Tag Archives: serve

3 Reasons Being A Mentor Benefits You 

I don't care how old you are or where you are in your career arc. You have the ability to mentor someone. Here's why you'll be the better for it.

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3 Questions for Reflection vs. Resolution




It's a time honored tradition to approach the New Year with a list of resolutions for self-development, equally time-honored is forgetting them by January 15. Instead, consider reflection as a more meaningful New Year's tradition. Continue reading

5 Things (Really) Smart Leaders Never Say to Their Staff



I love Inc.com. Every day the folks there provide an endless supply of good advice on leadership, team building, and other best practices in the business world. But last week, they really dropped the ball with an article called 5 Things Smart Leaders Never Tell Their Staff. It reeked of old-school, bulletproof leadership in which "father knows best." Judging from the outcry in the comments on their Facebook page, I'm not alone in that assessment.

So, in rebuttal, I humbly submit my list of 5 things really smart leaders never say to their staff.

1. "I'm the boss. Do it my way." - or any other version of "my way or the highway." Pulling rank is a weak method of leadership. Collaborative leadership creates more leaders, which should be the primary goal of a Generous Leader.

2. "Congratulations, you get to keep your job another day." -  I had a boss who would say this all the time. I know he thought it was funny. It wasn't. It created an underlying uncertainty that was hard to shake. Never joke about terminating someone.

3. "You think you have stress?" - They get it. You have more responsibility, therefore you have more stress/anxiety/responsibility. It's okay to acknowledge vulnerability. But it's not okay to override or negate your team's feelings.

4. "I don't have time for this." - Um, then what do you have time for? Generous leaders support their team. If it's not a good time, stop and set a time for when you can focus. And then keep the commitment.

5. What they want to hear versus what they need to hear. It's no fun doling out tough love. Weak leaders will let an employee flounder until termination is the only real option. Generous leaders will have the hard conversation. No one enjoys it! But the results of the conversation will let you know if your investment of time and concern was worth it. You'll either be met with defensiveness or a willingness to grow. Either way, you've learned something about your employee.

So there's my 5. What about you? What are your 5 things you think you should never say to your team?

How Much is Enough?

photo: www.rapgenius.com

photo: www.rapgenius.com

A few weeks into my Honduran adventure I was horrified to realize that the first two verbs I mastered in Spanish were tener and querer -- "to have" and "to want." More specifically, the phrases yo no tengo - "I do not have" - and yo quiero - "I want."


After my divorce, I was setting up a new home, shopping for a condo -  my very first solo purchase of any consequence. My mortgage guy (who I love) informed me that I could qualify for a ridiculously high mortgage... he then quickly added, "but I don't recommend it" (which is why I love him.) Instead I found something at about a third of that number with the square footage to match.

It was enough. The beauty of that tiny condo, or as I lovingly referred to it, my condoloset, was that it limited the amount of stuff I could accumulate.

Stuff, and its resultant, inevitable debt can quickly take on a life of its own. As my now-husband and I began to build our shared life, we often discussed the concept of, "enough." If you're a fan of Veggie Tales you might recognize this exchange between Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, after Larry goes on a spending spree:

Bob the Tomato: Larry, how much stuff do you need to make you happy?
Larry the Cucumber: [Thoughtfully.] I don't know. How much stuff is there?

Following in the footsteps of this great philosopher (if Bob the Tomato actually had feet), we asked: how much is enough? We talked about what our long term goals were, what our actual needs were versus our perceived needs. We decided what charities we wanted to support.  We lived well below our means. We took advantage of some investment opportunities. We looked for opportunities to serve.

That didn't mean we didn't have fun. There were still vacations and nights out on the town. There were still baseball games and books and bass guitars. But our happiness was not driven by the stuff. It was driven by what we could do with the money we weren't spending on... stuff. Taking a 20-something out to dinner when she needed cheering up. Quietly writing a check to supplement a teacher's need for supplies. Hosting friends on a vacation they wouldn't take on their own. We found our answer to the question of enough.

I can't answer what your "enough" is. But I urge you to ask yourself the question, to heighten your awareness of the role stuff is playing in your life, and the barriers it is creating for you. Stuff will require a home that is probably larger than you really need. Stuff will eat up your free time with maintenance and upkeep. Stuff will get in the way of being able to say "yes" to really cool opportunities. Stuff will rob you of your ability to serve.

There is great freedom in living in "enough."

Which brings me back to my two first-learned phrases, I do not have... and I want. Stuff can be sneaky. Even having well learned the power of a stuff-less life, my human nature just cannot help itself. Being on "stuff alert" is a full time job. It's time for me to introduce a new verb into my vocabulary. Necesitar. "To need" or more specifically, "¿Usted lo necesitas o lo quieres?"

Do you need it, or do you want it?

Noventa Días

chc-hebrewsToday marks my 90th day in Honduras. Being an HR person, 90 days seems like a good time to stop and reflect.

I didn't actually realize it was 90 days until a guest last night asked me how long I'd been in the country. I think she was silently judging my Spanish ability. My Colleague, Jackie, leapt to my defense. "Que ha aprendido mucho!" She has learned a lot.

That got me thinking. Have I? What have I learned since coming to Honduras? Some of the more mundane lessons...

  1. I have learned there is no good time for a power failure. They happen just as you're about to cook for 162 students. They happen when you are in the shower. They happen as you settle in for an internet-dependent day's work at home - which means you end up having to go up the mountain after all. But they're not all bad. Power failures are glorious in that they remind you of what natural silence sounds like. No underlying thrum. Just you and the rooster next door. Which brings me to,
  2. I have learned it is a myth that roosters crow at dawn. Unless my neighbor is on Greenland time because he crows at 3:07am. Every. Day. Roosters also have their own distinct voice. There's the traditional "cock-a-doodle-doo" from my friend on the right. But to the rear is the gentleman that fancies himself the next M. Thenadier from Les Miserables as his crow is the four opening notes to "Master of the House." That doesn't get in my brain. Nope. Not one bit.
  3. I have learned animals serve one distinct role here. My husband remarked on the noise coming from the yard next door. The young daughter of our landlord said they were probably slaughtering the pig. Michael's eyes widened. "You think?" She responded, wise as a sage, "well, that's why we have them."

So much for mundane. What about the important stuff?

  1. Honduran women are a remarkable lot. Due respect to my Hondureño amigos, the Hondureñas I have befriended are smart and strong, with a work ethic that won't quit. They're shrewd and they look out for one another. The men may have the nominal power but the women are the forces with which to be reckoned.
  2. Kids are kids. They're funny, they're sweet, they're obnoxious. They want to know that you know them. They want to know that you see them. They want to know that you hear them. They want to know they matter.
  3. Teaching is every bit as hard as I thought it was. I always knew teachers were rock stars, and now I get to see up close what it takes to reach that level. Right now, I'm still the roadie carrying the rock star's guitar case. But it is a joy to teach. Perhaps my greater satisfaction comes from teaching the adults at the hotel. They are eagerly learning the nuances of hotel operations and the confusion that is English. They are dedicated, tenacious, and incredibly talented.

Perhaps it's because I live in a town called "Thank you" or perhaps its because I'm the dazed and confused new gringa on the block, but I have found Hondurans are wired to serve. I have learned to stop saying I like something in casual conversation. I complimented a Colleague on her earrings and she took them off and offered them to me as a gift. I mentioned to the Doña in our kitchen that I love soup and within moments there was a piping hot bowl of sopa de pollo sitting in front of me. I sent a text to my landlord on a Sunday mentioning there was no hot water and asked if someone could come by on Monday to look at it. A plumber showed up on my doorstep within the hour. They will make sure you are fed, you are safe, and you are rested. Beyond that, you're on your own. It's a good metaphor for life.

The biggest lesson here is not anything I didn't already know, it's just not anything I've actually seen in widespread practice. Hondurans live in the now. Don't misunderstand.  Of course they make plans (usually last minute), of course they have goals but they also know the only thing that is guaranteed is today. So live, love, laugh... now. Zipcar and Capital BikeShare may think they have defined the sharing economy, but they would be very wrong. This is the sharing economy at its finest. Don't have dinner? Here's some tortillas and vegetables. Need a ride? Hop in the back of my pickup. You like my necklace? It looks better on you.

Has it all been sunshine and puppy dogs? No. I melted down during Semana Santa when everything became just too much. There is the usual difficulty in trying to accomplish the simplest thing in a foreign language.  My husband has been away more than he has been here. There is the challenge of balancing a hotel work schedule with a school work schedule (hint: it means never having a full day off.) And d@mm*t I just want a decent glass of wine. Today I'm missing two major milestones that are happening back home. The wedding of the year (#bacabash2015) and the ordination of a dear friend. These are the choices one makes. Hard? Yes. Worth it? So far so good.

When I first began telling people about my plans to come to Honduras, I was met with aghast stares. You mean the murder capital of the world? I can now say with all candor, I mean a lovely, grace-filled country nestled in the mountains of Central America.



Generous Leadership

For several months I have been doing a lot of thinking about what leadership means to me. Over the years I've written pages upon pages about what leadership means to other people - brilliant people - but my own philosophy was still in development.

Here are the 2 things that I know that I know about being a leader.

  1.  Leaders are undivided. For them, an agile mind, a discerning heart, ready hands, and steady feet are integral.
    2. Leaders are generous. They’re unselfish with their time, talent, and treasure.

The thoughts, actions, and principles that stand behind those two sentences could fill an entire book - and maybe some day they will. But for today, here's an overview of why I believe them to be true.

Leaders are undivided.

You've heard the expression, "the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing?" It's like that with leadership. It's not enough to take  a solely intellectual approach. Leading only with your heart can get you in trouble. Doing and not leading makes you, well, a doer not a leader. And standing firm is a good start, if you know what you're standing for. Leadership requires an undivided body with a seamless approach.

  • An agile mind. Effective leaders are lifelong learners. They are happiest when living in the tension between exploring new ideas and understanding what came before. They are quick to listen, slow to judge, and always ensure they can back up their observations with facts.
  • A discerning heart. Effective leaders know that emotional intelligence is just as important as traditional intelligence. Equally important is a moral compass that steers you through the jungle of ethical dilemmas that face leaders every day.
  • Ready hands. Are you willing to get your hands dirty? Does your team know they can count on you to be by their side with the going gets tough? No one expects you to do their job all the time, but they do expect that you'll have their back when it counts.
  • Steady feet. The going is going to get tough when you are a leader. If you're running around like your hair is on fire with every bump in the road, your team will have little faith in your ability to keep them on secure ground. Steady feet comes from doing the hard work before it is necessary. Build your foundation and stay the course.

Leaders are generous.

Effective leaders want to see those they lead succeed, and they will freely give of themselves to see it happen.

  • It means sharing time, knowledge, contacts, advice, the spotlight, opportunities and yes, sometimes money.
  • It means choosing a gracious response over a legalistic one.
  • It means being curious about those entrusted in your care. What makes them tick? What inspires them? What are their goals? What are their fears?
  • It means picking up the phone when you'd rather let it go to voicemail, giving a shoulder to cry on when you need one yourself, wishing them well when they leave you for that important opportunity.

As a generous leader, you know it stopped being about you the day you decided you wanted to lead people.

Being an effective leader is about being a Generous Leader. When all is said and done, it's about love. Not a word you hear too often in the context of business, and that is a shame. Be madly, crazy in love with the people you lead. Go out of your way to look after them and you will receive an immeasurable return on the investment.

Through the Fog


Several years ago I lived on the eastern shore of Maryland. In the early morning, it is an area that is prone to heavy fog. On those mornings as I drove to work I would find myself turning the radio off, leaning forward, and clenching my jaw. A fifteen minute drive could take up to an hour. Being able to see just a few feet in front of me was stressful and slowed me down. Such is the case for an organization without a vision.

Organizations that enjoy enduring success have core values and a shared vision that remain fixed, even as as their goals and strategies adapt to a changing marketplace. Truly great companies understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change.

Often, there is a great deal of confusion about the role vision plays, with people using it to describe everything from exhilarating goals to its reason for being. And the converse is true. Organizations without vision are draining, exhausting, and will eventually drive high potential talent out the door.

So to put it very simply, vision is a combination of what we stand for and what we aspire to become.

4 Easy Ways to Lose Respect

Lose-respectIf you're wondering why you are not gaining the respect of the people with whom you work... do a quick self-audit to see if you're doing any of these things.
1. Using the word, "try" - it show a lack of commitment and of belief in yourself. Use instead do, act, tackle, accomplish, will.

2. Saying anything the slightly resembles "that's not my job" or throwing a colleague under the bus - protesting anything that isn't in your job description is a surefire way to lose the respect of your leader. And if you want to see the cooperation of your colleagues dry up in record time, point fingers instead of collaborating for a solution.

3. Wearing inappropriate clothing - make sure your clothes fit, are clean, and that you present neatly. Worn old items should be saved for the weekend. If you know you've put on a few extra pounds, don't assume your old clothing fits the new you. And ladies, yes, I'm going there, cleavage is never an appropriate business accessory.

4. Being a gossip. Sadly we didn't leave these people behind in the schoolyard. If gossiping is a form of entertainment that makes you feel powerful, be aware that it makes you look weak and desperate. If you enjoy stirring the pot with rumors and innuendo, it won't do you any favors to be associated with negative news.

These basic respect-killers should be avoided at all costs and could be a core reason why you are not being taken seriously.