Leading from a distance

(Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

“Leading remotely makes the complex role of leading even more complex”.

(Kevin Eikenberry)

The year 2020 started with a bang for us all and the promise of a fantastic year. 

The term 2020 Vision was used to highlight the promise this was going to be the year where vision became reality and positive things were coming.

2020 has been a lot tougher than most of us would like but there have been positive things to be thankful for.  We must remember tough times now can lead to positive outcomes in the future.

One area of my Walk into the Future where I really needed 2020 Vision was after accepting my role in Fort Pierce and discovering my entire team was working remotely.  Imagine moving to a new city during a pandemic, taking over a work environment and meeting your entire team on your laptop.  Strange times but quickly discovered all my leadership training, speaking, and consulting experience were needed for me to make positive things happen.

I have read a lot of leadership books and written multiple articles on authentic leadership.  There is not a manual on how to come in on day one and begin to lead a remote team.  Trust me, I searched for that book for days! 

You always want to make a great first impression, but it is tough to gauge your direct reports via a laptop screen.  Things are progressing but I continue to learn new tools and techniques daily.  2020 Vision has morphed into a new mantra to remain focused and control the controllable.

Teambuilding

A first step to build a great team is to ensure teambuilding is a central focus to get everyone on the same page and moving in the correct direction.  I have written about several teambuilding exercises we have completed (MBTI, The Energy Bus) and the need to help each team member grow professionally.  We completed these activities in a complete physical distancing environment where staff members engaged each other via computers from separate offices.  Let’s repeat that…we were together via a Zoom like application (Blackboard Collaborate), in different locations, and working on our teambuilding activities.  Not ideal but it can be done.

Never imagined this was possible but got the 2020 Vision to try this and tweak as needed.  We have been able to enhance team dynamics and maintain our physical distance from each other.  I continue to look for interactive ways to engage the team using computer technology and ensure we have fun with the process. 

Work schedules

2020 Vision allows me to understand the traditional concept of work schedules went out the window earlier this year.  Not saying people do not have to work but the COVID-19 pandemic created a huge work from home dynamic.  Jobs traditionally done within the office environment were rapidly transformed to work from home.  This was a major change for everyone, and work schedules had to change as well.  Gone were the typical 8 am – 5 pm work schedules since people had to juggle work, childcare, home schooling and a myriad of other tasks daily. 

I learned quickly when staff needed time to take care of their home life.  Also learned the work from home mindset is not the same for everyone.  Some folks are just as motivated working from home as they were in the office.  I came to understand that some are not as motivated working from home—human nature kicks in for these folks.

My role has evolved to ensure everyone can use the technology we have available to complete work assignments.  We needed to create communication channels to check in without being overly connected daily.  I am still learning and evolving in this area, but we are getting things done.

Mental well-being

My initial thoughts for this section was to write about helping my staff with their mental well-being.  We do that daily but one aspect I continue to focus on is my mental well-being.  My workouts and running program are great escapes for me from the daily grind of leading a team from a distance.  This new world of work seems to always have someone trying to schedule a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Blackboard Collaborate meeting—they never stop! ☹😊

Finally had to tell some coworkers to ask before just jamming a virtual meeting on my calendar.  This is a constant reminder the world of work has changed—mostly for the good but there can be a bad side to always being connected.  I work to connect with my staff daily to make sure they are doing well.  I do not email, call, or text them after work hours to model behavior that honors a true work and life balance.  Small steps!

I am still learning how to operate in this new world of work. 

What techniques do you use to not be connected all the time?  How has your 2020 vision changed from earlier in the year?

 “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”.

(Plato)

Walking into the Future with no backup plan

Make Things Happen

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“There’s no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A”.

(Will Smith)

I routinely listen to the Fox Sports 1 (FS1) daily show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd to get caught up on sports commentary and for a few laughs.  Dude can be hilarious with some of his takes on sporting events, teams, and individual players.  Some people do not like him because he has a dry sense of humor, but he does a good job researching topics before introducing them on his show.

He recently started discussing the concept of successful people not having a plan B which routinely led them to success.  He leverages examples of athletes, business people, and sports personalities who took a risk on themselves without having an escape clause (plan B).  He asks in his high pitch voice:  you think Bill Gates had a plan B?  What about Steve Jobs?  You think I (Colin Cowherd) had a plan B before I picked up and moved from New York to Los Angeles?  No, no and no!

His point being is creating a plan B allows for less than max efforts towards plan A.  Never thought of this process in a similar way but believe my Walk into the Future mirrors his words in several ways.

One of my overarching goals on this walk was to never compromise my principles when it comes to work.  There were times I could have gone to a plan B and took another role that did not fit where I wanted to be, but I created the Walk into the Future mindset for a reason.  Some people could not understand why I would not rush back into the traditional world of work but had to stick to the plan–find things so I could make a difference in life daily.

I kept my focus on areas where I knew I could thrive, make a difference, and enjoy the process daily.  Discovered additional talents I had because of the focus on plan A only.  Research, writing blog articles, mentoring, and conducting speaking engagements served as my professional development incubator over the past two years.

While some people thought I was hanging out I was working on my craft to find additional ways to make a difference.  No limitations were present because I was free to create what Walk into the Future meant to me.  I look back at my first blog articles and can see the progression I have made over the past two years.  My research and writing process have improved and continue to get better daily

I put unlimited time, effort and thoughts into this plan and refused to get distracted.  I understand everyone cannot just walk away from their professional lives but being an Air Force retiree provides me with income to continue to do things like being a running tourist.

Please note I am not comparing myself to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Colin Cowherd—they all have a lot more money than me, but the no plan B mindset is similar.

Saw an opportunity in Fort Pierce, Florida and decided to go all in—no plan B.  The excitement and potential for the new role was vetted without an emotional approach and launched me forward.  Never looked back or sideways once committed to this new chapter.  My plan A continues to work for me!

Moving forward and Walking into the Future! 😊

What is your plan A?  How do you ensure your focus remains on plan A?

“There is no plan B for passion”.

(Chris Gardner)

 Great article from Jeff Haden:  https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/why-remarkably-successful-people-dont-make-backup-plans.html

Superheroes are all around us—open your mind to see them!

Superhero 2020

(Image by John Hain from Pixabay)

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”.

(Batman)

My current Walk into the Future provides multiple opportunities for me to discuss life, travel, interests and potential blog topics with tree branches.

I’m lucky to identify future blog topics from the great people I interact with daily.  I can’t develop every idea into something useful for the Walk into the Future blog, but I try extremely hard to never miss a topic to help others on their walk.  Thank you to everyone who has sent me topic suggestions so far.  Please note, if you haven’t seen your topic then I’m still working on the development process.

Superheroes

I published an article back in October 2019 discussing the challenges superheroes face daily:

This article led to an interesting phone conversation with a tree branch while driving to Orlando for two networking events.  Normal conversation but we detoured onto the subject of superpowers.  Not the Batman versus Superman hype or who would win a fight type conversation but what superpower would I have.  We laughed a bit and I had to put some real thought into what superpower I display.

There are a lot of things I bring forth daily.  My main mission has evolved to make a difference daily.  Simple enough but I’ve found the best way to accomplish my mission is to find ways to inspire others to reach or exceed their stated goals.

So, my superpower is inspiration!  You can still call me Calvin when you see me, but I will answer to Inspiration Man!  Nice little ring to it, huh? 😊

Seriously, I view my ability to help others achieve things in their personal and professional lives as making a difference daily.  The concept of serving others has been with me for a while now.  It started with my many roles in the Air Force (instructor, mentor, leader) and continues to expand with my consulting work as well as former roles in higher education.  I don’t have a fancy Inspiration Man uniform (yet) but take pride in being able to guide others and provide tough love when necessary.

My current Walk into the Future provides maximum flexibility to work with diverse people with differing needs for inspiration.  I take pride in my ability to listen and then help generate outcomes to assist people I partner with.  This process can be formal or informal, but my goal is to leave folks inspired to go tackle their day.

My tree branches get daily and weekly check-ins from me to let them know I’m always here for them.  It may not appear to be a lot of inspiration in this process but I’m sure someone smiles when they hear from me—just guessing! 😊  My #1 client is my niece Jayla who will graduate from UCF in May—she gets the full-blown Inspiration Man act daily—even if she doesn’t want it—so lucky!

Speaking engagements and presentations provide me with additional ways to inspire others.  I make a point to never turn down a meeting or presentation request because Inspiration Man needs an audience.  I see these as opportunities to generate additional tree branches and continue to make a difference in this world.  Just finished speaking in 3 Student Success classes at Tallahassee Community College—received the topic the night before the presentations but I willingly accepted the challenge and opportunity to inspire students to find their why.  Again, I don’t turn down opportunities if I can help it.

“Be your own hero.”

(PictureQuotes.com)

Tree branches

Recent conversations highlight superpowers for several of my tree branches:

Positivity Persuasion Writing
Relentless Analytic Organization Connecting with others
Activating Destiny Adaptability / Positivity Writing / Editing
Unstoppable Energy Caring / Empathy Networking

You can see I’m associated with a team of superheroes with diverse and impactful powers.  They are making a positive difference in the world and I’m excited to watch them change lives daily—well done team!

Think we need a cool team name—Avengers, Justice League and X-Men are already taken! ☹😊

So, what’s your superpower? How do you use it to make a difference in this world?  Can you match the superpower to one of my tree branches? 😊

Thanks for walking with me!

“The most important thing is to try and INSPIRE people so they can be great in whatever they want to do”.

(Kobe Bryant)

Superhero work is tough but worth every minute!

boy child clouds kid
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

“There is a superhero in all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape”.

(Superman)

Who knew saving the world would be so tough?  Note:  I’m enjoying every minute of it!

My current Walk into the Future allows me maximum flexibility on projects I decide to tackle.  Leveraging my why daily provides a foundation to ensure I’m getting things done the right way.

Got a request to help a local high school student find renewed focus and create a schedule to enhance academic success.  I never ventured towards this demographic since my work with college students and experienced professionals fits my areas of interest.  I didn’t accept the request initially because I didn’t see how I could help.  My excuses were:

  • Not familiar with high school curriculum
  • Two parent home provides enough guidance
    • Why would a high school student listen to me and not parents?
  • My personal bias towards education
  • Not invested in this process

Well, once I got out of my own way and viewed this as another opportunity to help someone succeed regardless of grade level, the obvious choice was to put on my cape and shiny boots and get down to what true superheroes do—save the world! 😊

Decided to leverage the MBTI with my new tree branch and parents to determine a communication pattern in the household.  The MBTIs were extremely close, and this gave me additional information to begin our meeting.  Discussed the implications of the MBTI results and how we could leverage this information to create an action plan for success.

Next, we discussed ways to bring a more organized approach to studying and getting assignments completed.  I thought this would have been an area that would create a level of resistance but was pleasantly surprised with the overall buy-in.  I didn’t create the organizational approach but suggested some things I thought would work; consistent study times, area, length and scheduled breaks.  I let the family discuss and recorded highlights so we could follow-up; wanted to ensure the family took responsibility for the learning outcomes with me serving as their resident superhero (guide).

We were able to create a study schedule with predetermined breaks and a stated commitment from everyone to abide by this schedule.  Adjustments can be made as needed, but we need a consistent team effort to make this work for everyone.  Again, they agreed to the parameters and we moved forward as a unified group.

The commitment was further verified when they ask me when they should follow-up with me for a progress report.  I wasn’t going to push this aspect but believe this shows a new level of progress and willingness to put the work in for success. We agreed to have follow-up sessions in two-week increments based on assignment due dates.  The follow-up sessions allow us to adjust as needed or provide an opportunity to praise progress.

“Life doesn’t give us purpose.  We give life purpose”.

(The Flash)

Happy to report this process allowed me to stay true to my why:  to impact people in a positive way to leave them better than when I found them.

Doesn’t really matter if it’s a high school student, experienced professional or a random person on the street.  Superheroes save the world regardless of how hard it may seem.

spider man on top of building
Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

“You don’t need to be strong like a superhero, you just need to be better than yesterday”.

(Spiderman)

Okay, enough superhero talk—need to take this cape off and my boots are hurting me feet!  Tomorrow’s another day! 😊

Who can you be a superhero to today?  What would stop you from helping?

 “Wakanda Forever.”

(Black Panther)