Monday, December 7, 2009

Visions, boundaries and the leader

The word "vision" is used in the Bible several visions. Many of the visions were dreams where an individual receiving some form of a message, some of which needed to interpretation by a wise individual. The Bible also describes another kind of vision in Proverbs 29:18. Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV) How interesting are the apparently contrasting statements of not having a vision and that a law-abiding citizen is happy? After noodling on this for a while, it jumped out at me. Perhaps the vision spoken of in Proverbs is a clear set of boundaries? I checked this verse again in the NASV and it reads: Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

Without laws, a society is without boundaries and given enough individual wills, chaos will surely result. Similarly in sports, business, families, or volunteer work, a team without direction performs as a bunch of individuals and success may be elusive. Given a clear vision of what success looks like, a bunch of individuals can more efficiently work together as a team. It is the team leaders responsibility to "cast" a vision that the team can buy into. Let's assume that you are a leader and you have a vision for the success that your team requires. Do they support the vision? Do they understand the vision? Did they help you formulate the vision? Hopefully, you can answer "YES" to each of these questions.

A group of individuals can achieve much more working as a team than the sum of their individual parts. The team-leader that does not foster this kind of teamwork is more a manager of individuals and less a leader of a team. How will you motivate your team to rally toward your vision? It certainly helps if the team members feel like they helped create the vision and they are empowered to do their part toward achieving it. Great leaders inspire their teams to accomplishment by seeking the team's input during the formulation of the vision, clearly stating the vision, empowering the team to produce great results, and supporting the team members to overcome challenges. Go be a great leader!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Character and influence!

Every day, every action you take reflects on your cumulative influence. Call it your personal stock price, your personal value, or your natural ability to attract or repel. Call it whatever you like, but your ability to make a positive difference in others' lives is effected by what you do and say each second of your life. A good friend of mine refers to this as one's "expert status". That can be more of a term which implies ones character and attributes as perceived by ones' business peers or associates. Generalizing a bit more, it boils down to ones character.

As far as what we say, the Bible frequently tells us that the wise man is careful with what he speaks and does. The words we speak shine a bright light on our character.

Similarly, the actions we take reflect on our character. Each step forward will either be a positive or a negative step toward making a difference. Maybe it just makes a difference in your family. Maybe it makes a difference for your employer or church. Maybe an organization that you volunteer for. Be careful which actions you take and where you take them.

In life, your character exclaims your values to the world. Guard it, enhance it, and protect it with every action and word. You are always influencing someone and one never knows who is watching. Make sure your influence is POSITIVE.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Leadership and communication

How is leadership related to making a heart connection? Not everyone is born a leader, just like not every campfire is started as an inferno. Most leaders are developed. Effective leaders must be visionary and continuously learn. Among the lessons needed to be learned are effective communication skills. In my first blog on Gary's Campfire, I wanted to focus on a specific communication skill.

My first leadership experience was when I took an active role in my son's Cub Scout Pack. Our Cubmaster was moving on with his son to Boy Scouts, and there was going to be a void. Not interested in the job at all, but concerned about continuity of our Pack, I asked what was going to happen. The response was not the one I was looking for... "Oh, you'd make a GREAT Cubmaster."

I took every training that was available. I watched the previous Cubmaster tell awesome stories during his Cubmaster minute at the end of the monthly Pack meetings. He always had a great deal of enthusiasm and the stories he told captured the hearts of the kids and the parents. I decided that if I had any chance at being as effective as he, I would have to learn to tell great stories (there are plenty such stories available from many Scouting websites).

Little did I know how my Scouting and business careers would continue to grow and put me up in front of many more people than just my son's Cub Scout Pack. The lesson on telling a compelling story paid dividends many times over. When you can capture the listener's emotions as you tell a story, their attention is heightened and their retention of the subject matter, or their buy-in to your message naturally follows their engagement. I would later learn to call this technique "making a heart connection".

Making a heart connection was the single, most important lesson I learned, and was then able to teach. We had an opportunity to raise money in an annual Scouting fundraiser called "Friends of Scouting", where the parents of the kids in the Packs, Troops and Crews contribute to help pay for about 40% of the Sam Houston Area Council's annual budget.

Our previous years goal was about $85,000 in our District and the new goal was set at about $90,000. When asked to lead that years campaign, I felt it was appropriate to shoot much higher. The program in the District was functioning at an all time high. Because of this, and the fact that our District was blessed with great demographics, I suggested a goal of $120,000.

In order to reach the goal, I was determined to teach the presenters to connect with their audience by telling a story that made a "heart connection". Once they do that, I felt the parents would get their checkbooks out and help us reach our goal. We trained presenters, which to my knowledge had not been a focus of previous year's campaigns. They told a story that made a heart connection and we raised over $120,000, just as we had hoped, shattering records and creating momentum that has lasted through each year's campaigns since.

Without the heart connection, the campaign would never have been as successful as it was. The next time you have a chance to speak to an audience, prepare your heart connecting story and watch how much more attention you get!