Book Review: Acting Up Brings Everyone Down

I first heard of Nick McCormick when he sent me a copy of his first book, Lead Well and Prosper. It was a fairly quick read (short chapters with great summary statements at the end) chocked full of helpful leadership advice.

So you might have guessed I was (very) pleasantly surprised to know that Nick had written another book. He provided me with a preview copy to take a look. This one is entitled, Acting Up Brings Everyone Down.

The premise of Nick’s latest work is a comparison of the quirky and often immature behaviors of children that have somehow found their way into, what we hope would be, the mature adult workplace. It appears that some of us haven’t grown up all the way just quite yet.

One of the tools that Nick uses throughout his books is an illustrative dialogue between fictional workplace characters. This simple technique draws you in to each scenario. Then Nick goes to work on helping the reader see how simple childish behaviors aren’t really helpful at all in our work environments.

Topics range from lying, whining, shirking responsibility, selfishness, pushing the rules, procrastination…and many more. Each chapter ends with a list of solid “do’s and don’ts.” Perhaps the best part of the whole book is that Nick takes these summary statements from each chapter and lists them all out in a couple of appendices in the back. You’ve got all the good stuff in understandable statements to refer back to later.

This book will serve as a great wake-up call to anyone who goes to work each day. There’s a big difference between an adult who approaches the world with childlike wonder and the one who still lives each day with childish behavior. The only caution I would offer is to the person who is contemplating having children of their own. Nick does a great job of identifying a lot of negative behaviors that children are prone to exhibit. Having raised four kids of my own I can see these tendencies at different times in all of them. But kids will also surprise you and sometimes act more mature than the adults in the room.

You can purchase the book by visiting the Be Good Ventures site. Nick also offers a sample of the book. I recommend you take a look and buy a few copies for your workplace. Sharing the book with your co-workers would probably be more productive than simply reading the book on your own and writing their names next to the childish behaviors.

10 Tips To Take Your Leadership To The Next Level

It’s Top 10 Week here at timmilburn.com. Check out the first two lists here and here.

Mark Victor Hansen gives great wisdom when he says, “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”

In this post I want to encourage you with 10 nuggets of leadership wisdom that, if acted upon, will raise your level of leadership influence and ability.

1. Do what you do best.

Today is the best day to be the most authentic version of yourself. You are packed full of potential and possibility. There’s a reason others follow you or look up to you or are drawn to you. Take the time to figure out where your strengths lie and then invest yourself in those areas. While there will always be times when you have to do “weakness” work (stuff you’re not good at but is a natural and necessary part of your role), you will add the most value to others and your organization when you find ways to do what you do better than anyone else.

What can you do that only you can do and you do it well?

2. Focus on a few things.

My favorite illustration of this principle is juggling. I can juggle three balls. If you watch me juggle three balls you would think to yourself, “Wow, Tim is a pretty good juggler.” I can do different techniques. I can keep those balls moving. But…throw in a fourth ball and the whole exercise comes crashing to the floor. It’s instantaneous. Watch me try to juggle four balls and you’ll think, “Tim is a horrible juggler.” What’s the principle? I would rather do three things that measure an 8 (on a scale of 1-10) than eight things that measure a 3.

What is the one thing you need to focus on today that will cause others to stand up and take notice?

3. An event’s not over until everything is put away and everyone is thanked and you’ve evaluated your experience.

This is all about learning to lead after the important moment is over. You may have planned a presentation, you might be in charge of an event, or you have led a group of people through a process of change. Whatever your situation, afterwards is as important as during. In my work with student leaders, we will often put a lot of energy into pulling off an event. When the event is over, I want our leaders to know that their job isn’t done. Putting everything away brings closure and actually is preparation for the next event. Gratitude shows others that you clearly can’t do this thing by yourself (nor do you want to). And evaluation makes you a better leader for next time.

Do you have any unfinished business to take care of today?

4. Communicate in such a way that people don’t just hear you, but they actually respond to what you’re saying.

There’s a difference between talking at someone and talking to them. A message that’s delivered with no need of a response is a monologue. A message that elicits a response is called a conversation. Your most effective communication will invite people to respond to what you’re saying.

Does your communication help others know how to respond or how to act?

5. If you do it all yourself, then you’re not leading anyone.

It’s not rocket surgery folks (I love that line). If you are in a position that doesn’t require the assistance or presence of any other person, you are not leading. While I will admit that you have to lead yourself first, that only serves as a pre-requisite to actually leading others. I know it might be easier to do it yourself, it might take less time to do it yourself, and it probably goes a little smoother if you do it all yourself. But then…you’re limited by what only you can do…and you’re not leading.

Look around…is there anyone with you?

6. Integrity is not a personality trait.

Beyond strengths tests and aptitude training and finding the perfect fit for your skill set – integrity is not something you find out if you’re good at. You either have it or you don’t. A leader’s character will be tested in a variety of situations. You can’t delegate your integrity to someone else. You can’t make an excuse for a lack of it. Your integrity is all on you. It takes a long time to develop it and it takes one moment to ruin it. The only test to determine the level of your integrity is life itself.

Besides integrity, what are some of the “must have” characteristics of a good leader?

7. Sometimes you meet your expectations, so keep them high.

I love what Ralph Marston has to say about expectations: “Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality. “ If you don’t set your own level of expectation, someone else will. If all you want to do is get by and get through, then you’ll set your expectations at the level of the lowest common denominator. You’ll settle for average and mediocre. But if you want to do your best, strive for excellence, be a leader that others truly want to follow – you’ll set your own expectations…and they’ll be higher than what others set for you.

How high have you set your own bar today?

8. Be on the lookout for someone to take your place.

The best leaders are always on the look out for other leaders. They see potential in others. They find a way to work themselves out of a job. They develop others to fill their shoes. They find opportunities for others to shine. One of the best measurements of effective leadership is one in which an organization or group of people continue to thrive and grow when the leader steps away.

Two words: who’s next?

9. Your greatest opportunities to lead may lie at the point of someone else’s frustration.

Leaders are problem-solvers. Where others may shrink from a challenge, a leader will stretch to the challenge. You can tell which people are the leaders in the room – they’re the ones who are willing to take on and accept the responsibility for solving the problems in your organization. They look for ways to serve by meeting the needs of those around them.

What is one problem that you can start to solve today?

10. The ultimate failure is the failure to finish.

Everyone loves to start something. My bookshelf is full of books that I’ve only read the first chapter. There’s a lot of excitement at the start. Everyone wants to get on board. At the start of a sports season, every team is undefeated. At the start of a semester, every student has straight A’s. But something happens once the excitement dies down, the problems seem bigger than the solutions, or the reward doesn’t feel like it’s worth the risk. People quit. The challenge is to see it through. To do your best to the very end. To get up when you’ve gotten knocked down. To finish.

What will it take for you to see this thing through to the end?

Love to hear your comments on this post. Which one stood out to you the most?

10 Suggestions To Save Your Speech

It’s difficult to get people’s attention. It’s even harder to keep people’s attention.

Making a speech is part communication, part theater. That’s right, you’re an actor/actress on a stage. You finally get your chance to make your presentation, your talk, your big speech. Now that you have their attention, you must now spend your precious time entertaining, as well as educating.

One of the most encouraging pieces of advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to public speaking: Your audience wants you to succeed. That’s great news. They want you to do well. They want to connect with you and your message. And the ones who deliver, the ones who are rewarded with the attention of their audience, are those who add a bit of drama to their presentation.

I’m telling you, a little drama can save your whole speech.

Listen to this…people are making a decision within the first 30 seconds about whether they can trust you, whether they’ll listen to you. That tells me I need to find some way to connect with my listeners…and fast.

But…what if I blow it in the first 30 seconds to 3 minutes? What if my opening bombs and people start checking out.

Is it over? Should I simply stop and refund everyone’s money?

10 Strategies To Grow In Your Influence With Others

Welcome to Top 10 Week.

Each day, I’ll be publishing an article that includes a Top 10 list of ideas, tips, or strategies (like today) that will help you be a better leader. Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. I’m going to offer you some of mine and let you decide if they’re good.

One of the top skills of every effective leader I’ve studied or seen is the ability to influence others. John Maxwell has said that leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. So if influence is at the heart of good leadership, what can one do to develop it? Here’s some strategies to get you started and get you thinking:

1. Listen

I think this one shows up on every good list of leadership qualities. Think about it…most people assume that a leader’s greatest communication skill is the ability to speak. But that’s a myth. It’s the ability to listen. If you were to write out a list, the most influential people in your life truly know you and have been willing to sit down and listen to you. When we take the time to listen to others first, we gain the permission to speak into their lives.

What are some ways that you will not only listen, but show others that you’re listening?

Making The Most Of My Drive Time

I have a 35-40 minute commute from home to work each day. That adds up to over an hour in the car with each round trip  (I just did the math in my head).

Now let me say right up front that the priority of my drive time is driving. There’s too many distractions that keep people from concentrating on the road. I’m a big believer in not texting (or tweeting) while driving. But these restrictions don’t keep me from using this valuable time in a productive way.

5 Ways To Love Your Blogger

If you’ve ever thought of starting your own blog, here’s an amazing stat to consider: There are over 27 million WordPress publishers as of September 2010: 13.9 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com plus 13.8 million active installations of the WordPress.org software.

Did you notice the stat is only for WordPress blogs (I publish this site through WordPress with the Standard Theme). There’s also Blogger, Typepad, and a whole host of other blogging platforms out there. In other words, millions and millions of blogs. The numbers can be daunting for anyone wanting to throw their hat into the blogging ring.

So why are there so many people doing this?

I think it’s easier than ever to start a blog. Blogging sites can get you up and running in a matter of minutes with limited or no coding knowledge necessary. It’s free or extremely cheap. People have a lot to say (or sell) and it’s easy to do it with a blog. Platforms like WordPress can help you create a full-blown website on your own as opposed to requiring the assistance of a web design guru.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely At The Top

I’ve been writing quite a bit on the importance of leading yourself first. I believe it’s important – even foundational – as a prerequisite to  the effort and energy we use trying to lead others. But it’s not all about “me.” In fact, the motivation to lead yourself first finds its greatest meaning and significance when its about serving others.

If all we focus on is trying to create a better version of ourselves – if that becomes the end of all of our means – we will find the effort less rewarding. Individualism is a religion that has left many all alone at the top of their world.

How Should I Respond?

When I was in the third grade, the popular way (and most direct way) to ask a girl if she liked you was to write her a note expressing your affection and at the bottom give her three options to check her answer (Yes!, no, and my personal favorite…maybe). Then you’d give the note to your friend, who gave it to her friend, who hopefully passed it on to the girl it was intended for.

Of course, my preferred response (but often left unchecked) was a “yes,” but at the very least, I had let her know her options.

When you communicate with others and you need something from them, make sure and clarify the appropriate response you expect from them.