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Posts tagged ‘Learning’

Three Life Lessons from a Holocaust Survivor

2015-05-09 13.30.43I’ve attended a number of college graduation ceremonies, including two of my own. And at every ceremony there’s always been a commencement speech. Yet, until I attended our daughter Christina’s recent graduation from Butler University, I’ve never heard a truly memorable one.

This commencement speech was given by Eva Mozes Kor. She is a survivor of the Holocaust. Every person in Hinkle Fieldhouse was riveted Eva told the story of her experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Because she and her sister were twins, when her family arrived at the camp via train aboard a cattle car, they were immediately separated from their parents and other siblings. Eva and her sister never saw the rest of their family again. They didn’t go to the gas chambers because the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele chose instead to use them as human guinea pigs in his inhuman and evil genetic experiments.

After briefly sharing her story, Eva went on to share with the graduates three important “life lessons” she learned from her life during and after Auschwitz. By this point she had us all ready to not only hear what she learned but, in doing so, find her secret to dealing with the pain, hurts and disappointments everyone in that field house has experienced.

Here are her three simple but powerful life lessons.

  1. Never give up on yourself or your dreams. Never lose hope no matter how desperate the situation may seem. (I might add, never give up on God and the hope you have in Him)
  2. Give your kids, parents and other loved ones a hug every day. Never take for granted that you’ll see them again.
  3. Forgive those who have hurt you. When you forgive you’re no longer a prisoner or a victim.

Unfortunately as Eva’s learned, this last lesson comes at a high cost in return for the high reward of freedom. She has received criticism in the media for her very personal and public forgiveness of Nazi guards at Auschwitz.

After the ceremony we talked about Eva’s message. Christina mentioned how her classmates graduating in her program all commented on how powerful and memorable Eva’s message was. Now to have the graduates really listening makes that speech a true winner and a great example of telling a compelling and personal story that does more than entertain but benefits those who listen to it.

 

“You Need to Feed Them and Love Them Before You can Lead Them”

2013-06-21 11.57.45I recently heard again a pastor’s old maxim – “you need to feed them and love them before you can lead them”. This got me thinking, this isn’t just a helpful maxim for pastors but for every leader.

So I asked myself, “how does this old maxim apply to other kinds of leaders, ones who are not pastors?”

So here’s my take on it.

First, “Feed them” implies giving people the tools, time, encouragement, and clarity of expectations, training, and coaching they need to successfully do their work now and into the future. It means providing both challenging and meaningful work while assuring people have what they need to meet every challenge and, at the end of the day, be successful. Feeding people is building into them professionally and personally.

Then the second requirement of leadership is to “Love them“. How can we love those entrust to our leadership? We start with treating them as people created in the image of God. We can do this simply by knowing and using people’s names. People love and need to be known. We make sure we understand what people do in their work and the contributions they make to the team. Then we should never stop thanking them. We get to know people on a personal level so we can lead them in a way that brings out their best. We also show an interest in them beyond what they can do for the team. This means being committed to well-being of their professional lives (goals, fears, desires, calling, development, etc.) as well as their personal lives (family, hobbies, spiritual).

If, as leaders, we can effectively feed and love people, then, and only then, will we earn the right to lead them, to be granted the privilege to be their leaders. Without earning this right, by definition, we’re not leaders because we simply will have no lasting followers, just people stuck till they can find another leaders and team.

So challenge yourself by answering the following questions about the people entrusted to you. Then earn the right to lead by actually do what you’ve said you will do in each answer.

  1. What will I do this week to feed them?
  2. How will I tangibly express my love for them this week?

All You can Do is Your Best. Yes, but…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was in high school I remember coming home after our high school football team lost a critical conference game. I played defensive end and had a rough night holding contain, and slowing down our opponents receivers. When I walked into our house both my mom and dad knew I was upset, disappointed and defeated. In an effort to help me move forward they asked me this question –

“Did you do give your best tonight?”

And of course I answered “yes I did” because I wanted to win as badly as any player on the field.

Then my parents said that’s stuck with me ever since,

“Then if you did your best there’s nothing more you could have done to change the outcome of the game. The only thing you can do now is learn from this and improve for the next game.”

My parents wanted me to know that I couldn’t control what others do, the conditions I perform in, and most other factors that impact my performance, but I can control myself. I can always do my best.

But, as I also learned on that Friday night so many years ago, sometimes doing your best isn’t enough. Effort, though important doesn’t equal winning, doing your best doesn’t guarantee success. It just guarantee’s, no matter the results, I don’t have to hang my head.

I also realized that evening that, by definition, we can never do better than our best. There’s no space above doing all we could in a given situation. What we can do, as my parents told me, is to learn so that our top-level can be redefined, our best ceiling can rise. In most cases, unfortunately, the conditions required to create this kind of transformative learning happens after we lose or perform badly.

So, we can and should always do our best in any given situation. But when our best isn’t enough, we need to take the opportunity to learn so that the next time we perform, our best will meet the challenge.

I guess our Michigan Winter isn’t so bad … On Reading Real Life Adventure Stories

002I’ve just started Alfred Lansing’s Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, the story of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew’s adventure of living on an ice-moored ship near Antarctica for 10 months before their ship sinks, followed by 7 months living on an ice floe in the open sea until finally reaching safe harbor.  I can barely put it down.

I’ve always loved real life adventure books, such as Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, Huntford’s The Last Place on Earth, Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, and Stanton’s In Harm’s Way.  I follow the stories with maps next to my chair and Google Earth on my IPAD.  I do background research on the people, the places and the times.  Every one of these stories engages me in a way fiction, however exciting and adventuresome it might be, rarely does.

I think it starts with the obvious fact that these stories are about real people and real events. Now understand I’m a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, but when the story brings you to the tightest places, I expect Gandalf to show up with some magic, and of course, he or some other character usually does because Tolkien can make it so.  In real life adventure stories, there’s no magic. There’s the occasional miracle (I do believe in those), but there’s also a lot of remarkable behavior and action by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

So, as a result, I’m always inspired by these stories.  They remind me that whatever challenge I’m facing (like a winter in northern Michigan), there’s always others who’ve went through a lot worse and not only survived but were victorious.  But I also approach these books as I did business school case studies, an opportunity to learn, to grow and to gain new perspective and insight into people and the world.  I learn from both the successes and the failures that are always a part of real life stories.

In particular I love to look closely at the leaders in these stories. I ask questions such as – what was their leadership style?  Was it effective?  What can I apply in my context?  If I could, I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men so I could learn firsthand about his leadership.  But since that’s not possible, reading a well –written and researched book about him and his adventure is the next best thing.  And, in this case, it also reminds me that my winter in northern Michigan isn’t really so bad after all.

 

The Benefits of Teaching at Conferences

2014-12-04 15.55.12I had an English professor who would tell me “if you can’t express your thoughts in writing it’s because you don’t know your subject well enough”. Taking this maxim to another level – you can’t teach about a subject unless you’ve mastered it.

This wherein lies one of the reasons I always teach at conferences or other venues anytime the opportunity arises, as I did this week at the Christian Camp and Conference Association National Conference. Because when I teach I benefit at least as much as those I’m teaching and usually much more.

But this wasn’t always the case. Earlier in my career I avoided teaching, or did it begrudgingly, because I believed it took focus off from my “real” work and worse, it wouldn’t benefit my team or organization. But over the last number of years I’ve discovered how wrong this perspective was.

What I now know is teaching:

  1. Is the purest form of multiplying leadership (Leadership25) because it spreads what you know and have learned to and through others.
  2. Forces me to think through the what, why and how of the material I’m teaching.
  3. Provides an opportunity to assess how well I and/or our team is doing with the subject area. In other words when I teach I want to be able to say that we’re doing (or at least attempting to do) what I’m teaching.
  4. Can and should be used to help sharpen my own skills and those of our team.
  5. Reflects well on SpringHill.

So next time the opportunity to teach at a conference or other venue comes your way, remember you and your team will benefit at least as much as those who sit in on your workshop, and most likely, you’ll benefit much more.

“I’ve arrived” and Why Believing that Could Cause You to Lose Your – Job Part 7

???????????????????????????????when doing a benchmarking visit of another camp I asked one of their senior people “do you ever visit other camps?” I was hoping to return the favor and offer him the opportunity to come to SpringHill so we could share with him what we’re doing. His answer was shockingly honest – “why would I want to do that?” You see this leader believed that he and his camp had already arrived. And when you’ve arrived why would you be interested in learning anything more?

In this series of posts about the seven attitudes and behaviors that can cause you to lose your job the fifth attitude “believing you’ve already arrived” can be the slowest way out. Slow because this attitude in and of itself typically isn’t enough to cause someone to lose their job especially if they are performing to expected levels.

But the problem is, over the long run, a person who believes they’ve already arrived will stop learning and growing. And learning and growing is essential because the world continues to change. As a result a person who quits learning, and loses what I call professional curiosity, will soon fall behind and will ultimately not be able to perform as expected.

The worst part of this attitude is that it can spread in an organization. And once it spreads, an organization can become complacent and be at risk of becoming irrelevant. As a matter of fact, unless this attitude changes, it’s only a matter of time before the leader and the organization finds itself in dire straits.

So, if you want to keep your job and continue to making a difference in the world, never allow yourself to believe you’ve arrived. Continue to be professionally curious, it will serve you and your team well today and into the future.

The One Quality Every Enduring Leader Possesses

I’m a student of leadership. I read leadership books, listen to leadership gurus and read leaders’ blogs. I’ve especially gained much insight by reading biographies of leaders from many fields, walks of life and historical periods such as Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln.

In addition, as a benefit of my work at SpringHill, I have the privilege of spending time with incredible leaders from many leadership contexts and places in the world. And over the last couple of months I’ve been with more leaders than usual which moved me to ask “is there something all these leaders have in common?”

Through all my study and observation I became convinced there’s one quality every effective and enduring leader possesses.

It’s that they’re intensely curious. They desire (and maybe more accurately “need”) to learn and grow as people and as leaders so they can lead their organizations better and see those they lead grow as well.

I can’t think of an effective and enduring leader I’ve studied, seen or interacted with that didn’t have this quality as part of their being.

Just as every leader’s different, this quality – the desire to learn and this intense curiosity’s expressed differently.

Some leaders learn through experience such as benchmarking other organizations.

Most leaders read, which explains why the cliché “readers are leaders” resonates as true.

Many use coaches, mentors and other advisors to help them learn, grow and improve.

Yet regardless of the method of learning this quality’s still the same – they have this intense curiosity and an endless thirst to learn.

And for this reason it’s also the one quality that I will fight to have in my life for as long as I live.

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