SUCCEED THROUGH PERSISTENCE

“I don’t think I can make it!” 

I used to take my family to a Christian family camp every year. Horn Creek is located in the Sangra DeCristo mountain range just above the city of Westcliffe, CO, and just below Horn Creek mountain. Throughout the years, I would hear stories and recounts of people hiking to various caves, gold and silver mines, and a WWII plane crash. Understanding all of these stories made me want to go and explore. However, the idea of hiking down to the plane crash intrigued me more than anything. I had read the history of the crash and saw the guns and other items in a small museum in town. I was told the aircraft was left as it was except for the crew remains and the weapons. 

“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent”

STEVE MARTIN

I told my wife I was going to go check it out. She encouraged me to go but said it would be difficult due to my physical condition. I convinced her I could do it. I have a neurological disease called Char-Cot-Marie-Tooth. The lack of nerve and muscle stimulation causes atrophy in my hands and feet, creating a loss of strength, balance, and foot drop.

One morning, a couple of friends and I decided to hike down to the wreckage. The journey down was difficult, and I fell a few times, trip all the time, but I made it and enjoyed looking around and checking things out. But then, we had to start back up. 

I never imagined the journey would be so difficult. About a third of the way up, I couldn’t go anymore. I couldn’t feel my legs, my heart rate was way up, and the altitude took away my breath. I told one of my friends,

I don’t think I can make it, call a rescue helicopter to come to get me.” 

I wanted to give up. My body was begging me to stop, and my mind wished to follow suit. But I persisted and I made it to the top—lungs, and heart intact. Everyone clapped and hugged me! What made me continue to go and achieve my goal? Persistence.

During the COVID-19 crisis, leaders have become stretched beyond their knowledge and capabilities. All levels of leadership are experiencing this. As I continue working with leadership in these difficult times, I’ve seen some high-level leaders fail and watched other leaders persist through the challenges. 

So how does one persist through the challenges? Well, I identified six things I did to maintain my persistence to the top of the mountain. In thinking through each one, I realized these could certainly help increase a leader’s persistence in a challenging and stressful time.

Here are the six things that helped me keep going t when everything in me wanted to quit. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to give up, refer back to these, and I believe they can help you.

Ignore everyone

“Energy and persistence conquer all things”

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

At the beginning of the climb, I saw all my friends climbing with ease. Every time I saw someone hiking with ease, I felt terrible about myself. But when I stopped worrying about what others were doing and focused on my persistence to achieve my goal, I began to focus on my mission and how I was going to make it. When leading in difficult times, you need every ounce of energy to persist through the challenges. Focus your efforts on what matters.

You are your biggest supporter

I’m going to make you so proud”

NOTE TO SELF

When I started the hike, I was hanging with everyone. However, within 15 minutes, I was far behind and alone. At first, I was frustrated; my friends abandoned me, but then I realized my burden wasn’t for anyone else to bear. Eventually, one of my friends realized I was not doing well and came to check on me. He encouraged me to persist through this. That motivated me to turn inward and find the strength and determination to keep going. I began to encourage myself with every step. Leading in challenging times means that sometimes you have to hike alone. If you find yourself in that position, find a way to persist through it by encouraging yourself and realizing you had past achievements and will have future success.

Stop and appreciate the little things

The little things matter in life. Appreciate everything you see, hear and experience.

DENIS BAKER

I remember as I was climbing up the mountain, I would have to stop often to catch my breath. When I was standing there, I began to notice how the wreckage spread out alongside the mountain, and the field was a lot larger than I thought. As I continued in my persistence, I kept getting glimpses of the beauty all around. In those moments, I gave no thought to my struggle. In these challenging times, persistence will increase your confidence and leadership ability. Focus on the journey to the finish line. Embrace new experiences and welcome the struggles and challenges.

Focus on the next step

Remember that our persistence today creates reality for tomorrow.

Denis Baker

On my climb back up the mountain, I would get discouraged when I would see how far away I was from the top. I realized that if I persisted through the struggles, I would make it to the top! When we face difficult challenges, we can struggle with the thought of eliminating anything the impossible, which opens the door for resistance to creep in. By persisting through difficulties, you can keep build momentum and achieve success. Remember that our persistence today creates reality for tomorrow.

Stop looking for a way out

“The easy way out usually leads back in”

PETER SENGE

I wanted a helicopter to get me out of there! I couldn’t go anymore; I didn’t have the strength. I even asked one of the guys to carry my fat body out. When you are suffering, or in pain, it is easy to want to make it go away. But when you persist through the pain and struggles, you will overcome and set yourself up for long-term growth.

Recognize your limitations

“Don’t limit your challenges. Challenge your limits”

UNKNOWN

I had to be honest with myself. I was in pain, couldn’t breathe, and didn’t have the same strength in my legs as everyone else. I was pushing my body to the limit. My approach needed to change. After realizing I would not keep up with everyone and that I was going to make it to the top a long time after everyone else got up there. I realized through my persistence; I would make it to the top. Your leadership process might not look like everyone else’s, and that’s OK. We all lead differently. Instead, maintain your persistence, and you will see success.

SUMMARY

As we continue through this crisis, there will continue to be many challenges, difficulties, and a bunch of bumps and bruises along the way. When the journey becomes more uncomfortable than what you are used to, it can be easy to throw in the towel and retreat. But if of persist through the challenges, you can find the strength to keep going, and will discover the reward was worth the effort.

Denis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management. As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

8 LEADERSHIP LESSONS LEARNED WHILE SHOPPING AT WALMART

My Morning

I woke up early Saturday morning walked into the kitchen and brewed myself a cup of steaming dark roast coffee
(Keurig brewed it)  . As I made my way to my desk, I looked out the window and saw it was a cold, foggy and misty morning. I had just gotten comfortable at my desk, logged into the computer and thought about how wonderful it was going to be to enjoy a Saturday of writing. 

Then I heard some familiar noises behind me. I turned around to see my wife brewing her a cup of coffee. I said “good morning dear,” and was greeted with a smile and, “we need to go to Walmart this morning.” I remember hearing what was said, but thinking it was a nightmare. I took another sip of my coffee and turned back around to see if she was really standing there. I was hoping she was still in bed. But as I turned around, I saw her there, waiting for my response. I now knew it was real. Without words, the look on her face made it very clear, “you have no choice, you’re going!” There was no way to get out of it. We were going to Walmart, and I was just going to have to deal with it.


“we need to go to Walmart this morning.”

Well, we left the condo and headed for the car in this cold, foggy, misty morning. As we got in the car, I knew my attitude wasn’t right. All I could think about was having to deal with WALMART people. I could see it now; people getting in my way, bumping my basket, putting their basket in the middle of the aisle, so I can’t get my basket around, etc. 

Entering the War Zone

As we entered the war zone (store), my thoughts were immediately justified. I was walking by a register when an employee hocked a massive loogie and spit it in the trash can right in front of me!  In my total disgust, I ran toward my wife, when I was hit by a basket from a person turning from a side aisle into the main aisle. I grab my leg and continue to hobble to where my wife was. When I finally met up with her, she looked at me and asked, “what’s wrong,” I simply said, “nothing, let’s keep moving.”

After about an hour and a half of basket bumping, aisle space fighting and hardcore looks and grimaces, we finally finished our shopping. We headed to the Christmas/Garden area to check out. We were number two in line, and I was so excited that we were going to get out of here fast.

Then I overheard a conversation between the cashier and the customer in front of us. Apparently, the customer saw the same pots and pans online at a competitors site for $3 cheaper. Their discussion and banter went on forever. The customer would not relent. I came very close to saying, “Oh my gosh, I ‘ll give you $3 if you’ll just finish and leave”! Instead, I told my wife, “come-on lets go check out at the regular lanes.” We left and headed over to the other end of the store. As I was walking (maybe slightly running), I saw an empty lane, so I moved a little quicker to make sure no one got in front of me. Yes! I made it! The cashier greeted me and began to check us out. Then she noticed we bought a pizza. As she scanned it, she began to tell us how she and her husband “did something last night they hadn’t done in 20 years.” I thought to myself, I’m not sure I want to hear this. She said they had a pizza delivered along with breadsticks and two 20 oz cokes! My wife responded, “we hadn’t had a pizza delivered forever” and looked over to me and said: “isn’t that right?” I nodded, yes. By this time, the cashier was talking more than she was scanning and moving very slow. Then she saw a toy we bought my grandson and started commenting about she hadn’t seen that toy for years. I felt my ears beginning to catch fire, and my blood pressure busting through my arteries. All I could think was; quit running your mouth, speed up and finish my order so I can get the heck out of here!

Reflecting on the Moment

As we were finishing up, I caught a glance of the cashier’s face and saw how happy she was to be talking with us. I immediately told her to have a wonderful rest of the day and to have a Merry Christmas. She responded with a huge smile, “Same to you.”

We left the line and headed out of the store. As we came out, we were greeted by a Salvation Army Volunteer who greeted us with, “Have A Merry Christmas” with a huge smile.

These two instances immediately melted my heart and made me think about what makes people happy. I started to reflect on my negative attitude and stupid interactions with some of the people.  I began to think about how a real leader would be acting right now and realized that leadership should be a way of life all the time, regardless if you are at work or in a non-desirable situation. As we were walking to the car, my wife looked at me and said, “she (referring to the cashier) was so sweet.” I agreed and said that “our Walmart trip wasn’t all that bad.”

After we got home and unloaded the groceries, I started to reflect on the attitude I came into the store with and how that influenced my actions. I realized that I  learned several leadership lessons from my shopping experience.


“our Walmart trip wasn’t all that bad.”

Leadership Lessons Learned

While shopping at Walmart is not my favorite thing to do, it does offer many opportunities to influence and learn. Here are the leadership lessons I learned:

  1. Leaders are consistent in their thoughts and ideas about people regardless of where they are.
  2. Leaders value people for who they are and the hard work they perform regardless of the type of work they are doing. 
  3. Leaders make a difficult and challenging atmosphere, fun and enjoyable.
  4. Leaders listen with their eyes and ears and encourage responses.
  5. Leaders inspire others through their encouragement and influence. 
  6. Leaders are humble and relatable in all situations.
  7. Leaders keep a good head and an open heart in all situations, regardless if it is ideal or not.
  8. Leaders realize they are responsible for their own attitudes and take the initiative to change it quickly.

While I left the house with a negative attitude and a strong resentment to shop at Walmart, I learned a lot while I was there. By reflecting back on my experience, I was able to identify the fact that a leader is a leader all the time, not only when they think they need to be a leader. 

We all make mistakes, but it’s the leader who learns from their mistakes which has the most significant influence on others.

Leaders are also learners. We all make mistakes, but it’s the leader who learns from their mistakes which has the most significant influence on others. I encourage you to reflect on the eight leadership lessons I identified above and consider them in your leadership journey.

If it’s Lonely at The Top, Then Something’s Wrong

 

Executive-Coaching

During a recent executive coaching session, my client and I were engaged in a conversation about leadership when he made the following statement;

“I am passionate about leading my staff, but I don’t feel anyone cares or likes me.” 

It is true many leaders feel lonely. In fact, one of the most common phrases I hear during coaching sessions is: “it’s lonely at the top.”   I disagree with the context of that statement. And so does John Maxwell. In his book, Leadership Gold, John says;

“If you are lonely at the top, then you are doing something wrong.” 

As leaders, we spend our days surrounded by people, so the last thing we expect is to feel alone, but many do. Why? I believe the feeling of loneliness is a not a positional issue, but rather one of personality.

Let me take a few words y from John Maxwell’s book, Leadership Gold to explain. In his book, John says; “If you are leading others and you’re lonely, then you’re not doing it right. Think about it. If you’re all alone, that means nobody is following you. And if nobody is following you, you’re not really leading! What kind of a leader would leave everyone behind and take the journey alone”?  John Maxwell answers that question with;

“a selfish one.”

As leaders, our job is to make people better. To give them the tools and knowledge to achieve their greatest desires.

However, if you’re feeling lonely, it can lead to many things like; poor decision-making, inept problem-solving, frustration, dysfunctional teams, and angry and frustrated employees. Not to mention the internal stress that builds and eventually causes negative behavior and discord between your spouse or significant other and those within your inner circle. Success is nowhere to be found.

There is no doubt that Colin Powell’s statement; “sometimes leadership means pissing people off” is true. Leaders must hold people responsible and accountable for their actions or lack thereof.  This can cause a temporary feeling of isolation or loneliness. Jack and Suzy Welch wrote in a Business Week article: “There’s something about being a boss that incontrovertibly lends itself to isolation. I’ve learned that people dislike people who hold them accountable and will withdraw themselves. I might even say that if you’re feeling some loneliness, you might be on the right track to becoming an effective leader.

I have been there.  I know how lonely it can feel. But my loneliness is base on my desire to have friends, to enjoy conversations and laugh and tell jokes. But leaders must remember; we are not here to make friends, but rather build relationships. When we realize our job is to build relationships, create trust and add value, we’ll do everything we can to connect with those we lead and create an atmosphere of coaching and collaboration. When that occurs, your not lonely, your fully engaged!

How do we eliminate the loneliness at the top and get our leadership focus right?

Here are five principles I lead by to eliminate the loneliness of leadership:

  1. I’m VISIBLE every day. I make a point to talk face to face or through the phone or video chat with EVERY direct report. I also strategically reach out to indirect reports to continue to build those relationships.
  2. I set clear BOUNDARIES with my team. I lead through a philosophy of Ready, Fire Aim. Meaning I empower my team to identify what needs to be done and go do it! We’ll make it perfect as we progress. However, there are boundaries in regards to people, operational interruptions and costs. When setting boundaries, be careful not to shut yourself off from your team.
  3. I INVOLVE my team in the vision and strategic plan. I make it a priority to get people involved in the process of decision-making, problem-solving, communication, and training.  I make sure everyone has input.
  4. I spend a large part of my time COACHING my team. I meet with each direct report weekly and conduct one-on-one coaching session where we continue to set, adjust and create goals and objectives, conduct on-going performance reviews and develop a mentoring relationship using character-based coaching to achieve their desired goals.
  5. I make sure and COLLABORATE with those outside of my direct reports and team. I made it a priority to meet with every department once a month to listen to their concerns and suggestions, as well as to share information.

There is no doubt that being a leader offers extraordinary challenges in connecting, building relationships and creating an atmosphere of trust. However, just because you’re no longer invited to lunch doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible leader.  Don’t take it personally. More importantly, accept it, because the more you try to be liked, the more you’ll compromise your role and lose respect from the team. Remember you are not there to create friendships, but rather build relationships.

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