• News post

    CEO Parking Only

    27 February 2020

    For the past few years, I’ve made it my routine to go to Starbucks for a Café Latte or a cup of hot tea. Every time I patronized one particular location, I drove past a business with a parking lot sign that read, “CEO Parking Only”.

    This sign was troubling to me as it didn’t send the right message to employees and customers. Although not intentional, the sign promoting special treatment for the CEO did not convey a “customer first” mentality.

    Every time I drove past this sign, it reminded me of a planning session from a hospital I had the pleasure of leading.

    We were embarking upon a $100+ Million construction project for our campus. The architects were eagerly seeking employee and physician input on important aspects of the expansion. Although clearly not as exciting as the ideation sessions for new clinical spaces, patient room design and other interior aesthetics, we were encouraged to think carefully about the configurations for the redeveloped parking lots.

    I shall never forget that during a particular planning session with physicians, a proposal was presented that showed physician parking close to the entry of a medical office building. This was a common practice for healthcare facilities, and it represented a continuation of the norm for our campus.

    One physician shared his frustration that patients walked farther than doctors to gain access to the facility. He lamented that many of these patients were not in good physical condition, and it concerned him to see them struggle as they walked to the building. The physician acknowledged the need for several parking spaces to be designated for doctors who would be called in for emergent situations. And then he made a passionate plea. “Patients will be grateful for a thoughtful medical staff that puts patient needs first. Let’s move physician parking farther out and let patients have the top priority spaces!”

    Long story short… as a result of that planning session, physician and administrator parking was moved, and patients received the priority spaces they needed and deserved. To my knowledge, not one single physician complained about this change that could have been perceived by some as an inconvenience.

    What an important message this action sent to our patients, our employees and to the community. This departure from the status quo took place because one young physician had the courage to speak up when asked for feedback. Through his fresh insight, he easily convinced his colleagues to do the right thing by living our “patients first” philosophy, even with parking.  

    As you guide your teams to peak performance, be mindful of the need to ask for feedback from your employees and other key stakeholders. Just remember that those who are closest to the front line will likely have the optimal view of your customers’ reality. And it is new stakeholders who are best equipped to bring a fresh perspective.

    Encourage your team members on an ongoing basis to challenge the status quo. Just because, “We’ve always done it that way” is not good enough for today, and it’s certainly inadequate for tomorrow.

    Have the courage to challenge old practices. In so doing, your team can create excitement internally and send the right message to your external stakeholders who have the choice of becoming (and remaining) your customers.

    As for the “CEO Parking Only” sign, I noticed when I drove by this week that THE SIGN IS GONE! While I have no idea what prompted the removal, hats off to this organization for making this needed change. I’m confident that I am not the only Starbucks patron to have noticed!

    For more insights on tools and techniques for seeking feedback from your stakeholders, be sure to read the chapter entitled “Gracious Leaders Seek Feedback” within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before. The book is available on Amazon in hardback, Kindle and Audible.

  • News post

    The Influence of an Uncommon Man

    19 January 2020

    On this special day we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an uncommon man who ranks among history’s most influential and impactful leaders. Also, on this special day, I’d like to share with you an adaptation of a story I was asked to convey during the 2011 Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Westerville, Ohio.

    This story is about the influence of another uncommon man, a man who lived in Carthage, Mississippi, a small town of 3,000 people…. a town located approximately 25 miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi, the community where three Civil Rights activists were murdered in 1964.

    When this man graduated from high school, his father gave him $64 and told him “Son, this is all I have to give you. Go get yourself an education.” This man went to Tulane University where he joined the U.S. Navy’s V12 Program. The Navy afforded him the opportunity to complete some of his collegiate studies at Harvard University. He then returned to Tulane where he finished his undergraduate degree. He ultimately received a law degree from the University of Mississippi.

    He moved to Carthage and fell in love with a beautiful young woman whom he married. They looked forward to starting their family, and he began the practice of law.

    This man considered himself to be a simple, country lawyer. He frequently smoked cigars; he drove a Ford Pick up truck. He had a deep, slow Southern drawl.

    Who was this man, and what did he represent during the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Movement?

    This man was both loved and hated by the residents of Carthage. Why? Because this man didn’t accept the racial bias that permeated his community and his state.

    This man believed that all people should be treated equally, fairly and respectfully. He and his wife were often the only white people who attended NAACP gatherings. This country lawyer and his wife were invited to dine one evening at the Mississippi Governor’s mansion where they met a certain young Senator from Massachusetts. Along with his wife, Jackie, this Senator (JFK) was on the campaign trail for the Presidency of the United States.

    This Mississippi attorney represented his local school board when the federal mandate was issued that the public schools were to be integrated. He was the person who told the School Board that integration was the right thing to do, and he is one of the individuals who personally escorted the first black student, first grader Debra Lewis, to her desk at Carthage Elementary School.

    This man was stalked by the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan burned a cross in front of his law office; they burned down the barn on his farm. This man had to meet with the FBI, and he had to carry a gun because the KKK threatened his life, his wife’s life and yes, even the lives of his children.

    This man was blamed for having caused integration in Carthage. This man didn’t cause anything. What he did do, however, was to advocate for equity and justice for all people, even when it was not popular, and the stakes were high. The influence of this uncommon man made a long-lasting impact on his community. In fact, at his death, the local newspaper wrote an editorial about the impact of his leadership in trying times. Not surprisingly, this op-ed was entitled “An Uncommon Man.”

    This man …was my father… yes, he was my dad.

    As a child growing up in the South in the 60s, I well remember Cliff Bailey’s drug store and soda fountain. One of my favorite things to do on Saturday was to walk “to town” to get an orangeade.

    One of my most vivid memories was from one particular Saturday afternoon. I remember being afraid when I saw from within Mr. Bailey’s drug store windows the hooded Klansmen, filled with hate, circling the court square, inviting people to attend the KKK rally they were hosting that night. That same night I remember riding in the car along the Pearl River with my father and my brother as my father assessed how many people were attending the rally.

    In my mind I can still see the huge flaming cross that burned in the dark of that night. On another night I remember hearing angry people slamming car doors and storming across my family’s back yard as they purposefully tried to frighten us… and they certainly scared me as I remember rolling off my bed and crawling underneath it to hide.

    My brother recalled that from time to time we would look out of my father’s bathroom window and see an unknown car. We later learned that the car’s inhabitants were seeking to protect our family from harm.

    When our schools were fully integrated, a greater divide occurred in our community. Half of the students went to a newly created private academy and the other half remained within the public-school system.

    The “white kids” who stayed with the public schools either drove or were bussed daily to what had previously been the black high school… Jordan High School.  I was a freshman at the time. The environment was initially tense, awkward and uncomfortable. Yet the students, black and white alike, began the process of understanding and embracing our new way of life at school.

    As our students began to adapt, we found ourselves seeking a commonality of purpose. It was the sport of basketball that seemed to provide the entrée to the unity we desired.

    I remember clearly our first “away” basketball trip. The games were over well after dark, and our athletes had boarded the bus for the drive back to Carthage. The tension on the bus was thick, and the silence could have been cut with a knife.  

    I don’t remember if we won the games that night. However, I vividly remember a much greater victory. As the bus departed the Edinburgh High School parking lot, one of the Black athletes started softly singing the song “Under the Boardwalk.” A few other students joined in unison and within a matter of a minute, all the athletes united in song. This singing represented a special kind of harmony that transcended music as it was symbolic of the unity we would collectively strive to share for a lifetime.  The times were far from perfect, and the weeks and months to come would be difficult; but for us, it was a profound beginning.

    I can only imagine it was this type of beginning that existed within MLK’s dreams and for which my father longed.

    I share this story with you as a reminder of our responsibility as role models, just like my father, to live the dream of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    In looking back over my life, the recollections of my father, my childhood and my high school experiences remain among the most impactful memories…. Not because my family was subjected to threats… but because I had a role model father who stood up for what was right, fair and just, even and especially when it was not popular.

    Look around you. Today our communities should be overflowing with role models. As leaders within our schools, our places of work and our communities, we have opportunities every day to serve as role models. Role models should not teach others to be afraid or to take the easy way out. Like Dr. King and like my father, role models are to teach others to be courageous and do to what is right, even and especially when it is not easy.

    Let us role model for others that integrity is something never to be compromised. My father told me it takes a person a lifetime to earn a reputation of integrity and only a fleeting moment to lose it.

    Let us never judge others by their ethnicity or their lot in life. Let us be relentlessly focused on treating every person with the respect and compassion that God expects us to extend.

    With so many different cultures now represented in our nation, let us call upon the wisdom and the promise from John 4:35 which says, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for the harvest.”

    All of us know we have a great place to live in America… one of the very best in the world. Just imagine how much better our country can be as we consistently share with all people the respect and compassion we are called to extend without regard to color, creed, economic status or other aspects of diversity.  

    I am grateful for today’s celebration of life of one of the greatest role models of all time. I humbly thank you for allowing me to share the story about my father and my family and the life lessons learned along the way. I look forward to “our” journey as we collectively seek to perpetuate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

  • News post

    Rivalry Weekend

    20 November 2019

    Don’t you just love Autumn? The glorious leaves are at a peak, and we eagerly anticipate precious time with loved ones while enjoying “family favorite” Thanksgiving traditions.

    Another eagerly anticipated aspect of Fall is Rivalry Weekend. During this special time, college football teams across the nation participate in the once a year opportunity to face their fiercest rivals.

    As a child my family loved to watch our beloved Ole Miss Rebels take on the archrival Bulldogs from Mississippi State. For both teams, this was the one game of the year that really mattered. My parents taught me early on how to cheer “Hotty Toddy!” with great enthusiasm.

    When I moved to Ohio, I learned to shout “O-H-I-O!” and to understand that the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines would be the hottest rivalry game of the year.

    Having been a college athlete, I have always been mesmerized by the impact of enthusiastic cheers. The accolades from raving fans can be the lifeblood of any team.

    I invite you to take a moment and imagine that it’s Rivalry Weekend. Your favorite college football team is undefeated, is ranked in the AP Poll Top Ten, and is clearly expected to win. It’s a beautiful Autumn day, and the stadium is overflowing with fans. The coin is tossed, and your team receives the opening kickoff. Your receiving player runs the ball all the way down the field for a touchdown and …. NO ONE CHEERS.

    In the next series, your team intercepts the ball and runs it back to score again and … NO ONE CHEERS.

    The same outcomes are repeated time and time again until the game is over and… NO ONE CHEERS… not even the coach.

    Why?

    Because your team was supposed to win. Winning was an expected goal, and for that reason alone, affirmation was not necessary.

    Now how ridiculous is that!!!?!!

    Yet, this same pattern sadly takes place every day in Corporate America when leaders fail to praise their teams for a job well done. These leaders believe that because the team was expected to achieve stated goals, accolades were simply not necessary.

    Leaders who fail to praise their team members for great performances are robbing their teams of the opportunity to build upon positive momentum. They run the risk of having disengaged employees who ultimately feel unappreciated for the contributions they made to organizational success.

    A study by the John Templeton Foundation found that 60% of employees say they either “never” receive gratitude at work, or if they do, it occurs perhaps once a year. This is grossly inadequate for the modern workforce!

    Millennials are projected to comprise 50% of the employee base by 2020, and evidence indicates they require “in the moment” affirmation for a job well done as opposed to hearing compliments only during performance conversations. Plus, Gallup has reported that “employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.”

    Are you taking for granted the efforts required for your team to achieve its goals? Or, are you being purposeful in systematically and sincerely expressing appreciation to your team members for achieving their goals?

    Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Rivalry Weekend and Thanksgiving occur during the same week. In this special season when gratitude should be front and center, I hope you will seize the moment to remember that sincere expressions of appreciation are not only needed within our homes and on the football field, they are needed now more than ever before within the workplace.

    I hope that starting today, you will become a Gracious Leader who is grateful for the great performances brought forth by your team!

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving! And good luck to your favorite team during Rivalry Weekend!

    Janet

  • News post

    The Adverse Impact of Bully Coaches

    18 September 2019

    Today my heart ached deeply when a colleague shared a horrific story about an area high school student whose life may have been permanently impacted by harsh and inappropriate comments from the student’s football coach. The team had lost an important game, and during the first team practice following that game, the coach screamed at one particular young athlete, berating him in front of the other players and essentially telling him he was worthless. That’s right… worthless!

    We entrust our children and grandchildren to coaches. They are supposed to be role models, teaching our highly impressionable young people values that will help them succeed, not only on the sports field, but also and more importantly, in the game of life.

    Words matter, and it’s simply not acceptable to allow such toxicity to poison the hearts and souls of our students. Yes, harsh words cut deeply. Such messages regrettably have the potential to lead to the unimaginable when students who are teetering on the ledge of despair decide that life is not worth living because they have been convinced they are worthless.

    As a student athlete, I was blessed to have had a basketball coach who set the bar extraordinarily high. He expected excellence, and he received excellence by teaching us to give our very best. When we delivered, he was our most enthusiastic cheerleader. When we didn’t deliver, we knew that practices would be long, hard and intense. Yet those most difficult practices filled with abundant tough love never included harsh comments that might have impaired the self-worth of any athlete.

    As I am entering the fall season for Gracious Leadership keynote presentations, I have found myself again particularly burdened about the incivility that permeates our country in organizations of all types.

    Just last week I was researching the incidence of bullying in our schools and found the statistics to be astonishing. According to The American Society for the Positive Care of Children, one of three students reported having been bullied by other students, and one of three students confessed to having been a bullier. I shudder in wondering how much higher the bullying statistic would rise if we included the impact of bully coaches and/or other toxic leaders in positions of authority over our children.

    When you and I sit on the sidelines, we promote bully behaviors by permitting them through our silence. As parents, what will we do now to provide boundaries to the bullies of our children who try to explain away their untenable words and actions by masking them as character-building moments? As leaders in the workplace, what will we do now to confront the bullies who reign with terror in our midst?

    Indeed, the time is NOW to find our voices and garner the courage to stop the bullying epidemic in our nation. This call to action happens one person at a time. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared profound wisdom when he proclaimed,

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

    The stakes are too high to be silent in the face of the damage that is being done every day by bullies and other types of toxic leaders. Whether it’s on a sports field, the playground, in Corporate America or within other types of organizations, just remember that we are teaching by example. Today’s followers will become the leaders of tomorrow, and they are highly likely to live what they learn and then to lead accordingly.

    For a variety of articles regarding the impact of bully coaches and tips on how to deal with them, I invite you to Google “bully coaches.”

  • News post

    Leadership Without a Title

    13 May 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in a second episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on May 13, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.

    Shownotes

    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part two of my two part interview with her.

    Here’s a link to her website, and her LinkedIn page.

    This is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. Hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and Director at Brady Ware and Company. Betty also serves as the Committee Chair for Empowering Women, and Director of the Brady Ware Women Initiative. Each episode is presented by Brady Ware and Company, committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home.

    For more information, go to the Resources page at Brady Ware and Company.

    Remember to follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.  And forward our podcast along to other Inspiring Women in your life.

  • News post

    Mixed Messages

    19 April 2019

    Some time ago I attended a banquet with hundreds of energetic participants. In the midst of the keynote address, the fire alarm was activated. An emphatic, automated message directed everyone to “Evacuate the building immediately!” Participants looked at each other with confusion as a property representative quickly proclaimed, “There is no need to leave the facility.”

    The automated alarm brazenly repeated its earlier message to evacuate the building. Seconds later the property representative again said, “Do not leave; this is a false alarm”.

    By this time, some attendees left the event while others opted to stay. The mixed messages led to mixed results as attendees did not know which directive to follow. Thankfully it was soon proven that the automated message had indeed been a false alarm.

    I was one of the many attendees who opted to stay, and I’m so glad I did. The memorable keynote was inspirational; the event was very well executed by its sponsor; and attendees enjoyed wonderful conversation with colleagues… all of which were desired results that could have been derailed due to the mixed messages of evacuate versus stay.

    In the midst of the confusion, it occurred to me that similar situations frequently take place in Corporate America when leaders send mixed messages to their employees. These mixed messages contribute to teams’ falling short of achieving the right results.

    One of the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership is that “Gracious Leaders Require Accountability”. Within this chapter, I share my conviction that:

    Accountability starts and stops with leaders as it is the leaders’ responsibility to be crystal clear with employees regarding expectations.

    When leaders send mixed messages to followers regarding the work to be completed, it’s like blindfolding employees, spinning them around, giving them darts and telling them to hit the targets. The desired results are not likely to occur.

    I have found that when employees receive clear messages regarding what is expected of them, they are actually relieved because they know exactly what they are to accomplish. There is no confusion about the work to be done… no evacuate versus stay… no peddle-brake, peddle-brake which can cause employee whiplash in the workplace.

    When expectations are not clearly expressed, leaders should not be surprised when employees are frustrated and teams fail to deliver. In these situations, it is actually the leader who has failed the team because he or she was not purposeful in defining expectations in advance.

    Let me be crystal clear. Mixed messages prevent us from optimizing our most precious and expensive organizational assets … our employees!

    As you communicate with your team every day, I invite you to embrace the reality that accountability really does start and stop with the leader. Avoid mixed messages at all costs and be completely clear with your team members regarding the work you need them to accomplish.

    For more information about accountability tips that are applicable within organizations of all types, please see Chapter 12 in Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before available on Amazon or on my website.

  • News post

    Leadership With a Title

    8 April 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in an episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on April 8, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.

    Shownotes

    Everywhere today you see people are looking for great leadership. When you’re a leader, you can influence. You can change your world around you.

    You can impact people in your life and organizations. You can be part of success because of your leadership and influence. And you can use that title responsibly for yourself as well as for others.

    Leadership, influence, AND the title are all one package deal.

    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part one of my two part interview with her.

  • News post

    You Got This!

    19 March 2019

    As a leader, you need to make the most out of every precious minute. Oh, if only all of our days would go according to plan. But, let’s face it: they don’t. On many days, we are presented with unanticipated challenges, or as I prefer to call them, unexpected “opportunities to serve.”

    Just when you set aside time to think strategically or to complete a project with a pressing deadline, your inbox flashes an invitation to a new, “must attend” meeting that starts in thirty minutes. Or you receive an urgent call regarding a Human Resources issue that requires your direct involvement, right now!

    Even when all appears to be running well internally, external factors can change in the blink of an eye. To capitalize upon unexpected opportunities or to minimize disruption from adverse environmental or competitive activities, you act with immediacy, once again sacrificing your much-needed quality time.

    And what about the many little distractions that can also impede your best efforts to be maximally productive?

    How many times have you found that, in the midst of quality time, an employee appears at your office door and inquires, “Do you have a minute?”  The employee proceeds to share what he or she perceives to be a hot topic problem. And then the individual asks, “What do you think we should do?”

    It is at this point that you have a choice. You can either allow your time to be robbed by being a problem solver, or you can begin to reclaim the lost time that is consumed when employees bring you their issues to resolve. If you answer the employees’ questions in the moment, you have fostered upward delegation as you have taught your employees that problems are yours to fix and that they should not seek to resolve their own concerns.

    When employees ask you, “What do you think we should do?”, except in urgent or emergent situations, the better approach is to answer the question with a question. Instead of telling employees what you think they should do, ask them, “What do you think you should do?” In reversing the question, you are signaling to your employees that you believe in them, that you have confidence in them and that you respect them. In essence, you are telling them, “YOU GOT THIS!”

    I have found that through using this approach, employees become more empowered. They take pride in the fact that their leader trusts them to solve their own problems. And they will learn that if they do bring an issue to you, they need to be well-prepared to offer a recommended solution!

    Over time, employees will likely bring fewer problems for you to solve. It is at this juncture that your performance can be vastly enhanced. Yes, through empowering your employees to resolve their concerns, you can have more time to focus on the priority issues and opportunities that truly do merit your attention.  

    No doubt, unanticipated challenges and interruptions are simply a fact of life at work. However, when employees ask you, “What do you think we should do?”, I hope you will teach them “YOU GOT THIS!”

  • News post

    A Legacy of Leadership

    12 December 2018

    Last week America lost one of her most memorable leaders with the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush.  This War Hero selflessly served his country for decades and left us with a legacy of “how” great leaders are supposed to lead.

    In the celebration of his life, those who knew him well repeatedly described him as gracious, decent and humble. We were told that he knew each of his Secret Service agents as unique individuals. A man with a most demanding schedule, we learned that when he passed an employee who was known to have had an ill child, he took the time to inquire as to the little one’s well-being. And, among many other lessons of leadership he taught us, we learned about President Bush’s gift of building relationships with individuals ranging from front-line employees to world leaders. He knew that through trust-based relationships, more could be accomplished more quickly for the benefit of the greater good.

    George H. W. Bush taught us that leaders must role model simple, yet powerful acts of good manners and kindness.

    The leader of the free world, President Bush was known to be humble as he deflected praise and made it his practice to place the spotlight on others.

    Great leaders are not without controversy, and George H. W. Bush was certainly no exception. He made decisions that, although not popular, reflected his conviction to act in the best interest of our country. Yet, as our nation began to mourn his passing, the controversy and negativity of the past took a back seat to the resounding, harmonic message of “how” great leaders are supposed to lead.

    I believe that the recent focus on the leadership legacy of George H. W. Bush has provided a breath of fresh air in a country that seems to be drowning in a sea of leadership toxicity. In fact, I believe that most Americans are gasping for the life-saving oxygen that gracious, decent and humble leadership can provide.

    I rather suspect that George H. W. Bush left this earth without a full appreciation of the long-lasting, positive impact his leadership example will provide… especially at this point in our history.

    What lessons can we learn from his legacy of leadership? More importantly, what will each of us do differently in our respective organizations to lead in a more gracious, decent and humble manner?

    From non-profit to proprietary organizations and from universities to governmental entities led by elected officials… regrettably, there is currently no shortage of examples in America for how “not” to lead.

    I challenge you to join in the movement to become a fully respectful leader. The time is now, and those who follow you at work, at home and in the community at large are counting on you.

    Let’s carry forth the legacy of President 41 who taught us “how” to lead by becoming gracious, decent and humble leaders…  starting today!

  • News post

    Navigating the White-Water Rapids of Business

    29 October 2018

    Last summer my husband and I spent a week at a Dude Ranch in Colorado. As we prepared for this vacation, I expected to participate in new and different outdoor activities. Little did I know that during this week of adventure, I would learn important lessons about leadership.

    We decided to experience white water rafting in a nearby river. What we didn’t realize was that the river was running wildly as the snow was quickly melting from the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Prior to our departure, we were given a tutorial in safety measures, and we were told to follow our guide’s instructions. We then climbed into the raft and started our journey.

    While the water was indeed running fast, the early experience was quite enjoyable as the water was easy to navigate. I thought to myself, “Not bad… I can handle this.”

    Rocky waters

    The guide then pulled our raft over to shore and became very serious. She shared we were about to hit some very rough rapids. She gave specific instructions on how to traverse the rocky waters. She was emphatic that to ensure our well-being, we were to follow her instructions precisely and to function well as a team.

    We didn’t realize we were heading for a level four rapid.

    As we approached the rocky waters, my anxiety grew. We started down the rapid and while our raft felt incredibly unsafe, we did not capsize as did other rafts within site. However, an elderly man from our raft had gone overboard. The man’s son was rightfully frantic as he feared for his father’s safety.

    Yet in the midst of this “storm,” the guide stayed focused on her game plan. She provided clear instructions to the team. She shared that her first priority was to get eight people safely to dry land and that she would ensure the elderly man would be rescued.

    Preparation, focus and adaptation

    This experience reinforced to me the leader’s role in navigating an organization through white water down cycles that are inevitable within any business.

    Like the guide, a great leader coaches the team comfortably through the good times and anticipates rocky waters before they are encountered. A great leader prepares followers by teaching them to adhere to guidance and to execute flawless teamwork. A great leader remains focused on the game plan but makes “in the moment” adaptations when circumstances change. And, a great leader looks out for the interest of the greater good while also showing extraordinary respect for every stakeholder.

    I learned about leadership from that rafting experience last summer. From the white waters of a Colorado river to the C-suite or boardroom, the leader’s anticipation, team preparation, focus and adaptation are all required to ensure sustainable organizational success in the midst of difficult times.

    And yes, the elderly gentleman was safely reunited with his son and quickly traded his seat in the raft for a welcomed glass of wine.

    Originally published on Ocotber 25, 2018 by Smart Business