Take the meeting—unlimited opportunities are waiting for you

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“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade”.

(Tom Peters)

My current Walk into the Future allows me to constantly look for opportunities to impact others and make a difference in this world.  My why was identified in June 2018 — to impact people in a positive way to leave them better than when I found them.  To stay consistent with my why I make a point to take meetings from everyone who requests a sit down with me.  Taking meetings is a form of reaching back to help someone else and it helps me continue to build tree branches.

Received a request via LinkedIn last week from someone I knew from my former role at FSU–we sat in several meetings together but never engaged much after the meetings were done.  Fast forward a year and a mutual friend suggested we get together because we both are making a difference in the world (different focus areas) and he thought it would be good for two like minded people to sit down.  Opportunities are all around us!

I happily accepted the meeting and let my new tree branch select the date, time and location.  We were able to quickly identify this meeting should have taken place a long time ago.  Sometimes career ambitions AND life get in the way of two people sitting down to talk about life, plans and focus.  Discovered quickly we have similar passions to help others in their walk into the future.  Shared my why with him and several of the projects (blog included) I like to work on and how my why guides my daily interactions.

I was able to listen with intent during our time together.  What I heard from him was a need to generate/identify a why to create the foundational model for his work.  Leveraged how creating my why gave me a renewed focus and helps drive my efforts.

The why concept was well received during our time together and resonated with my new tree branch.  It wasn’t rocket science, but I was able to listen to him and help strategize a way to gain the focus needed to take his operation to the next level.

My takeaways from our meeting:

  • Opportunity to help someone expand their message / focus
  • Opportunity to add another branch to my growing tree
  • Opportunity to share my why and leverage it in real time (application not just a theory)
  • Opportunity for future networking / interactions with a new tree branch
  • Opportunity to watch a branch grow and move towards goals
  • Opportunity for me to learn from someone doing great things in the world
  • Opportunity for me to continue to grow

So, when presented with an opportunity to take a meeting, go ahead and meet.  You may be able to help someone find exactly what they need for success.  You may also make a new friend which is awesome on its own.  Stay available to opportunities around you, they may provide the compass needed for your Walk into the Future!

Note:  I have taken 3 additional meetings since I originally wrote this article.  They have all been beneficial and I’ve added more branches to my tree.  Always looking for continued growth.

How open are you to accepting a meeting request from someone?  What benefits would taking this meeting have on your growth?  Curious, thanks!

“Keep your mind open to opportunities. They are closer than you think”.

(PictureQuotes.com)

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Set the Standard with your Core Truth

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“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive”.

(Audre Lorde)

I was introduced to Audre Lorde’s work through the 1999 movie, The Best Man.  The two characters in the scene were trying to decide how to proceed with their relationship when the quote above was introduced.  It provided a moment of clarity and highlighted commonality the characters unknowingly had with each other—they both used this quote in their daily lives.

The quote has been with me ever since because it resonates a strong sense of self that leads to empowerment.  I leverage the quote to highlight doing things differently than others is okay—everyone has a different path to walk daily.

My presentation and writing styles are uniquely me.  There are times people will ask how I generate presentation materials and then look at me like I’m an alien when I explain it.  Again, I stay true to me and my preferred methods because they work for me.  When I try to generate content in a manner that doesn’t fit me, I struggle, so decided not to go down that road anymore.

Had to explain this process when presented with a potential speaking role that would have taken me out of ‘character’ for who I am.  The opportunity was very appealing from a surface level but would have required me to present in a style that is not really me.  Could I have faked it?  Probably, but I wouldn’t have been happy with me and I’m sure this fact would have bled into the actual presentation of material.  Decided a long time ago to stay true to my core truth to avoid being eaten alive.

“Being the best for yourself is how you can be the best for others”.

(Jennifer Mergen)

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Discovering your core truth can be used in other areas of life.  I recommend once you discover your core truth then stick with it.  I described the BIG GULP phenomenon in an earlier post—this concept is incorporated within my core truth—I never do business or move forward with a project that makes me take a big gulp.  This concept has saved me on multiple occasions and kept me from doing something I would regret.

I’m not saying people cannot evolve over time.  Continued learning and growing are integral parts to personal and professional success.  The core truths you define for yourself provide an actual road map to how you view and deal with others.  Don’t let outside influences ‘eat you alive’.

Had an interesting conversation yesterday about defining a core truth leadership style.  Believe this provides a foundation that will allow a leader to adjust and help direct reports grow.  My leadership core truth is authentic leadership but I’m well-versed in other leadership styles if/when authentic leadership principles are not effective for the current situation.  I’ve never yelled or cursed to prove I’m a leader.  People who do are poor leaders—my opinion.

What things do you consider when defining your core truth?  What areas in your professional life can establishing a core truth enhance your work environment?  Interested in your thoughts—thanks!

“None but ourselves can free our minds”.

(Bob Marley)

 

The Voice of a Leader

orange and and brown chess pieces

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“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed—Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection”.

(Sheryl Sandberg)

Had a great lunch meeting and chat with one of my Orlando tree branches at the end of May.  We were able to catch up before my scheduled guest speaking role on the Intern Pursuit podcast.  Always love catching up with my tree branches in-person and jumped at the chance to hear the great things she was doing in Orlando with her small business marketing firm.

We were able to share professional and life updates during this visit and got into the concept of leadership in the workplace.  Just general stuff but I’m a big believer in leadership development and the impact ‘good’ leadership can have on the work environment.

Most people have heard numerous leadership styles mentioned:  transactional, transformational, authoritative, authentic, etc.  I recommend new leaders have a good understanding of multiple leadership styles and then work to find their inner voice within the work environment.

What’s your inner voice?  This concept can be used to determine your true leadership style and then put things into place to ensure your work environment and people can grow.  I tell anyone who listens I’m a huge believer in the authentic leadership style.  Guess what, authentic leadership takes some of the best aspects of other leadership styles and packages them into a concise, four variable approach to leadership.  The variables of self-awareness, relational transparency, internalized moral perspective and balanced processing are used by authentic leaders to develop their inner leadership voice.  An authentic leader needs to ensure these variables are on display and utilized daily to truly be an authentic leader.

Please note, all leadership styles have variables of some level.  Transformational leaders are called ‘quiet leaders’ because they are described as leading by example.  Transactional leaders can be viewed as reactive and ‘may’ be more beneficial within large corporation settings.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of leadership styles available to new and experienced leaders.

“It can be done.  Leaders make things happen.  If one approach doesn’t work, find another”.

(Colin Powell)

The key to finding your leadership inner voice is assessment of your work environment and flexibility.  I can say I practice authentic leadership, but this style may not be practical for every direct report.  A direct report who is not performing to standards may need daily transactional interactions whereas the rest of the staff thrive with the authentic leadership environment created.  Knowing the needs of your staff is something that comes with experience, lots of reading and training.  The ability to adapt to changing work situations and needs of direct reports allows a leader to impact the work environment in a positive manner.

It’s okay to take a personal interest in direct reports and things they are interested in.  You may be able to adjust work assignments to keep them engaged based on strengths and interests.  It’s also okay if you can’t accommodate everything your staff would like to do in the work environment.  Example:  staff may want to work from home but if that model does not fit the mission then it’s up to the leader to say so.  Saying no in this situation is not a personal attack, it’s just the way the organization must operate.

A lot goes into being a leader.  Understanding leadership styles, your strengths and weaknesses as well as continual learning will help as you develop your inner leadership voice.

“Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their staff.  If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish”.

(Sam Walton)

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Nashville & the Wildhorse Saloon

Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Made my way back to Nashville, TN for the 2019 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in April.  This race has become a favorite of mine because it allows me to run Nashville neighborhoods and catch amazing musicians at multiple music venues.

My training approach for this half marathon and all others moving forward has improved tremendously.  The Walk into the Future approach has allowed me to increase my training efforts and logging ‘true’ long runs.  Long runs for me now routinely cover 10 miles or longer.  The longest training run I put in for this race was 15 miles—didn’t run this distance for speed but used it to build mental and physical toughness.  Turns out I needed all the mental and physical toughness I could display because somewhere in my love for Nashville I forgot about the HILLS there! 😊

The first 6 miles seemed to go uphill with multiple degrees of incline.  My training runs incorporated hills, so I was better prepared than I initially thought.  Decided to just put trust in my training and have fun as I made my way up each incline.  Slowly found myself enjoying each step with a smile on my face—guess I finally got that runner’s high people always talk about.

Fast forward a bit and I was able to finish in 2:08:21 (two hours, eight minutes and 21 seconds) which is my personal best.  Improved on my time from the 2019 New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.  I’m still a bit off from my goal of running under 2 hours but I’m making incremental progress towards the goal.  I will continue to take small bites from the elephant.  Next scheduled half marathon will be in Philly in September.

Nashville after race

Wildhorse Saloon

The Wildhorse Saloon is a place I visit every time I’m in Nashville.  It’s a great place to hear live music, dance and get some of the best food in Nashville.  Made two visits to the Wild Horse on this trip and heard some great new musicians.

Line dancing lessons take place when the musicians take a break and the dance floor was crowded with folks having a great time learning the steps.  The line dance instructor breaks each dance down with step counts and practice for the dancers before turning them loose.  It’s great watching people learn the dance and then actually perform what they learned—yes, I include myself since I first tried line dancing at the Wildhorse.  Believe this place is a must visit if you decide to head to Nashville.

 

 

NFL Draft

The 2019 NFL Draft was also in Nashville for race weekend.  This was an extra event to experience while in town.  There were over 600,000 NFL fans in attendance for the 3-day draft event.  Made my way down to draft central two days to soak in the excitement of the draft and enjoy the crowds.   Didn’t realize how many professional football fans were this invested in their team’s draft process.  The passion, excitement and team pride displayed was impressive and Nashville put on an excellent show for everyone in attendance.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the most represented team at the draft.  Their fans travel all over the country to show their support.

 

 

My current Walk into the Future seems to keep bringing me back to Nashville and I love that fact!

I plan to return to Nashville next April to enjoy the race weekend and live music again—great place to visit if you’ve never been!

What’s your favorite place to visit?  How often do you get a chance to visit?  Thanks!

Making a Difference (Daily)

Make a Difference May 2019

I start each day with the purpose of making a difference.  Changing the entire world continues to prove to be beyond my ‘super powers’ so I focus on the small victories in life.

The picture above hangs next to my front door, so I must pass it on my way out into the world.  It is a simple reminder to ensure my focus remains on the small victories in life that can make a difference to someone.

My psychology educational background was selected because of a desire to understand others better.  My thought process has always been to understand what makes people do or think what they do.  Psychology provided me with the foundation to understand the importance of helping others.  Please note, helping someone can be as simple as asking them how their day is going.  Doesn’t have to get super deep to impact someone you cross paths with regularly.

I’ve written about the benefits of volunteering in the local community.  This small step can be a huge difference maker for your local community and especially someone who benefits from the organization you volunteer with.  Volunteer multiple times with an organization and you will begin to put smiles on the faces of people within the organization.

Mentoring others has always been a huge part of my daily routine.  My current Walk into the Future allows me additional time to reach out to my tree branches and put focus on topics they want to explore.  We always did this but now my availability enhances how often we get to check in.  I enjoy catching up with my tree branches and hearing the great things ‘they’ are doing in the world.  Following their progress and seeing how they make a difference is a highlight for me.

I’m able to expand my reach beyond my current tree branches because of my availability.  Students and organizations I was not engaged with prior are reaching out for me to help them move forward.  Some of the students knew me at FSU in passing or had a friend work with me and recommended they reach out.   I find this ‘underground referral’ process a bit flattering and it shows I’ve made enough of a difference for someone to put their friend in touch with me.  I never turn down these requests—the students have shown a tremendous amount of ambition by reaching out and requesting assistance.  Selfishly, I view this whole process as growing my tree—these new branches know they must help someone else move forward.

Working with organizations is an area I would like to expand in 2019.  I currently do some professional development/leadership consulting with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  We have several workshops planned and looking to add more to help them grow as a group.  Coordinating with a few local groups to highlight the Authentic Leadership principles for them to incorporate within their leadership development programs.  This process would expand my reach and provide a larger group to ensure I’m making a difference.

So, until I gain additional ‘super powers’, making a difference daily is how I plan to conquer the world! 😊

What can you do to make a difference today?  Who would benefit from hearing from you?  Don’t make them wait—reach out and make a difference!

Make a Difference 2 May 2019

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

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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

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