Friday, July 22, 2011

Warrior Hall of Fame -- Jessie “Little Doe” Baird

Jessie “Little Doe” Baird is hereby inducted into the No Excuses Warrior Hall of Fame and designated as one of an Elite Group of Leaders. 

Jessie Little Doe Baird with daughter Mae
Photo courtesy of
Warrior Baird heeded the call of her ancestors to learn and teach the dead language of the Wampanoag nation to her people.  With piercing intensity, she overcame limiting beliefs and circumstances to serve as a model in collaboration and a community leader. “We Still Live Here” captures part of her journey. Here is the trailer:

Warrior Baird wielded disciplined psychological hardiness to acquire the skill to translate a written language into a spoken language. She is the founder and program director of Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. Through this project and a MacArthur Genius award she is currently mentoring and teaching members of her community to increase the fluency level of adult speakers. With enough adult speakers, the organizational goal is to create lesson plans and a school to teach the Wampanoag children. 

If you want to see unflinching warrior courage achieve mind blowing results please take the opportunity to see the film. It is inspiring and filled with hope (two critical resources of individual and organizational resilience). It is featured in many film festivals and will be airing on PBS on November 17th, 2011.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

A Leader's Fresh Start

The theme this semester has been on individual and organizational resilience. I have spent a good portion of this class thinking up ways how I can be more resilient and consequently have more influence in my organization. For the most part I think individual strength is a crucial factor in resilience.  This quote is a potent reminder of the weathering of good leaders:

"The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun."  Napolean Hill

So what if a leader is too weathered?  What if the previous environment has been hit by a force of nature? Obviously the forest is going to have physical reminders a storm came through but often the actual damage is minimal except when we start to compare with what we used to have.  

The nonresilient leader lives in denial but the resilient leader prepares for change. I recommend simulating the storm and creating change in your life. I am fascinated by the Chinese proverb “If you want your life to change move 27 things.” Here are 7 recommendations (the other 20 are on you) to bring healthy change into your life.

1.)    Ruthlessly box up unwanted clothing and donate to further your favorite cause.

2.)    Call your family and friends—and have them come pick up any items they have left behind and return those you have borrowed.

3.)    Go through your bookshelves and donate, sell, or lend out books to enrich others.

4.)    Unsubscribe to all email lists, blogs, and newsletters that no longer serve you now.

5.)    Call a charity organization to pick up heavy household items and release sentimental furniture which doesn’t suit your style.

6.)    Try only watching TV without commercials. Two options might be Netflix (if you don’t mind the September price hike) or Amazon Prime. This will not only de-clutter your mind 18 minutes on the hour but it will also keep slick advertisers out of your decision-making mind.

7.)    Finally, tough but worthwhile. Turn your cable off.  Make deliberate choices with your time to spend with family, friends, and civic activities.  This will prepare any leader for tough decisions ahead.

Change happens. How will you handle it?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Celebrating the Brilliance of Others

Every now and again I run across something so brilliant I want to share it with the world. Now I understand if cat herding just isn't your thing...but I would venture to say right now you would like to turn a seemingly impossible situation into your advantage. My hat is off to these gents for living boldly and living the dream.

I find it imperative in my leadership development to study other leaders. When I sit quietly and observe a leader in action I am able to learn in an intellectual and abstract manner. My logical mind is reveling in details, responses, and actions. It's a gorgeous symphony of all that could be. When I am in the spotlight I am so focused on concrete details my mind barely registers the subtle responses of others and if I do not seek feedback and reflect shortly afterwards I will lose many insights.

We all know leading people can be like herding cats, but it's up to the herders to entice and reward the herd with catnip, balls of yarn, faux-fur mice, feathers, praise, and other tempting treats. We all need positive reinforcement.  In my Toastmaster's club we say feedback is a gift and a portion of any Toastmaster's meeting is dedicated to evaluation. Good leaders are good evaluators. Good evaluators inspire struggling people to press on. Good evaluators inspire talented people to try and step out of their comfort zone and try one new technique. Good evaluators give solid advice and they celebrate the brilliance of others and those who observe earn a wisdom nugget and believe they too can do just a little bit better. Oh yeah, and good evaluators don't lose their herd.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Good Thing about Failure

For those who are resilient, you will overcome failure. You will grow tired of failure and you will figure out a way to reach your goals.  You will take the hit and you will move on.

The great Rocky Balboa punches and jabs his powerful message into us:

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place... and I don´t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But ain't about how hard you hit... It's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward... how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That´s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you worth, go out and get what you worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying: You ain´t what you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain´t you! You´re better than that!"

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on your actions and realize you've been acting on your ego? I have. I've discovered when I am struggling for growth I am learning, straining, and also resisting. If I am not careful I can get sucked into the struggle and take punch after punch (with no one wisely willing to "cut me" when I need it). I am willing to struggle, but I am not looking to get knocked out either. How can I build resilience while taking the hits?

For several months I've thought a lot about whether an organization creates bad actions or if people are solely responsible for their own bad behavior. I don't have an answer yet; I have failed.  So I must engage in a new way of approaching the issue. Carl Jung said, "What you resist, persists."  To me, this means I need to make peace with the issue and stop resisting it and letting my ego dominate my thoughts and actions.  I am grateful there are so many resources to help me make the right choices and help me off my knees.

One good thing about failure is the feeling of satisfaction as you move on, lesson learned--you have just added more credits to your resiliency account. It's also an excellent opportunity to reflect on your achievement, thank those who have helped you, and give back. More often than not, this failure coupled with a resilient attitude has helped you redefine yourself. Do you like the new you?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tribute to Toastmasters

On Tuesday I handed over the presidential reigns to my successor. I am happy to step back from this and a few other responsibilities for now. We all need periods of rest. I really need some rest. I have been very tired of late and over our farewell dinner I had temporarily forgotten my neighbor had already spoken! Ugh.

My heart sank when a few of the club members asked me if I was going to stop attending now that I am no longer president. It made me unhappy to think this is a general opinion people hold of leaders. In fact it is distressing to me how selfish some leaders can be. Very distressing. At least when I show up for the next meeting, and the next meeting, and the one after that I will walk my talk. Leadership is not about power to me. It’s about commitment and caring as well as execution. When I reintegrate myself into the club as a member, my actions won’t change (other than I need to be quiet more and let others facilitate and lead) because that is the authentic me.

What is Toastmasters? It is an amazing international organization which provides a supportive environment to help people become better communicators and leaders. If you ever have been or are in a club that is otherwise, you are in the wrong club. Find another.

I found Toastmasters because of my dear Grandpa. I used to be terrified to speak in front of a group. Grandpa recommended I try Toastmasters, he said: “Whatever your issues are, they will work it out of you.”  During my Icebreaker speech my knees shook so hard you could see my pants rattle! Of course Grandpa was right, I am no longer afraid to speak in front of groups. In fact, I enjoy the challenge and more often than not seek to earn one laugh.

Club dues may vary from place to place but in most events it should not cost over $100 per year. It’s not a cult and nobody is selling Tupperware. It is a fabulous platform to work out any communications or leadership issues you want to master. Plus, you never know where Toastmasters will lead you.

In the spring I came back to the Pacific Northwest for school and drove down to the Grand Coulee Dam. Wouldn’t you know it? As I stood in the visitor’s center listening to the memories of  city residents who grew up while the dam was being built, there was my Grandpa. At that moment, it was just me frozen in the middle of the room listening to his recorded gravelly, country voice sharing a remarkable legacy.