Eating elephants–The power of perseverance

‘I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.’

 (Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor)

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!  This question has been posed in multiple military settings and I was introduced to the concept during a senior leadership program while serving in the Air Force.

There are times when human nature takes over and we view a project (elephant) as something too large for completion.  Instead of trying to eat the ‘entire’ elephant, what happens when you simply dive in and begin to take small bites?  Over time the project is completed, and you have conquered something that appears to be too large.

Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties. 

Think of the freshmen who enter colleges and universities each year.  The elephant in the room (pun intended) for them is completing their degree.  There are multiple factors and steps needed in order to eat that elephant.  The ability to have and display perseverance is needed because there are a lot of variables that come into play when working towards a degree.  Course offerings, prerequisites order, housing, financial aid, roommates, support systems, and nutrition are some things that could impact a student’s ability to start and complete a degree program.  Breaking down these variables and others that come up into manageable action steps (bites) provide an avenue to eat the elephant and persevere towards degree completion.

You can leverage the eating an elephant analogy in the work environment as well.  I view projects and speaking opportunities as my version of elephants.  I identify actions steps needed to complete the project and then incrementally build a platform for success.  This concept allows me to focus on the desired outcome by putting in the work to ensure I’m taking the necessary bites to meet my goal. I build presentations using this process and can identify holes early.  Filling the gaps identified is much easier for me by leveraging this concept.

So, who’s ready to eat their next elephant?  Try this as an approach when faced with a new project at work or for that next class assignment.

What benefits would ‘one bite at a time’ have for your personal and/or professional development?  Thanks!

Please Feed the Unicorns

Unicorns: something unusual, rare or unique. (Merriam-Webster)

The term or concept of the mythical unicorn comes up in my conversations from time to time.  The unicorn can symbolize different things for people; from the image of a horse like creature with a single horn, to a magical being or someone who is unique.

I’ve been called a unicorn in multiple settings.  I wear this designation as a badge of pride because being a unicorn means I have a uniqueness about me.

My life and career pivots have taken me from a computer analyst, classroom instructor, conference planner (US Air Force), career specialist (Macon State College), guidance counselor (Government contractor), adjunct psychology professor (multiple schools), employee development consultant (Goodwill), employer relations (UCF & FSU) and now a blogger/consultant/speaker.  The ability to adapt and believe I can pivot into different settings/outcomes generates the unicorn concept some associate with me.

I have a lot of great mentors and friends who provide advice and support to ensure I’m prepared for the next pivot.  The efforts from my mentors/friends/tree branches provide me with a platform to stretch my professional boundaries to ensure I’m continually growing.

How do they do that?  They feed the unicorn:

  • Display a desire to partner
  • Willing to share knowledge
  • Expert listeners
  • Words and actions match (Consistency)
  • Regular check-ins
  • Positive affirmations
  • Tough love when needed

The list above can be used by YOU to feed the unicorns you meet in your daily lives.  You can add more ‘feeding’ variables based on the unique situations encountered but my list is a starting point to engage others daily.  I’m sure there’s someone you work with who would benefit from being treated as a unicorn.  They may not realize their uniqueness or potential until you start to feed the unicorn.  You may be surprised by the number of unicorns around you once you start the feeding process.

FYI—I consider everyone who follows and/or reads the Walk Into the Future blog, unicorns.  My words, thoughts, and adventures are designed to help you forge your own unique path on your personal walk.

Thanks for inspiring and feeding me as well!

Unicorn

The Big Gulp: How do you handle it?

View life situations from all angles before making a decision.

“I never do business with anyone where I have to take a big gulp to move forward”.

(9 Things You Simply Must do to succeed in Love and Life)

The quote above comes from a book written by one of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud.  It is a piece of advice he received from a mentor when faced with a big business decision.  This concept can be used in multiple situations and has been a big part of my life.

I was able to leverage this quote with one of my most positive ‘tree branches’ last week to help with a decision she was facing.  I’m encouraged with my ability to shape this quote to help my tree branch and others when faced with tough choices.

I was introduced to the written works of Dr. Henry Cloud during a career development course while finishing my masters program in Counseling/Human Relations.  The book was so influential it was the first college text book I decided to keep for my personal library.  Most days you will find this book on me as I refer to it constantly for additional insight.

The Big Gulp can be defined as the apprehension you may feel prior to making a commitment.  The commitment could be business related, personal or a combination of both.  How you handle life’s Big Gulp moments can increase your level of happiness as you move forward on your Walk into the Future.

My personal Walk into the Future has been defined by leveraging Big Gulp moments to my advantage.  I never accept deals, offers or partnerships with anyone I would have to take a Big Gulp before moving forward.  I didn’t heed this concept a few times and moved forward and regretted every minute of the partnership.  It took me a few times to experience this before I became a firm believer in this process:  when offered something I would have to take a Big Gulp before moving forward, I do not accept it.

The opportunity may seem like the best thing ever, but the Big Gulp reaction should identify additional research is needed.  The Big Gulp reaction comes from past experiences where things didn’t seem quite right or the person offering you the deal has done things in the past to make you cautious.  Trust your instincts when faced with these situations.  Better yet, run the situation by your mentors for additional insight.  I recommend you share your apprehensions with your mentors so they can provide advice to cover all angles of the decision.  The ultimate decision belongs to you but remember the Big Gulp came from somewhere.

Can you isolate the Big Gulp to something tangible?  Can you trust the person offering you the opportunity?  There are other things to consider, but these are a few to help jump start the process.

Have you ever experienced a Big Gulp moment and still moved ahead?  How did that experience work out for you?

How can you leverage the Big Gulp moving forward?  I welcome your thoughts—thanks!

References

Cloud, Henry. (2004) 9 Thing you simply must do to succeed in love and life. Brentwood, TN: Integrity.

Relational Transparency – Take your leadership to the next level

flat view photography of four persons sitting facing laptop on desk
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“The lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”.

(Dalai Lama)

The concept of transparency within the work environment continues to grow.  Leaders who display relational transparency show they are willing to share information and understand direct reports, peers and supervisors want to be involved.

The quote above provides outcomes when transparency is absent from the relational process.

Relational transparency is an authentic leadership variable that highlights leaders should understand the impact their daily interactions can have (positive or negative) within the work environment.  Relational transparency involves the leader presenting their authentic self, which helps develop trust by sharing true thoughts and feelings and displaying appropriate emotions.  Trust develops as the leader shares information openly with all levels within the organization.  Consistency with words, thoughts and actions are staples of relational transparency.

How can Relational Transparency improve work outcomes?

  • Creates a nurturing environment
  • Shows direct reports they are valued and appreciated
  • Helps build meaningful and transparent relationships
  • Enhances overall organizational functions
  • Should be applied to both sides of a work relationship

Relational transparency can be leveraged to improve working relationships on multiple levels of an organization.  This process can be used when working with staff members from other departments or organizations.  Building trust when working on committees across the organization will only enhance the ability of the team to meet stated goals.  A transparent leader’s authenticity can be viewed easily throughout the organization because nothing is being hidden in daily interactions with others.

Leaders must be willing and able to ‘balance’ multiple relationship levels:  direct reports, peer to peer and supervisors.  Relational transparency provides leaders with an impactful way to build productive working relationships and enhance the overall functioning of the work environment.

How do you display relational transparency in your work environment?  How would this authentic leadership variable enhance daily interactions?