I’m traveling in London. When we got here over the weekend one of the first things we did was to hop into a cab (which are way cooler than in the US) and head to the hotel. The cabbie was a British white guy, with a heavy accent and a seemingly unending supply of opinions that he assumed we shared. It turns out you can find racist people in the UK too, who knew. Of the many things that he said that we found both disturbing and amusing, one of them was a derogatory comment toward Chinese people. Since both Jeff and I have adopted children from China, we were definitely not on his team with that.
I guess the moral of the story is to be careful. Just because you are a white dude driving some white dudes around a big city doesn’t mean that you share something, or really anything at all in common. In fact, I hope I don’t share much in common with that cabbie, other than perhaps an admiration for the insane cost of an Astin Martin.
It was my first day of my senior year of high school. I was sitting in class, bored by all of that “here’s what you can expect from this course” talk that seems to suck the life out of that first day. The class that likely has had the largest impact on my life had just started and the teacher, that often had struck me as gruff when passing him in the halls, stood at the front to get us started. He did something I will never forget.
His name is Billy Richardson, and he started his class, Small Business Ownership, by writing his name on the board, and under that, he wrote his cell phone number. I was shocked. That might not seem like a big deal now, but in the late 90’s that was huge! Back then you had a limited number of cell phone minutes to talk on each month. It was also a pretty common thing for students to want to prank call their teachers, or even random numbers for some reason. Giving a class of students your cell phone number was a risk on a number of levels. It was a risk that Mr. Richardson took because he started with trust.
Over the course of that semester, he built more trust by letting us run the school store, sell cookies out of his classroom, and all sorts of other things that I’m sure drove the school administration crazy. He started with trust and continued to extend more and more trust to his students, and in turn, we rose to the challenge.
I think if you start with trust in any relationship it builds a foundation that is much stronger than if you start any other place. Starting with trust allows you to build the relationship faster, better and more completely than starting any other place.
That class and my relationship with Mr. Richardson (whom I now call Billy) changed the direction of my life. It is likely the reason I run a small business today. Thank you Billy!
Last night our team from Sideways8 got together for drinks and food. It was a blast. What struck me most was the amount of laughter around the table. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.
This got me to thinking, I love being a part of a team that can laugh together, and laugh hard. Business shouldn’t always be a serious thing, and if I’m going to work with people, I want to laugh with them as well.
Your posture affects how you act. I don’t mean your physical posture (though that does affect you too), I mean your mental posture toward something, your mindset. Consider this for a moment, let’s imagine you have a big task due on Monday. If you start Monday morning thinking, “I’m dreading this, I hate doing stuff like this.” How do you think you will perform at that task? But, if you start Monday morning thinking, “I’m going to crush this and move on to something way more fun!” Now, how do you think you will perform?
The same is true with people. If you look at a co-worker and the first thought that pops into your head is a negative one, what will your experience working with that person be like? You guessed it, bad. But, if you look at that co-worker and take a positive posture towards them, believing the best in them, what will your experience with them be like?
So much of what happens to us is more about the posture we are taking toward something rather than what something (or someone) is doing to us. The posture (approach, outlook) that we take, in many ways, determines the outcome we receive.
If you have a problem with a person or a task, it might be time to change your posture.
There are things that I don’t notice. As obvious as that is, it’s something that I’m oblivious to most of the time. How do you notice the things that escape your notice? How do you see what you aren’t inclined to see? And, how important are those things anyway?
I had an interesting experience recently that brought home to me how much I don’t notice. I took my kid to an event. I was focused on what was going on at the event, the people the stuff to look at, etc. Then, later that day, I was talking to a friend that was there (and is also a mom), and she said, “did you hear the music at that event? It was terrible! I wanted just to reach out and cover your child’s ears!” To which I responded, “there was music there?”
Apparently, at this event, there was terribly inappropriate music. And, not only had I not noticed the inappropriate lyrics, I hadn’t noticed that there was music at all! Which brings me to the, not at all profound, realization, that my attention is limited. Once my attention is fully engaged, I stop noticing things, apparently even significant things that include F-bombs and other fun words.
This leads me to realize something else that is obvious. I only have so much attention, and after it is spent, things get missed, so I had better be careful where and how I spend it.
Sometimes we are tempted to think of leadership as a silo and leaders as pillars that stand alone. I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I think a leader that stands alone is probably not a great leader, but just a person with power. Having power, wealth, and influence doesn’t make someone a great leader, and it doesn’t mean they are worthy to be followed.
I have been fortunate to know several great leaders and call them friends, and I can tell you that the great leaders, the leaders that deserve your respect and admiration, are leaders that bring others with them. 48in48 is a great example of this.
When Jeff Hilimire approached me about 48in48, I thought it was a great idea, and I was in to help immediately. We dove into working on the idea and planning out the technology, and at the time I saw myself is the first volunteer, nothing more. I remember one day Jeff and I were meeting with someone about the project, and he introduced me as the Co-Founder of 48in48. To be honest, I didn’t see that coming; I was just happy to be helping. Jeff could have been the Founder, but being a great leader, he has a habit of bringing other with him, sharing the spotlight. In this case, I got the opportunity and am thankful for it.
A similar thing happened with Sanjay Parekh when we decided to start Tech Talk Y’all. We were hanging out and talking about podcasting, and Sanjay looked at me and said, “I’m thinking of starting a podcast, do you want to do it with me?” He could have been the sole host and just had me as a guest, but Sanjay wanted to bring me with him. And, the podcast ride has been great!
These are just two examples of countless leaders that have poured into me ranging from my High School Small Business teacher to college professors, to my city’s Mayor and everything in between. Time and again the best leaders I know always try to help others.