Friday, November 30, 2012

are you prepared for losing your job?

This past Monday I had the privilege to address a group of close to 100 people at the Austin Job Seekers Network, a ministry of Hill Country Bible Church.  Led by former Dell executive Craig Foster, this group of men and women meet every Monday hearing from inspirational speakers and learning skills to employ in their search for the next position.  Being in between jobs - at any age - cannot be any easy thing.  I have a new appreciation - and a profound respect - for these people who wake up every morning wondering if "today will be the day."
One of the things that stayed gnawing at my brain through the rest of the day was how I spend my time - day in and day out - thinking of ways to better prepare my students for their careers and callings, whether it be their first job out of college or to improve their standing in their current positions; and how I probably never think about what I need to do for my students to prepare them for when they lose their job.  As I pondered this issue, I came up with a list of things I would teach in a new course entitled, "Getting Ready for Unemployment" (not sure it would be a highly enrolled course).  Here are my ideas, that I am sure all of us can use...just in case:

  • start building your network NOW, and keep it fresh - remember its just now who you know, but really who knows you. Get in front of the right people; start meeting with people today;  and don't lose touch with some of the more important people in your Rolodex
  • learn to use social networking - I have seen more and more people using LinkedIn and Twitter to make connections and find positions. Find your sweet spot in the massive world of social networking and start using it on a regular basis
  • get comfortable talking with people - that first interview is critical if you want to be considered for a call back.  Practice, practice, practice this does not necessarily come easily
  • start saving today - having a backup of cash will allow you to not panic in the search process and help everyone on your family be a little more relaxed
  • develop resiliency - the road to finding another job can be long and hard.  Being patient; being able to deal with rejection; and staying the course are all a part of the job search
  • learn how to ask for help - for those of us who have been successful in life, this can be very difficult.  The cult of the "self-made person" permeates our culture and keeps us from being the best we can be.  Start NOW asking for help so when you are a little more in need, it is not so difficult to do so
  • believe in the power of hope - this is not an "I wish it would happen" hope but a powerful hope that believes in the possibilities of the future.  For me, that hope lays in my faith and the understanding that there is a God who loves and cares for me.  Hope gets people through really hard times
  • become comfortable with the human condition - instead of blaming yourself or others for tough times, understand that "life happens" and no one in particular has it out for you.  It's not karma; it's not something you did or didn't do; it's not that God has it out for you...sometimes life happens to you and to me - and we have to live through it.
  • build a killer resume - find a great resume writer, build a powerful document that highlights everything great about you, and then keep it up to date.
I learned a lot by being with this great group of people, but by far the greatest lesson I took away from my time a the Job Seekers Network was that when people in need come together around a common purpose, great things can happen.  Watching them support one another...watching them cheer one another on...watching them struggle together...and watching them just BE together gave me hope - hope for each of them, hope for myself, and hope that this community knows how to care for its people.

Friday, November 16, 2012

questions, questions, questions...

This past week I asked our freshmen Life & Leadership classes (required of all freshmen) to develop a list of 2-3 questions about leadership that would be used for an end of semester presentation for them on leadership.  The mission of Concordia University Texas is that we are developing Christian leaders, a mission we take seriously in many ways.  The essence of this blog is to share some of these questions with the reader in an attempt to allow us/you to consider the mind of the 18 year old as they think about leadership.  For me, many of these questions raise even more questions, which I believe may be the best way to think about leadership.  There are seldom answers (at least definitive answers) to many of these questions, and it in the wrestling with these questions that I believe leadership can be developed.  So enjoy the list - feel free to comment on them below - share them with your leadership team - and reflect on them yourself as you have time.

  •  How do you define leadership?
  •   How honest can a leader be with their mentees/followers?
  •  What is the most important characteristic of a leader?
  •   How do you handle the emotional demands that leadership puts on you?
  •   Who do you reach out to for advice, or where does your mentoring come from?
  •   What distinguishes a good leader from a great leader?
  •   Who has been the greatest influence on your style of leadership?  Why?
  • How does someone as young as all of us have the right to be a leader? We are still young, and do stupid things.
  •     Is everyone cut out to be a leader? Or are some people just born with the traits for being a leader?
  •     How do you develop the confidence you need to be a leader?
  •     Through being a leader, have you ever changed someone else’s life?
  •     When do you decide to step back and let others lead?

                 So there they are - questions about leadership from the minds of 18-19 year olds.  Not sure I could have asked better ones myself.  The best part is that these are going to be discussed in front of our freshmen by a group of 8 seniors, our Thrivent Scholars.  Can't wait to hear what they have to say about these.

Friday, November 9, 2012

ways not to get involved

Let's face it - the reason most people end up in a leadership role or position is that they like to fix things.  They see a problem and they want to get at a solution.  They set goals...they make things happen...they get involved.  And yet, as one continues in a leadership role or moves to the next level of leadership, getting involved can get them in trouble.  This past week I got involved in a situation in which I should not have been...and I watched as my own boss even got involved in the same situation in which he should not have been.  The problems with getting involved include:

  • you keep others from living out their own leadership roles
  • you should be spending time on other issues
  • you probably don't have all of the information and might end up making a poor decision
So what are we to do?  How do we fight against our very nature of getting involved to keep from getting involved?  Here are a few tips I have considered this week:
  • stay focused on the big picture - ask whether or not it is important for you to get involved
  • ask people the WHY question rather than the HOW and WHAT questions
  • get out of your office
  • never respond to an email on which you have been copied
  • when you hear people discussing an issue outside your office, and you feel yourself listening too closely, shut your door
  • become adept at asking the question, "what are YOU going to do about that?"
  • remind yourself that you do not know everything (i.e. you are NOT God)
  • be comfortable with the phrase "that's not my issue"
  • rest assured that most issues are being dealt with in the best possible way by the people best situated to dealt with them
Typing the above phrases was not easy for me - I wanted to argue with myself and say, "But what about...?"  The paradox of not getting involved is that great leaders do get involved.  I think the issue is that they have learned WHEN to get involved and HOW to get involved.  I know that at times I have to dig into the details...I have to ask about the HOW and the WHAT...I have to attend to details in the office...I have to inquire about an email on which I was copied...I have to insert myself into hallway conversations...I have to ask "What do you want ME to do about it?...I have to look like I know everything (well, maybe not)...I have to assume someone else's issue...and I have to realize that some issues are being dealt with very poorly by the wrong people.  These instances should be rare - and they should not define my leadership.

So take a quick inventory - what's your ratio from this past week of getting involved/not getting involved?  How are you intentionally letting others lead?  Where are you positioning yourself to make decisions that only you can and should make?  In other are you keeping yourself from getting involved?

Friday, November 2, 2012

recognition and appreciation

At the end of Concordia's Speaker Series yesterday, I was talking with Nathan Green of campus2careers, one of the speakers, about the difference between recognition and appreciation.  He noted that young people (and we all know how relative that term is) are looking more for recognition while older people are looking for appreciation.  The Speaker Series featured three young (30 and under) CEOs - of which Nathan was one - and he realized that while he felt appreciated, the greater joy for him came in the recognition by Concordia that even as a young person he had something to say to the audience.  I have contemplated on that idea for the past 17 hours or so...

  • Recognition is the act that says to someone that you have noticed their work and want to make sure they share what they have learned with others
  • Appreciation is the act that says to someone that you have noticed their work and want them to know that they have made an impact on others' lives
  • Recognition is the act of noticing good work in someone and inviting them to do even more with the gifts and talents they have
  • Appreciation is the act of noticing good work and publicly thanking them for the gifts and talentsd they have
  • Recognition is craved by those who are looking for the next big thing in their lives and careers
  • Appreciation is craved by those who need a breather from all the big things they have done in their lives and careers
  • Recognition is asking someone "what's next?"
  • Appreciation is asking someone "what did you learn?"
  • Recognition is tapping someone on the shoulder for the next responsibility
  • Appreciation is slapping someone on the back as a gesture of thankfulness
  • Recognition is noted through giving more responsibility
  • Appreciation is noted through giving less responsibility
  • Recognition is shown in a bigger paycheck
  • Appreciation shown in a bigger party
As I think of myself (and encourage you to consider yourself), I realize that both recognition and appreciation are important to me.  They are the responses that keep my creative juices flowing...that keep me energized...that result in my joy...and that increase my capacity.  There are certain people in my life that I regularly go to for recognition - and there are others that I regularly go to for appreciation. 

As I leader, I also need to know whom I need to give appreciation to - and to whom I need to give recognition.  My personal philosophy is that if I am going to err on one side or the other, I will give too much recognition and appreciation rather than too little.  Even to those who tell me they do not need it...well, I believe that they do.  And if they don't need it, others need to see that they are getting it from me.

So here are a few shout outs to people in my life who I should be recognizing and appreciating:
  • Recognition to Billy Moyer, Nathan Green and Rusty Shelton who all spoke at our Speaker Series yesterday and motivated my students and colleagues
  • Appreciation to my friend and colleague Ken Schmidt who has been a mentor to me over the past four years
  • Appreciation to my coach Ralph Wagoner who believes in me more than he should
  • Recognition to my colleague Kristi Kirk who keeps amazing me with how she leads her team and continues to push for excellence at Concordia
  • Appreciation to Howard Lacey, Tom Cedel, and Don Adam who together made the case for me to move from Houston to Austin 8 years ago to take this position
  • Recognition to my colleague Carl Trovall who as interim Dean of Arts and Sciences has been a great stabilizing factor for the College and the University
  • Appreciation to Bob May, former Dean of the McCombs School of Business, who took time to meet with me this week and inspired the heck out of me
  • Recognition to those faculty in the College of Business who go above and beyond in their role as teachers, inspiring students day after day after day.
  • Appreciation to my friend and mentor Ron Kessler who continues to inspire me, support me, and believe in me
  • and finally recognition AND appreciation to my administrative Assistant Linda Greenwald who not only holds the College of Business together, but also keeps my life on track and is a Godsend to this place in SO many ways.
So...who are you going to recognize today - and who are you going to appreciate today?