Archives For September 2012

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

Shannon L. Alder

Mr. Mom

My amazing wife has given birth to three boys. With each one I’m amazed at what a woman’s body can do and even more daunted by the kinds of torture a woman can handle. Forget male strength. Women who carry babies, deliver them and then choose to do it again – that’s powerful. (Or as my wife says, temporary insanity.)

We’ve always been so appreciative of the fact that she’s gone through all three experiences without any “damage.” No stitches or surgery. Yeah for healthy mommy and babies! Then a few weeks ago she began to notice that she had a slight bulge and some achiness. She put it off for a while thinking it was no big deal and I pressed her to go into the OB and have it checked. Better safe than sorry with the woman you love!

Finally, she relented. That’s when we learned she had a hernia. The kind that are mainly gotten by two types of people – men lifting heavy weight and 80 year olds. Seriously?! My wife works hard at home and in her workouts, but I haven’t seen her doing any power cleans lately. (Though I’m sure there are more than a few times she’s wanted to do a shot put with one of our kids.) Apparently Mason, our latest addition, finally pushed her body over the limit. I immediately put it on the calendar to spank him as soon as he’s old enough for me to also understand a tongue lashing.

Payback for Birthing Experience

It’s the day after his birthday.  Felt like that was only fair.

Of course we looked around to find out what kinds of alternatives there were to hernia surgery, but only found quackery (eat herbs!) and delay (it’s not that serious – you can just wait). So last Friday she went in for outpatient surgery.

Side note: she texted me while waiting in pre-op, “Literally sitting amongst 5 elderly with walkers. Feeling good :-/” (I let her know she was definitely the hottest chick there!)

All of that backstory is just to say that for the past week I’ve been playing double duty as Mr. Mom and the Working Guy. It has been really tough at times and overwhelming almost the whole time. But as we round the corner of the 1 week mark for my double life I’m sitting in my local Starbucks at 5:30 AM (to get some quiet since my 3 year old wakes up at 6 AM!). Two things are running through my head this morning.

  1. Gratitude and amazement at the powerful woman I live with. This is what she does day in and day out?! I’ve been at it for a week. A…week. I need some alone time, a date night and some kind of spa package. (Not to mention a vasectomy.)
  2. Reflection on what lessons I’ve learned in all this.

 

As I’m letting the past week settle in on me, gratitude sets in again. Putting down a quick list on paper:

Being Mr Mom

In case you can’t read that, the list is:

  1. I have awesome kids!
  2. Stay at home moms are super-heroes. Seriously.
  3. I need to bring my wife flowers more.
  4. Spontaneity is important, but more often experience follows preparation.
  5. Routines are great – until they suck.
  6. Routines are important – and you should break them.
  7. My kids are the most important investment in my portfolio
  8. Leading kids demands humility and greatness

There’s so much here for us! The lessons of gratitude, planning, intuition, connection, servant leadership, humility, internal greatness and the power of little gifts have so much to offer us as dads and leaders. Maybe I’ll do a series on each of them one day, but for now I’ll have to ask you to make the connections.

Let me know if you have some ideas on the connections here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Have you ever been a Mr. Mom for more than a day or two? What did you learn? If you haven’t been yet, I suggest trying out an experiment where you do it for a week. (Though you shouldn’t have your wife get a hernia for this experiment.)

I love the story by Mark Twain about Tom Sawyer convincing other people to whitewash a fence for him and pay him for the privilege.  How in the world was he able to get them to do that?  No matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t get my friends to cut my lawn for me.  Show me the dad that knows people well enough to have this kind of leverage with his family and I’ll show you a man who has enormous power both at home and at work.

Convincing others to join your movement
Photo Credit: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Experience for me is more like this: My wife and I were talking one night, just doing the daily download we try to make a habit, and she began telling me about her frustrations with motherhood.  She wanted to get things done but the kids just seemed bent on preventing her from accomplishing anything.  As she shared this with me my mind immediately went into command and control mode.  There was a problem and I could solve it!  The next day I spent a few minutes creating a structure for her day and strategies during each period for how she would keep the kids from preventing her progress.  There were room times, book reading times, group cleaning sessions and carefully coordinated opportunities for play.  It was perfect!

That night I told her that I’d worked on her issue and had a solution.  We walked through my plan and I explained all the many sides of the approach.  I told her how to train the kids to dutifully comply with the new schedule.  I was eloquent, smart and passionate.  Then I saw her expression…

 

Bored Wife
Photo Credit: HBO

So how can we go from a great idea we have to getting our families and teams to own them? Leaders who get steam behind their ideas have learned to S.T.O.P.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to dive deeper into each of these and see if we can’t flesh some of this out.

  1. See with their eyes.  The key to all buy-in is in learning to ask good questions.  In the beginning you’ve got to ask questions that get you involved in their worlds.  Dad, this means making sure you instill habitual conversation points with your kids and your wife. Leaders, this means having intentional lines of communication with those on your teams.  When you come alongside your families and team members you see what they value and can better implement change that matters.
  2. Talk with their words.  Any communicator knows that words have power.  But do you know which words have power to the person you’re talking to at any given moment?  Dad, you’ve experienced that moment when you explain something to your kids with words that are over their head.  Eyes glaze over, mouths slightly open…and the moment’s gone.  Inside the walls of your home or the office, you have to know how people speak to each other in order to maximize your connection.  And that means spending time with them.
  3. Ownership – give it away.  Dad, when your kids are feverishly attempting to get something done – who came up with the idea 99% of the time?  Yup…they did.  Obviously, the reason people go above and beyond the requirements of their job to accomplish a goal or complete a project is because they find value in it.  Look closely enough and you’ll more than likely find that they either initiated the project or help shape the goal.  So when you identify the problem to be solved or the opportunity to be realized, ask for help in designing the solution.  Offer up something for their minds to latch onto.  Break their existing perspective on something indirectly so they can begin processing this new idea.  Then engage them in a quest to mutually discover what the “new normal” should be based on the expanded view of the world.
  4. Push the credit to others and own the blame.  Most leaders don’t get massive buy-in the first time they try.  Like any relationship this depends on trust.  But if you learn to freely give away credit and take responsibility when things don’t go right, each time you go after buy-in you’ll get a cumulative effect from previous experiences.  

So if you’ve either failed to gain momentum in a previous effort or are about to start something that needs other people to succeed, make sure you S.T.O.P. to speed up.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What are some ways you’ve learned to build excitement and action around your ideas?  

Connecting with people requires spending time with them.  Given how busy our lives are, spending time has to be focused and intentional.  What routines have you built into your family and workplace that allow you to stay connected with the people you lead?

Noel Coleman

Daddy’s need to know allowing kids to sleep in your bed with you often has unintended consequences and will lead to problems later; similarly, being a good leader means maintaining the same philosophy with subordinates and colleagues in the workplace!

Wise comment from a client of mine when talking about this blog.

The Care and Feeding of Teams

September 5, 2012 — 2 Comments

I was reading a post the other day on the blog of Tony Dungy.  The article talked about the powerful impact of a father on children and specifically infants.  Infants with engaged fathers tend to show more curiosity and smile more.  A study by Children’s Hospital Boston even showed that infants even show different signs of anticipation when they are approached by their mom or dad.  Apparently even infants know that dads love to play.

The impact of a dad on a family is huge.  (This in no way diminishes the vastly important role of mom!)  A dad can set the tone of how young children view authority.  How they communicate.  How engaged they are with the world.  A father, when fully engaged and intentional in his efforts, has the power to create a culture in his home that can carry generations of family into joy, success and fulfillment.  When we do this thing right we can provide an environment where everyone can reach the maximum of their potential and love getting there together.

Man!  What an amazing and daunting thought!

Thinking about this naturally led to application in life outside the walls of home.  Does this principle have any application in the workplace?  When you’re building a company or working in a division of a company trying to reach goals you end up working closely with the teams around you pretty closely.  Sometimes long hours occur.  Things get intense as emotions run deep.  Best friends are formed.
 

The question is: As an engaged and intentional leader or team member can we have an impact similar to the impact of a dad on our families?

Band of Brothers - Example of Love at Work?When I think of the extended family that your team mates can become, I tend to think in terms of the Band of Brothers kind of image.  Whatever image comes to mind for you, isn’t there a part of you that wants to feel like the group of people you spend roughly 50% of your waking hours with 5 days a week are sort of family to you?  Sure, there are challenges here.  People leave the team.  You don’t like everyone.  
 
So what can we pull from this idea of engaged dads making a huge difference to their infants and use for our “extended family?”  

Here are 5 ways we can take action:

 
  1. Own the awesome and the weight.  As a dad, it seems to happen naturally.  Holding that baby you feel the weight and at the same time the immense joy of the responsibility. If you are the leader of the team, think about how awesome it is that people choose to work for you.  Yes, times may be tough in the job economy for many but people always have choices.  And whether you are the leader or the lowest end of the totem pole, it is your responsibility to enrich the team members and the results of that team.  Otherwise, why are you on the team in the first place?
     
  2. Choose a culture.  In the family, culture may seem out of place.  Family rhythm, personality or whatever you call it – if you don’t know what kind of team you want what you’ll get is a mess.  The same goes for the workplace.  There is no hard right or wrong here.  Formal, informal, fun, strict, bring your dog or wear a suit and tie.  Each can have pros and cons.  The question is, do you know where you want to land with your team?  Studies show that people want clarity on the expectations you have of them.  We tend to think of this as what they are supposed to accomplish, but I think knowing how they are supposed to interact is equally important.  (Just much more difficult to define!)
     
  3. Have a plan.  It’s a comforting thing for the family when they know dad has a plan.  It may not always go exactly as intended, but knowing that someone is being intentional about any given situation lets the family be a bit more relaxed.  In the office, if you lead the team, you should have two plans.  A plan of attack (to accomplish the goals) and a plan to build (help the people on the team be better because they were on your team).  
     
  4. Talk about non-work things.  Dad, you don’t just talk about the business of family with kids do you?  “What do we need to all do this week to make sure our family is running a tight ship?”  No!  Well, at work if you don’t care about what’s going on in the lives of the people on your team, you don’t understand leadership.  Enough said.
     
  5. Never die or good-bye?  As a leader in your home, dad, don’t you try to help your kids know when the situation calls for them to work harder and when they should just let it go?  Part of the art of being a leader is knowing when a team member or project you’re working on needs some loving attention and when they need to be cut free.  This should always be done in love and with the good of the person and overall team in mind.  To me, the question is what is going to provide the best overall benefit to both the team and the person – grow or free them?  
What would happen if we all took this attitude and approach with the people we spend so much time with?  What if the culture and approach we have at home and at work were synchronized?  Leaders, team members, engineers, sales people, finance folks and administrators all living and working together in a way where we never actually leave our family.  We just transition from the core to the extension of it.  Where we view each other with the same lens of responsibility, care, endurance and joy that great families view each other through.  I almost hate to say it considering my recent rant, but dare I say that we could change the world?  
 
Enough with what I think – what do you think?  Have you experienced this done well?

Rain Boots = Joy?

September 1, 2012 — 5 Comments

Dad and Son - JoyComing home as we drive around the corner to our cul-de-sac, my oldest son hears the splash of the tires going through a large puddle. “What was that, daddy?” I hear from the backseat.

“Just a puddle, buddy.”

“I want to splash too!”

“Hmm, o.k. pal. Let me get your brother in bed for a nap and we’ll go out.”

Almost two hours later and we’re both soaked, caked in mud (because the neighborhood is still being built and he of course wanted to play in the mud) and laughing uproariously. We go into the garage, strip down and go upstairs to take a well-deserved nap.

The next day Cherie, my wife, tells me all day Caleb had been telling her with great enthusiasm, “My daddy loves spending time with me. My daddy loves to play with me.”

Who knew? Rain boots = the greatest joy I’ve ever known…