Posts filed under ‘principles’

The Spirit of the Camino – the Spirit of Leadership

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I recently completed the “Camino” with my wife Correen and youngest son. “What’s the Camino?” The briefest explanation, from Wikipedia:

The Camino de Santiago…is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes, known as “pilgrim ways”, to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts…”

For our Camino we chose to hike the Camino Primitivo route (the original way) across 200 miles of Spain’s most beautiful, lush, and mountainous territory. For two weeks we treked through remote wilderness, rugged countryside, verdant farmland, and medieval towns. We struck up friendships with fellow peregrinos (pilgrims) from literally every corner of the globe. We pushed to and through our physical “limits” of challenge and discomfort, but reveled in the hours of opportunity for quiet contemplation, reflection, and conversation.

In the end, our Camino was truly one of the greatest experiences of our lives. So much so, I’m sure I will share more in the coming months, but there’s just one aspect in particular I’ll share today…

In order to be considered a perergrino, to be able to stay in designated “albergues” (hostels) along the way, and to earn one’s “compostela” (certificate of completion) at the end of the journey, one carries an official Camino passport (pictured) that must be stamped at certain places along the journey. The back of the passport contains the following message, entitled “The Spirit of the Camino”:

LIVE IN THE MOMENT

WELCOME EACH DAY – ITS PLEASURES AND

ITS CHALLENGES 

MAKE OTHERS FEEL WELCOME

SHARE

FEEL THE SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU

IMAGINE THOSE WHO WILL FOLLOW YOU

APPRECIATE THOSE WHO WALK WITH YOU TODAY

I cannot for the life of me think of a better message for managers and leaders…or for a Managers Minute than this! If each of us who are responsible for managing, leading, teaching, guiding and mentoring others could simply remember and do these seven things, imagine the impact; imagine the outcome!

Lead on!

Cliff

 

 

July 7, 2017 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

Trust is the Foundation

There’s a nice house in my neighborhood that at one time no one wanted. When it was built, it was nicely located, architecturally impressive, and beautifully landscaped, but within a very short period, it was abandoned. No one – especially the family who had waited patiently for its creation – wanted to own it.

The problem? Cracks appearing on the exterior (stucco) walls. The cause? Inadequate compaction of the building pad leading to settling and sagging of the foundation.

Everyone knows that the most important part of any building is its foundation. Without a firm foundation no amount of paint, design or décor can make a poorly constructed dwelling a place of safety or a worthy investment. The same is true of relationships and organizations – without a firm foundation of TRUST, no amount of window dressing or convincing rhetoric can produce the speed, engagement, and productivity that high functioning companies, teams, and relationships enjoy.

Speaking of TRUST, Stephen M. R. Covey wrote, There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world — one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. That one thing is trust.”

Trust is built over time, through the demonstration of character and competence. It is earned and is based on historical experience and performance. It is not instantaneously given or received. On the other hand it can be lost, or at least seriously damaged, in an instant.

Great leaders know both the value and powerful impact trust can have on their teams’ success, and they work consistently to create high trust environments and relationships through consistency, transparency, and integrity…not by demanding it, but by modeling it.

But even the best leaders aren’t perfect – making a wrong call, use the wrong words, or allowing emotion to take over. The good news is that while it takes greater effort, renewed consistency, and time-proven ownership for missteps wrongs can be righted and trust can be restored! And when it is, it’s often stronger than ever.

So, what about the once despised house mentioned above? After significant expense and heroic efforts by the builder and engineers, it was eventually restored to perfect condition, and is now inhabited by a very happy, content, and trusting family. And the contractor keeps building and selling homes to happy families.

Lead on!

December 23, 2016 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

Character Matters Most

James Thurber wrote, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.” As a leader it’s important to know the difference and to be able to help others understand as well.

To me, the “glow” that illuminates represents those things that are sure, timeless, and everlasting. Things like truth, trust, and integrity. They are real; they are dependable, breeding confidence, peace and calm. They light the way and warm the soul. They are “the glow that illuminates”.

The “glare”, on the other hand are those things that are temporary, superficial, or meant to deflect, cover up or distract. Things like perfume, styling, presentation, even clothing can be helpful in covering or “prettying up” what otherwise may not, on its own merits, be attractive. The “glare” obscures what we’d rather others not notice.

Both glow and glare have their place and their utility. Interestingly, one can draw the same distinction between character and personality.

Character relates to deeply held values, principles and beliefs, such as integrity, humility, courage, fidelity…and to one’s performance relative to those values and beliefs. Like the “glow that illuminates”, character comes from deep within and is enduring and guiding to the extent one acts in alignment with one’s defining values. They are the “glow that illuminates”.

Personality on the other hand is more external, superficial, and relates to the way one presents himself to the world. The way he dresses, communicates, negotiates, and moves within social and business circles. Much of today’s self-improvement literature focuses on these temporary strategies, skills, and quick fixes aimed at advancing one’s success in any number of settings…by putting on a “better” face. These are “the glare that obscures”.

Again, like the “glow” and the “glare”, character and personality both have their place and value. However, if one compares the resources (time, effort, and money) spent on the one versus the other, there is, it seems, a significant imbalance today. Prior to the twentieth century most literature focused on character development. Since then, the emphasis has tilted heavily toward personality, with nearly all of today’s career development and “self improvement” books, seminars, and programs focusing on behaviors related to personality. Selling more, winning friends and influencing people, getting rich, deal making…

While there’s nothing wrong with improving skills and looking the best we can, there is danger in doing so at the expense of one’s character and those things (values and principles) that are of highest priority. One of the great challenges in life is finding the right balance of character and personality. The secret in successfully doing so lies in [always] putting character first and never compromising one’s character on the altar of personality.

Great leaders encourage others to put character first, even ahead of things that might bring tempting short-term gains. But that’s part of true leadership. In fact the act of encouraging character development over selfish interests itself takes on a glow that illuminates the path for others rather than a glare that may cause them to lose their way.

Lead on!

Cliff

April 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Staying Centered

“If you change nothing, nothing will change”. This timeless truth inspires many to reach higher, work harder, and learn more. In this regard, change is good. On the other hand there are some who argue that all change is good, that all change is “progress”, and that nothing is sacred when it comes to change.

We live in a time of change – the most rapid change the world has ever seen! This can be good…and sometimes not so good. Either way, more change is coming, and with it more disruption and distraction than ever before. In the midst of all this commotion, it is easy to lose one’s bearings and to wander off.

Like yesterday’s seasoned explorers who depended on their maps and compasses, today’s most successful navigators of modern life are those who rely on their inner compass – a combination of conscience and timeless principles. But even for the most principled, staying on the path, and remaining centered is a challenge.

I recently read of an artisan who was asked to demonstrate his pottery skills to a group of young people who were instantly awestruck as he transformed lumps of clay into beautiful plates, bowls, and cups. He made it look so easy, that when he asked if any of the youth would like to try it they all volunteered.

One after another they tried, but none were successful as they awkwardly attempted to keep the clay from flying off the potter’s wheel and all over the room. The potter asked them if they knew why they were unsuccessful, to which they gave responses indicating a lack of experience, training, and talent. But the real reason they failed was that the clay was not centered on the wheel. They thought they had placed the clay in the center, but from a professional’s perspective, it wasn’t in the exact center. So he showed them again.

This time, the potter placed the clay in the exact center of the wheel and then started to turn it, making a hole in the middle of the clay. He then turned the wheel over to the youth, who excitedly were able to keep the clay on the wheel, and even create some crude bowls. Although they weren’t perfect, the outcome was vastly different than their first attempts. The difference being that this time the clay was perfectly centered on the wheel.

In a world where, like the potter’s wheel, the speed of change is increasing, it is vitally important that individuals, teams, and families remain centered on the timeless principles that keep them from being thrown off course. Principles like honesty, integrity, tolerance, perseverance, courage, responsibility, self-discipline, loyalty, quality work, and faith. Sound familiar?

Even these principles that we hold in common are being challenged by a world whose standards are being lowered and even abandoned all in the names of “change” and “progress”. Interestingly, holding firm and not giving in requires the exercise of the principles themselves – remaining honest, having integrity, being tolerant, persevering, having courage, being responsible, being disciplined and loyal, doing quality work, and being faithful. Not only does our success depend on it, but so does the success of those we lead.

So, stay centered, and…

Lead on!

Cliff

December 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

I Have To!

When coordinating plans with others I’ve been known to say things like “I have to run 15 miles tomorrow”, “I have to get to bed early tonight”, or “I have to finish this project this weekend”. When I do, I’m often challenged by a friend who likes to say “You don’t HAVE to……you CHOOSE to!” and technically speaking, he’s right. But I keep saying it anyway… You see, I learned a long time ago that you can either decide how to respond to challenges or opportunities over and over again, depending on present circumstances, or you can make the decision just once, allowing that decision to become your personal standard – your “have to“!

If you take the flexible approach (“we’ll see how things are going” or “it depends”) there are too many variables and too many opportunities to derail you from doing the thing you once committed to doing. It takes discipline to make the hard but right choice, especially when the decision is to ALWAYS make the same choice. But when you do and the issue comes up again, there’s no hesitation or debate. You’re resolute – You “have to”!

Once you’ve decided, then your “have to‘s” take over, relieving you of the recurring decision cycle. And here’s the interesting thing – it’s not restrictive…it’s freeing! Once you’ve decided once and for all, when the alarm clock rings, you’re up – no debate. When someone offers you something you’ve sworn off, you decline – no debate. When being dishonest is tempting or seemingly profitable, you tell the truth – no debate! And when you do, you enjoy a feeling of freedom and empowerment.

Our choices determine our habits and our habits form our character. And as author and lecturer Hyrum Smith put it, “Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision once the emotion of making that decision has passed.” It’s character-forming habits that help us overcome adversity, accomplish goals, and ultimately approach our individual potential.

When our choices reflect our deeply held values and they are made with sincere resolution, from that point on we simply “have to“. And as we do, we grow in character.
Lead on…

Cliff

July 6, 2015 at 11:52 am 6 comments

Simple as 1-2-3

A race is just the celebration lap at the end of training

Continue Reading August 4, 2014 at 9:33 am Leave a comment

“Stuff” Happens!

Life’s not easy!   Just when things seem to be going along just fine, “stuff” happens, throwing us off course.  Weather, traffic, illness, other people’s decisions or actions, the economy, accidents…  What’s a person to do?  There’s really only one good choice…

The real challenge in life isn’t the “stuff” of life, but how we deal with the “stuff”.   The key is to let principles, the things we believe in…down deep, not our conditions or circumstances dictate our responses.  The good news is that we do have a choice.  In fact, next to life itself, the greatest gift any of us enjoy in this life is the freedom to choose.  Unfortunately, many people give up this gift, placing it in the hands of their circumstances, surroundings, or other people to decide how they’ll respond.

Habits 2 and 3 of Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are: (2) Begin With the End in Mind, and (3) Put First Things First.  Effective people live with a clear vision of who they are and what is most important.  They are principle-centered.  They carry their mission in their hearts, and make decisions based on the mission or vision of who they are and who they strive to be.  They respond to  “stuff” based on this vision…placing even conflicting decisions (and principles) in proper order (putting first things first).

Great leaders are great because of their ability to live habits 2 and 3.  Those who depend on great leaders do so out of trust and confidence in their leaders’ vision and dedication to keeping it all in proper order…unfailingly.  Unfortunately, for every principle-centered person there are many more whose decisions are short-sited – based on immediate return or satisfaction – without regard for the long-term consequences.

During the the 9/11 crisis, many companies’ computer systems were disrupted.  One bank in particular lost partial control over its ATM machines.  The problem was that the machines couldn’t monitor the account balances, leaving open the possibility that account holders could withdraw far more than they had in their accounts.  The bank had a choice – shut down the system completely, or take the risk and continue to provide service at at that difficult time.  They took the risk, and sadly, there were many – the short-sited and un-principled – who cashed in on the circumstance, withdrawing many thousands more than they owned.

After all was said and done, over 4,000 people were under investigation in the “theft” of over $15 million.  Contrast the above example of the un-principled, with that of the true-to-life, principle-centered hero…Ascension Franco Gonzales, an unassuming immigrant dishwasher in Los Angeles.  The L.A. Times reported:

 “On a lonely evening beneath the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, Ascension Franco Gonzales had the kind of moment Mexican songwriters put to music and transform into myth.  The ballad, or corrido, would tell the now familiar tale: how on August 27th an armored truck lurched, its back doors flipped open, and out tumbled a bag containing $203,000.  And how Franco…picked it up.  And how he gave it back the next morning.  Franco, a boyish 23-year-old with a self-deprecating sense of humor, was waiting for a bus when the $203,000 fell to the street.  “There wasn’t another soul around”.”  The next morning, Franco stuffed all the money into a laundry bag and met police officers at a local park where he promptly turned the fortune over to them.  He asked only one thing: “can I have my laundry bag back?”

Now the cynics of the world wouldn’t be surprised to hear Franco comment, “Everybody says I’m an idiot…”  Everyone that is, but his proud mother who still lives in Mexico, and thinks he is wonderful.  You see, Franco is the “vision” of a “good son”…he knows who he is, remaining true to his principles, and keeping all things in proper order and perspective regardless of circumstances.  Good sons make good people…good citizens…good leaders. They are “highly effective” people.

You’ll be happy to know that Franco was rewarded, although no reward was expected, for his honesty.  However, I’d be willing to bet, based on what we know about Franco, that the gleam of the $25,000 reward will have faded long before the glow of self-respect and inner peace from living his principles.  Principle-centered people believe in the “always” principles of consistency and integrity.  They understand that principles are not subject to ircumstances, but rather that circumstances must be subject to principles.

Yes, “stuff” happens.  But the “stuff” that happens to us isn’t really all that important…it’s what happens within us that really matters.  As leaders (of both yourself and others) you are many many times more effective when those you serve observe your unwavering commitment to principles and priorities…always – never depending on the circumstances.  Such consistency breeds immeasurable trust and confidence, and ensures cooperation and team spirit.

So the next time “stuff” happens…

Lead on…

Cliff

November 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment


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