Sunday, July 26, 2009

Applauding Teamwork

I read an inspiring story about Jimmy Durante on a tour during World War II. Durante, one of the great entertainers of a generation ago, was asked to be a part of a show for World War II veterans. He told them his schedule was very busy and he could afford only a few minutes, but if they wouldn't mind his doing one short monologue and immediately leaving for his next appointment, he would come.

Of course, the show's director agreed happily. But when Jimmy got on stage, something interesting happened. He went through the short monologue and then stayed. The applause grew louder and louder and he kept staying. Pretty soon, he had been on fifteen, twenty, then thirty minutes. Finally he took a last bow and left the stage. Backstage someone stopped him and said, "I thought you had to go after a few minutes. What happened?"

Jimmy answered, "I did have to go, but I can show you the reason I stayed. You can see for yourself if you'll look down on the front row." In the front row were two men, each of whom had lost an arm in the war. One had lost his right arm and the other had lost his left. Together, they were able to clap, and that's exactly what they were doing, loudly and cheerfully.

Within your organization teamwork plays a vital role. When members work and plan together, success is realized. Babe Ruth once said, “The way the team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” That statement holds true today. How well you work together as a team will make all the difference. So what are team characteristics to look for? Allow me to share a few with you.

First, a team player has the right temperament. A team player has a pleasant combination of what the dictionary defines as, “the combination of mental, physical and emotional traits of a person; natural disposition.”
In other words, the team member blends well with others. He is not concerned about wanting or needing to have his own way. The team player thinks in terms of what is best for the whole team, not just for himself.

Second, a team player sets the right example. A team player models behavior that others should aspire to. Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” A strong team player will annoy others with a good example.

Third, a team player has the right attitude. There is nothing worse than a tem player with a bad attitude. Your attitude sets the tone for the rest of the team. When you are positive and are speaking positive words, it impacts the whole team for the good. John Maxwell said, “A leader’s attitude is caught by his or her followers more quickly that his or her actions.” A good team player contributes to the team with a good attitude.

Finally, a good team has the right motivation. A strong team player is motivated to perform at his or her very best. A team player is always thinking in terms of how he can become better so that the team performs at optimum levels.

Good teamwork takes commitment from everyone to causes greater than one’s own agenda. It’s recognizing that his or her contributions are part of the big picture. Commit yourself today to being a strong team player, and when you do, watch your team soar.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Leveling the Playing Field with an Attitude

John Kanary shares a story in A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, about Charlie Boswell. Charlie was blinded during World War II while rescuing his friend from a tank that was under fire. He was a great athlete before his accident and in a testimony to his talent and determination, he decided to try a brand new sport, a sport he never imagined with his eyesight – golf.

Through determination and a deep love for the game he became the National Blind Golf Champion. He was that honor 13 times. One of his heroes was the great golfer Ben Hogan, so it was truly an honor for Charlie to win the Ben Hogan Award in 1958.

Upon meeting Ben Hogan, Charlie was awestruck and stated that he had one wish and it was to have one round of golf with the great Ben Hogan. Mr. Hogan agreed that playing a round of golf together would be an honor for him as well, as he had heard about all of Charlie’s accomplishments and truly admired his skills.

“Would you like to play for money, Mr. Hogan?” blurted out Charlie. “I can’t play you for money, it wouldn’t be fair,” said Mr. Hogan. “Aw come on, Mr. Hogan…$1,000 per hole!”

“I can’t, what would people think of me, taking advantage of you and your circumstance,” replied the sighted golfer. “Chicken, Mr. Hogan?” “Okay,” blurted a frustrated Hogan, “but I am going to play my best.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else,” said the confident Boswell. “You’re on Mr. Boswell; you name the time and place.” A very self-assured Boswell responded, “10 o’clock…tonight!”

Having the right attitude can level the playing field not only for you personally, but in your organization. How many times have you picked up the paper in the morning only to see another headline proclaiming doom and gloom on the economy? The headlines are disturbing; quarterly reports are dismal, another company files bankruptcy, jobless numbers are worrisome, and the list goes on.

Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “A leader’s attitude is caught by his followers more quickly than his or her actions.” While the economic woes affect all of us, one thing remains constant- we choose our attitude. And the choice we make determines our future and our success. Leveling the playing field in these uncertain times is an attitude choice.

We level the playing field when we refuse to allow circumstances to defeat us. In these economic times, it’s a struggle for many. Yet, when we face the challenge with resolve and determination, we level the playing field.

C.S. Lewis said, “Everytime you make a choice you are turning the control part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, you are slowly turning this control thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish one.” We level the playing field with wise choices and right attitudes.

We level the playing field when we inspire our team by example. Your attitude should be the thermostat your team is set at. Simply put, your action as a leader multiplies the reaction of the team. When your attitude is strong then the attitude of the team will follow. Sure, there will be some slackers, but by and large, you set the tone of your organization by your example. What type of example are you setting?

We level the playing field through high expectations. High expectations create an environment ripe for success. And while you can’t control everyone else’s future you do play a role in how yours will turn out. Simply put, attitude is the lens through which you look at your world. Through that lens you can either have a negative view or a positive one.

I came across an interesting story about the hummingbird. Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation's deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do.

Writing in The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn says, “Freds know that one of the most exciting things about life is that we awake each day with the ability to reinvent ourselves. No matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day. While we can’t deny the struggles and setbacks, neither should we be restrained by them.”

Don’t be restrained by negative circumstances, level the playing field with a right attitude.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is Yours a 'Yes' Face?

A story is told of President Thomas Jefferson that during his days as president, he and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback. They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge away.

Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents. The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch. After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river. The president agreed without hesitation. The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side.

As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, "Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?" The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him. "All I know," he said, "Is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No,' and on some of them was the answer 'yes.' His was a 'Yes' face."

When it comes to the climate in your organization, what does your face say about you? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Sure, times are challenging, but the face you wear is giving signals that your team is picking up on. A strong leader is one who does not shy away from reality, but looks through the lens of optimism in the face of a challenge. Here’s how the optimist does it.

An optimist confronts his fears with resolve. The men riding with Jefferson had to confront a raging river and risk death to cross to the other side. Yet, one by one, they took the plunge and made their way across.

In your business I am not suggesting reckless abandon. I am suggesting that you not allow fear to paralyze you to the point that you are afraid to take risks. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
Obstacles along your path may not be of our choosing or creation, but the way in which you confront them is. Like Jefferson, face your fears head on and get over them.

An optimist gives others confidence. At the crossing of the river was a man who was not a part of the entourage. After observing the men, he approached Jefferson and asked him for a ride to the other side. The m`n chose Jefferson not because he knew he was the president, but because his countenance exuded confidence.

As a leader, team members are evaluating your confidence level and are looking for assurances from you that things are well. Rudy Giuliani said, “Leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present.” If as a leader you are weighed down by fear and doubt and are not looking to the future, your team will suffer. Jefferson’s face inspired all the confidence one man needed to face his fear. What does your face say about you?

An optimist looks for the good in all situations. The story is told of two boys who were twins, one an incurable optimist, one a pessimist. The parents were worried about the extremes of behavior and attitude and finally took the boys in to see a psychologist. The psychologist observed them a while and then said that they could be easily helped.

He said that they had a room filled with all the toys a boy could want. They would put the pessimist in that room and allow him to enjoy life. They also had another room that they filled with horse manure. They put the optimist in that room. They observed both boys through one way mirrors. The pessimist continued to be a pessimist, stating that he had no one to play with.

They went to look in on the optimist, and were astounded to find him digging through the manure. The psychologist ran into the room and asked what on earth the boy was doing. He replied that with all that manure, he was sure there had to be a pony in the room somewhere.

Sometimes you have to dig through some unpleasant things to find the good, but all things worthwhile are. Regardless of how difficult things may be around you, carry the face that says ‘Yes’.

P.S. – Once again this year I am participating in the Start! Lowcountry Heart Walk sponsored by the American Heart Association. Did you know that heart disease is the nation’s number 1 and 3 killers? This year, as was the case last year, I will be walking in memory of my father who suffered from strokes. The walk is in Charleston, SC September 26.
I have a team goal to raise $1,000. Your contribution will help the American Heart Association in their fight against heart disease. At the top right location of this page is a link to my donation page where through a secured link you can make your contribution. Thank you for donation and support as together we fight against heart disease!

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Faces to the Coal - The Work of Inspiring Leadership

Don McCullough shares a story of hope and encouragement from his writing, Walking from the American Dream, about Winston Churchill. Mc McCullough writes, “During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Piccadilly Circus after the war.

First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.

Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.’”

The ability to inspire others is one of the characteristics of a good leader. As the above story illustrated, Churchill was a man of great motivation and leadership. He encouraged a nation during its darkest hours and always lifted the hopes and aspirations of his people.

Churchill recognized that it was the sacrificial labor of everyone that would bring victory and he constantly reminded them of it. His words were not the rhetoric wishful thinking, but a call to persevere and thus alter the course of history. They were reminders for the workers then and are good reminders for us today.

First, he reminded them of the mission. In doing so, he showed them the big picture. Coal production was necessary in order for them to succeed. He also knew that the task was difficult. But instead of focusing on the hardships, Churchill painted a different picture to inspire them. He painted a picture of victory.

As an inspiring leader, it’s your task to not just picture success in your own mind, but to articulate it to your people. When your team sees what you see, they are inspired to go there with you.

At the dedication ceremony of Disney World in Orlando, Mrs. Disney was being introduced to speak. Her husband, Walt Disney, had already passed away by this time. During the introductory remarks, the emcee said, “I wish Walt Disney could have seen this.” Upon taking the podium, Mrs. Disney said, “He did.” It’s visionary leadership that attracts top talent to your cause, and when the banner of success and accomplishment is raised, it will spur your team to success. Churchill’s’ reminder was not just of the mission, but also that despite the current hardships, they were on the way to victory.

Second, he reminded them of the power of teamwork. In calling upon the services and sacrifices of the workers, he pointed out the various key players and their contributions to victory.
He spoke of the sailors, the soldiers, and the pilots who would be honored in the parade. Then he did something fascinating as a leader. He spoke of the men who were deep in the earth with their faces to the coal – the miners.

You see, not every team member is a visible team player, but every team player is valuable. Churchill knew that some would call into question where the scraggly miners were during the conflict knowing they would not receive the same affection as a soldier, sailor, or a pilot. But Churchill knew of their contribution, and would not allow them to be forgotten. In fact, he had them in the parade.

As an inspiring leader, it’s your job to honor all of your team, not just the ones out front. Without team members with their faces to the coal, you may not enjoy the success you have today.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.”

You will experience success in your organization when you focus on your mission and when you unleash the power of teamwork. And if you really want to know who the real leaders on your team are, they are easy to find, they have their faces to the coal.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson