Great Leader = Effective Communicator

In my recent article for OASBO (Ohio Association of School Business Officials), I’ve set a challenge to the readers to not just talk at their next presentation, but instead tell a story and move their audience to action. The entire article is published here great-leaders-communications-article-SBOQ-July2014 for your reading enjoyment.

Let me know how you stand up to this challenge!

Who Kicked The Dog?

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When I read this post  http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2013/04/why-you-should-take-the-blame.html     “Why You Should Take The Blame” from Peter Bergman, I was reminded of a “significant emotional event” in my life.  First a bit of background about me; I attended a Catholic elementary school and the nuns who ran the place did so with an iron fist.  Second there was not much money for simple luxuries in my house, these included haircuts at a beauty parlor rather than sitting on a stool in the kitchen with a bowl on my head waiting for my mother to make another disaster of my hair — the first disaster was when she thought she could thin it like they did at the beauty parlor just by snipping with her sewing shears at various lengths.  Picture me having to wear a knit cap to school for weeks waiting for my hair to grow out. So with that in mind, this story will make a bit more sense.

Every Thursday we had choir practice. Our whole class marched across the street to the church and into the balcony where we stood in pre-arranged formation around the organ.  When you assemble thirty plus fifth graders and expect them to pay complete attention to their hymnals things happen. What happened this particular day was an astounding silent spit ball fight between the boys standing in rows 3 through 5. I was just an innocent bystander minding my own business singing away in row 4, well lip syncing really as that was all I was allowed by the nuns to do. As spit balls began to whiz by my head ultimately some missed their row 5 mark and landed in my lap. I felt compelled to return them to their original creators.  I’m here to tell you that Sister Theresa Cecile did have eyes in the back of her head. While she was playing the organ she somehow knew that there was pandemonium happening behind her back.  Or maybe it was the spit ball leavings on the balcony floor that gave her the clue. In either case, once we all marched back across the street we were lined up in formation and asked to raise our hands if we had participated in this most unholy event in the church under the eyes of God. Now being the very honest young girl that I was (notice I use past tense here) I of course raised my hand.

All those with unraised hands were allowed back in their seats while the rest of us received a lecture and instruction to remain behind after class that day. When the bell rang at 3:00 p.m. I quickly gathered my books and ran out the front door. I did not think I would be missed nor did I think that I should be punished after all I really was just an innocent bystander.  Besides, I had a very important after school engagement. On this rare occasion, my mother had made me an appointment with a friend of hers who was a hair stylist.  I was finally going to get that hair style that I was sure would turn me from Tom boy into ravishing 5th grade beauty queen.  As I sat in the wondrous chair gazing into the mirror with the star encrusted cape over my shoulders waiting for the first snip, the phone rang. My mother was calling from work to tell me that Sister Theresa Cecile had phoned her and I was to return to school immediately — that meant no shampoo, no snip, no fancy rollers, I was doomed to remain a Tom boy. Devastated I trudged back to school and sat at my desk being punished with an unruly group of 5th grade boys. We were required to make and hurl spit balls at each other for an hour and then had to not only clean up that mess but also wash down all of the blackboards.

If you are wondering what life lesson I learned from this event, it was that in Bergman’s example don’t take the blame for participating in kicking the dog if all you did was put the poor dog back in his place. I know that this is a bit counter to the point he makes in his post and I do certainly think we should step forward and take responsibility for our actions. However, I also believe that taking the responsibility for the actions of others is seldom the right thing to do for either yourself or them.  I don’t believe in pointing the finger of blame. You can count on me to say I am sorry for those things that I am responsible for and learn from the experience, but if I didn’t kick the dog I ain’t gonna step forward and take the blame. I won’t rat you out, but you’d better own up to your shame or you won’t be on my team for long.

And thus another life lesson learned from a 5th grade wanna be beauty queen.

The Value of Vacation

 

“Clark, let’s just skip the house of mud. I think Dodge City was enough fun for one day. Besides, Catherine and Eddie are expecting us. ”

Ellen Griswald from Chevy Chase Vacation.

 

As I reflect on my recent vacation I am struck by the thought that everyone needs some time off and we should value our vacation time more.  In Europe, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who does not take their vacation days. The US is a bit different in that we are culturally not as in tuned with the value that our vacation days offer. How many times have you taken vacation just to spend it on your phone or connected with your email back to the office? How relaxing is that?

Vacations are not just important for the mental down time, they are also essential to our longevity as proven by the Framingham Heart Study where it was found that the more frequent the vacations that were taken by the research subjects the longer they lived.

The article written by Brenda Wilson and quoted below, illustrates the discrepancy between our European counterparts and us in the US. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111887591

“…Europeans embrace this idea almost religiously. Vacations are enshrined in law. In countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, employers are required to provide up to 20 days of paid leave. Americans, on the other hand, get an average of 12 days every year. A study conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that less than half of U.S. employees take the full vacation…”

At one point in my life I too fell into the camp of those who could not cut the umbilical cord that connected me to the office. I would fly to some exotic place and drag my phone and laptop along only to set up meetings first thing in the morning and last thing at night and try to sandwich activities with my family in between.

I would like to think that with age has come wisdom. On my recent vacations I have limited my email responses and tried to not attend any meetings. While I remain devoted to my work, at the same time I understand that to rejuvenate through down time enables me to return to the office with greater focus and clarity.  Some of my most creative moments have come while hiking in the Redwoods with my sister and great-niece. It did help that my cell phone did not have service and that the internet connection was non-existent in our room at the lodge.

I have now returned to the office with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. Facing challenges is exciting rather than stressful. Here it is the second day back at work and I still have the “vacation glow.”

I would encourage you to think about your next vacation and how you can make it a time to contemplate and reflect. Relaxing and leaving all things work related behind at the office. Stop and smell the roses, clear your mind, eat chocolate for breakfast, and make sure to have wine with dinner every night. You’ll be surprised how much more productive you will be when you return to the office and at the same time probably add years to your life.

Being A Doer

 Last week I said I should title this “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” but decided that this would not do justice to the strengths of the Doer.   I did, however, want to pay homage to the nick name (Taz) that my daughter gave me many years ago.  After yet another stress filled morning getting three teenagers off to school, did I say they were all girls? My daughter started calling me Taz. This was probably due to my frenzied flinging of school books, lunch bags, cans of hair spray, and various articles of unmentionable clothing that were strewn about the house. All of this as I had to fight for the bathroom to get ready for work and eat my breakfast on the run. You can easily see how I earned my name and of course why my pants were often on backwards.

 I would like to say that I am different in my work life than I am at home, but when the pressure of work projects looms out comes the Taz in me.   As you know from my earlier blog, we Doer’s get a lot done, but sometimes at the expense of dead bodies left in our wake. 

When brought to our attention that we may have caused a bit of an issue as we voraciously chewed through a problem, we Doer’s are usually confused as to why anyone is upset because after all we did get the job done. And very quickly at that! So all Doer’s be forewarned while you may accomplish a lot you need to keep the battlefield clear of bodies.

ImageNow in case you think that I am a real “piece of work,” please remember that I am not a Doer all of the time just when I am under pressure. When I am working along as I am today just getting things done at a normal pace, I am really a thinker. I had plenty of time to get ready for work this morning (the girls are all grown and gone) and my pants have that knife-edge crease in them. I am operating in my best thinker mode pondering all the different detailed ways to write this blog and get my points across. As you can tell, I do love pictures and still identify with the Taz.

ImageI’d like to also add that when the conditions are very favorable I can switch into my Feeler mode.  This is when I walk around the office and chat with folks and find out how they are doing, what their children are up to, and maybe even invite someone to walk across the street for a Starbuck’s. More on this next week as I share a bit about the Feelers among us. Perhaps I should dub them more politically correctly and call them the “Connectors.”