Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
Whether you call it work-life, or life-work, balance, the challenge remains the same: how do we juggle the priorities in life, especially when everything comes to us at once (and isn’t that usually how it happens)? Following is the prologue to an MBA student reflective paper submitted this summer. The student requested permission to submit the paper late. I told her that she could certainly take responsibility for making the choice whether to submit it late or not, however I reminded her that a late paper would receive a ten percent penalty. You will read about her choice.
“I’m turning in this paper late. Between class on Monday and my flight on Thursday, all three objects out of that life box came flying at me. The golf balls were work: My company announced second quarter earnings this week, and the hard golf balls were flying at me fast and furious all week. The marshmallows were family: I needed a baptism gift for my niece/soon to be God-daughter, and my husband asked me to visit him on RAGBRAI in Ottumwa “on my way” to the airport in Des Moines. Ottumwa is not on the way to Des Moines and a visit there would double my travel time and occupy my afternoon on a work day, and yet the marshmallow was thrown. The tennis ball was this paper. The metaphor fits because class is my extra-curricular, it’s fun for me, and it’s good for me just like physical exercise.
With so many objects flying at me, I thought about the inside-out approach you discussed in class and about the Warren Bennis quote in True North, “We have to be aware that we swing back and forth. It is choices all the time, not balance.” I connected with my intentions to help our company flourish and to be the best wife and aunt I can be, and I therefore chose to catch the golf balls and marshmallows. That meant the tennis ball dropped. I hope you don’t see it as any disrespect to you or the class. I knew I would eventually pick the ball up and try my best to serve an ace. But in the meantime, I was proud of myself for choosing to successfully catch the two things most important at that particular time. Had I tried to catch all three reactively, I likely would have failed across the board. Instead, I have a beautiful gift wrapped inside my suitcase, spent a great afternoon with my husband that I know he needed and appreciated, and the tennis ball now has my full, albeit tardy, attention.”
So, yes, the paper was submitted late and was docked the ten percent. However, it was also an excellent paper. And to be honest, I was THRILLED that the student made the choice she made.
“All courage is faith reaching through the fear displaying itself in action.” John Hope Bryant, author of “Love Leadership”
It wasn’t a “touchy-feely” message about leadership; but it was a message of great hope. No wonder Hope is part of his name. John Hope Byrant addressed our group during the second day of the Leadership Challenge Conference. He challenged, he entertained and mostly, he delivered a powerful message that leadership begins with each of us. And he delivered a message about the important of love leadership.
As John was autographing my copy of the Love Leadership book, he asked me what the biggest message was that I took away from his speech. I was truthful when I said to him, “There were many great messages in what you said.” But as I walked away, there was one that continued to stand out in my mind: Giving is Getting.
Getting is Giving is one of his five fundamental laws of Love Leadership. “The more you offer to others, the more they will want to stay with you, share with you, protect you, and support you.”
I walked away from chatting briefly with John and had a few free minutes, so I decided to “give”. I logged into my twitter account and shared two things from that morning at the conference. The first thing that happened at the conference that morning was that the conference host, Wiley Publishing, invited the hotel hospitality staff (approximately 25 cafeteria staff, cooks, maintenance etc) into the front of the room and asked us to express our appreciation for the fine work they had done during the conference. The room immediately rose to a standing ovation to express our gratitude. I noticed tears coming to my eyes as I had never been part of such a moving expression of gratitude at a conference.
So, a wrote a quick tweet to tell others about the act, in the hopes I was “giving” others the idea and also sharing the good feelings we had as a result of that experience.
The second tweet was to share a few words of inspiration from John Hope Bryant’s presentation and again, hopefully “give” by sharing his words of inspiration with others.
Not less than five minutes after I wrote those tweets I was walking in the hallways off the main drag of the hotel. I was in need of a restroom and couldn’t find one. A young man in a maintenance uniform came out of a door and I asked if he could direct me to the closest restroom. He asked me to follow him. He walked down a couple hallways, found a supervisor and asked him for a key to the restroom that was off the beaten path (we had to take two more hallways just to get to it). He unlocked the restroom just for my use. Giving is Getting.
“Love, in the context of love leadership, is not the same as love for your life partner, love for your children, or even love for a big dish of chocolate ice cream. No,I refer to the agape definition of love found so frequently in the Bible: love meaning unconditional love for your neighbor, a love as powerful as humankind’s love for God. It means treating people as you want to be treated. I’ll argue again and again in this book, love not only has a place in business, but also is absolutely central to sustainable success. ”
For more about John Hope Byrant, his books, and his work with Operation Hope, visit www.johnhopebryant.com
“The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Randy Pausch.
The 2009 Leadership Challenge Forum began today with a keynote by co-author Barry Posner and ended with another keynote by co-author Jim Kouzes. I had the opportunity to chat with both of them and express my appreciation for their ongoing excellent work with the Leadership Challenge books.
Jim Kouzes’ presentation was called Leading in Turbulent Times. Early on, he reminded us that historical, as well as many current leaders were at their best service during times of adversity (think Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and so on). He went on to remind us that when he and Barry interview people about their best leadership experiences, they never have someone say, “Yeah I did a great job keeping things the same.” The stories are always about some type of change.
“Adversity introduces us to ourselves.” John F McDonnell, Mc Donnell Douglas. So, the question you can ask yourself is “During these turbulent times, who is the self that you’re being introduced to?”
Jim provided six lessons learned from successful leaders who have developed the resilience to not only survive, but overcome and thrive in tough times.
1. Broaden the context. These turbulent times requires us to step up and look for new ways of doing things.
What have you changed lately?
2. Define Reality. “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” Max DuPree. When people were asked if they felt better knowing news, even if it was bad, only 14% said “no”. Eighty-five percent of people said “Yes” they felt better knowing the news, even if it was bad. (From the Pew Center for People and the Truth, Feb 2009)
Is it possible that part of our challenges in the auto industry are due to a lack of willingness to face reality?
3. Fully Commit to What’s Important. And you can only commit to what you’re clear about, so remember the importance of knowing your values and what you’re passionate about.
4. Take Charge of Change. The work of leaders is change. “I’d bet there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit.” Angela Duckworth, U of Pennsylvania. Grit includes the ability to stick with something, to keep at it.
Leaders need to notice areas where we are stuck in a fixed mindset–and challenge those arena. MBA students who were rated high on proactivity were considered by their peers to be more transformational leaders.
5. Engage with Others. We can’t do it alone.
You can NOT command and control your way through adversity.
We need to get along better as a world.
6. Tell Positive Stories. Telling positive stories helps to build resilience throughout the organization. Again, have to share current reality but also talk about the positives. And remember that the magic ratio is 3:1. Three positives (at least) for every negative.
“Let Unconquerable Gladness Dwell” (said to be a saying on the desk of FDR for many years)
For more, visit Jim’s blog at http://www.leadershipchallenge.typepad.com/