put into roles where I had little or no direct knowledge.”  It forces you to listen.  To learn.  To stretch.  To grow.  And again, with all of his experience, just like Rometty, it’s no wonder that he is in the role he’s in today.

Following this conversation, I took a stroll down memory lane and thought back to the times when I learned the most in my career.

And……I’d have to concur with these two leaders.  When did I learn the most?  During the times that I took on assignments or projects that were completely new and foreign to me.

As I’m reminiscing, I’m smiling, because I can vividly remember some major turning points in my life.

One of those was when I was an Assistant Fire Chief and took on all of the budgeting, planning and administrative responsibilities.  What firefighter wants to do that?  We all want to put out fires and rescue people, right?  It was a major stretch for me and I am so thankful for that opportunity when I was in my twenties, because while it was a lot of very quick nerve-racking learning, it evolved my business acumen and set a foundation for my future.

Another was when I was promoted to Director of Business Continuity.  I was in that role only a short while before four hurricanes hit back to back in Florida.  It was a major stretch because it quickly evolved my leadership and broad thinking acumen through a major and highly visible crisis situation.

Another was my move to Sam’s Club.  Moving out of the security/emergency management business was terrifying for me because it’s what I knew best and what I was trained and skilled in.  There was a lot of comfort in it.  But this move to Sam’s Club completely stretched me in different directions that I never expected and grew me in a number of different areas (e.g., systems development, marketing strategy, how to use insights data, etc.).

While these are just a few of the many stretches in my own life, the key is that each of these experiences and exposures builds upon the previous and broadens and strengthens who you are as a person.

Again, I’m thankful for all of these opportunities – but like Rometty and Duke –  each of these opportunities also came with risk.  Mainly – the risk of failure.  Each was a step outside of doing what was comfortable.  Each was a little unnerving at times.  While there were many failures, all of them were learning opportunities.  And while sometimes daunting, I also found that I survived from each experience too…which made me better and stronger for taking that risk.

Likely, if you examine your own career, you’ll find that the same holds true for you too.

Now, each of us are at different places in our lives and have different drivers and motivators.  Some are happy to stay where it’s comfortable and don’t want change.  And that’s cool.

But for several of us, we want to be challenged and stretched.  We want to learn and grow.  We want to evolve.  We want to do more.   If this is where you find yourself, then you should really examine your life and see if taking a risk to step out and do something new is for you.

Whether in your professional or personal life, stepping out into the unknown is when you will learn the most.

I found a quote from an interview that Rometty did last year that perfectly sums up this concept of risk taking and evolution.  She said, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”   And I must agree.

QUESTON:  When did you learn the most in your career?

Choose to Be #1

A couple weeks ago, my company had our annual Year Beginning Meeting.

For those of you unfamiliar with these types of events, picture a concert venue with 2,000-3,000 of your closest friends from across the nation gathered together to listen to the leadership team share the vision and direction for the new year and get fired up with some good ol’ fashion rah-rah-rah!

I love these meetings!  You can feel the energy and excitement crackle in the air!  But no meeting is complete without some catch phrase or mantra that whips the crowd into a frenzy.

And this year did not disappoint!  

As our senior leaders stood on the stage, they would shout, “WE CHOOSE TO BE…”

And the crowd would shout back, “NUMBER ONE!

Particularly dynamic was our EVP of Operations, Todd Harbaugh.  Todd is a fantastic public speaker and always seems to bring it all home.  His carefully crafted, yet genuine delivery makes you want to break through walls, swim oceans, and run through fire to be your best.

This particular message from Todd drove home the point that we have a choice every day to do our best….or not do our best.

If you think about this logically –‘doing your best’ more often than not has a fairly positive outcome.  NOT doing your best usually has a less than desired result.  So, why would we not want to do our best?  Have you ever woke up at the start of your day and thought, “Man, today I think I am just going to be #2.”  Or “I really don’t want to do my best today.”  No.  If this is who you are, you usually don’t think anything.  You slide by in your day only to wonder later where the day went and why you didn’t get anything accomplished or why you’re not progressing in your career.

Choosing to be #1 is a mindset shift.  It’s a purposeful choice.  You have to be intentional about delivering your best….and then have the moxie and will to follow through on it.

But what does “doing your best” really mean?

Todd further drove this home for the crowd.  Todd shouted, “We Choose to Be…” and the crowd would roar back “NUMBER ONE!”  Then he would continue, “…in Talent Development…” “…in Innovation” and so on .  There were five areas in all.  But with each topic, he explained exactly what he meant and what he expected.

Todd’s message focused on the things that were right for our company.  But what is right for you or your organization?  What should you be #1 in?  After all it’s a choice.

Is it sales?  Creative/artistic design?  Talent development?  Project management?  Innovation?  Customer experience?  Leveraging Influence?  Philanthropy?  Volunteerism?  A special pursuit? A specific skill?

It’s really up to you.  So, here’s the exercise.

Sit down with your favorite writing utensil and a post-it note.

At the top, write, “I CHOOSE TO BE #1 IN:”

Try to come up with 3 areas that you should (or want to) give your best in.  More is okay – but you don’t want too many as you lose focus.  Try not to exceed 5.

Once you’re done, read aloud – “I CHOOSE TO BE #1 IN …..”

Now, don’t be timid.  Say it like you mean it!

Repeat it until you believe it.  After all, the only person you have to convince is yourself.

Now take that note and post it somewhere you’ll see it at the start of your day (e.g., your bathroom mirror, on your coffee machine, on your treadmill, in your office, on your rear view mirror of your car, etc.).  They key is to remind yourself early in your day that you are choosing to be #1 at these things.  And when you see that note, read it out loud – with conviction!

As I said earlier, choosing to be #1 is a mindset shift.  You can’t be flippant about it.  Be intentional.  It will make a difference in your life.

Personally, I CHOOSE TO BE #1 in developing people, serving my customer, and innovating well-thought out solutions.

This works equally well in your personal life.  For me, I CHOOSE TO BE #1 as a husband and father.

WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?

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