Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. That speech sparked the conscious of the American people and helped to right the course of our history as a nation. As was the case in the dream that King embraced, your dream can lead you on a path of fulfilling your destiny if you choose to embrace it.
Whether it’s your state of mind about your job, or your unfulfilled dreams and aspirations, one thing is certain; the size of your dream and your attitude towards it matters. Have you felt like giving up lately? What dream have you walked away from? Discouragement will rob you of your dreams. Faith will cause you to press on despite your circumstances.
If you knew that you could not fail what big dream would you pursue? Peter Drucker said, “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” Given the law of percentages why not enthusiastically pursue your dream? Here are four observations about dreams and why they matter and how they can change your life.
Failures in your past don’t define your future.
Historically we remember Abraham Lincoln as the 16th president of the United States. But few recall that when he first went into politics at the age of 23 he campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He then opened a general store and it failed.
Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Your past failures are preparing you for your future. Many people don’t see their dreams become reality not because the dream wasn’t worth pursuing but because they gave up too soon. Stay the course.
Rejections by others can’t stop your destiny.
Millions of people the world over have visited the Disney parks, have read the Disney books, and have watched the Disney movies. We have enjoyed all of this because Walt Disney did not allow the rejection of a newspaper editor who fired him from his job for “lacking ideas” to keep him from believing in his ideas and dreams and making them a reality.
Be it past failures or rejections we have all at one time or another experienced the sting of these disappointments. And it’s during these times that you discover your dreams are going to live or die based on how you respond. Both Lincoln and Disney chose to go for the dream and it made all the difference.
Your lack of education is no barrier to success.
Over the past 25 years who would you say has been the most influential movie director? Would you be surprised to learn that one person on the short list- perhaps even at the top, was a high school dropout? Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his “C” grade average. But I think such films as E.T., Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and may others would prove the critics wrong.
Your lack of education is not necessarily your demise or your dream killer. But believing that your lack of education will restrict you can hurt you. It’s not the grade given you by others that defines you. But if you believe in yourself and in the power of faith then no classroom will be able to contain your dream.
Physical limitations can’t restrict the human spirit.
Rick Hoyt was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain damaged and unable to control his limbs. The doctors told his parents that he would be a vegetable the rest of his life. His parents didn’t buy it. While they easily could have complained about their lot in life they chose to turn their limitations into triumph. Today, Dick Hoyt, along with his son have competed his hundreds of marathons. Dick pushes him in a wheelchair and their story has inspired millions.
What you do with your limitations, rejections, lack of education, or past failures is up to you. You can either permit them to hold you back and not go after your dreams or you can use them as stepping stones to do something great.
How big are your dreams?
Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. – Mark Twain
A story is told of Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor in St. Peter’s Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him.
Jobless, the man in vested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop. Where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars. One day the man’s banker said, “You’ve done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?” “Well,” replied the man, “I’d be janitor of St. Peter’s Church in Neville Square.” The lesson here is not that the man didn’t have troubles but in the way he handled them. He was treated unfair, but his attitude proved to be his greatest ally.
Whether you like it or not all leaders face troubles and perhaps more than most. What troubles do you face as a leader? A Mind Tools article (http://bit.ly/eznpz9) revealed the 10 most common leadership and management errors or mistakes to avoid. The list included: lack of feedback, not making time for your team, being too “hands off”, being too friendly, failing to define goals, misunderstanding motivation, hurrying recruitment, not “walking the line”, not delegating, and misunderstanding your role.
Keeping up with all of the dos and don’ts of management and leadership can be daunting. But knowing which troubles will cause you the most trouble is important. Here are three that you should not overlook.
The troubles that you ignore. Ignoring troubles don’t make them go away. It only prolongs the inevitable likelihood that the problem will only get worse the longer you delay action to correct it. Leadership by denial will ground you. The troubles you ignore can create animosity, hurt morale, and weaken your standing as a leader. Don’t let your desire for popularity blind you to the realities that you must see. Better to go through short-term pain and deal with the trouble than suffer the consequence of ignoring needed solutions. You owe it to yourself and your team to face your troubles, find solutions, and work together to prevent them in the future.
The troubles that you create. Some of the troubles you face might be inherited while others you create. As a leader, I’m not suggesting that you purposefully set out to create trouble, but it might be the unintended consequence of your inaction, or perhaps your micromanagement. When dealing with troubles you should honestly evaluate whether your actions in any way contributed to the problem (poor communication, etc.) and if a different approach is needed going forward. What you create you can correct but only if you acknowledge it.
The troubles that you keep. The troubles that you keep are most commonly relational in nature. It can be the result of holding onto a grudge or resentment towards someone who has wronged you. Perhaps it’s anger for being passed over for a promotion or any other personal disappointment that you haven’t dealt with. You are not responsible for how others treat you or for their behavior, but you own your response. The janitor was on the receiving end of bad treatment. His response was his choice. He chose a path that was prosperous. What you choose to do with your troubles is up to you. Keep them or let them go – it’s up to you. The baggage you hold onto will only weigh you down. If you want to go up there are some things you will have to give up. Why not let go of the bad attitudes that would hold you back?
As you give reflection to the troubles you face as a leader here the three important questions for your consideration: 1) What troubles am I ignoring, and why? 2) What troubles have I created and how can I correct it? 3) What troubles (a bad attitude, unforgiveness) am I keeping that I shouldn’t?
Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. – William E. Channing
French novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas once had a heated quarrel with a rising young politician. The argument became so intense that a duel was inevitable. Since both men were superb shots they decided to draw lots, the loser agreeing to shoot himself. Dumas lost.
Pistol in hand, he withdrew in silent dignity to another room, closing the door behind him. The rest of the company waited in gloomy suspense for the shot that would end his career. It rang out at last. His friends ran to the door, opened it, and found Dumas, smoking revolver in hand. “Gentlemen, a most regrettable thing has happened,” he announced, “I missed.”
While the way we deal with conflicts has improved, there is still no shortage of conflict. Workplace conflict can be a strong source of stress and tension and being able to lead through those times is essential.
As reported by Recruitment Coach (http://bit.ly/19V0bUc) the negative impacts of workplace conflict leads to increased staff turnover and absenteeism. Their Employee Development Systems survey found that 81% of HR professionals had seen employees resign as a result of conflict, and 77% have noticed increased absenteeism, resulting in increased business cost.
What do you think are the leading contributors to workplace conflict? According to the study the top five causes of workplace conflict were; warring egos and personality clashes, poor leadership, lack of honesty, stress, and clashing values. While conflict in the workplace may be inevitable, ignoring it is not an option. So what is a leader to do? Here are four suggestions for consideration.
Acknowledge it. Until management, including HR, acknowledges that there is a problem there is no correcting it. As a leader you don’t need to be the last in the room to recognize what everyone else knows and experiences. How many employees must leave, how much revenue must you lose, and how much abuse do you think your employees must endure before you act? When you identify the problem you can begin to work on solutions, but not until then. Poor leadership was cited for a reason. Don’t add to the problem through omission.
Welcome it. Yes, welcome it! Warring egos and personalities among your people, when properly channeled, can be one of the single greatest sources of inspiration you need. General George S. Patton was accurate when he said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” When perceived threats are removed and differences are celebrated rather than attacked it can be the turning point in creating the company culture that you’ve been missing. Don’t squelch diversity; welcome it.
Elevate it. Now that you have acknowledged and welcomed conflict you can elevate it to a higher level. Rather than allowing warring personalities to be labeled as enemies, bring them together as allies to channel their creative energies for something good. Invest in a training program like DISC to discover personality styles and how to create the chemistry your team needs to succeed. It’s when you respectfully have everyone on the same page, when values are clear, and communication is honest, that you can learn to see the value conflict can have. It might sound risky, but consider the consequences of inaction.
Celebrate it. Leading through conflict will not be easy. It will take honesty to face your conflict and courage to change it. But once you do you can position yourself to be the benefactor of conflict and not the victim. When your employees see each other as teammates rather than adversaries it can be celebrated. Diversity of thoughts, ideas, and personalities is one of your greatest assets and it should never be destroyed by poor leadership or out-of-control egos. Your workplace should be a place of celebration!
What do you say?
Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. – Zig Ziglar
In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the renowned discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the monument is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries.
Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth. Thus their motto was “Ne Plus Ultra,” which means “No More Beyond.” The word being torn away by the lion is “Ne” or “no,” making it read “Plus Ultra.” Columbus had proven that there indeed was “more beyond.”
Think of how different life would be had it not been for people who pushed beyond what they knew in their day to make way for the things we now enjoy. Findings in a Top 10 (http://bit.ly/15Dkscr) survey of the top inventions of the past 100 years are ranked from 1-10 as follows: the light bulb, the internet, printing press, telephone, automobiles, television, camera, toilet, airplanes, and metal gear solid. Our lives now revolve around the practicality and usefulness of each invention thanks in part to those who dared to believe that there was more beyond.
Embracing a ‘more beyond’ attitude is essential to your success as a leader. The challenges you face are not unique to others but your attitude is uniquely yours. To transition from “Ne Plus Ultra” to a “Plus Ultra” mindset you must engage a ‘more beyond’ attitude. Here are four steps to get you started.
Don’t let others define you. It is important to be comfortable in your own skin. It is equally important to not be defined by what others say, think, or believe about you. You are a masterpiece and your life’s blueprint is an original not a replica of someone else. As you grow in confidence you can shape your future and be the person you were created to be and the leader you can become. The ‘more beyond’ tip – be yourself.
What hasn’t been done is possible. Thomas Edison was one of the inventors from the Top 10 list. Edison understood failure and disappointment. He once said, “I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He embraced a ‘more beyond’ attitude and overcame his negative circumstances. Just because something hasn’t been done, tried, or has been rejected in the past doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It simply means that destiny has been waiting on your arrival. The ‘more beyond’ tip – remove your limitations.
You need courage to blaze new trails. The Spaniards motto for centuries had been set in stone; “Ne Plus Ultra.” Blazing new trails and overcoming traditional ways of thinking can be difficult. A ‘more beyond’ attitude takes the courage of a lion to break away from old views. As Columbus overcame centuries-old beliefs he opened up New Worlds and new possibilities never before known. Courageous leadership is needed today to help others discover new possibilities yet to be fulfilled. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. The ‘more beyond’ tip – don’t be afraid.
You can begin today. Everything worthwhile has a starting point. The inventors had starting points. Great writers begin on page one. Great sculptors have a chisel and stone. Great artist have a canvas and a brush. What is in your hand? What is in your heart? Where does your journey begin that will take you to the place of your dreams? Your ‘more beyond’ attitude begins with the recognition that you will never achieve your dreams tomorrow unless you take action today. Your destiny awaits- what are you waiting on? The ‘more beyond’ tip – there is no time like the present.