Tuesday, December 14

What's Your Halter?

One of the joys of working with such a variety of nonprofit organizations is the opportunity to dip into so many different worlds, learn from each, and cross pollinate ideas and solutions. When I was working with an organization that trains seeing eye dogs, I learned that these dogs are just like other dogs when they are not on their halters. Visiting homes where the dogs were being raised gave me the opportunity to see them spread out in front of the fireplace, begging for belly rubs, just like any other dog. I was surprised, after seeing how disciplined and single-minded they were at work.

We all have "high performance profiles," a set of elements that together cause us to excel at what we do. For a seeing eye dog, it's obvious that donning his halter means getting serious. For me, there are a host of factors that contribute to being able to sustain peak performance. For years, I've worked at cultivating them so that I can achieve optimum performance when needed. One factor I've just noticed is wearing a watch. My watch has become for me what the seeing eye dog's halter is to him--it means "work." When I strap it on in the morning, it is time to get down to business.

What are the factors that help you and your team perform well? Do you do better when you get enough sleep? When you are close to deadline? When you frequently review goals? When you get positive feedback? Pay attention to what contributes to success, and then build in those elements to be able to achieve and sustain peak performance.

Wednesday, December 8

All You Need is Love

John Lennon died 30 years ago today. I am reminded of an assignment given the first day of the first teaching methods course I took in undergraduate school. Our professor asked us to come in the next week with our personal philosophy or perspective on what it takes to be a good teacher. Most of the students in the class didn't even do the assignment. I had spent the entire weekend painting a banner on canvas with dozens of Peter Max figures surrounding the statement, "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE." I was actually embarrassed by my over-achievement, but committed to the sentiment. The banner hung in the entrance to the University of Michigan School of Education for many years. All this time later, I would say that you need more than love to be successful at anything, but it's the very best place to start.

Tuesday, December 7

Be the Change

One of the most frequently seen quotes about change is from Mahatma Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world." We're so familiar with this quote that we can forget to stop and reflect on its powerful meaning.

Maybe the most difficult challenge we face is to live one's life in complete alignment with one's values and vision. How many organizational leaders want everyone around them to change but don't want to align their own behavior with the values and vision they espouse?
Every day, I wrestle with reducing the gap between my actions and the change I want to see in the world.

It is said that the way someone does one thing is the way they do everything. Think about that. How you do every little thing (yes, even how you handle being cut off in Beltway traffic) is a statement about who you are and what you value. As you go through the day today, pay attention to how you handle the little things, and ask yourself the degree to which you ARE the change you want to see in the world.