Sunday, April 26, 2009

Crab Basket Syndrome - Climbing Out of the Corporate Trap

Crab Basket Syndrome – Climbing Out of the Corporate Trap
By Doug Dickerson

Living along coastal South Carolina; I’ve enjoyed several opportunities to go crabbing at the beach. A good place to capture crab is along the jetties since they like to hide among the rocks. The rewards of crabbing are delicious as crab can be served up many ways, crab cakes being my favorite. See Paula Deens recipe on this link

Once a crab has been caught with a net, they are typically placed in a basket until the desired number of crab has been acquired. The crab in a basket syndrome is amazing to observe. The general idea is that crabs seek out crabs attempting to escape and then pull them back into the pot, making it nearly impossible to escape.

Understanding the theory is important because the lessons transcend crabbing and can apply right where you work. What happens when boiling hot water is poured in a basket of live crabs? Panic sets in and they will do whatever to escape, including pulling each other down. Simply put, they are just trying to survive the dangers of the pot.

Apply this theory to people, and you will begin to understand what could be going on where you work. The pressure is on, things are heating up at work, and instead of lending a helping hand, others see you climbing to the top and they are trying to pull you down.

The crab basket syndrome is alive and well and knowing how to handle it will make all the difference. Allow me to help you identify who the crabs are so you’ll know what to look out for. The ones that will pull you down are known by these characteristics. Let me spell it out for you.

Crabs in your office are critics. The sad reality you must come to terms with is that not everyone will be glad about your success. Your success, however, is not dependant upon the approval of the crab.

Climbing to the top is a journey that is characterized by risk, reward, setbacks, and determination. Professional jealousy is a sad reality. As you climb your way up, others will try to bring you down through criticism to deflect attention away from their lack of achievement.

Joseph Addison said, “It is ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another if he has not distinguished himself by his own performance.” When the critics come, keep climbing. Soon you’ll be out of their reach.

Crabs in your office are resentful. Not only will the crabs criticize you but they will be resentful of your success. The crab had rather you be miserable in the pot with him than to watch you climb out of the pot and succeed. It’s twisted in a way, but the crab had rather you stay down with him than climb out with you.

Robert A. Cook said, “Don’t resent the fact that people check on you; if you weren’t worth anything, they wouldn’t bother.” The crab is watching and checking. The crab wants to keep close tabs on you. Don’t worry about the crab, keep climbing.

Crabs in your office are angry. The further you move away from the crab the angrier he becomes. Your climb out of the basket is the very thing he despises. But your focus must remain steadfast. Sure, no one likes to be in the pressure cooker, especially in these economic times. You have to understand, your climb out of the basket is the focus of anger for the crabs in your office, but not the root of it.

Someone once said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it’s stored than to anything on which it is poured.” That’s so true. Don’t worry about the anger of the crab, nor take it personal, just keep climbing.

Crabs in your office are baggage. They are the ones that attempt to keep you as well as others in the office from succeeding. When others are working, climbing, and making their way to the top, they are the bottom feeders.

I remember a saying from many years back, “What you tolerate, you promote.” You don’t always have a say about which crabs are in the basket with you, but there comes a time when a crab has to be cooked.

A good leader realizes that some will rise to the occasion no matter what. Some crabs will boil in the pressure and try to pull others down to their level. Peter Drucker said, “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of person’s performance to a higher standard.”

Remember, crabs are critics, resentful, angry, and baggage. Therefore, your climb to the top may be lonely at times, but the payoff will be worth it all.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Relationships - The Key to Successful Leadership

Relationships – The Key to Successful Leadership
By Doug Dickerson

If you think your family has problems, consider the marriage mayhem created when 76-year-old Bill Baker of London wed Edna Harvey. She happened to be his granddaughter’s husband’s mother. That’s where the confusion began, according to Baker’s granddaughter, Lynn.

“My mother-in-law is now my step grandmother. My grandmother is now my step-father-in-law. My mom is my sister-in-law and brother is my nephew. But even crazier is that I’m now married to my uncle and my children are my cousins.” From this experience, Lynn should gain profound insight into the theory of relativity.

That humorous story is a way to illustrate something that in leadership is actually not too funny at all. In order to be an effective leader on any level, you have to develop people skills and good personal relationships.

Leadership expert John Maxwell says, “One of the greatest mistakes leaders make is spending too much time in their offices and not enough time out among the people. Leaders are agenda drive, task focused, and action oriented because they like to get things done. They hole up in their offices, rush to meetings, and ignore everyone they pass along the way. What a mistake! First and foremost, leadership is people business.”

Allow me to share with you three important reminders about the importance of relationship building.

First, people are your priority. When it comes to your leadership and influence in your organization, you can’t accomplish anything without your people. How you treat them is a clear indication of the value you place in them. Don’t be like the group of friends who went out hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.

“Where’s Harry?” he was asked. “Harry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple of miles back up the trail.” “You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?” “Well,” said the hunter, “I figured no one was going to steal Harry.”

Sadly, many in leadership make the mistake of treating their people like poor Harry and are more concerned about the product. They fail to remember that they would have no product were it not for their people. If you are locked in your office, isolated away from everyone, it sends a clear signal that you don’t value them. When you do this, you are leading from the position of a title – nothing more.

In leadership, people are your number one priority. And when you treat them that way, they won’t let you down.

Second, relationships are your future. Longevity in your organization is tied to how well you nurture relationships today. Nurturing relationships involves a deliberate plan of action on the part of the leader.

This action begins within your organization by how you value relationships. If people in your organization are treated with respect and a conscious effort is made to build a team atmosphere, the possibilities of your organization are limitless.

In his book, Bringing out the best in People, Alan Loy McGinnis says, “In the simplest terms, the people who like people and who believe that those they lead have the best intentions will get the best from them. On the other hand, the police-type leader, who is constantly on the watch for everyone’s worst side, will find that people get defensive and self-protective and that the doors to their inner possibilities quickly close.”

The best thing you can do as a leader is to understand that the future of your organization and your career is tied to successful relationship building. It begins inside your organization and flows out.

Finally, if people are your priority, and relationships are your future, then friendship is the pathway. Samuel Johnson once said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant rdpair.”

Friendship is the recipe that transcends the boundary of business and stands the test of time. I’m reminded of the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black to play major league baseball.

While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

A wise leader understands the value of friendship, of coming along side a co-worker and putting an arm around a shoulder. A wise leader values, nurtures, and fosters friendships.

A strong leader is a relationship builder.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Leadership Perspectives - Lessons From Arthur Ashe

Leadership Perspective – Lessons from Arthur Ashe
By Doug Dickerson

Spring time across the country means different things depending on what part of the country you live. Here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, one of the many festive occasions that mark the arrival of spring is the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament on picturesque Daniel Island.

During this renowned tournament, the top women’s tennis players from around the globe come to claim the top prize and demonstrate for their adoring fans why they are the best in the world.

One of tennis’ most recognizable and revered players is the late Arthur Ashe. Ashe was a top ranked player in the 1960’s and 70’s. Raised in the segregated south, he was the first African-American tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament. Over the course of his storied career, Ashe won 33 career singles titles and 18 doubles. Ashe died on February 6, 1993 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Ashe was much more than an athlete though. His commitment to social justice, health and humanitarian issues left a mark on the world as his tennis did on the court. You can read more of about his life and legacy on his website at

During his battle with cancer, Ashe received letters from fans from all over the world. He read all of his letters, but only replied to one. The fan who wrote to him asked him, “Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?”

Ashe replied, “In the world, there are 50 million children who start playing tennis each year, 1 million of them really learn to play tennis. Half a million manage to learn professional tennis. 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach the grand slam. 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 reach the final round, 2 reach the final round, and only one wins the championship. When I was holding the cup, I never asked, ‘God, why me?’ and today in pain, how could I ask him, ‘why me?’”

Ashe demonstrated on and off the court a leadership style that is worth another look at today. I’d like to share a few leadership thoughts taken from quotes by Ashe as we look at leadership perspectives.

First, success is a journey. Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Whether you win or lose, it’s how you played the game that matters. In the end, retaining your character and integrity will mean more than what you achieved. Take care of the former and the latter will take care of itself.

Second, we have a responsibility to serve. “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life,” Ashe said. It’s a timeless concept. True happiness in life is discovered as we learn to give. He later said, “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It’s not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Ashe is a wonderful example of someone who got it.

Third, get in the game. Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” The principle is larger than tennis. The gifts, abilities, and talents you have are a means to benefit others. It’s not about the talents you don’t possess, but what you will do with the ones you do. Don’t miss opportunities around you because you were a spectator. Ashe didn’t allow obstacles to hold him back, neither should you.

Finally, decide upon your legacy. “I don’t want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments,” he said. Do we remember Ashe for his accomplishments on the tennis court? We most certainly do, and rightfully so. His accomplishments off the court are what he wanted to be remembered for. He fought for causes that transcended the game and his legacy lives on today. It’s just a good leadership principle; there are causes greater than us.

Ashe provides a leadership perspective that is applicable today. Tennis is a better sport today because he played. The world is a better place because he served.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The One Thing - Discovering Your Passion as a Leader

The One Thing – Discovering Your Passion as a Leader
By Doug Dickerson

It’s the classic scene from the movie City Slickers starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Palance and Crystal are riding slowly across the range on horseback, discussing life and love.

Palance plays a sly cowpoke, while Crystal is a novice from Los Angeles who has paid for a two-week dude ranch vacation. Crystal gets more than he bargained for in the process and learns something about himself. Consider the following dialogue that takes place between them:
To watch the clip click on the link:

Palance: “How old are you? Thirty-eight?
Crystal: “Thirty-nine.”
Palance: “Yeah. You all come out here about the same age. Same problems. Spend fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope then-then you think two weeks up here will untie them for you. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is?”
Crystal: “No, what?”
Palance: “This.” (Holds up index finger)
Crystal: “Your finger?”
Palance: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s-.”
Crystal: “That’s great, but what’s that one thing?”
Palance: “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

In his book, Halftime – Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, Bob Buford says, “Most people never discover their “one thing.” But part of what is so unsettling about approaching the end of the first half of our lives is that we know it is out there somewhere.”

Finding your “one thing”- your passion as a leader, will be life-transforming. As Buford says, “It is discovering what’s true about yourself, rather than overlaying someone else’s truth on you or injecting someone else’s goals onto your personality.”

In discovering your one thing as a leader,it’s what you’ve got to figure out. Each person’s passion, gifts, and abilities are different, and where those God-given gifts take you is a personal journey.

I would however like to offer some practical insight in the form of questions as you seek to discover your passion as a leader.

First, what tugs at your heart? What tugs at your heart speaks of your humanity. Beneath the exterior shell that others see is something that stirs you. In leadership, what stirs your heart is the area in which you are going to be most effective. Your passion as a leader is developed by what moves you at your core.

What tugs at your heart will give you direction as a leader. Charles Parkhurst said, “The heart has eyes that the brain knows nothing of.” Discovering your passion as a leader is about following a passion that’s already there, it’s a cause greater than yourself. What is it?

Second, what is your gift? Identifying what tugs at your heart will propel you in the right direction. Understanding your gift is to know where you fit in the puzzle. No one person can do it all, discovering your passion as a leader is to know the one thing you are good at and then to do it to the best of your ability.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die.” When you discover that passion as a leader your influence will transcend the identity of what you do. At this level your identity as a leader will be defined by the passion of your heart.

Finally, what is your purpose? Discovering your passion as a leader is found in understanding what tugs at your heart, knowing your gift, and knowing your purpose in life. Understanding your purpose leads to your plan – what you are prepared to do about it.

One of golf's immortal moments came when a Scotchman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President's beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotchman swung, and again he missed. Our President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, "There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.

Grant saw the value of exercise, but failed to see the purpose of the ball. In leadership, many see the value of leading, but fail to understand its grater purpose.

What is the one thing? That is what you have to figure out.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson