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November 2007
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December 2007

Getting Through The Giving Season

I once read of a woman who bought a hundred identical Christmas greeting cards during her frantic, last minute shopping.  Because of her haste, she did not take the time to read the contents of the cards, but instead signed and mailed all but one.  Many days later, she found the one remaining card on her desk and finally looked at the words she had sent.  She gasped while the card dropped to the floor.  She had sent this message:  “This card is just to say…a little gift is on the way.”

Getting through the giving season can be an extremely stressful task.  Yes, it is a wonderful time of year and the general attitude of good will and caring is a nice change of pace.  However, if we could tell the truth about giving, sometimes you can get tired of it.  I’ve heard people say, “I’m so tired of giving.  All I ever do is give.  Give, give, give.  It seems that is what everyone expects of me.  I’ve given so much, there just isn’t anymore to give!”

What are the causes of “Giving Exhaustion”?  Two, I know of specifically:

  1. Unrealistic expectations that others place upon you.
  2. Unrealistic expectations you have of your self.

When you live under the pressure of unrealistic expectations, you create an environment for distress!  Stress is a part of everyday life: but when magnified by those things we feel incapable of accomplishing we create distress.  The truth is we do the same thing to our employees.  The expectations that come with the Holiday season are not necessarily unrealistic, but when added to the current load of responsibilities your “Scrooge” begins to show.

How to Manage the Stress of the Holidays:

  • Plan for Peaceful Time.

The schedule can get way out of hand.  Things to do, stuff to buy, projects to finish before the year is over, and too many people to see.  Make some time in your calendar for yourself.  Block an hour or two each week for a chance to catch your breath.  Plan to listen to your favorite music, take a walk – whatever replenishes your peace of mind.

  • Prioritize the Expectations.

Take an inventory.  Focus on the holiday items that build character, family and community.  Give priority to the expectations that bring excellence to your relationships and lifestyle.  Make sure the workload truly reflects the most essential.  Then give yourself and your employee’s permission to celebrate the accomplishments of the year, as well as the giving season!

  • Remember What Has Been Given.

Express to your team members how much you appreciate all the effort that they have given through out the year.  Acknowledge that their unique gifts and talents are what help you succeed.

Leaders ViewPointe:

Great leaders are givers!  They are generous people who give others support, opportunities to grow, room to learn from their mistakes and encouragement to advance.  Don't look at what you can get from others, look for what you can give.  Their response to your example will be priceless!


Self Leadership

Leadership is not simply the task and responsibility of leading other people or setting the course for a groups success.  It must also include the determination and responsibility of self leadership.  A leader that expends all their time in the pursuit of leading others, building a company or creating a vision for a better future; and yet, spends no time in examining their own personal well being, will discover too late how off course they truly have become.  Great leadership must start with personal decisions and disciplines that keep the leader authentic, approachable and adventurous.

Step for a few moments into the musty cabin of your thoughts.  There on the desk is a brown leather book, the corners crumpled and smudged with the frequent thumbing of the pages.  Open it respectfully and read the hand scribbled notes on the first page.  The thoughts of self leadership...


"I am the captain of my own ship.  No one else can command her.  I am the only one responsible for this vessel.  I am the one who determines her ports of call, when she sails, and where.

Destinations vary.  Some are familiar.  Some are uncharted waters.  And a few are beyond the horizon. I choose the direction.  And once a destination or direction is chosen, I am the one who chooses to stay the course or divert.

No one is allowed on board without my permission.  No cargo may be stored without my clearance.

The condition of my ship -- it's cleanliness, repair, appearance and readiness is a direct result of my attention.

Morale on board my ship is directly related to my disposition and choices.  My "inner" crew, (the officers: mind, attitude and heart) take their lead from me.  If I am of a foul mood and run aground in poor attitude, they begin to reflect that spirit.  However, if I am of good spirit (full sail and flags flying), they rally together for the greatest adventure - in spite of the odds or conditions.

I am the captain of my own ship.  I am in command or I am not.  And if I am not, than my ship is subject to all kinds of influences: impostors, scoundrels, negative men, winds of pessimism, torrents of undisciplined thoughts, breakers of unproven and impatient people, and unfit cargo pirated aboard.  All that which weighs a ship down.  A ship like that eventually sinks or is left tattered and weathered beyond recognition.

I am the captain of my own ship.  I set the course.  Today, I choose to set sail for new lands.  Welcome aboard!


Reflection: How Leaders See Reality

Reflection.  Intriguing word.  What is the implication? 

To reflect is to observe the “image” of reality.  A mountain lake reflects the image of the sky, mountains, and trees.  The moon reflects the light of the sun.  A mirror reflects the image of whatever is near.

Reflection, as a personal intellectual exercise, is to observe what is perceived as our reality.  It is looking closer and noticing, with intentional care, the truth of what exists in our life.

Intentional Leaders regularly take the time to reflect on what is near:

  • their priorities and time management,
  • the morale of the employees,
  • the satisfaction of the customer,
  • the financials,
  • and even mistakes made along the way. 

This information gives them insight for better decision-making and for taking responsibility.

Poor leaders are more concerned with their “image” and spend little time in personal reflection exploring how their actions and interactions impact the eventual outcomes.  Taking time to reflect is perceived as a waste of time, because they couldn’t possibly need to improve; besides, all of the problems are really someone else’s fault.

Ineffective Reflection is looking only at the perceived image or our interpretation of the truth.  This leads to poor decisions; or worse yet, a false sense of contentment that leads to complacency. Effective Reflection allows us to consider the validity of perceptions (our own and others).  It allows us time to learn from the journey, the mistakes and the right actions.  And times of reflection give us a “ViewPointe” in which to look for new opportunities.

One point of caution: if we spend all of our time observing the reflection, we will miss the majesty of the real thing.  What a shame it would be to hike through the mountains to a glacial lake only to look at the reflection and never look up to see the mountain itself!

Take some time this week for some personal reflection.  Are you on the right path for developing others?  Are you on track with your career goals?  What's working and what needs to change?

Take some time this week for a "team-development" reflection.  Facilitate a discussion with those you lead and find out what they perceive.  The discussion could be very empowering and improve the overall focus.