Tag Archives: creativity

3 Ways to Recruit Effectively

Putting together a cohesive team is one of the most important roles of a leader. A misstep in the hiring process can cost in time, money, and morale.

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4G Leadership: Gravitas – Not Just A $5 Word

3 QUICK JOLTS OF LEADERSHIP INSIGHT

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Mark Twain memorably said, "Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do."  He makes an excellent point. But in the case of gravitas there simply is no other word that encapsulates this multi-faceted leadership trait.

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4G Leadership: Got Grit?

3 quick jolts of leadership insight
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I see effective leaders as having four key characteristics: grit, grace, gravitas, and gratitude. Let's talk about grit. Grit is about being able to stay the course despite setbacks and obstacles. Do you have what it takes to lead for the long haul? Continue reading

3 2016 Leadership Books You Should Put On Your “To Be Read” List

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You've made it through the Mother of All Mondays and 2016 is underway. There are new ideas coming down the pike and here are 3 to keep an eye out for. Find original ways to champion creativity, communicate effectively and memorably, and tackle challenges with forceful persistence.

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3 2015 Leadership Books You Should Go Back and Read

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THREE SIPS OF LEADERSHIP INSIGHT

TO START YOUR DAY

It's Book Week at LeaderSips...first up, here's 3 must-reads you may have missed in 2015. Learn how to think on your feet, build a team through unconventional means, and change behavior that will last.

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Shoot the Moon

shoot the moon

Life is not about maintaining the status quo.  Life is not about playing it safe every second.  Life is not about standing still and wallowing in self-doubt.  It’s about connecting with your soul, respecting your integrity, and telling yourself that you’re able.  It’s about taking a few steps, regardless of how hard and small they may be, so you can move forward and evolve.

To quote my favorite author, Anne Lamott:

"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon."

What are you waiting for? Go shoot the moon.

My Favorite Lesson from Don Draper

Photo credit: AMC

Photo credit: AMC

By now, the recaps will have been published, the debates over the ending begun, and the glowing post-mortems of the groundbreaking television series Mad Men written. There is much to be gleaned from one of the greatest television dramas in recent years. From an HR perspective -  the need for Title VII legislation. From an entrepreneurial perspective - the scrappy never-say-die attitude of the gang from Sterling Cooper (and its many incarnations over the decade.) From a parenting perspective - the cautionary tale that is Betty Draper Francis.

My ode lies in its creative roots. Watching the creative process - with all its false starts, bad drafts, and constant fear that your last good idea was your last good idea - was an edifying experience.

In a bout of utter frustration, Don Draper's protege Peggy Olson once demanded, "show me how you do it. Show me how you think." To which he replied,

"First I abuse the people whose help I need. Then I take a nap. Then I start at the beginning again, and see if I end up in the same place."

In other words, think as hard as you can about your problem, then forget about it and let your subconscious do the work. That's where the "shower moments" come from. That's why you need a piece of paper on your nightstand at 3am. The answer is in there. Let your entire brain pitch in and do the work.

Open a New Window

mame-broadway-poster-1966I am a firm believer that everything you need to know about life can be found in musical theatre. So, every once in a while I'll blog about a particular truism I've gleaned from the orchestra pit.

When I was growing up, my mother had a best friend named Barbara. Barbara was a part of my life from the time I was six until her death earlier this week. She was a rare female executive for "Ma Bell" before the days of  anti-trust suits (or women's suits at Brooks Brothers, for that matter.) She remained single and childless her entire life, but she helped raise at least one kid who loved her like a mother.

I remember our first meeting as if it were yesterday. We were sitting in our living room on Long Island and she was wearing an exotic (in my six-year-old terms) necklace from a far off land called Barbados.

I was hooked.

Poor Barbara. I couldn’t get enough of her. I wanted to know what Greece was like. Were there really camels in Egypt? And really, how cool was she... driving that little VW Bug. Imagine this poor woman’s surprise when I announced one Friday night that I wanted to have a sleepover at Aunt Barbara’s. I’m not sure who was more terrified, my mother or Barbara. I’m sure a plan was in place to return me to my rightful owner at the first sign of a freak-out.

But, in what would become a pattern during our shared life, she called my bluff.

We had a magical night at Spinning Wheel Road. We watched the Brady Bunch (I hadn’t yet learned to recognize her patented “this is ridiculous” look.) And then a life-changing thing happened. She put on a record (vinyl, 33 1/3) and we listened to the soundtrack of “Mame.” Mame is the story of a single woman living in Depression-era New York who suddenly becomes the guardian of her young nephew. Unburdened with the worries of parenthood, she shares her own special brand of philosophy with her young charge. It was a fitting selection.

Open a new window, open a new door.

 We sang. We danced.

Though it may not be anyone's birthday,
And though it's far from the first of the year,
I know that this very minute has history in it, we're here!

Indeed. We were there. And from that moment on Barbara became my Auntie Mame.

Despite her serious nature, she had a wicked sense of humor. How many 10-year-old Catholic girls knew all the words to Tom Lerher’s Vatican Rag”? Of course, I had to take an inviolate oath to never demonstrate that particular skill to Sister Teresa.

Oh, how we laughed.

Years went on and I became an emotion-driven teenager with moods on a pendulum. My Auntie Mame would have none of that. My fits of angst were met with, “don’t go away mad, just go away.” And the unspoken understanding, “I’ll be here when you regain your senses.”

At a time when female executives were unheard of, I listened… okay eavesdropped… on my mother and Barbara as they discussed the goings-on at Mother Bell. She would have scoffed at the word mentor, but professionally, that is exactly what she was. When my time came to be a 20-something leader I had to fire someone for stealing. I was distraught. I was putting a man with two small children out of work. She looked me dead in the eye and said, ”you’re not putting him out of work. He did that all by himself.”

Okay, then.

From Barbara I learned that the wisest voice is not always the loudest voice.

I learned to stare down things that frighten me and take them apart piece by piece.

I learned determination, pragmatism, and loyalty.

I learned to open a new window.

Barbara, know that you taught your protégé well. I’m opening new windows and  I’m giving kids a living room to dance in. I hope I am providing some words of wisdom along the way. But you’ll be happy to know, we’re skipping the Brady Bunch.

Thank you, Auntie Mame.

 

Tell Me A Story

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Back when I was studying classical music, I was working on a particularly difficult section of an Italian aria that I was due to perform in a few days. I had no trouble with the notes, but the words... oh the words. Finally I heard my father yell from the other room, "Mary! No one there speaks Italian! Tell the story!" Of course what he meant was my ability to communicate with my tone, my face, and my body would be far more valuable than singing every single word perfectly. If I did my job as a storyteller, the audience would connect to the beauty of the piece. And of course -  like so many things -  he was right. By the time I got done, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

In recent years, the art of storytelling has enjoyed a revival - so much so that one may think it is a 21st century phenomenon. Of course that's not true. Jesus told parables, Aesop wrote fables. Franklin Roosevelt visited with us by the fireside and Ronald Reagan could always be counted on for a folksy anecdote. Storytelling has given humans the opportunity to connect for millenia.

The beauty of storytelling is that, when done right, enough room is left for the listener to fill in the framework with his or her own thoughts, memories, and emotional connections.

In advertising and marketing, Mad Men has given us Don Draper as the ultimate example of the power of a story well told. If you haven't seen the episode "The Wheel", then take a moment and let Don Draper tell you of the impact  Kodak's Carousel had on his family - and by extension, all of our families.

 

Generous leaders are not afraid to share their stories. They may be funny, they may be cautionary, they may be poignant. All good stories give us the ability to connect to those around us. Stories work because they put our entire brain to work. Think back to my teenage self learning the Italian aria. Pronouncing the words correctly was the musical equivalent of bullet points on a PowerPoint. It's transactional. It shares facts. Pouring my heart and soul into the song, that's a story that people will remember.

 

Try Something New

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When was the last time you tried something for the first time?
You might find new confidence, you might find a latent talent.

You might find a fresh perspective, you might find a new appreciation for yourself.
You could stay safely tucked into your routine - or your could surprise yourself. We're not here to go through the motions. Engage.
Try it. Learn it. Read it. Experience it.