Trial of Integrity

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Every person who works hard to serve their community will, at some point, face a situation that calls into stark illumination the nature and character of their integrity. They will be tested by the misdeeds of others, by the failure to adhere to moral rules, and by the willingness of lesser men and women to bypass acceptable business practices for the sake of a short-term gain.

Relish these opportunities.

When your integrity is tested by the fire of another’s lack of character, you’re given a golden opportunity to shine as a light to your sphere of influence. Nobody operates on an island, and while you may feel isolated in the midst of an attack, remember that you’re being watched, that others around you are waiting to see how you will respond. Be strong, be right, and be heard. Be willing to find your voice and call misdeeds for what they are. Actively pursue the high road and willingly sacrifice the momentary desire for retaliation on the altar of your character, knowing that the long-term benefits of an intact reputation will gain you far more. This is your opportunity to lead. Lead yourself, and be true to the strength of character that is your foundation.

This is your moment.

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Ripples of Influence

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An old leadership analogy says that the effect we have on people is like tossing a pebble in a pond. The initial splash of pebble creates waves in the water that grow and extend far beyond the size of the pebble that created them.

It’s a timeless and salient lesson; one we should remember often. Thinking on this object lesson, it occurred to me that it doesn’t translate perfectly for one, unchangeable reason: human ripples aren’t identical. When a small stone breaks the surface of the water, one of the fascinating results is that the ripples created by the small splash radiate from the point of impact in perfectly concentric, identical circles. It isn’t until these tiny waves encounter an obstacle, such as a plant or a piece of debris, that they are altered and begin their own course.

When we translate this analogy into the sphere of human interaction, the underlying principle is that a single action can have far-reaching and on-going effects on the world around us, even if those consequences are unintentional. The foundation is sound, but I want to look at the human aspect of this. Every person is different because of personality, culture, upbringing, ideology, and countless other variables. The ripple effect in our social, professional, and personal circles takes on a very different hue when we realize that because of our differences, the ripples we create are each completely unique of each other based on the person we create them in.

If I toss a pebble into a pond, through scientific and mathematical processes, I can determine exactly where and how the ripples on the surface of the water will be created. I can know their expanding width, speed, and future termination. I can know all of this ahead of time, because the scientific laws that govern the physics of this simple experiment are fixed and constant.

When I toss a figurative pebble into the pond of my sphere of influence, everything is relative. The impact of my words, the effectiveness of my leadership, the influence of my vision – all of these ripples are dependent on and reflective of the unique personalities and character of the people I’m dealing with. One might say that as a good leader, I could know my people well enough to make an educated decision about how certain tactics will impact them, and that is very true. But as the ripples continue to distance themselves from the point of impact, the ability to maintain any control over their evolution is lost. People are just all too different.

Those difference are what makes our teams strong and viable, they bring creativity and innovation, and they create dialog and conversation that is impactful and productive. As leaders, understanding the ripple effect makes it incumbent on us to feed our teams with material that creates a positive impact as the ripples spread and grow. We must be encouraging and positive, we must build and foster independence, and we must take responsibility for the waves that we create in the lives and minds of our people. As we influence those closest to us, we need to do so in a manner that will allow them to have an equally positive impact when their pebbles hit the water.

Unexpected Success

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We learn a lot about ourselves in the midst of difficulty. Obstacles present themselves every single day – sometimes we’re ready for them, we can see them coming, we meet them head on. These kinds of experiences are great for our self-confidence, for that internal assurance that we can face what life brings our way.

But sometimes, our journey presents us with the unexpected – those trials of patience and endurance that come with no warning, precipitate hurdles that test our nerve, our flexibility, and our mental stamina. These difficulties offer us the greatest opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to grow from the experience.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I have a manager who tells me this all the time. One of the greatest opportunities to be found within the unexpected trials of life is the chance to discover new areas of knowledge that were hidden in prior experience.
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These difficulties present us with a problem, or several of them, to which we have no answer. But the deeper truth is that we learn about a problem we didn’t know we needed to solve in the past. Usually, the reason we are intellectually unprepared for these new challenges is because we didn’t know we would need to face them. As we go through the process of learning how to solve this new and foreign problem, we learn how the problem fits into our sphere of influence and authority, and we expand our ability to affect change around us in the future.

Buy a bigger toolbox.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New problems often require new solutions. If we face fresh challenges with a desire to learn and grow, and don’t cower from the opportunity to utilize new methods of influence, we expand our intellectual arsenal and allow ourselves to be diverse in our overall utility. It’s a common mistake to pigeon-hole ourselves – we find something we’re good at, and we stick to it. The benefit of this perspective is often excellence. Narrow focus on a given field provides a keen understanding of everything within our scope. Unfortunately, this is very limiting, especially for the person who desires to grow and expand, not only as an individual, but as an integral part of the bigger picture.

Open your mind.

New obstacles need new perspectives. Rose colored glasses are lovely until you need to look at a blue picture. Those who are able to adjust their focus, change their perspective, and be flexible on their opinions are often those best suited to the unexpected challenges of life. The greater benefit is that in adding another facet to your paradigm, you situate yourself to be better prepared for a given difficulty in the future.

Getting surprised by a challenge once is human. It happens to the best of us. But leadership demonstrates itself in the ability to learn from difficulty, and prevent not only the individual, but the team as a whole, from being caught unawares in the future.

What are your challenges today? Were you expecting them? How are you going to be better prepared for them in the future?

 

End of the Month Blues

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I hate the end of the month. Pressure builds. Expectations rise. Urgency becomes almost unreasonable.

End of Month

But I have found that there are two invaluable assets to making the end of the month not only bearable, but even productive and effective.

1.) Personal attitude. The face that you see in the mirror every morning will either create your success or be the author of your defeat. The attitude that you bring to the end of the month sets the tone for every phone call, every tour, and every interaction. Create your success ahead of time by deciding to be positive ON PURPOSE.

2.) Team spirit. A purposeful decision to be part of promoting a positive team spirit will not only affect your own attitude, but it will influence the attitude of everyone around you. You always have control about how YOU respond to everything that EOM brings. If you decide to respond by spending the next four days complaining about having to work on your days off, it’s going to be a long four days. But if you decide to engage in encouraging, supporting, and cheering for your team, who are right in the trenches with you, you’ll enjoy being a part of something bigger and better than yourself.

It’s the end of the month. We are the masters of our fate. How will we respond? Will we rise to the occaision and prove to ourselves and each other that we are capable of being our best self? Or will we sign our letter of defeat right from the starting line by CHOOSING an attitude of discouragement?