Quotes and Inspiration

My Soapbox: Trust, Accountability, Empowerment: All that matters

Building relationships based on respect

People who have worked with me before have heard me on this particular soapbox quite a bit and for those I will suggest maybe they don’t need to read this particular blog. There will be nothing new here. That said, it is perhaps because I continue to hear stories from great talent I have met around the world that are working with people that still do not get it.

It is for these people that I write this blog.

Executives get busy and they get stressed. Markets start to squeeze and pressure mounts, causing many to revert to the old command and control techniques they used in prior decades. When the kitchen heats up, they forget the basics. I believe some need to be reminded of a basic principle that should be obvious to all: Organizations are successful when there is a strong relationship of respect among leaders at all levels.

Now, before I go further, let me be absolutely clear: effective leadership requires adapting your style from time to time to appropriately handle a given challenge. There are times for diplomacy, inclusion, and democracy (e.g., complex problem), and there are times for command and control (e.g., during an urgent crisis). However, underlying your leadership style, and regardless of the type of problem, the relationship of respect must prevail.

A relationship of respect requires three key elements: trust, accountability, and empowerment.

Every team that has worked with me over the past decade will have heard me speak explicitly of the three simple things that I feel are the most important elements of effective, increasingly global, teams. I sincerely hope that those that worked with me before that will see in this blog some of the elements of our team work that worked best even if we never put it to words.

Trust. Accountability. Empowerment.

You will notice that none of them involve bureaucracy, centralization, or added layers without added value! It also does not require being “nice”.


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Trust: We must build and maintain levels of trust across borders and business units, recognizing the unique strengths and backgrounds of each individual. In companies that are complex, especially with multiple business units and geographies, the absence of trust can cause money, time, and valuable resources to be wasted on duplicated efforts.

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Accountability: We must be a respectful organization and a collegiate one, but all of us must be held accountable as well. Accountability goes hand in hand with trust. When we all understand each other’s respective areas of responsibility and accountability, we create a culture of trust, and we can focus on the services and solutions we deliver and the goals we want to achieve without distraction.

It is important to note that accountability is as much about what is accomplished as it is about how it is accomplished. If you’re an a-hole, regardless of your delivery skills, people will find it hard to trust you and the relationship of respect will be difficult.

Empowerment-Zone.jpg.728x520_q85Empowerment: People must be allowed to make decisions and drive change without being micromanaged and without needing to get multiple approvals; they must be allowed to be leaders. Just as importantly, we must enable those whom we empower. Power without training is not a formula for success. Empowerment is about giving a person the ability to manage something tangible that adds value, but also about working with that individual to help him or her succeed.

Leadership is not easy, and successful teams are elusive to many people. But, with some basic focus on respect and these key principles, you will at minimum have the right foundation for success.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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Ready. Aim. Do it.

A New Beginning

Every day is a new beginning. All of life provides opportunities for new beginnings. Whatever has gone wrong, or right, in your life, you can begin again.
Jonathan L. Huie

New beginnings can be nerve wrecking. You spend years building a team, finding the people you can trust to get things done and do so in a values based manner. You drive strategy and create value for shareholders. And you check off so many boxes, proudly getting to a point where you can finally rest and look at the great things you and the team created …. and then you move on to the next challenge.

YIKES!! So much for resting.

“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time” Arnold H. Glasgow

If I’m honest with myself, I will admit that I will likely never get to truly resting until retirement (target TBD). The fact is, I love gnarly, complex, global challenges and am thankful I have found that in my new role.

Leaders at All Levels

Top 12 Quotes on LeadershipI am incredibly excited about this new adventure and will enjoy getting to meet the new teams around the world. One concept I have constantly addressed that I expect will be highly relevant here is the fact that everyone in today’s technology organizations must be leaders. From time to time, everyone will be called on to make decisions, act independantly, and respond to crises without time to go up the chain for days.

You can’t always wait for the guys at the top. Every manager at every level in the organization has an opportunity, big or small, to do something. Every manager’s got some sphere of autonomy. Don’t pass the buck up the line.
Bob Anderson

I blogged about this a while back with “Leaders at All Levels”

Chicago

Chicago

I LOVE Chicago, the place I have called home for so many years. And I love having the opportunity to give back to the community in which I love. Living in London over the past two years was an amazing adventure, the opportunity to more deeply explore another great city, and to work with colleagues in other European cities. While my prior role required that I moved to London for a while, I am confident that the relationships I built in Chicago will continue to grow. And, of course, I hope to see many of my friends from London throughout the year. Visit!!

As Marilyn Monroe said, “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” So I expect my friends to trek on over to see me from time to time, share a lager or a cup of coffee, and warm my heart with their presence!

Let’s Go

Two great quotes come to mind as I contemplate the week ahead and my new adventure:

“If your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you. Work is an inanimate thing and can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it. Your job is only as big as you are.” George C. Hubbs

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” Henry Ford

I’ve enjoyed my time to reflect on the good and bad aspects of my prior leadership role, and the opportunity to give back via non-profit and civic consulting. But it’s time to go back to corporate, tackle this new and exciting challenge, and meet a new batch of great people with whom I hope to build something great.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections
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Adam at Sunset

This blog is a revision of a prior post.

The Importance of Perseverance

Great post on the importance of continually pushing toward your goals.

LeadToday

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” 

Successful people try, the most successful people try harder. Nearly all of the most successful people you’ll ever meet have this trait in common: they did just a little more after they first felt they couldn’t do anymore.

I’m certain that the primary difference between success and huge success is the little “extra” that turns ordinary into extraordinary. The ability to do more than you think you can is not limited to hugely successful people, everyone has that ability, it’s just that the most successful people put it to use.

I’m also pretty sure that persevering people have fewer regrets than those who quit too early. They never have to wonder “what if” I had kept going, and tried just a…

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Leadership

Life Lessons (Guest Blog by Robert Acton)

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Leaders Share Their Stories

One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

This guest blog is from someone I have become friends with personally after years of working together professionally. Rob Acton was Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid when he recruited me to join their Board of Directors. While he has moved on to other great things, I continue to serve on the Board. More importantly, we have become good friends. Rob is smart, passionate, and a true leader already. Yet, he is willing to learn from others, as well as from his personal successes and failures. With all the great things behind him, I expect even gather things ahead and am honored to share his thoughts on good leaders.

If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, LinkedIn, or by posting a comment on this blog.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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leadership-definition

In the Presence of Great Leaders
Robert B. Acton
Executive Director – Taproot Foundation New York

I am inspired by great leaders. They are rare. There is no objective measure for great leadership, no certificate or title, but when you’re in the presence of one, you know it.

The handful of great leaders I’ve interacted with have a set of characteristics in common:

1. They are obsessively passionate about the mission they are leading. Their commitment to its success is unwavering.

2. They inspire people by telling great stories. Their scope of knowledge is both deep and wide, but they really connect when they tell stories.

3. They are both confident and humble. Their confidence engenders loyalty to their cause. Their humility engenders loyalty to them.

4. They are wise. They have experienced a lot of learning over the years and know how to synthesize and apply it to new and changing circumstances and environments. They make good judgment calls.

5. They invest heavily in others. Without anything to gain, they carve out quality time for high potential people who can learn from them.

6. They experience life with unfettered enthusiasm, even joy. Each day is an adventure. A day without a hill to take is a day wasted. They live life with the accelerator pressed to the floor, every day.

7. They are easily moved. They laugh and they cry.

8. They are guided by deep-seeded values. They know they can’t fake it and wouldn’t want to anyhow. Their core is firmly in tact.

9. They love people. Actually, they are obsessed with people. They are usually the last to leave a room if there are interesting people to meet and conversations to be had. They always make time that they don’t have for people.

10. They have a masterful base of knowledge. They know their area of expertise, of course, but that’s the easy part. More impressively, they know three important things about your area of expertise, as well.

A few such leaders I’ve been privileged to know well: Charles Middleton. Tony Campolo. Sylvia Reynolds. Laura Truax.

Some I’ve observed briefly, or from afar: Tim King. Sterling Speirn. Bill Clinton. Ken Chanault. Cathy Trower.

My aspiration is less about reaching a particular job and more about “becoming” — learning more and more how to be reflective of these truly great leaders.

That’s what year 45 will be about.
Leadership

About the Author:

 

Rob Acton

Rob Acton

As New York City’s Executive Director, Rob Acton sets the strategic direction for Taproot Foundation and the pro bono movement in America’s most populous city. He is known for belting out Broadway show tunes at the photocopier and trying to measure everything. Prior to joining Taproot, Rob spent over 20 years leading nonprofits, working in direct services and engaging in policy efforts designed to bring opportunity, justice, fair-treatment and second chances to residents of Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago and Jackson, Mich. Most recently, Rob served for seven years as Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), overseeing the delivery of free legal representation to more than 22,000 low-income clients. During his tenure, CGLA expanded ten fold the number of clients served and tripled the agency’s annual budget. In May 2008, CGLA received the prestigious Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. Rob’s roots in NYC run deep having worked at a number of nonprofits including Legal Outreach, Inc. and the Brooklyn Juvenile Rights Division of Legal Aid Society. He has served on a number of nonprofit boards and has taught graduate level nonprofit leadership at DePaul Law School and North Park University. He earned his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Spring Arbor University. Rob calls New York City home and his favorite root vegetable is the sweet potato, especially in the form of pie.

Life Lessons (Guest Blog by Marquis Parker)

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Leaders Share Their Stories

One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

This guest blog is from someone who has already made tremendous strides in his professional career, having a successful stint at McKinsey and Company and years of Aon experience under his belt. Marquis Parker, an energetic, ambitious, and confident young leader, also has degrees from prestigious universities including Princeton and Stanford. With all the great things behind him, i expect even gather things ahead and am honored to post an excerpt from his blog “Amazing what one can learn in 10 years”. Since this is just an excerpt of a very well written blog, I encourage you to read and comment on the entire blog here.

If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, LinkedIn, or by posting a comment on this blog.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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——————–

Amazing what one can learn in 10 years

Marquis Parker (excerpts selected by Adam L. Stanley)
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I originally started this blog to share my story as an MBA applicant, but, over the years, it morphed into something totally different. For the past few years, I’ve used this blog as a forum to answer questions from my readers as a way to share the learnings that I’ve acquired from stumbling through my education and career without having been taught the “right way” to do it all; I figure that I’ve already endured the bumps and bruises, so I should use that to keep others from having to do the same.

Below, I’ve provided my top 10 life lessons learned from my last 10 years of educational, professional, and real life experiences. Many of these items are somewhat basic in nature, but all of them were true revelations for me when they hit me and have helped me become the man that I am today.

1. Be thankful for what you’ve got

My advice here is that, no matter how dissatisfied you may be with your current situation (e.g., job, career path, financial standing), just remember that someone else could have it worse. If you hate your job, think about all of the folks who would kill to have any job at all. If you’d say that you’re not advancing quickly enough in your career, make sure to appreciate that you have a career at all…many recent grads would give anything to trade places with you and have a chance to start their careers. Lots of people complain about their homes, cars, clothes, possessions, etc., but I’d bet that they don’t think others who have lost everything or are barely hanging on in the aftermath of the economic crisis. It’s real out in these streets.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard and fight for what you really want…We all deserve the right to do that. That said, I would strongly encourage you to be thankful for what you have in the present when trying to build for the future. Keeping the proper perspective will be very helpful in truly appreciating advancements once you get them.

2. “Be ruthless with your time”

This is a holdover from my 2006 list of lessons after graduating from Stanford GSB. I took the quote from one of my favorite GSB professors, Jim Ellis, from a list of tips that he gave in our final ‘Managing Growing Enterprises’ session.

You’d be surprised at how quickly your time can be taken up by others and, next thing you know, you won’t be left with any for things that YOU need to prioritize, like getting your work done, spending time with the people who matter to you, and, most importantly, sleep/health. It took me a while before I realized that this had happened to me again, but, when I did, I made changes to follow Prof. Ellis’s advice and start being ruthless with my time. I started budgeting in time to hit the gym, spend more time with my peoples, run around out in the streets, and sometimes simply do nothing productive at all (which was a major change for me). It was GREAT and had a huge impact on my overall stress level.

If you take only one thing away from this list, I hope it is this point… It’s great to want to give of yourself to help everyone, do everything, and have impact everywhere, but, sometimes, you just need to focus on you and what you need. Time is a resource that is non-renewable. Make sure that you focus on being ruthless when it comes to yours.

3. Find an anchor for your confidence

I’m a firm believer that honing in on a few things that make a person distinctive/interesting/great is a bulletproof way to not only develop one’s confidence, but also to maintain it, even in the face of struggles or failure.

4. Optimize on building meaningful relationships, both personal and professional

Some may think that ‘connections‘ and ‘relationships‘ are the same, but I see them as separate ideas, with the latter being much more valuable.

Here’s how I think about it:
Connection: Being linked to a person in some manner, but not necessarily in a “deep” way; Similar to “having met” someone versus “knowing” that person; Can be established without having actually met or even spoken to a person; Connections can be established for any number of reasons, including being alumni of the same (or peer) academic institution, having worked for the same company, similar industry/functional/career interest, and mutual connections

Relationship: [Instead of defining this myself, I’ll rely on the one from Wikipedia] Strong, deep, or close association/acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring. This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment; The distinction here is that the parties involved have put in work to move past simply being connected and toward really getting to know each other; Relationships provide a foundation for ongoing engagement and mutual benefit for both people

5. Treat your network like it has value…because it does!!!

This item ties directly into the previous one. Once one has developed a set of meaningful relationships, he/she will have the foundation for a diverse and potentially productive network, which would include friends, colleagues, associates, and acquaintances. These connections could lead to job opportunities, introductions to notable people, help/support in some kind of initiative, or any other of a long list of benefits. Due to what’s at stake, It is crucial to be thoughtful about how you manage and leverage your network because destroying/damaging it is much easier than developing it in the first place.

I’ve either experienced or heard of many instances where people have been unwise in interactions with folks in their networks, often resulting in permanent changes in how they are seen by those connections. Actions like flaking on scheduled phone calls, showing up late to meetings, not being prepared to have a meaningful discussion, being overly informal, taking a long time to respond to communications, and not following through on commitments can end up having lasting effects. In many of these cases, the person may not even realize that he/she did something improper, but, once the damage is done, it likely can’t be undone.

6. “Know when to hold ‘em…know when to fold ‘em”

Life is basically a series of gambles on a bunch of factors, like education, relationships, career, and health. Winning at the game of life requires getting enough wins in these individual gambles, whether it’s by being dealt a strong hand, using the right strategy, or blind luck. In other words, you should aim to handle those “gambles” in the best way possible in order to end up with the best overall result.

Anyone who plays poker knows that, in some games, you can end up with cards so good that you want to immediately raise your bet. In other games, your cards might be so iffy that the best move is to fold and get out of the hand. In the series of “gambles” that make up life, it is sometimes best to “lay down your cards” and exit a given situation.

7. Be open to accepting feedback AND be willing to give it

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feedback is defined as “helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.“…in other words, feedback is supposed to be seen as a good thing. If asked, most people would probably describe themselves as feedback-seeking and then go on list the many benefits associated with it. But, in reality, when comments that aren’t necessarily glowing come their way, a lot of people are quick change their tunes. Having lived and worked in a few feedback-heavy environments, I have quite a few thoughts on the topic.

8. Recognize that it’s OK to have a chip on your shoulder as long as it serves as motivation to achieve more

I’ll start by acknowledging that many people will disagree with this item and may see me as spreading a negative message, likely due to the negative connotation of having a chip on one’s shoulder. Some assume that it is an indicator of a person being quick to argue or to see someone else as doing him/her wrong (whether justified or not). I choose to view it differently.

I understand that some people with chips on their shoulders end up bringing negativity with them wherever they go, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. What about the instances where a person uses it as a push to aim higher than he/she would have otherwise? Or, what about it being a way for someone to motivate him-/herself to overcome perceived roadblocks on the road to success? I’d argue that this can be a win if done productively.

9. Don’t be afraid to go for the “Hail Mary“

Some you may have heard of the term Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which is a similar concept, but what I’m referring to here is different. If something is a goal, the implication is that one has thought about it thoroughly beforehand and *hopefully* develops a methodical plan to achieve it. With the Hail Mary, I’m talking about making an attempt to do something that seems so far away from being possible that it wouldn’t even qualify as a valid goal. It’s like taking the idea of a “stretch goal” and stretching it so far that it sort of doesn’t even make sense. Feel me?

10. Remember that everyone deserves a chance to win

From what I’ve seen, one of the biggest factors in achieving success is simply having a legitimate chance to do so. There is a school of thought that says anyone can find an opportunity if he/she is willing to work hard, sacrifice, be flexible, etc. in order to make it happen. For many in our society, that school of thought is just plain wrong and, sadly, that’s just the way of the world. I believe that it is up to those of us who have found some measure of success to recognize this fact and do what we can to help these folks get their shot.

Looking back over the above list, I can’t help but be amazed at how much life experience can teach a person over time. It isn’t always easy to see those lessons as positives instead of setbacks, but time has a way of providing the right kind of perspective.

Of course, many items in my list seem basic to many of you, but, for a guy who didn’t really get these things until his late 20s and the first half of his 30s, they were literally life-changing. Also, folks tend to assume that it’s been an easy road for me because of what I’ve accomplished, but that couldn’t be further from reality. So, it’s refreshing to think back and realize what hard work, sacrifice, and the hustle has made possible for a scraggly little dude from the country (VA represent!).

About the Author:
Marquis Parker is a business leader, coach, advisor, mentor, and award-winning blogger on topics of MBA student life and admissions, careers, and business concepts. He has experience in formulating strategies and analyzing mission critical issues for companies ranging from government and public sector entities to global private sector organizations. Throughout his career, he has acquired a broad set of educational and career experiences grounded in Business Operations, Strategy, Technology, Private Equity, and Education. In addition, Marquis has served as an advisor and/or Board member to several small businesses and non-profit organizations, including InstaSafe, McRae’s Foods, The Friends of Sinai Children’s Hospital, and Higher Praise Ministries.

Currently, Marquis is a Vice President of Strategic Projects for the U.S. division of Aon Affinity, which specializes in developing, marketing, and administering customized insurance programs and specialty market solutions for affinity organizations and their members or affiliates. Also, for the remainder of 2013, he is serving a secondary role as a Vice President of Global Operations for Aon Broking, which integrates the insurance broking infrastructure of Aon Risk Solutions across its retail, wholesale, and specialty businesses in 120 countries. Since joining Aon plc, a $12B provider of risk management, reinsurance, and human capital advisory services, in 2010, he has held leadership roles in strategy and business operations in 3 of its 4 operating business units, including a stint as a Vice President on the “special projects” team for Aon’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Lessons from Henry V … Leadership Inspiration

Looking for inspiration in history (and movies …)

In a recent leadership course sponsored by my employer, we used The story of Henry V and the battle at Agincourt as a metaphor for leadership. I have watched this video of his speech to the troops every day since then and wanted to share it with you. It provides me with inspiration and hopefully some potential tools I can use to take my troops into battle every day: humility, decisive leadership, participative decision making, scenario planning, and clear articulation of vision and objectives are but a few reasons Henry V prevailed against overwhelming odds.

For a great synopsis on leadership lessons from this battle, read the article found on Knowledge@Wharton, from my alma mater. Enjoy the video clip and let me know what lessons you think are learned from his speech or the battle itself.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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Contemplating a dream in 2013

I couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute to the legacy and life of Martin Luther King Jr than the second term inauguration of President Barack Obama on the day Americans celebrate his birthday. So in honour of the day, I thought I would share a few of my favorite MLK quotes and what they have meant to me personally.President ObamaMLK

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For me, this has meant taking on challenges that are nasty, gnarly, and complex. It is easy to be calm and composed when things are going well, my daily challenge is to keep the positivity and fresh perspective even when it seems the cards are all stacked against me.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a leader of large organisations, I have found several people that spend weeks, months, years! trying to get to an agreement on direction and strategy. And nothing gets done. This quote inspires me to try to balance democracy with action. Getting things done by gathering opinion quickly and getting to a decision, then driving support for the decision.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If I had a dollar for every person that smiled in my face then stabbed me in the back … well France would take 75% of it in taxes….. Also, we all know those types that beat us up when things are bad and forget to make any comments when things are good. Finally, there are some people that despite the best intentions just screw up. For all of the above, my philosophy is based on MLK’s principles (borrowed, of course, from the teachings in the Bible): Forgive! Forgive! Forgive! I frankly don’t have the time or energy to hold grudges. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that means I can be walked over. I do act and take decisions based on the grievances. I simply move on immediately thereafter.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

See above! And, also my previous blogs on who to love. Life is simply too short to do anything less than love unconditionally.

That’s my short list and there are many many more quotes from this great yet flawed man. I learn much from him and from others and look forward to gleaning from the texts of today’s leaders for examples, both good and bad, of being a leader in this changing world.

For today, I say congratulations to President Barack Obama and to his family. May the next four years bring you the sense of accomplishment you desire but also the peace and love that comes with family, friends, and a sense that you have not compromised your values.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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For more information on life, work, and death of Martin Luther King Jr, here are a few web sources:
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkivebeentothemountaintop.htm
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/king_martin_luther.shtml

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. by Living, Learning, and Loving

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. by Living, Learning, and Loving

Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr

Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or just occasionally read this blog likely have gotten a sense of what is most important to me.

1) Living, an easy word so misunderstood by most, is a major focus. I mean truly living. Enjoying your days and nights, doing things that excite you, finding balance between various areas of your life so that each minute is more valuable and your regrets later in life are minimized. Make that call you have been putting off. Take that vacation you dreamed of. You don’t have to declare “email bankruptcy” but you can find balance by just cutting an hour off the time you spend each night on email or staring at your smart phone.

2) Learning – travelling, meeting new people, listening to elders, studying, reading, writing …. doing whatever I can to become a better person and to help others become better people. They say a person learns the most before they are 7 years old. But you don’t have to STOP learning then, as it seems so many people have done. It thrills me every time I meet someone different than me. Sitting with my grandmother in her last days was fantastic as I was able to glean from her almost 90 years of living. Never stop learning.

3) Loving – LOVE BIG, even at the risk of being hurt. Give those around you your best. Hug a lot, and not just those “pat on the back” hugs. I mean those hugs like my grandpa used to give me that made me think I was going to suffocate but man, did I feel the love. Hug BIG! Say thank you often and do little things that can mean so much at the right time. FORGIVE!!! Think of someone you love right now. If you love big, you should be smiling! Because no matter their faults or crimes, people you love should matter. Always. And finally, LOVE even those you do not know. There are so many people out there that have no family. They need you to show LOVE by giving and reaching out.

Living, Learning, and Loving

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I want to share my favorite quotes from the man that was flawed as we all are but did his part to advance the conversation. His words serve as inspiration to me in some ways, and admonishment in others. He spoke often of living, loving and learning and quotes around these topics have tended to be my favorites!

Living

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Learning

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Loving

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

Adam L. Stanley
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
Or at http://www.alswharton.com/in

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

Lessons on Relationships from The Help

The Help MovieLessons from The Help

I never really liked going to movies as a teenager and most of my adult life was the same. Then, two things happened: 1) Showplace ICON opened a VIP theater near my home in Chicago, offering the opportunity to see movies in a recliner with drinks and gourmet sliders (and popcorn with bacon!); and 2) I started watching the Harry Potter movies to connect with my nieces and nephews. It was the second one that kind of leads me to this blog. You see, while I started off watching for the “action” of the young wizard, I quickly realized how many leadership lessons can be found in movies. Like rap music for inner city children in some schools, perhaps we can use movies to bridge between popular culture and leadership lessons for Gen Y.

I can blog thousands of words from Harry Potter, which is in my opinion as rich as the Godfather movies with leadership lessons. However, today I will discuss “The Help”, a movie about three very different women and the relationships between them and other people in their Jackson, Mississippi town. I have watched the movie and read the book so may interchange them a bit. The movie was a very good adaptation, in my humble opinion.

Here are some simple lessons found from the book which spawned the movie:

1) Communication is more than just talking

“I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.”

How many times have you been in a meeting that lasted an hour and accomplished absolutely nothing? Sometimes it seems that everyone has something to say and yet nothing is said. I firmly believe that people need to listen more and talk less. Think about what goals have been set for the meeting and how each participant can add value.

A mentor of mine once told me that anyone who came to a meeting and said nothing should not have been at the meeting. However, some people are SO VOCAL that others may want to contribute but do not. Try not to be THAT person. Listen, learn, and watch for non-verbal and verbal cues.

2) Carrots work better than sticks. And they are a lot cheaper.

“…and that’s when I get to wondering, what would happen if I told her she something good, ever day?”

For many of your team members, you may be the only positive encouragement they have all day. I have had the pleasure of managing help desk technicians as part of my organization for several years. Many of them are the brightest, hardest working, and dedicated employees I have led. But talk about a thankless job. When things are good, no one calls the help desk. So they only get the irate, the frustrated, and often, the …. well, clueless.

Greet your team members, both peers and subordinates, by name and with a smile. Tell them something positive about their work, their attitude, or anything else you can find that is truly positive. Don’t make things up, but challenge yourself to find the best in everyone with whom you interact. You will be amazed what it does for that person and in turn what that person will do for your team and your clients.

3) Change begins with a whisper
There are thousands of quotes out there on change. And everyone says the right thing. Change happens. Change is good. Change is the only constant. And so on…. But the fact is CHANGE IS A PAIN IN THE …. Well, it’s hard.

In the movie and book, Aibileen is known as a solid citizen in the black community, respected for her wisdom and her prayers. Skeeter, who wishes to get several of the maids to participate in her book project, works first with Aibileen, who starts to mention it to Minnie, who then spreads it to others. Soon, the whisper spreads and several women want to speak to Skeeter.

The best way to manage change I have found is to think of every change as both necessary and positive, but to spread the word through individual conversations as much as town halls and large announcements. It is incredibly powerful for you as a leader if the day a major change is announced, you have dozens of people out there who have already been talking about it. Start small conversations with key influencers amongst your team and get them to discuss the change with others. Don’t do this for politics or scheme, you’re not just pandering to junior colleagues. Engage them because your team knows what works and can help make the change more effective. Let your key employee leaders be the whisper that starts a successful change event.

4) Some people will never change. Deal with it. Or Leave.

“It seems like at some point you’d run out of awful.”

I have been blessed to work primarily with great people. Even those that had their rough spots and mean streaks typically showed their good more than their bad sides. But there were two in particular that try as I might, I could not find within them a redeeming quality. They were mean, nasty and completely uninterested in team building and collaboration. One even went so far as to tell me I needed to be more of an [expletive] and that my team enjoyed working for me too much. The implication was that they could not possibly be working hard enough and still like me the way they did. I know, right? Crazy! And this was not in the 1980s.

My solution was to walk away. I knew it could be risky (using up some of my “marbles”, as a mentor of mine used to say) but worse still would be staying and working in a toxic environment that could make me toxic. I sacrificed the “glory” of working with this particular team and opted to find my success in other teams. To take the risk to be a respected AND liked leader and not just one that was feared.

If you have this kind of person in your team, try to address the issue head on. Do all you can to make it better, but at the end of the day, some people will never change. If you are the boss, you must fix the problem either by getting them to change or severing them from the team before they spread their negativity. If you are a member of the team and working for the “negative nestor”, you have the option to stay or go. If you can, get out of there before the negativity spreads to you.

5) Relate to and empower all employees.
One of the main characters in The Help convinced herself that building separate bathrooms for her maid was good for the maid as well as protecting her from “their diseases”. Most people watching this today feel this is so far from what anyone would do and thankfully they are correct. But how many times have you personally spoken to the most junior employee in your organization? Do you structure every meeting in layers where you meet with your directs and they meet with their directs and so on? Do your junior associates call you by your last name (Good morning, Mr. Stanley) sometimes and feel they have to ask permission to say hello when walking past your office? Watch for this and consider what you can do to create an environment where all of your team members truly feel equally engaged and empowered. And hang out with the senior and junior staff. A beer tastes the same with a CEO as it does with an analyst. Trust me.

Don’t give your employees the separate but equal treatment. Be a part of the team. As one of my favorite Aon teams used to say, “Hug it out!”

Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.

I pledge today to be a better listener and communicator, to empower my teams and treat them as equal partners, to encourage and uplift them, and to involve them in change so that their whispers can drive powerful success. Will you take this pledge? Do you have other lessons on leadership from this or other movies? I would love to hear from you. Post your comments below, on my Facebook page, or via Twitter.

Be well! Lead On.

Adam

Adam L. Stanley
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
Or at http://www.alswharton.com/in

See more thoughts on leadership in my other blogs, such as:
https://alswharton.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/leadership-kahlilgibran/

Let's have lunch!