Peace and Comfort.

               PeaceMy son is afraid of thunderstorms. On nights when the lightning flashes and the thunder booms, it is a given a little boy will be climbing into “the big bed” within a short period of time.  Sometimes I even get ahead of him and curl up with him in his bed first.  Either way, he always turns over either to hug or embrace me in his sleep. Even just a touch of his foot on my leg is enough for him to feel safe.  Once he knows he has mommy or daddy nearby, he can sleep through anything – not that we get much sleep after that.  Last night was one such night, and as I pondered my son’s calm, I thought about how that same sort of peace is provided by great leaders.

                My son feels comforted because he knows his protectors are close at hand.  He has trust that his parents will do their best to ensure no harm comes to him.  He is a brave boy on his own, but he needs a little extra help with a touch or a cuddle during a storm.  Leaders can do the same for us if they have the same basic relationship of trust with their team.  When a team has no trust or confidence in its leader, they find no comfort in the direction or the path of the team.  As with any discomfort, it is irritating and drives our attention away from other, more important things.

                Leaders do not need to “cuddle” their teams, but they do need to build that trust and confidence relationship.  I know that when I listen and follow leaders I truly believe in, I have no doubts or concerns about the path ahead. While I can’t say that I phrase it as peace and comfort in those situations, I can say that I am not concerned about the leadership – just the mission and goal.  I am focused and ready to perform knowing that my leaders have the situation under control, and I just need to do my part.  In the case of my son, he needs to calm down and sleep during a storm – mission accomplished.

Lori Buresh

The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Stay in Positive Control.

positivecontrol“Positive control” is a term I first learned in the military.  Ironically, it has nothing to do with the traditional understanding of the word “positive”. Unlike positive in the sense of upbeat or enthusiastic, positive control is more about awareness and leadership.  Being in positive control indicates that there is direct (or sometimes indirect) leadership presence from the person in charge.  In some ways that is simplistic, because the term means more than that as well.

In my experience, part of positive control means having situational awareness and team awareness at the same time.  Situational awareness is the understanding of one’s entire surroundings with more of a big picture view.  It is important for leaders to keep situational awareness throughout a challenge; things change along the way.  In order for leaders to be effective, we have to recognize the changes that occur or pitfalls up ahead for our teams and are ready with the plan to adjust.  It is that ability to “adapt and overcome” that helps set apart great leaders from good leaders.   Team awareness is the same thing, but instead of the overall focus, the leader has to stay involved with the team members.

Teams change over time. People get tired of long projects that seem to have no end, or a long journey that gets physically taxing. People also get tired of other people and need some space.  Sometimes leaders can accommodate those ups and downs of the team dynamic with rest or personal space and sometimes not.  The important thing is to recognize that they are happening and try to handle any tensions before they boil over.  There are many examples where teams started out cohesive but one person or the entire team fell to pieces.  For leaders, positive control indicates the juggling act of keeping in focus the path ahead and the people walking the path so everything and everyone reaches the finish line.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

To Have vs. To Be

book In response to my last blog – The Illusion of Control, someone wrote “Leadership is not having control. Leadership is being in control.” I thought this statement was excellent and needed further dissection and dissemination.  The alteration of the verb within the statement makes all the difference in the world – having and being.  Let’s take a look at each word as defined by Webster Merriam Dictionary.

have (verb \ˈhav, (h)əv, v; in “have to” meaning “must” usually ˈhaf\)

1a : to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement

  b : to hold in one’s use, service, regard, or at one’s disposal

  c : to hold, include, or contain as a part or whole

 be (verb \ˈbē\ ; present participle “being”)

1a : to equal in meaning : have the same connotation as: symbolize

  b : to have identity with

  c : to constitute the same class as

  d : to have a specified qualification or characterization

  e : to belong to the class of

                 Looking at the definitions gives clear distinction between the two perspectives.  As stated, to have means to hold or maintain possession.  The implication is superiority or dominance when applied to leadership.  While leadership does include responsibility and authority, I contend superiority is not on the list of attributes.  The verb ‘be’ includes various uses, tenses and terms but the predominant theme in the definition is equality.  In my opinion this is the key division between true leaders versus managers.

Leaders are not only the head of a team but they remain team members as well.  Those that choose to set themselves apart from the team instead of digging in deep and working shoulder to shoulder do not succeed as a true leader can. For leaders, ‘having’ control does not directly correlate that they are actually ‘in’ control since as Webster stated – it is an entitlement.  I find that entitlement leads to apathy and no person can lead when they are apathetic towards their team.  ‘Being’ in control is a state of doing something, of action, which is the need of the team from their leaders.  People that display strength, courage, wisdom and humility which inspires others are ‘in’ control, and the team is ready to willingly follow their leader.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

Leave a comment

The Illusion of Control.

control            When it comes to leadership, we fool ourselves into thinking we have control.  The truth is, when it comes to people, control in any context is an illusion.  Unless that person is bound up in chains and has no free will to resist, control is not actually within our grasp.  Think about this for a moment: While I may give the tools to my team to accomplish goals, it is ultimately up to each of them to act of their own free will in accordance with the needs of the mission.  For example, to prepare for a party I need balloons inflated; so I hand out balloons.  However, it is up to each person to choose to take a deep breath and inflate a balloon.  Simplistic example but true.  Even in the military it is still up to the free will of each person to execute the orders he or she is given.  While I may have worked with my division on which areas of the ship to paint, they were the ones who got it done.

So where does the control exist in leadership? I submit it still exists with the leader but not in a direct manner.  Let’s go back to the idea of blowing up balloons – I cannot force people to take a deep breath and blow up a balloon. I cannot hold their mouths open and shove air into their lungs.  Yet if I demonstrate there is a need, and that I am willing to do the same task as everyone else and that by accomplishing the task there is a greater good, I can influence the free will of others so they may want to blow up a balloon. Therein lies the key – the team members want to act and therefore choose to act.  Maybe “want” is not the right word, because we may not want to do the things we need to do in every situation.  Yet, we will use our free will to do what is expected of us.

As leaders we create the influence necessary to affect other’s free will by showing strength, courage, compassion, knowledge and calm.  I believe most people want to do well.  What they need is a guide to get on the right path.  It is the leader who becomes that guide so that each individual knows what he or she needs to do. In that regard, the leader is in control but not really.  We each control ourselves, but through our leaders we choose our actions.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

The Importance of Silence.

  As a type-A personality and as a mother, I am quick to answer questions – those posed by my children or pretty much anyone else.  What I am finding, though, is that it is almost a detriment to others.  Convoluted as it may seem, it may be better for me to stop answering the questions.  This does not mean ignore the questioner, but I need to do a better job of leading the questioner down the path of figuring it out for him or herself.  Since I am so quick to answer, I am not allowing or fostering the idea of critical thinking in others, which means they need me more to answer their questions.  I believe this is a struggle for other leaders as well.

The problem is I usually DO know the answer. I can see the path ahead or the “right” choice to make or (in the case of my children) where the shoes were left last.  I am also sometimes a little low on patience skills, which fosters the desire to just answer the question and move on with life.  With this in mind, it is a win-win for me as the leader to push back and not answer questions so directly with a final decision.  I need to learn more patience and how to guide people better and he or she will learn better critical thinking, which is invaluable.

I see this as a common problem today.  Many people are looking for the quick solution or the immediate response to be doled out instead of figuring things out for themselves.  We seek out truth, but for some reason we hesitate if seeking involves work.  I think leaders have to be aware of those moments when giving out the answer may solve the problem but in the long run doesn’t help the situation.  We have to make the time and give the latitude to teach and guide others.  There is real strength in this as shown through confidence building and empowerment. Next time I will work harder to be silent since I want others to work harder at thinking.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Flexibility.

flexibleThe differences among people can be both an advantage and a disadvantage to teams. In this context, what I am thinking about today revolves around leaders making significant changes to accommodate one or more person’s individual needs.  To put it another way, how much do I have to (and should I) bend as a leader for my team members?  I think the answer is the ever clarifying – it depends.  In my opinion, there are some areas, like ethics, where there is no flexibility.  Effective leadership directly relates to ethical behavior, which cannot be compromised.  Unfortunately, other individual characteristics may impact team building and teamwork, and they are not as clear-cut.

Most other examples, like physical disabilities or personality quirks, start out with the sentiment that leaders must take those things into consideration for the overall team strategy. However, each example comes to a point where ‘but’ comes into play.  For instance, physical disabilities of team members are something leaders have to adjust and accommodate…but…. if the mission of the team is one where the physical limitation hinders the team from accomplishing the goal then physical disabilities may be a disqualifying characteristic.  That seems to be my thread of thinking – leaders should and must do what is right and proper to incorporate whatever talent that individual brings to the table as long as it does not jeopardize the overall goal accomplishment or the other team members.

Another thing to keep in mind is that leaders must adjust and adapt their leadership styles in different ways to effect different people.  Not that the leader changes who they are for every person they meet.  How they interact or motivate people has to be adaptable.  To be sure, it is a tough balance.  However, I believe the answer to my original question about how far to bend is don’t.  What I mean by this is not to bend as a leader so much that my own morals, convictions or sense of self are affected or compromised.  Those traits are what help strengthen me as a leader in the first place.  Working with team members, in whatever ways they need to achieve their goals, should not conflict with that simple premise. If it does, it is up to the leader to remain resolved.

 

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , ,

3 Comments

The Accomplishment Let-Down.

winToday is an odd sort of day with multiple feelings to share.  I graduated on Friday with my Masters of Science in Computer Information Systems from Missouri State University.  It was a day I had worked two years to reach.  To be honest, it was rather surreal by the time it came to walk across the stage and be hooded (with the MS hood).  I had family by my side and we spent the entire weekend together just enjoying the moment.  One thing everyone kept asking me was “how does it feel to be done?” or commenting “It must feel great to be done!” In reality, I don’t feel relief or an overwhelming sense of accomplishment – yet.  I’m sure it will come but is not that day.  Today I feel a little lost.

This is not a new roller coaster ride; I’ve sensed this before.  Other major accomplishments in my life have been met with the same build-up and excitement with the same sort of empty feeling afterwards.  I think it is because the goal is achieved and my question is “now what?”  I believe that this is a cycle that all leaders need to be aware of for ourselves and for our teams.  We each have goals (usually more than one) that we are working towards, with milestones along the way.  The idea is to achieve and to reach the end goal, but then what?  In some ways it can be a big let-down or an emotional crash after such an emotional high for major accomplishments.  We see the results of our achievements and we know what it took to get us to the goal line, but like running a race – what do you do after you cross the line? You celebrate the moment but you find the next race to run because that one is now over.

What I am learning about myself during this time of reflection is that I like to achieve, and I like to have goals.  The important thing is to find that next goal or next hill to climb and find it fast. Without my goals I feel a little out of place or out of focus and start to founder. At least for me, I need my challenges to keep my enthusiasm and energy level high.  I am all for taking time off or taking breaks to unwind or relax after a stressful time, but as driven and focused people, I think we thrive on moving forward instead of standing still.  I know I am looking for my next ‘project’ because it is important to keep going.  Friday was amazing and this past weekend with family was indescribable fun but it is over now.  On to the next great adventure!!

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , ,

7 Comments

The Frustration of Politics.

   I believe politics, in this context organizational not legislative, boils down to a self-centered point of view.  First, I must clarify my definition of politics in this regard so we are all on the same page.  When I mention organizational politics, I mean that a group of people are struggling to communicate and therefore unable to achieve the overall goals for the company or group. Why is that? Because each person in the group has his or her own needs, wants and tasks to complete.  Everyone is ultimately looking out for his or her own priorities. While it is true that certain individuals are willing to put others’ needs first or sacrifice for the good of the team, the chances of having an entire team made up of such noble people is rather rare.  Enjoy it if you have that opportunity!

Many times when businesses talk about politics in their organizations, it implies someone (maybe someone in upper management) may get his or her feelings hurt or be effected personally by decisions or projects.  In order to avoid dealing with the consequences of hurt feelings or snubbed projects, leaders may have to tread lightly. So what does that mean and what happens to the rest of the team?

To be fair, when a leader is trying to be political in this context, is does not always translate to a bad thing. Political discussions may also equate to tactful discussions or mediating a problem for the benefit of everyone.  Political in that regard may actually be beneficial.  However, many times, people are so worried about being ‘politically correct’ that they are unable to accomplish goals.  Think about a time when you tried to please everyone in a group.  How well did that work out?  The truth is we all have different ideas, motivations and needs.  When leaders try to appease everyone, the outcome is rarely truly satisfying for the whole group.  In fact, I equate the effort of being politically correct with decision paralysis.  If leaders try so hard not to offend or upset anyone (like many legislative leaders try for votes) then how is it possible to get anything done?  I submit leaders are essentially stymied if they continue on this path. While we don’t have to be mean or cruel purposefully, leaders have to be ready to handle hurt feelings, conflict or rejection by others of their team.  On the flip side, leaders have to be ready with thicker skin and a higher vision when others approach your team with less than ideal options.  By using data, documentation, planning, a pragmatic view of the big picture, and above all – communication – I believe we can move past politics and get into accomplishment.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

Pride.

Award CertificatePride can be a terrible detriment to leadership when applied personally.  What I mean by this statement is if pride is held within or leaders direct their pride toward themselves, then I submit they will struggle as leaders.  I find that leaders with a large sense of personal pride hold themselves higher than others and are not as willing to selflessly sacrifice for others. In this aspect, personal pride can be equated with arrogance.  It may manifest itself through unyielding ego, or an aura of supremacy. However, this is not the type of pride I want to focus on today – it is pride for others as a leader.

One of the greatest thrills for leaders is to see their team members and their teams succeed. Watching team members grow and be prosperous in their own right is just as or even more satisfying than earning awards or achievements ourselves. For example, my children and my husband worked hard, and all of them earned their next level belt in karate over the weekend.  Though I had nothing directly to do with their accomplishment, I still felt an overwhelming sense of pride for my family.  I was floating on air just as much as they were!  Why?  Again, I had nothing to do with their success directly.  The pride I felt came from watching them succeed.

The flip side is what they felt. I have been the recipient of awards, and that is a different feeling.  There is a sense of accomplishment and of pride, but it is different.  I think it is best to say that particular feeling of pride is tempered with a great deal of humility.  Maybe that is why the feeling of pride as a leader is so much stronger and more powerful – the humility is gone.  I can be as proud as possible and happy for others without having a conflicted heart.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Strength.

strength  When referring to leadership, there is an inherent expectation of strength.  In regards to teams, the leader of the team is the one to provide the guidance and the power when necessary.  What about those times when it is not formal leadership?  For example, a friend calls who is in crisis and needs help.  You are a friend, peer, and equal with this person; although at that moment, you are subconsciously lifted into a position of leadership.  How do you handle that type of situation?   This recently happened with me, so I am writing from a personal perspective.  A friend needed help, and I was the one she asked for support.  I didn’t think about it at that moment, but looking back, I am so honored and humbled that she would think of me in that time of crisis.  Her comment was I would provide strength.  My only comment was that I wouldn’t let her down.  This scenario led me to think about sharing on the topic of strength.

Not only in our organizations and our business teams do we look for and need leadership. We need it in our personal lives as well.  When we have the honor of being able to help and support others, we are de facto leaders in their lives, which is not a responsibility to take lightly, although it is different than being a team leader.  Leadership in this context has to be much more influential and subtle.  The truth is, people can and will do what they choose to do.  This is a big point – while I am going to be the solid, dependable, constant friend, I cannot take on her burden for her; unfortunately, it is hers to handle.  I think we try to assume too much during some of these situations, which can lead to disaster for all parties.  We, as leaders in others’ lives, especially during crisis times, can only provide advice and support to help our friends walk down their own path in life.  In my opinion, part of being in a friendship is our willingness to be there as that support and provide that strength for others when they cannot do it themselves.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , ,

5 Comments