Finding GEMO

QuestionEvery question had an answer. Every problem had a solution. Success was knowing that one right answer or one correct solution. Failure was not knowing.

That was the mindset I had growing up. If I didn’t know the right answer I would often pretend that I did. It didn’t make sense to ask someone. That would be admitting that I didn’t know and at that point I had already failed. I learned a lot in my youth, but one thing I didn’t learn well was how to learn. It’s hard to identify the source of this mindset, whether it was culture or educational system or my own personality, or most likely a combination of all the above.

As I began to explore my role as a leader this became a challenge. If success was to know the answer then leaders must know the answer to every question. Leaders were those who always had the right solution and knew exactly how to proceed in any situation. And I knew this certainly wasn’t me.

Eventually though I came to see that leadership isn’t about knowing the right answers, it’s about asking better questions. Good leadership is about finding GEMO, realizing when the solution at hand is Good Enough, Move On. When I opened my mind to exploring the questions and opened my heart to the struggle, it was then that I could really begin to grow as a leader. Having questions and wrestling with options, now this I could relate to.

When as a leader you are able to honestly say to someone, “I don’t know. What do you think?” it opens doors. It’s a statement of authenticity and vulnerability, opening yourself for the other person to better see who you are. It creates connection and allows relationship to develop. It respectfully says to the other person, “I trust who you are and  I value your perspective.” You open yourself to the richness of insights others have. If you solicit input from others and honor their response you create buy in to the final outcome. And by the time you reach the point of finding GEMO, you will also find that something marvelous has already occurred.  You have already traveled far down the road in the leadership journey.

What do you think?

(Now at this point I could continue editing this post, over and over and over, till it is absolutely perfect and says exactly what I want to say. But I think I’ve found GEMO. Time to hit the button.)

 

“We do not grow by knowing all of the answers,
but rather by living with the questions.”

Max DePree

 

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Fathers Day Paradox

This evening I went to the store to grab a couple items. When I walked past the card aisle I was moved by the sight of people buying cards for Fathers Day, just a few days away. A card was not on my list, but after I had found the stuff I had come to get I returned to the card aisle.

After reviewing a few cards I found one that was perfect for my father. The design and theme of the card fit him well. And the message expressed exactly how I felt. It was truly the perfect card.

Then I put the card back on the rack. And I walked away, delighted with my find though I didn’t purchase it.

You see, my father passed away 27 years ago. Reading the different cards and finding the perfect one was a small ceremony of remembrance and healing. informal and impromptu yet meaningful.

Fathers Day is a paradox for me. In all the years I have had to reflect on what it is like to lose your father there is one phrase I have found that describes it best. It sucks. And yet woven in tightly there is joy. In life our relationships are part of who we are. And the deep and meaningful relationships continue to be part of us long after the other person is gone. I am grateful to my father for giving me life and for living his life in a way that impacted mine so significantly.

And Fathers Day is also very special to me because I am blessed to be father to three wonderful children who are all amazing young adults and each a great leader in their own way.

If you share with me in the paradox of Fathers Day, I wish you all the best in this time. Take it for what it is, all of it, and let it make something richer of you. The full marvel of life comes not from its glorious moments but from all the bits and pieces of its entirety.

Happy Fathers Day.

I Would Look Up

6_ragsThe Raggers Program, formed by Thomas Caldwell, began in 1914 at a YMCA camp in California and since has been adopted at many other Y camps.  It was designed for youth ages 12 and up.  Progression through the program is marked by a series of colored rags.

It was at YMCA Camp du Nord, a family camp, that I became familiar with it as an adult.  For a few years du Nord used an adaptation of the program, modified for use by people of all ages.  The camp provides a beautiful setting for personal reflection (the Be blog header is from there) and Raggers helped me be more intentional in my reflection.

Central to the program is the Raggers Creed.

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer,
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend to all – the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving, and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.

Wherever you may be in this moment, physically or emotionally,
read those words again and reflect on a few questions.
What do they tell me about who I am?
What do they mean to me as a leader?
What do they mean to me as a follower?

When Helping is a Disservice

LendAHandServant leadership is more than doing something nice for others.  Yes, kind and generous actions are a key element.  But the more you assess the situation and the better you understand those being served, the more that all involved will experience the full richness of servant leadership.  Without it your actions could actually be a disservice to those you are attempting to serve.

Robert Greenleaf said the test of servant leadership is this,

“Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

To deepen my understanding of servant leadership I periodically form and refine my own definition.

To serve is to live in such a way that others become more from what I do.  Servant leadership is serving in a way that others become servants who lead.

Before you reach out, reflect within on a few questions.

  • Does my service help them reach their goals?  Or is my only objective to achieve my own goals?
  • Does my service help them to become more skilled, more knowledgeable, more self-aware?  If I do what they are able to do themselves,  will I deny them an opportunity to learn and grow?
  • Does my service help them to become more self-sufficient and self-confident?  Or is there a risk they will become dependent on my assistance?
  • How will their life be different as a result of my service?  What change will this bring about?
    • Are they prepared for this change?  Will they be equipped for the new reality?
    • Are they involved in the process enough to feel ownership of the results?
  • Does my service allow me to be enriched by the experience?  If service is harmful to the one who is serving, it is a disservice to all.  We each have our own unique gifts to share.  And if anyone, even the servant, becomes less we all become less.  Give of yourself without giving up yourself.

A key is relationship.  In relationship we gain the understanding necessary to serve effectively.  In relationship an act of kindness becomes a message of love.  In relationship we share responsibility for the outcome.  In relationship we grow and become more from what we do.  In relationship we lead.

Go the extra mile to do something special for others,
but also go deeper to be someone of significance to others.

Image: foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Remembering Van Eaton

VanEaton2 When I learned the story of Thomas Van Eaton I was troubled by it, but even more so by the circumstances around it.

Mr. Van Eaton was an early European settler in Central Minnesota in the 1860s. In 1862 conflict between the Dakota people and the growing number of settlers erupted in violence, in what is commonly referred to as the Dakota Uprising.  While the worst of the fighting was over fifty miles south of Van Eaton’s homestead, there were attacks in other areas as well.  Thomas brought his wife and five children to a stockade twenty miles away.  Returning to his farm a couple days later to check on the cattle he was attacked by a group of Dakota.  Defending himself with his back to a tree he killed eight of them before he himself was brutally killed.

Though the details of the death of Mr. Thomas Van Eaton and the eight Dakota were disturbing, what disturbed me most was the realization this took place a few miles from where I grew up.  And I had never before heard the story.  The tiny village of Grove Lake where his homestead was, where he died and where he is buried today is just four miles from my boyhood home.  Why was I learning of it now for the first time?

Why are there no signs or monuments to recognize this historical event or the nine men who lost their lives in it?  Why was there never any mention of it in school?  Why had I never heard of it in the local lore?  And what of the eight Dakota?  Where is the story that at least tells us their names?

This past summer a couple family members and I went to the Grove Lake Cemetery to seVanEaton1e if we could find Thomas’ grave.  It took us awhile, but we eventually found the gravestone matching a picture online.  It was off in the corner, tucked in against a tree.  The stone looks like it was badly damaged and poorly repaired.  The name Van Eaton is misspelled and backwards.  This alone is the physical marker of the events around the life and death of Mr. Thomas Van Eaton.

In addition to bringing light to this story, I also feel compelled to point out an important lesson the circumstances hold for leaders.  One of the key roles of a leader is storyteller.  Leaders need to shape a story of a better future around a shared vision.  But leaders also need to keep alive the stories of the past.  While it is not good to dwell in the past, we do need to remember those events that shaped who we are.  This includes not just the recollection of our great victories, but also our struggles and our failures.  In the shadows of our humanness we are reminded to hold fast to the light of our humanity.

The story of Thomas Van Eaton
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=55045935

Can you?

In a first for the Be blog here is a video post.  I wasn’t sure if I could do this or not, so I gave it a try.

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why.”
Benjamin Zander

“When you take risks there is the very real possibility of failure. When you take no risks there is the absolute certainty of failure.”
Ralph Marston

Happy New Year, Anniversary and Birthday!

HalfDogNew Years is a marvelous time.  We look ahead to the year before us with hope and anticipation.  There are predictions of what we think might happen and plans and resolutions* for what we want to happen.

The way we approach birthdays and anniversaries, however, is much different.  These are events to look back and reflect on the year that has past.  While New Years is celebrated at the beginning of the year, birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated at the end, giving them an overtone of, “We survived another one!  Let’s celebrate!”

What if birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated in the same way as New Years?  What if they were a time to eagerly look forward to the year ahead?  What if we celebrated a child’s first birthday on the day they are born?  What if couples celebrated their first anniversary on their wedding day?  What if organizations celebrated the first anniversary of their existence on the day they are formed?

Now I’m not advocating that we rewrite treasured tradition.  However, I do suggest that each and every day is a time to reflect back as on birthdays and anniversaries, and a time to lean forward into the future as on New Years.

Each moment is lived on a fine point in time between what has been and what is yet to be.  Life is a dance of hopes upon a stage built of memories.  This ever shifting place called Now is rich with experience and possibility.  The wonders of a new beginning are there for us, if our eyes are open to see them, and our hearts are open to embrace them.

Happy New Year!  Happy New Day!  Happy New You!

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”  Hal Borland

Photo courtesy of AESThetic Photography

*For a great perspective on plans vs. resolutions check out the recent post by Steve Keating – Plans or Resultions?