LEADERSHIP: FLOATING TO THE TOP

By: Dr. Suzanne Miklos

Leadership has a lot in common with hot air balloon rides. Last weekend, my sisters and thparents and I went on a hot air balloon ride. For those of you who have not experienced this yet, it’s certainly an adventure.  Just watching the balloon, large and vividly colored, fill with air and come to life, was a treat in and of itself. The takeoff was a little rocky as an unexpected burst of wind grabbed the balloon and dragged it before it was ready to go.  However, once we were airborne it was a beautiful, relaxing experience to see the countryside down below.  Ohio is lushly green in August, including the ponds!  Many people come out onto their porches to wave while the wildlife goes about its business.

Landing was interesting as well; there wasn’t a runway or an exact landing destination, so the balloonist had to find a good spot to land the massive craft so that the chaser crews could catch up in order to pack up the balloon and return the riders to their car.  We had the good fortune to land in a local farmer’s yard, shearing off a bit of an apple tree and nearly grazing a swing set.   The homeowners were out with small children on a four wheeler and they responded to our shouted request to land with permission.  They not only agreed, but also helped us roll up the balloon and allowed a truck to drive onto their property.  Our unprepared hosts invited us to see their blueberries and to pick fresh pears.   Ending our experience with a champagne toast accompanied by a blessing, which is the traditional celebration of a successful ride.

The following week I had the privilege to work with a leader, John, who has been struggling to create energy around a difficult region including gaining Staff support from other departments and geographic regions. People who don’t report to John and are already busy, yet they have the knowledge, data and resources to achieve important goals that John holds for the organization. A similar dilemma is when we tackle community leadership roles. Much like the balloon ride, the general direction is clear but the exact landing spot is not.  There is a blend of strategy and opportunism required to be successful.  There are many factors that are beyond our control and some interesting sightseeing along the way.

The landing requires collaboration of both people in the balloon, people on the ground and potentially people whose yards become the landing site.   When work is interesting, and engaging, and when people know they will make a difference; it is more likely for them to join in.  In these transformative times, leaders have to balance control with an ability to adapt to the present circumstance. One of our greatest powers as leaders can be that of an invitation for an adventure.

So what’s the “So What?” Factor?

By: Dr. Diane Govern

I’m a novice at blogging.  I’m skeptical others are interested in what I have to say.  For instance, even though I can’t resist reading the Facebook posts and blogs of my family and friends, I rarely post anything myself.  Even though I’m much more informed about minor (and sometimes major) details of important people in my life, after reading posts, I often ask myself, “so what?” Judgmental as this may be, I think it offers insight into effective communication.  So I am excited to stretch myself, to go outside my comfort zone and to “blog” about a concept that almost anyone in any audience can utilize.  It is the “so what” factor.

My traditional methods of sharing information and concepts are perhaps the reason I was drawn to consulting in the first place.  To a certain degree we all put on a consulting hat when we come to work (virtual or not), regardless of our role.  Our employer is paying for some expertise that we possess that will serve a particular purpose:  customer satisfaction, company profits, employee engagement, to name a few.  I have always liked the face-to-face interaction of consulting and knowing that my audience is interested in the information I have to share.

So how do we add value when we come to work?  The most meaningful conversations I have had with clients have all had a high degree of what we call the “so what?” factor.  What is the “so what” factor you ask?  It is the extent to which I can make a connection between the information that I am sharing and a meaningful outcome for the person(s) receiving the message.  The audience needs to walk away knowing exactly “what’s in it for me?”  This is the ingredient that many training professionals so often incorporate into their curricula.

When a consultant is engaged to solve a problem for a client, the client will inevitably ask “so what?” A good consultant will be able to answer the question with specifics related to the business outcome.  The next time you are preparing for a conversation with a client, boss, child, signification other, give it the “so what” test.  Then go ahead and reward yourself with some mindless Facebook time.

Animal Behavior

mileyWritten By: Suzanne Miklos, Ph.D.

Each part of my life offers an opportunity to reflect, pay attention and gain awareness.  Walking Miley, my chocolate lab, affords me that time.  Between her chasing squirrels, jumping into creeks to cool off, or fetching the proverbial stick, I have found that to be the perfect time for me to reflect. Humans are of course, animals, despite our habitually ignoring that fact. It is not far fetched then for us to watch animal behavior in order to increase our own awareness.

So I offer you a few life lessons I have learned by observing Miley.  The first lesson I have learned through observation is that self control can be increased through exercise.  When we are anxious or wound up, we tend to jump at the smallest out of place movement or sound.  Our prey drive is unchecked and small offenses garner a solid pounce.  I have observed many a wound up manager pounce before asking any questions. When self control rules, we investigate before jumping.

The second lesson learned is that even the most frequently travelled paths have different details (smells) that are worth checking out. Miley knows the way on familiar trails.  She trots along with experience and confidence. She frequently stops to sniff, explore or paw at the ground only to discover something new and different.  Remaining a learner, even though we think we know the way, takes energy for us to look closely at what may have changed since our last trip around. Humans have a tendency to over generalize our experiences, leading us to ignore or overlook differences we ought to have seen. Think of Ron Johnson applying Apple’s retail philosophy to J.C. Penney for example.

Miley is a bird dog, she spends a great deal of time scanning the pond behind our house for ducks, heron and geese, or gazing up at tree branches.  She will lay on our deck calm as can be, and then suddenly jump up, race across the yard, taking a flying leap after a bird that has invaded our air space.  However, with all her focus on things air bound, I have witnessed her completely overlooking a nice fat rabbit hopping directly across our path. How unfortunate that squirrels and chipmunks can slip by her unnoticed.  Yet, there are other times when I cannot spot, no matter how hard I look, what she has in her view.  The lesson here is that whenever we have a myopic focus it can cause us to lose sight of other possibilities.  We are hardwired to see the world in a specific way, which is to each of our advantages as long as we understand that our personal reality contains only a fraction of what is real.

Dogs walk until they are tired and then they rest a moment in the shade.  There is no guilt about stopping at 4.8 miles rather than 5 miles.  There is no watch to be checked or path that will end.  Being fully present and aware is a gift we humans must give to ourselves and others we encounter.  When coaching talented executives, it is clear that humans are superior to our animal counterparts, but yet they are an excellent reminder of how important it is for us to stop and “smell the roses” and to take notice of how we observe ourselves and our environment.

Happy Trails!