Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Making of a Hall of Fame Leader

A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.
- Henry Adams

This week a milestone in high school basketball will take place. In a small high school in a small New Jersey town, a coaching legend will join an elite group of coaches with 1,000 wins. Already enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, this is yet another milestone for this remarkable coach.

I became aware of this story in a profile on CNN. Bob Hurley, Sr. is the head coach at St. Anthony High School where his illustrious coaching career began four decades ago. With 25 state parochial titles under his belt, his success speaks for itself.

Yet to comprehend what makes Bob Hurley such an extraordinary coach it is first important to understand what makes him such an inspiring person. And from his life story come leadership lessons that serve as an inspiration for any person desiring to make a difference in his business or organization. Apply these principles to your leadership and you too can be a Hall of Fame leader.

Embrace small beginnings with conviction. When Hurley began his coaching career it was not glamorous. Hurley would sweep the hardwood floors and ride to games in yellow school buses. Hurley’s humble beginnings were the foundation upon which he impacted the lives of hundreds of boys.

It is in the routine of small beginnings where the seeds of success are planted. It is in the faithful dedication to ones craft that those seeds mature and the fruit of ones labor is rewarded. It would seem that many would want to by-pass this all so important process, but not Hurley, and the lives he touched is the reward.

Serve great causes with purpose. While no one can deny Hurley’s success on the court, his most important contributions took place away from the game in the lives of inner-city boys he has impacted. Reflecting on all the games he has won, Hurley said, ‘You know what? I would give them up for one more chance with some of the kids I didn’t reach over the years. If I could have a second chance with some of those, it would be worth all the adulation.”

Hurley has dedicated his life to mentoring young boys at St. Anthony’s. He has impacted the lives of hundreds of players, many of whom now enjoy successful careers or like Terry Dehere, who went on to play in the NBA. "Hurley had a direct effect on a lot of young men’s lives growing up in Jersey City. To have a coach who was dedicated and a taskmaster helped a lot of kids – and I’m a living testament to it," says Dehere.

Consider any leader of distinction today and you will find this one characteristic to be a common thread. Each understand the value of serving causes greater than self and are committed to making the world a better place.

Reap great rewards. Out of the hundreds of inner-city teenagers Hurley coached, he has placed nearly all of them in colleges, and most of them on scholarships. The success he has enjoyed over the years on the court pales in comparison to the lives he has helped shape off the court.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University was the presenter when Hurley was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hurley’s son, Bobby, was a star point guard for the Blue Devils under Coach K when he won one of his four National Championships.

Speaking at the ceremony Coach Krzyzewski said, “Bob has a passion to help young men get the opportunities they would never have gotten unless he and basketball entered their lives. He should be in the Hall of Fame not for the number of wins, but for the number of lives he’s changed.”

Hurley has demonstrated throughout his career that sweeping floors is not beneath his pay grade; that serving causes greater than self is the greatest honor, and that changed lives is the ultimate reward for a coach. Hurley’s life and leadership is a resource for all present and inspiring leaders wanting to make a difference.

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hot-Rivet Syndrome; Understanding Your Stress Points

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. – Thomas Paine

In Everyday Business – A Field Guide to the 600 Leading Companies in America, Milton Moskowitz shares an amusing story about the challenges of change and adaptability. Picture a scene from the Old West, sometime in the 1870’s. Weary cowboys in dusty Levi’s gather around a blazing campfire after a day on the open range.

The lonely howl of a coyote counterpoints the notes of a guitar as the moon floats serenely overhead. Suddenly a bellow of pain shatters the night, as a cowpoke leaps away from the fire, dancing in agony. Hot-Rivet Syndrome has claimed another victim.

In those days, Levi’s were made, as they had been from the first days of Levi Strauss, with copper rivets at the stress points to provide extra strength. One these original Levi’s—model 501, the crotch rivet was the critical one. When cowboys crouched too long beside the campfire, the rivet grew uncomfortably hot. For years the brave men of the West suffered this curious occupational hazard. Then, in 1933, Walter Haas, Sr., president of Levi Strauss, went camping in his Levi 501’s.

He was crouched by a crackling campfire in the High Sierras, drinking in the pure mountain air, when he fell prey to Hot-Rivet Syndrome. He consulted with professional wranglers in his party. Had they suffered from the same mishap? An impassioned YES was the reply. Haas vowed that the offending rivet must go, and at their next meeting the board of directors voted it into extinction.

While the Levi’s were meant to bring comfort to those who wore them, the unintended consequences proved to be anything but comfortable. The unintended consequences in your business or organization occur when what was once familiar now feels different in the heat of the moment.

In the past few years many have been subjected to new realities and stresses that did not previously exist. With new economic realities have come new stresses. Here are three important things to know about your stress points that will help you avoid Hot-Rivet Syndrome and keep it from hurting you.

Stress points will challenge you; manage them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to wearing Levi’s. You cannot stuff your 36-inch waist into a 32-inch waist pair of jeans. While it might be wishful thinking; it will not work.

The issue is not whether you will experience stress points in your business but how you will manage them. After suffering the horrible indignity of Hot-Rivet Syndrome, Haas decided that the copper rivets must go. It was not about a new design with the rivets, or how to relocate them, it was about their total extinction. How you choose to handle your stress points and for how long is up to you, but until you take action, do not blame the fire.

Stress points will stretch you; grow from them. While the natural tendency is to avoid and remove stress points, do not miss the teachable moments they bring. At the time when Hot-Rivet Syndrome was occurring, Levi’s had been made the same way for years.

Hot-Rivet Syndrome pushed Haas and his corporate team to change the design and improve the Levi product. Stress points can push you out of your comfort zone and challenge your old assumptions. Just as an old pair of Levi’s might wear well, stress points can bring out the best in us when we dare to break in a new pair.

Stress points can burn you; rise above them. It was when the cowpokes crouched too long by the fire they got burned. Too often in business we tend to get comfortable and crouch too long by the very things that can harm us.

The fires get too hot when crouched too long by those who stoke the flames of office politics and gossips. The copper rivets once designed to strengthen now become the stressors that burn when the bottom line holds more value than the persons who create it. It is when you rise up, move from the fire, you understand the strength of the rivet is dependant upon the character of the cowpoke.

Stress points are stepping stones that you will either master or uneven stones that will trip you. Carefully choose your steps and you will not just cope under the stress points that you face but you will excel because of them.

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Help Wanted: A Wacky Organization In Need Of A Leader

Structure can make the difference between a bad organization and a good one. The difference between a good organization and great one is leadership.
- John Maxwell

A compelling challenge within many companies is the ability to maintain a cohesive sense of organizational stability, an efficient structure, and a team that has a clear sense of purpose and direction.

Unfortunately, many leaders feel that it is strictly up them to carry the load on all fronts in order to move the organization toward its desired goals. As this unfolds, the very fabric of the organization begins to unravel. The warning signs begin with low morale, lack of trust, and shifting channels of communication.

A humorous story is told that somewhere in the world is a country with a population of two hundred and twenty million. Eighty-four million are over sixty years of age, which leaves 136 million to do the work. People under twenty years of age total ninety-five million, which leaves forty-one million to do the work.

There are twenty-two million employed by the government, which leaves nineteen million to do the work. Four million are in the Armed Forces, which leaves fifteen million to do the work. Deduct 14,800,000, the number in state and city offices, and that leaves 200,000 to do the work. There are 188,000 in hospitals and insane asylums, so that leaves 12,000 to do the work.

It is of interest to note that in this country 11,998 people are in jail, so that leaves just two people to carry the load. That’s you and me-and brother, I’m getting tired of doing everything myself!

From within the confines of their whacky corporate culture comes a plea from those longing to return to the days of stability and productivity. It begs the question by those trapped in this environment; is there hope? Be assured that the answer is yes, and it begins not with a new organizational structure (although one may be needed), but a return to rightful leadership. An understand
ing of the following three concepts will help put you on a path of restoring the confidence your organization needs to move forward.

A strong leader is a compliment to the structure. George Barna said, “Great organizations may have great leaders and a poor structure, but I’ve never seen a great organization that had a great structure and a poor leader.” And this is where the focus must be concentrated. The mistake is made when those at the top of the organization believe if they just improve the organizational structure they will improve the company.

But without a change in leadership style it is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Your company may have a great organizational structure, but with the wrong leader at the helm is still a prescription for disaster. But take a strong leader with a good structure and your potential is unlimited.

A strong leader mentors successors. Succession in your company is by design. When the leader is surrounded by potentially strong leaders he is laying the foundation for the future. In fact, he wants to be surrounded by as many like-minded people as possible.

Henry Ford said, “You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people, and I’ll bring my business right back again.” What a powerful testament to the quality of people he surrounded himself with. Can the same be said for the people you surround yourself with? Again, it’s not the structure that makes this possible, it’s the leader.

A strong leader creates momentum. Lee Iacocca said, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” And this is where the pace and momentum of the
leader is relevant to the success of the team. When the leader is out front in his understanding of the importance of momentum, he can place his team in a position to win.

Noted leadership speaker and bestselling author Mark Sanborn says, “Leadership doesn’t make a difference, leadership is the difference.” The game changer with momentum is that it draws in the talent and resources of all the team and that energy is perpetuated throughout the structure. By focusing first and foremost on strong leadership, the organizational structure benefits.

A strong leader makes the difference in his organization by leading in a way that compliments the organizational structure, by mentoring successors, and creating momentum. It is not the power of the structure as much as it is the power of the leader that makes this possible.

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Marching To The Beat Of Your Own Drum

I would rather have a Medal of Honor than be President of the United States.
- President Harry S. Truman

I recently had the privilege of visiting the Medal of Honor Museum aboard the USS Yorktown in beautiful Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Showcased in this museum is a moving tribute to our military heroes who served our country with honor, valor, and bravery.

What caught my eye was recognition given to the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor, William “Willie” Johnston. Born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont in 1850, Johnston was a drummer boy in Company D of the 3rd Vermont Infantry. His service in the Seven Day retreat in the Peninsula Campaign was exemplary.

During the retreat many of the men threw away their equipment so they had less of a load to carry. Johnston retained his drum and brought it safely to Harrison’s Landing. It was there he had the honor drumming for the division parade. He was the only boy to bring his instrument to the battlefield. Upon receiving word of Johnston’s bravery, President Lincoln suggested he be given a medal; a Medal of Honor.

Heroic acts by leaders like Johnston give cause for us to reflect on our motives and how we might better serve those we lead. An 11 year-old drummer boy on a battlefield 149 years ago teaches us three leadership traits worth emulating.

Leaders carry their own weight. While the other men in the infantry threw away their equipment, Johnston held to his. So often during difficult times, the leader is not the one who discards the weight of responsibility but carries it on his shoulders. Think about it. How many people in your organization are shirking their responsibilities and how many are stepping up and being responsible? See a disparity?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” At a tender young age, Johnston exemplified leadership beyond his years of understanding. As a drummer, he teaches us that it is not about rank or role within the organization, but heroes in our midst can be found if we dare to look.

Leaders know how to stand alone. At the conclusion of the retreat it was only Johnston who returned his drum from the battlefield. And it was only Johnston who had the honor of drumming for the division parade. When others exempt themselves from the bravery of the moment, they exempt themselves also from the honor that follows.

It’s been said, “When you are forced to stand alone, you realize what you have in you.” When you march to the beat of your own drum you do so knowing that there are certain places where only few leaders go. When others choose to the path of least resistance, you will cast your lot with the company of the brave. Those ranks may be few but you have grown to understand there are worse things than standing alone. By standing alone today you will lead the parade tomorrow.

Leaders summon uncommon courage in uncommon times. By shedding their gear, the other men did what was expedient. By holding on to his drum, Johnston did the exceptional. C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

Testing points come and go, but the enduring qualities of honor, sacrifice, and valor shine in unexpected ways from unlikely persons. This 11 year-old drummer boy distinguished himself among men and earned a medal from the president.

Consider the ranks of your organization. Who are the ones that stand out by their service, sacrifice, and dedication to the organization? These are the ones who march to the beat of their own drum- called to stand out, not to blend in. They may not have the title, but are leaders worthy of respect.

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Creative by Design: Three Habits for Effective Leaders

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
- Edward de Bono

A past reading in Bits & Pieces tells the story of fashion designer Sandra Garratt. She was given a project to design clothing that would go against her natural inclinations –clothes that she did not like.

She came up with a line of economical, one-size-fits-all, modular clothing for women. Garratt moved on to a series of jobs in the fashion industry, but she kept thinking about those clothes she had designed. They intrigued her enough that she eventually began producing them for a boutique in Dallas.

Several business people saw promise in Garratt’s clothes, and in 1986 they invested the money to help her start a nationwide chain of shops. The investment paid off. Within a few years, more than $100 million of Garratt’s clothes had been sold, and she made millions in royalties. All because she put her natural inclinations aside and investigated something different.

Garrett’s success came about by forcing herself to focus not on what her natural strengths were, but to intentionally design clothes she did not like. It was by adapting to a new style that she made her fortune. Her example is inspiring because she teaches us the power of new possibilities when we choose to embrace something different.

The challenges you face in 2011, both personally and professionally, can be stepping stones that can take you to a new level when you dare to set aside your natural inclinations to play it safe. Consider these three intentional acts that will enhance your leadership skills. These are simple steps but profound in their impact. How you respond will set the tone for the coming year.

Read more books. Simple? Perhaps. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones said, “Five years from now, you will be the same as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” And this will be a strong benchmark of your growth as a leader. It’s been said, “Leaders are readers.” I agree.

What’s on your reading list for 2011? The success secret for Sandra Garrett was that she designed clothes that she did not like. In order to develop as a leader you will need to expand your reading list which will shape your world view. Branch out of the safety of your bubble and absorb yourself in the wisdom of a good book. You will soon be amazed at your new way of thinking and understanding.

Meet new people. I recently had the opportunity to meet Don Hutson, the CEO of U.S. Learning and a New York Times best-selling author. His books and seminars have significantly impacted tens of thousands of people around the country.{} His positive attitude, generous advice, and genuine approachability were an enriching personal experience. Every encounter we have with others is an opportunity to grow as a leader and meeting Don was an inspiring moment.

Much has been said about the power of networking which certainly has its merits. But in the true meaning of networking, strive to create unselfish moments to add value. Francesco Guicciardini said, “Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them.’ I agree. Each new person you meet is someone who can make you a better leader.

Ask more questions. One of the most significant things you can do as a leader is not to always have the right answers but ask the right questions. As you ask the right questions you then can draw the right conclusions.

Regardless of how much you think you know you will only expand your knowledge and horizons when you are curious enough to ask the right questions. Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning.” What questions are you asking? Who do you seek out for advice and counsel? A cup of coffee and thirty minutes with a mentor can do more good for your company than one of those boring hour-long meetings you might be thinking about conducting.

Becoming a creative leader is on purpose and by design. It starts with a good book, by meeting new people, and asking more questions. Your rise to the top begins when you welcome new challenges with an open mind.

© 2011 Doug Dickerson