Archive for category Parenting

Adaptive Leadership: Leading and parenting allows failure

To be a successful parent you have to be an adaptive leader. Teaching and training up leaders requires a level of patience, wisdom, and humility that many successful leaders find challenging. Its one thing to lead, make decisions, and take responsibility. It is an entirely different thing to coach and develop leaders on the ideals and principles that you use to make your decisions. This isn’t a “right” or “wrong” paradigm. It is just another way of being.  Adaptive Leadership requires a whole different level of vulnerability and openness to mentor and guide a young child as a parent or develop an employee as manager. It involves a choice..a choice to be a coach and teacher and actively participate in the development of those around you.

This level of vulnerability is not so much limited by ego, but really limited by a perspective. These perspectives usually show up when you are working with parents and leaders to get more involved. Specifically, to be involved emotionally and spiritually with another human being in an intimate relationship regarding their development. It could be a number of reasons, but I’ve found a couple of deep seeded perspectives that seem most prevalent.

  1. Failure is not equated with leading. Leading is associated with succeeding! The idea is seeded that leading has no room for failure…in anything. And especially not a big old fat stinker of a failure that involves a financial loss, misjudgment of character, and failure to live up to expectations (of themselves and others).
  2. Parents and leaders find difficulty in being vulnerable and reliving their own mistakes. Its not something you share with a child let alone a direct report…right? Wrong! It takes intuition to know how vulnerable you need to be and know when it is appropriate to engage with others in learning from your experiences. In some strange transference we become intolerant of failure in others because we really can’t stand it in our own self.

Truth is…all leaders and parents fail at some point in their careers and parenting efforts. Click here for the popular chronicle of failure and success in a famous leader. My most powerful moments as a parent have dramatic similarities with my defining moments as a successful leader and people manager. It involves my ability and/or willingness to admit my own shortcomings and mistakes during those teachable moments. Equally important are the times I allowed my children and direct reports to make their own mistakes…I bit my tongue and kept my trap shut.

Fundamentally, leadership skills are not different from those skills required to parent. Your children are in constant transition and growth, both physically and mentally. This environment of transition demands that you are constantly adapting as a leader/parent. You don’t interact with your eight year old like you did when they were a two year old. When you have several employees and/or offspring at different stages you have to be able to adapt to each personality and situation and do it seamlessly.

You are being watched  and observed. How you deal with failure is as important as how you deal with success. No doubt parents, through experience, can save their children from many stupid mistakes. However, in saving the child from experiencing the struggle of failing you may cripple their ability to learn and grow. In the same way, as a leader you see that a key lesson learned for one individual may be the foundation used to build a career or life upon.

  1. Why not create opportunities for your new leaders to make decisions and learn critical skills and lessons?
  2. Do you let them make that decision could cost them their career?
  3. Are you focused on perfection or excellence?

As I have written in earlier posts, the one constant is your core values. That is why being consistent and adaptive as a leadership go hand in hand. Look at these next development points for leaders and see the direct parallels to successful parenting of children.

  1. Set a good foundation early in the process of “on boarding” new employees or new people leaders,
  2. reinforce the foundation and standards by rewards and encouragement,
  3. and prepare new leaders by allowing them to benefit by learning from the results of their own decisions.

Adaptive work involves intuition and tapping into that as a you make decisions. Intuition is very spiritual and unexplainable.

Here are some parting thoughts…

  • Being vulnerable and open sets the best example.
  • Faith in your ability to lead and adapt is a huge contribution to develop leaders with the proper perspective.
  • Value your intuition as a strong guide to build intuitive leaders.
  • Intuition is the most unexplained leadership tool.
  • Intuition scares many corporate systems because it has no roots in controlled systematic approaches.

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Adaptive Leaders: Finding some purchase

Finding some purchase…

Growing up on a farm and being a farmer instilled a keen awareness or trust for thinking intuitively. I watched my dad work and do things from a very young age. My learning took place by being observant in how he went about fixing things and solving problems. I would ask questions and sometimes his answer would be, “Just sit and watch son…pay attention and you will learn”. I was curious about how did he know what to do? It fascinated me regarding all the things he “just knew”. When he died I lost a wealth of “knowing” and source of wisdom.

In fact, when problems would come up after he was gone I would catch myself thinking I’ll just call Dad…then realizing he was gone. This happens to us at work and in our communities as well. We have a great mentor or manager and they get promoted or leave the company. Our next door neighbor had every tool you needed and always helped you out when you needed it most…then you move away or they do. It really stinks when you lose your “go to” person or network at work or you move to another community and have no connections.

  • How do you adapt to the new realities in your workplace or communicate?
  • Do you find someone to complain to or seek someone new to collaborate with on something?
  • Do you seek out more information to understand what’s going on or feel hurt for being left  in the dark?
  • Are you relying on popular opinion or well understood values to base your decisions on?

Change definitely can  impact our work,  family, and our sense of community. When we’ve lost our source of information is doesn’t feel good. No Dad, co-worker, or old neighbor to consult and now you need to learn on your own, find a new mentor. Finding a new mentor can be  as frustrating as it is rewarding. Its difficult, especially when there are so many willing to offer opinions and ideas without regard for the impact it might have. Maybe its time to begin to trust your own intuition like your mentor role modeled it for you.

There are seasons of life and moments when things becomes confusing…and overwhelming for many individuals to rely on their own intuition. It is a challenge to gather your own perspective and make your own decisions. Who am I to make a big decision? Look at all pundits espousing views on talk shows, their own blogs, and tweets that may or may not be giving sound advice. You want that to be your beacon of destiny? (I know…I’m blogging and you should test everything I’m saying!) Trust your intuition! I am annoyed by the following precursory statements that are made habitually on talk radio and TV.  “Well, the fact is–or–The fact of the matter is…”.  What’s really the matter is most of the time its not fact and it doesn’t matter.

Like my Dad said to me…”Just be still–watch..observe”.  He really was helping me develop by ability to think intuitively about what is going on. Dad was coaching me to think for myself. If you have never trusted your intuition as source of information to make decisions it may feel a little…well unsophisticated or weird. That’s because its a little unsophisticated and weird at times.

Let me share a simple example. While farming I rarely met a piece of machinery that gave up its wounded/broken part freely “sans” skinned knuckles or a few harsh words. Oh, and things never breakdown when you aren’t using them so it never happens at a convenient time. And usually the part is in some inconvenient nearly impossible place to get to as well. You are in a hurry to get it fixed.

Consistently you had to soak things in WD40 or CRC to break rust’s fiendish grip on a nut, bolt, or broken bearing. By using some quick penetrating oil as part of the process you knew “intuitively” it would put the odds of a timely and successful repair in your favor; this just became intuition that was usually rewarded by the result you wanted. You had to be patient, let it soak in the “magic juice” and go do another task and come back a little later…it was quick penetrating oil, but not in 3 seconds.

Even with what my father called “magic juice” fully applied. Sometimes, things just got tight and nothing but shear brawn would loosen it. Enter my lesson of “purchase”. That seems like an old fashioned statement or concept now. Getting a better purchase on something in this context isn’t about a great buy on clothes. Its about gaining more leverage on something or getting a better grasp on a tool. Sometimes simply adding a length of pipe on the end of a wrench gave you the edge you needed.

Many business owners  struggle to gain a “purchase” (means a stronger grip combined with leverage) on what is really going on around them in work and life. I learned the meaning and the value of gaining more “purchase” from my Dad who lived and died a farmer. I’m a big guy with a lot strength and he showed me time and again he could out do me as a little German man, 40 years my elder. Use your brain and not your brawn may not have been invented by my Dad,  but he sure followed it as a maxim.

Now, I’m not going to tell you his hands didn’t bare the scars of hard-work or mistakes made from time to time. They were gnarled and vice-grip strong well into his late 70’s. He followed his intuition to wear leather gloves his whole life and it protected his hands many times. However, over time he adapted to new tools. We got a cutting torch to he at the broken piece or nuts that held it on. This was a great way to expand the item enough to loosen it or drive it off a shaft more easily. And sometimes your intuition told you that, you might as well cut it off with the torch first thing and run to town for a new part. In the end you just knew it was the best thing to do…even if it was going to take a little more time and money.

My dad was an adaptive leader, he loved new technology and cherished new farming methods, even though he grew up farming with horses and did so early in is marriage to my mom. Dad was a learner.  Here’s a poem I wrote about my dad… Bud (Weir) Uhlenberg.

Hard Hands

No rings or jewelry just hard and strong

Marred and scarred by farmer work

Bruised and broken

Healed while working

Earth and seed caressed

New born livestock helped into the world

Labored and beloved me

They held me gentle

Combed my hair and tied my tie

Squeezed my limbs with iron grip

Delivered discipline to make me mind

Always, always guiding

Held his “Love” while dancing

Turned a page to read adventure

Felt the faintest walleye bite

Connected to a heart softened by love

Held sacred music to praise his God

Greeted his Savior when he went home

©2011 The Heartwood Group, LLC

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A Father as Shepherd and Still Waters

To fathers on Father’s Day. Whether you follow Judeo-Christian principles or not there is a powerful metaphor for all fathers in the 23rd Psalm ? The idea that a father is a Shepherd. You are the Shepherd of your family and children. You need to keep watch over your family, especially in their growing up years. The Psalm is often read at funerals, but it is not a “song for the dead”! It is for the living.

The Psalm speaks of the essence of what a committed father, not just a father God,  should be for his children.  Here is a list of what I see being called out for us as fathers.

  • Leading and Meeting their needs
    • Green Pastures…our children should not want for love, nutrition, and direction. We must insist that they choose a rich environment to become an adult learner and responsible for not only their lives, but those less fortunate.
    • Still Waters…be a place where they can come to gain clarity and depth of being. With so much turmoil in the lives of children and growing up in today’s world…you may be the one place of solace and pause for reflection they get.
    • Restoration of the Soul…to help them heal  when their wounds are spiritual and deeply troubling times come upon them. Who better than a father to be a place of restoration and power.
    • Righteousness…to advocate for living from their values and taking a stand for what is good, right, and not always popular.
  • Protecting, Guiding, and Blessing their lives
    • Walking with them together through the shadowy and darker times. Don’t leave them when it counts most and don’t do it for them.
    • Your children are comforted to know that you have their best interests in mind…even when they don’t! They are comforted by your guiding hand that keeps them from potential harm. Your wisdom is needed and not appreciated sometimes until years later.
    • You must be a calming spirit when times are stressful take time to communicate and be available
    • Blessing your children with the abundance of confidence that can only come from a father who never, ever gives up on his children.
  • Attitude and Choice
    • Role model that you can choose how you will view your life. You can instill in your children that you will seek goodness and mercy regardless of life’s circumstances.
    • How you choose to spend your life and eternity is a powerful example to your children. It is more powerful than words. To dwell in the house of the Lord is a choice we all can make.

I hope you enjoyed a little different spin on this most well known Psalm written by David.  David was a man seeking after God’s heart even after all his shortcomings and accomplishments.

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