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.

The Humble Leader

close up photography of a cellphone
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

The concept of the humble leader sounds contradictory to what most people envision in the workplace.  The traditional leadership view (real or perceived) cast leaders as hard charging, take no prisoner and only out for themselves.

Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s importance, rank, etc. (Dictionary.com)

A true leader understands you lead people and manage programs.  Not the other way around.

A humble leader displays a level of self-awareness within the workplace to ensure growth for everyone.  A humble leader does not seek or need the spotlight to highlight the great work of the team.  The humble leader can inspire better team cohesion, eagerness to learn and a better performance outcome for their teams.

The process of leading by example and a leader with a humble approach when working with individuals and teams is an excellent example of this concept.  This consistent approach provides a template for others to follow and allows the team to perform knowing the true nature of their leader.

Humble leaders:

  • Build relationships
  • Listen
  • Enable trust in the workplace
  • Show appreciation
  • Reflect
  • Display authenticity

A humble leader puts the needs of others before themselves.  This could be a simple process of ensuring direct reports have the tools needed to perform their duties.  Sounds simple but how many times are work assignments delegated with deadlines, but instructions/tools needed to perform are not provided.  The humble leader looks to provide tools needed to ensure overall team success.  They are also not afraid to ask questions to ensure the assignment is fully understood.  Asking follow-up questions does not show weakness but shows the leader cares and wants to optimize time spent on a specific project.

Being a humble leader does not imply weakness.  Humble leaders are always looking to improve themselves and focus on larger, organizational goals—not just their individual goals.

A leader is best when people hardly know that they exist. (Lao Tzu)

What impact does humility have within your current work environment?  How would this concept enhance overall productivity in the work environment?

 

 

 

 

The Self-Aware Leader

Self Awareness2

“If we agree on everything, one of us is redundant”

(Colin Powell)

This is one of my favorite leadership quotes from Colin Powell.  This statement identifies true leaders want and encourage feedback from their direct reports.

This concept provides the leader with information needed to make sound decisions to help organizational growth.  New and ineffective leaders miss the opportunity to engage with direct reports on decision making for multiple reasons.  Some can be attributed to inexperience, lack of trust, and lack of self-awareness.  All can be overcome with concerted efforts to develop as a leader and engage within the work environment.  Leaders who are self-aware can begin to mitigate the inexperience and lack of trust mentioned earlier.

How do you become a self-aware leader?

  • Look inside and become introspective
  • Identify your strengths, weaknesses, values and how others view you
  • Understand how your self-view impacts others and the work environment
  • Knowledge of how your interactions (positive or negative) influence direct reports
  • Ensure actions and decisions are based in an authentic framework
  • Strive to build authentic relationships with everyone within the organization
  • Adjust based on interactions and feedback from others
  • Advocate for a continuous learning work environment

Work place impact of the Self-Aware Leader

The self-aware leader improves the work environment by modeling the attributes of self-awareness.  This modeling allows direct reports to see and understand the importance of self-awareness.  The leader actively acknowledges strengths and weaknesses.  This provides a framework to enhance staff members’ development within the work environment by catering to staff strengths and working to mitigate weaknesses.

The self-aware leader provides direct reports an engaging work environment where they know they are valued and input is encouraged.  This attribute showcases a leader who fully understands how they are viewed within the work environment.

Finally, the self-aware leader provides an organizational foundation for success by creating additional self-aware leaders.

How can you model self-awareness in your daily interactions?  What benefits would self-awareness bring to your work environment?

Self Awareness

Walk-up Music

Walkup music image

Major League Baseball (MLB) players leverage music to help in their in-game preparations.  The concept of hearing music at MLB games is not new but today’s modern players have really stepped up their games and insert their personalities and thoughts into their ‘Walk-up’ music selection.  Walk-up music is what you hear as a hitter steps up to the plate for an at-bat or a pitcher enters the game.  The music is normally picked by the hitter or pitcher and played over the stadium speakers to energize the crowd and the specific player.

View a list of 2017 Walk-up music here:  https://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/04/mlb-walk-up-songs-list-best-nelly

As you can see, the players select a wide range of music to represent them and to hype them up.

So, why are we discussing Walk-up music as part of your Walk into the Future?

Excellent question!  How do you get ready to tackle your day?  What actions do you take before giving a big presentation at work?  What impact would your personal Walk-up music have on your daily interactions?

Incorporating Walk-up music or some semblance into your daily interactions can provide the inspiration needed to accomplish your task.  Not saying you will have music blasting over a stadium PA system, but you can find your inspiration in music to generate the mindset needed for success.

As an introvert I still need an extra push prior to any speaking engagement I have.  My speaking engagements range from on-campus workshops, Chamber of Commerce presentations, Economic Vitality Council recruiting events and Keynote speaker responsibilities.  Most people who have seen me in front of a crowd assume I don’t experience nerves or anxiety before I take the stage.  Well, truth be told even with the amount of speaking I have done, I still need that extra push to get me prepared to speak and deliver the content needed.

I have leveraged Walk-up music my entire professional career like MLB players are doing.

Big presentation for me and I go directly to an 80’s Hip Hop classic by Eric B and Rakim:  Move the Crowd.  This song reminds me the main reason I’m speaking is to connect with my audience and provide them with content they can use.  It reminds me to lock in and focus on what I’m saying, how it’s said and why it’s needed.  I play this music in the car, on the computer or on my phone prior to my presentation.

I switch up my Walk-up music and where it’s played when I do Keynote speaking.  I have a love for Reggae music and the ‘Irie’ vibe it provides.  I like to play Bob Marley music for my audience prior to my introduction.  The Reggae sounds helps relax and focus me and seems to put the audience members into a great mood to receive my message.  I always play the song Jammin’ right before I’m ready to take the stage and impart my words of wisdom on the audience.  Again, the concept of Walk-up music is designed to get me and the audience ready in these situations.

So, I ask again:

  • How do you get ready to tackle your day?
  • What actions do you take before giving a big presentation at work?
  • What impact would your personal Walk-up music have on your daily interactions?

Look to generate your own Walk-up music ideas to help you during the day.  Leverage this concept to help mentally prepare for that big presentation you have coming up.  Find the music needed to help you thrive and enjoy the process.

Let me know your final selections for your Walk-up music!  Thanks!

Walkup music stats