Where do leaders come from?

Leadership image

(Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)

“I’m a leader not a follower.  Unless it’s a dark place, then you are going first”.

(Unknown)

Got invited back down to Orlando in October for my recurring speaking role on the Intern Whisperer podcast.

Season 2, Episode 92 featured me discussing all things leadership to include earliest memories of venturing into leadership roles.

The quote above makes me laugh because I know people who perform in their leadership role in a similar manner.  No worries when things are going well but no support, help or empathy when things get tough.  These so-called leaders also seek the spotlight in good times and hide out during the bad.

Back to the podcast and why I’m discussing leadership in this blog post.  The students who produce the Intern Whisperer podcast are extremely sharp and asked great questions from start to finish.  One question that really stood out to me was, “What was your earliest memory of taking on a leadership role and how did it make you feel”?

Seems like a straightforward question but I had to think about it for a bit.  I have always been an athlete and grew up playing multiple sports; football, basketball, baseball and track (high jump).  Never considered being active in sports as leadership, just a way to pass the time and hang out with friends.  Yes, I know leadership and teamwork are integral in a team environment, but I was just having fun during this time frame.  My interviewers seemed to think my sports background would have been where my leadership foundation started.

My earliest memory of taking on an active leadership role and embracing everything involved was when I became a Master Instructor at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi (Biloxi).

I served at multiple Air Force installations as a Personnel Systems Manager (HR Data Analyst) and got an opportunity to train analysts Air Force wide based on my work performance and knowledge.  So, I went for writing computer code for one Air Force base to training every data analyst in my career field—worldwide.  Pretty heady stuff for someone from Jasper, Florida!

This role stands out as my earliest leadership memory because I had to expand my personal and professional goals and understand the importance of ensuring my students got a world class education.  Everything they needed to be successful in the career field came directly from me.  I couldn’t have a bad day in class because my lack of preparation, patience or knowledge would hinder their abilities to perform; in class and when they returned to their respective organizations around the world.

I went from being responsible for myself to leading a group of 25 students on a six-week educational journey.  We routinely graduated 10 classes every fiscal year—I spent 4 years as an Air Force instructor at Keesler Air Force Base before moving back into my career field at Kadena Air Base, Japan (Okinawa).

The Air Force Technical School environment is the incubator that taught me leaders must be able to adjust leadership style, inspirational tactics and provide tough love when needed.  The students needed different things to successfully complete our course.  My ability to lead was needed daily.

It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done but it laid the foundation for my current leadership and life philosophy:  Make a difference daily!

Leadership article

(Instructor of the Year Presentation)

What are your earliest leadership memories?  How do these memories impact you today? (Respond in the comments section—thanks!) 

Thanks for walking with me!

“Be a LEADER, not a boss”.

(Calvin Williams)

2019 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon recap — the Benjamin Button effect

OUC prerace

“You know you’re a runner when, your running shoes ARE the most expensive pair of shoes you possess”.

(Anonymous runner)

My 2019 racing schedule ended on 12/7/19 at the OUC half marathon in Orlando.

This was my 5th half marathon and 7th race of the year.  I started 2019 with an aggressive (for me) race schedule where I wanted to race more and increase the number of half marathon finishes.  I also set a goal to run a half marathon under 2 hours—I didn’t meet this goal but did improve my Personal Record (PR) four times this year, so progress has been made.  I’m faster now than when I started running half marathons in 2013 (Benjamin Button).

How many times running this race?

I started my half marathon quest in 2013 at this very same race.  A UCF friend convinced me to run a half marathon with intent to run it with me for support.  She had several half and full marathons completed and thought it would be a good challenge for me to run a half marathon.

Fast forward a bit, I signed up and began training but her husband got a job transfer and they moved to Dallas, Texas before the race.  I thought about backing out since I didn’t have a running partner but decided to give it a try on my own.

Had no idea how to train, eat or prepare for a half marathon so simply relied on athletic ability for my first try.  This was a horrible idea!  I would have quit during my first half marathon but didn’t know how to get back to my car, so had to keep going in order to figure out where I parked.  This is not a joke, I finished because I had no other choice.

Ran this race again the following year because I had to prove to myself, I could run a half marathon and appear to be competent while doing it.  I improved my finish times incrementally over the years so the pull to come back was there.  I skipped the OUC half marathon in 2018 and ran on Amelia Island instead.

The 2019 race was my sixth time running the OUC half marathon.  I’m currently 19 minutes faster than the first time I ran the same race (Benjamin Button).

Why come back?

Wanted to test my new training knowledge and program against a course that beat me up in the past.  Figured the best way to know if I’m improving is to run the course I wanted to quit on and then move forward.

Happy to report I enjoyed the 2019 version of this race from start to finish!  Even found myself with a goofy smile on my face for some reason around mile 9.  This may have been the runner’s high people tell me about, but I never experienced before.

No worries just decided to keep on smiling and run my best.  This approach allowed me to finish with a PR (2:05:51) and a level of satisfaction with my entire 2019 running program.  Can always look for areas to improve but very happy to improve my PR four times this year.  As you can see, I’m getting faster as I get older (Benjamin Button).  I’m still looking for another gear and project to get a bit faster in 2020.

Stick with the Walk into the Future blog to follow my running progress.

Race recap

Decided not to put an official time goal on this race but wanted to run fast and safely.  My top goal was to have fun and complete the 2019 race schedule in style.

Blue is my power color so outfitted with blue from head to toe for this race.  Accented my race outfit with orange compression sleeves to represent the Florida Gators as I ran through downtown Orlando.

Miles 1 – 5

Wanted to get out fast but not expend too much energy during the first third of the race.  The OUC half marathon also has a 5k race which starts at the same time.  Wanted to avoid the extra runners at the beginning of the race so went out with a controlled pace and mindset until the 5k runners split away from the half marathoners at Mile #2.  Felt good with my mile splits and knew I had the conditioning to keep my pace going.

Miles 6 – 10

Past races I’ve struggled with this portion of the half marathon.  My training, nutrition and mindset have improved this year to where I know how to handle this segment of the race and not slow down much.  Was able to stay consistent with my mile splits with no glaring slow miles.  This may have been why my goofy smile came out—I knew I was running faster and not slowing a bit.

Miles 11 – 13.1

Realized I wouldn’t break 2 hours at this point but didn’t let that take my smile away. Kept plugging away because I knew I could set another PR by just pressing forward.

Put TI’s song, Motivation on repeat because this is my running hype song that helps me mentally when I run.

The goofy smile was with me the entire time and the miles flew by.  There were spectators out helping the runners finish strong; I’m sure they were cheering for me, but I was in my zone and focused on finding the finish line.

Crossed the finish line at 2:05:51 (two hours, 5 minutes and 51 seconds) with a smile on my face and a raised fist!  You would have thought I saved the world from annihilation from my reaction, but it was a big deal to me.  Ran a smart race with a good time and felt great physically at the end.  Trifecta!

After race party

Track Shack does a fantastic job with all aspects of race day.

The vendors, health care and music after the race are first rate.  Made my way to the beer truck to get my two beers to go along with my other snacks collected in the vendor area.  Yes, runners really drink beer at 9:30 am—we’ve earned it after getting up before the sun rises and running 13.1 miles. LOL.  Ran into a few people I knew from my time in Orlando and we celebrated another great Track Shack race.

“It’s all about the bling!”

(Spectator sign, 2019)

Benjamin Button

So, why do I reference Benjamin Button in this post?  Great question!

Most people begin to slow down as runners as they age.  I’ve only been attempting the half marathon distance for 6 years now and continue to learn more about training, nutrition (beet juice) and mental focus.  I’m just scratching the surface on my running ability and see faster times coming in 2020.  So, I’m not getting younger but faster (Benjamin Button).  I’m sure the day will come when I can’t keep running faster times but it’s not here yet—so fast I must go! 😊

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be”.

(Benjamin Button)

Goodbye OUC hello San Antonio Rock N Roll (2020)

I will not run the OUC half marathon in 2020.  I’m trading this race and experience in for the 2020 San Antonio Rock N Roll half marathon.  I lived in San Antonio while in the Air Force but wasn’t a runner then.  This will be my chance to run in a great city and experience the culture and the River Walk from a different perspective.  I’m sure I’ll return to the OUC race again in the future, maybe 2021.

Project to run 7 half marathons in 2020.

Already registered for New Orleans (February), Nashville (April) and Philly (September).  Will add San Antonio and Savannah; looking at San Diego and maybe Las Vegas to complete 7 with the Rock N Roll series.  May adjust with a local half marathon but 7 is the number for 2020.

Logged just under 1,000 miles on this running journey in 2019; I’m sure that number is going up in 2020.  Who’s ready to run with me? 😊

 

How many of your 2019 goals did you accomplish?  Have you thought about your 2020 goals yet?

Thanks for walking with me!

Merry Christmas!  Will see you in 2020!  Thanks!

OUC Christmas tree

We all win with diverse work environments!

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“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.

(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.  Clear as mud, right?

Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means.  Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen.  Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.

Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race.  These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.

Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment.  There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there.  This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.

(Tim Berners-Lee)

Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education.  This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done.  Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.

New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure.  True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure.  The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done.  This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.

Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance.  Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace.  Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from.  This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.

A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual.  The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.

A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members.  A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued.  This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.

So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:

  • The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender / Identity
  • Education / Educational Institutions
  • Geographic region
  • Age
  • Experience

A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well.  A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients.  Example:  an office with diverse staff will be able to attract diverse clients because they see someone similar.  Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.

What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment?  How can diversity be improved?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.

(Verna Myers)

Thanks for walking with me!

neon signage
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Leverage a growth mindset to maximize your success

 

 

“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By becoming a little better every day, over a period of time, you will become a lot better”.

(John Wooden)

Growth mindset has been defined as people believe their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point (Carol Dweck).

Fixed mindset

A fixed mindset puts undue parameters in place.  An individual who believes they are only good at certain things will most likely only be good at those things.  You can talk yourself into or out of anything.  A fixed mindset can hinder progress because of the avoidance of anything that may challenge you.  This process causes individuals to give up when tasks get hard or unfamiliar.

A fixed mindset limits individual growth because of sticking to what you know only—attempts to try or learn new things are avoided at all costs.  A sad aspect of this mindset is when people believe potential is predetermined.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right”.

(Henry Ford)

white cup with saucer
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Growth mindset

Contrasting the fixed mindset with growth mindset highlights the importance of positive thinking and actions.  People with a growth mindset view failure as an opportunity, not something to shy away from.  Functioning as a lifelong learner is another aspect of the growth mindset—the foundational principle is to never stop learning new things and tasks.

Positive effort and attitude are thought to be determining factors toward individual abilities.  This concept helps eliminate being defeated even before starting a task.  The success of others leads to inspiration for someone with a growth mindset.

The great things my tree branches accomplish daily inspire me to continue to grow and make a difference.

A hidden aspect of the growth mindset is the freedom it provides to practitioners.

Growth mindset is based on not limiting yourself (thoughts or actions) so you approach each day as a gift.  You seek new challenges because you have the tools to accomplish them.  You’re willing to try new things because you never want to stop learning and improving your knowledge and abilities.  Setbacks are your opportunity to learn, reset and then try another approach to the challenge you face.

Lessons are everywhere when you embrace the growth mindset.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

(Napoleon Hill)

Growth mindset key factors:

  • You can learn anything needed for success
  • Displaying the right attitude makes learning possible
  • Challenges are viewed with excitement
  • Failure is not the end
  • Positive words, thoughts and actions daily

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you don’t stop”.

(Confucius)

How can a growth mindset impact your daily interactions?  What things do you need to change to adopt a growth mindset?  Thanks!

Reference

TED Speaker, Carol Dweck. (n.d.) Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/speakers/carol_dweck. 

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