Don’t Hey Me!

Oh, the lessons I continue to discover thanks to my adopted pup Louie. While we’ve learned a tremendous amount and understand each other’s idiosyncrasies, there are a few behaviors of his that still puzzle me.

For example, I never know which humans he will growl at or who will get a tail wag from him. Since being together for over three years, I’ve concluded there is no rhyme or reason to his selection process. And then it hit me one morning as I was going through the avalanche of messages I received while being out of the office for a few days. Quite a few were from people I didn’t know from companies I wasn’t familiar with.

We’ve all received emails, voice mails, or LinkedIn messages with the greeting of HEY [Insert your name here]! It’s not the “Hey, Danise” that irks me; it’s the fact that I don’t know these people, and yet they act like we’re good buddies. As they continue their message, I start mentally clicking through my contacts trying to recall a chance meeting we may have had. By the message I received, you would think we were long lost friends. It is a marketing tactic that is running rampant in today’s social media world of superficial relationships.

It may just be me, but this tactic shuts down any possibility of that person being heard because I have a belief that the messenger, though he or she may have great information, is probably not being authentic. While I am perfectly okay with people using informal greetings, I am not okay with people acting like they know me when we’ve never connected.

Louie is no different. When someone he does not know approaches him, talks sweet, and acts like they are friends, he becomes very leery of them. Children are the only exception to his rule. Granted, Louie is cute, and everyone wants to talk to him. But if he doesn’t know them and senses something uncomfortable about them, he will lower his head and step to the side as if to move out of their reach. If that doesn’t work, he will back up and bark at them.

His message is clear . . . Don’t act like you know me when you don’t!

I learned this lesson the hard way over twenty-five years ago. The medical imaging equipment company I worked for acquired a small but very technically advanced company. Along with that acquisition came a regional manager, Joe, who became my boss. Joe recommended that I connect with a friend of his, Wendell, at a hospital in Louisville. I called Wendell on his private line, and he picked up on the first ring with a very gruff, “Hello!”

I cleared my throat, and in my perky salesgirl voice, I said, “Hi, Wendell. This is Danise DiStasi. Joe Hartzog suggested that I reach out to you. How are you today?”

“Fine!”

I cleared my throat a second time. “Great. Well, Wendell, I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll—”

“Excuse me, young lady! Do I know you?”

“Hmmm, well, uh, I don’t believe we’ve met, have we? I think we may only know each other through Joe.”

“I don’t know you at all. Why do you think you can call me by my first name? I’d prefer to be addressed as Dr. Tyson.”

Needless to say, there were a few awkward moments after that announcement, and the recovery was tough. But I understood Dr. Tyson loud and clear. My boss, Joe, never addressed him as Dr. Tyson, only Wendell. I assumed it was okay for me to address him that way as well, even though we had never met. This was a classic case of being ill-prepared. And Dr. Tyson saw right through me. He didn’t know me, and me thinking that I had an “in” was not going to work with him.

While we may prefer to be immediately relational, what must come first is authenticity, which goes a long way with Louie and with humans. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to people being who they “say” they are, but we humans have to work a bit harder to figure out who people really are. The tactic of someone acting like they know us defies our basic human need of wanting to be truly known and, even deeper, to be known and loved. The superficiality of today is leaving a relational void in so many people’s lives.

I believe it is best to be authentic in every aspect of your life. Brené Brown talks about this in her famous TED Talk about the power of vulnerability. The people she studied who seemed to have a strong sense of love and belonging shared these three things:

  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Authenticity

In her words, “These folks had the courage to be imperfect. They had a connection as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are.”

What you see is what you get when you connect with Louie: No pretenses, no games—just the real deal. He expects that in return from the humans he comes in contact with, and he is confused when he senses otherwise. Thanks to Louie, I have learned to let go of who I thought I should be in order to be who I really am.

*********************

Louie had to say goodbye to his lifelong buddy, Sampson, this weekend. Sammy was a great pal to Louie and was the real deal. We will always remember the fun walks and visits we had with him. Louie will miss seeing and playing with him, as will everyone in our neighborhood. Run and jump, little Sampson. You’re bound by nothing that will ever hold you back from being the fun-loving pup you were created to be.

Has Leadership Gone to the Dogs?

lou-as-prezThe subject line might offend Louie. In fact, it might offend you as well. But let’s face it—in the heat of the recent political battle, many of us are shaking our heads while trying to understand what just happened. One thing I do know is that disrespect for people with differing opinions is at an all-time high.

The rude rhetoric on all sides of the political spectrum gave me pause and made me think of Louie and some of his not-so-friendly foes. I am convinced that if people were to act the way our pets do, we would all get along better. For example, sometimes Louie might see a dog that challenges him. The two will snarl and growl and perhaps even bark at each other. However, the minute we walk side by side with the dog and its owner, they seem to get along. There is something about being intentional and walking alongside someone you have a disagreement with.

Louie has done this with my niece’s dog, Buddy. Those two little boys will scrunch their noses, curl their lips, show their teeth, stand their hair up, and bark in such a high pitch that people turn their heads with a look of concern. Andrea laughs, assuring everyone in sight that the dogs are actually cousins and are fine with each other. It sure doesn’t seem like it when they are img_4896facing one another. However, as soon as we start walking, they are fine together.

Louie also behaves this way with rambunctious Claire, his other cousin Noli, his neighbor Snickers, and a new boxer in the community named Socks. What is it about being side by side with their supposed nemesis? I think there are several things:

  • It is less threatening.
  • They are on equal ground.
  • They see the same vision of what lies ahead.
  • They walk with the same pace.
  • It is easier to carry the other’s burden. (Okay, this one relates to humans, not Louie.)

What if some of our leaders were intentional about walking side by side instead of duking it out? I am reminded of an article I wrote in 2005 when I worked with Ken Blanchard titled “Leading with Your Heart Takes Humility.” Although it was written over eleven years ago, the premise holds true today: Humility is the key to excelling in leadership. And servant leaders are humble enough to walk beside someone they disagree with.

I won’t share the full article here (you can find it at this link), but here are some of the highlights:

  • Something is glaringly missing from leadership today. Sadly, many leadership programs are missing just one key ingredient: the heart. Not just the heart of the issue or the heart of the matter—the heart of the people.
  • What gets in your way? What truly is your motive for being a leader or wanting to lead others? Is it for selfish gain or to better others?
  • Many times, our ego gets in the way and what bubbles up out of our hearts are things like pride, selfishness, and even fear.
  • How can you push past what holds you back? In getting past the barriers, is the challenge as a leader to balance confidence with humility to fight ego issues? Ken Blanchard often uses the quote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” Every time you make a leadership decision, are you thinking of yourself or others?
  • Confidence does not come from being in a dominant position and leading by intimidation. Doing this will cause you to lose respect from others, and any talk about values or integrity will be ignored. Humility, however, is not something they teach us in business schools. It is a character trait that is honed over time with truth and love.

img_4750Our businesses, organizations, and families are hungry for leadership coupled with humility. It takes commitment to make the necessary changes to have a healthy culture and humble leaders.

Perhaps our world could learn a lesson from Louie about being intentional and walking side by side with others rather than snarling at them. While Louie doesn’t understand humility, his actions speak louder than his woof. He is more than willing to walk alongside others. As I watch his actions, I am convinced that we humans have much to learn from our dogs.

 

 

Louie’s newest revision is now available. Click on the book to order.

Click here to sign up for Louie’s email distribution!

He’s Back With A Unique Leadership Model

We hope you enjoyed your summer. In celebration of the 3rd anniversary of Louie’s adoption, we decided to to do an extended blog, introducing our LOUIE leadership model.

Our story began three years ago in the rolling hills of Boyd County, Kentucky—a place I never knew existed. It’s your typical love story: boy meets girl, boy woos girl with his charming ways and big brown eyes, girl is swept off her feet, and they fall in love and live happily ever after. Except in this story, the boy is an adopted puppy named Louie.

Although I have a tremendous amount of leadership experience, I never truly understood leadership until I met this little guy.

13047878_630636390418399_5224341423472476065_o

Our blog, and my soon-to-be-released third book, Louie’s Leadership Lessons, are compilations of time-tested leadership models, heart-warming stories of courage and love, and techniques for overcoming common issues such as pride, fear, and doubt—all illustrated by eye-opening experiences with my rescue dog. The time I spent with him and his trainer was life changing.

This extended blog is the introduction to our new book and contains nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned over the decades about leadership and the gift of relationships with a fresh perspective renewed by Louie’s point of view.

I have distilled all Louie has taught me into a leadership model that is easy to remember and easy to follow. When you have a leadership dilemma, ask yourself, “What would Louie do?” The answer is in his name: LOUIE.

Love

Louie was either lost or abandoned in Kentucky and made his way to Cincinnati, where I live, through a number of shelters. Although I love dogs, I had decided not to get another one for many reasons—that is, until I just happened to stop by PetSmart while they were conducting an adopt-a-pet weekend and encountered this abandoned mutt with big brown. I tossed my concerns aside, brought him home, and named him Louie DiStasi. I soon discovered that Louie had brought a lot of emotional baggage to the relationship. He demonstrated behaviors that deeply concerned me, and I engaged a dog trainer to help address them. I quickly realized I needed training as much as Louie did, if not more so.

I’m not afraid of tough lessons, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my leadership skills. But working with Louie was challenging. The bottom line was that Louie needed acceptance, consistency, discipline, and—above all—unconditional love. I wasn’t sure I was equipped to provide all that.

When I first met Louie, he was very sweet and subdued in his crate. Several hours after we arrived home, he became much more active. I loved Louie when he was a good little dog, but I didn’t love him so much when he started to act out and behaved badly when people came to the door, etc. It was a struggle, and I had to make a choice to love him. I decided to commit to loving this abandoned pup, in spite of his baggage.

Employees can be like Louie. They bring a lot of baggage to the job and may be hard to love at times. One of the most critical needs for any human being is the need to feel loved. All of us have this innate desire, yet it is one of the most difficult to fulfill. C. S. Lewis said it best:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Love is not merely a warm fuzzy feeling; love in action is the aspect that is important in leadership. When I mention the word “love” in the workplace, I receive a tremendous amount of pushback. People say, “Don’t bring it up; you’ll have HR issues.” I question whether people understand what love really means.

While employees can be hard to love at times (maybe most of the time), it is still your choice to love or be indifferent toward them. Let’s look at the characteristics of leaders who love:

  • They are patient.
  • They are kind.
  • They honor other people.
  • They are honest.
  • They are protective.
  • They are trustworthy.
  • They are always hopeful.
  • They persevere through difficult situations.
  • They are other seeking and other serving.
  • They manage their emotions well.

Of course, there are also things that they are not:

  • They aren’t envious.
  • They aren’t boastful.
  • They aren’t prideful.
  • They don’t keep records of wrongs.

The characteristics of loving leaders are those that leaders should display when they are working with their people—baggage and all. That’s what love in action looks like.

Servant leaders are those who display the characteristics above. They are humble enough to serve and strong enough to lead.

Objectives and Goals

The next thing I learned in the course of training Louie was that, as a leader, I needed clear objectives and plans for how to achieve them. This is true with our teams at work, as well. Objectives must be clear and specific. They have to be trackable. They have to be relevant. They have to be attainable and motivating.

I engaged a trainer who taught me that my first goal in this journey with Louie was to establish my role as leader. Yep—I actually had to learn how to be Louie’s alpha. I wrongly assumed he would know I was in charge because I’m bigger than him, I own the house, I pay for the meals. Assuming is a mistake many leaders make. Throughout our blog, you’ll read the importance of objectives and goals with each lesson I learned through Louie.

Understanding

Another lesson I learned was to truly understand that Louie had “stuff” in his background. Fear and anxiety issues were at the top of the list. These may have come from abandonment or abuse—it’s hard to say. But it is not unlike everyone we meet, whether he or she is on our team, or just a person whose path we crossed in the grocery store. Every human being needs to feel loved and valued. It is our innermost need, and it was this little dog’s need as well. He had never had a sense of being valued in his life, and he needed to know that someone cared about him. I had to understand Louie’s struggles to love him, which would enable me to set clear objectives and goals for our journey together. I needed to understand Louie’s issues. It wasn’t easy to get past some of them. They were real and profound.

As leaders, we need to take the time to understand our people. We need to realize that there’s always something about a person’s circumstances that we don’t know, and before we judge people, we need to try to understand them.

When you run into an issue with someone and your first inclination is to become upset, try the PAWS method to help you analyze the situation before doing something you may regret:

  1. Pause…breathe! Allow oxygen to get to your brain.
  2. Ask the person questions: “What’s going on?” “Can you tell me more?” “Help me understand.” “Is everything OK?” Ask yourself questions: “Why does this aggravate me?”
  3. Use wisdom. Choose your words wisely. I would much rather have people feel uncomfortable waiting for me to find the right words than I ever would with words that could be hurtful.
  4. Seek to understand. Once you pause, ask questions, and choose your words wisely, you will naturally seek to understand. Remember, everyone has “stuff” in his or her backgrounds. And so do you!

As leaders, we need to make an effort to understand. Take time to understand your people and avoid making assumptions. Throughout this blog, there are many lessons relating to how I learned to understand Louie, who could not verbally communicate with me. These lessons will help you understand how others communicate and process ideas differently than you do—and that’s OK.

Investment

I then learned to invest my time and talent into developing Louie. We should ask ourselves, “How much time do we invest in our teams? Our families? Our friends?” Take the time to get to know people and invest in them.

1st-nightThis picture breaks my heart. This is Louie the first night he came home with me. He curled up in the corner, scared and alone. I put a pillow next to him to provide some comfort. Louie now sleeps in a very open bed in my bedroom because he feels safe with me, and I with him. I chose to invest a tremendous amount of time in Louie so that he could learn to trust and love me. It took time. Everything takes time. You cannot go wrong by investing your time getting to know people. Take them out to lunch. Ask them questions. This point relates back to understanding. It links to feeling valued, and it relates to feeling loved. Take time to gather information. You never know what you can uncover when you give your time.

There are many suggestions for, and examples of, investing in others throughout our blog. Get to know people, spend time with them, share your talents and your skill set; put effort into your relationships with people because you want to give without receiving anything in return. I can guarantee that if you are a leader, and you do this, your team will be more productive, creative, and effective. It is the foundation for a healthy culture. Invest your time.

Empowerment

The last step in my leadership training with Louie was to empower him. Empowering your team is essential, but it’s not simply letting people do whatever they want to do. Empowering is taking the time to love them and establishing clear objectives and goals. It is understanding them, and investing in them. Once you do these things, your people will be empowered to use their gifts and talents to do their jobs; and in doing so, you empower them to be the people God created them to be—not who you think they should be. They will be loved and valued.

Louie is an entirely different dog today because I love him. I took the time to set up a development plan and was clear about objectives and goals for him to be a good, healthy dog and for us to enjoy a relationship together. I had to understand his needs. I had to understand his background. I had to figure out what was going on with him. I invested time, my skill set, and other people’s skill sets to help develop him. He is empowered to be a fun-loving, free little dog.

My work with Louie is not unlike leading our teams. Transformation occurs when we apply the LOUIE leadership model: Love, Objectives, Understanding, Investment, and Empowerment, as well as the PAWS model: Pause, Ask, Wisdom, and Seek. Throughout Louie’s Leadership Lessons, you will see more examples of these two models wrapped in stories of love, struggles, and immense joy.

While it brings me great pleasure to know that Louie is a transformed dog, I am the one who has been profoundly changed into a better leader because of the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences with him. We look forward to continuing our journey with you through our blog.

Sign up for Louie’s mailing list. 

NEW email sig

 

Louie, Your Reputation Precedes You

IMG_3098If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know Louie has a habit of whining when he sees his pals. You can hear him all the way down the street. People will turn and wait as Louie’s whines get louder and his tail wags faster. He’ll run towards the person or one of his furry friends. He excitedly greets them and then BOOM! He’s on to the next friend.

People know he’s going to do that to them. They watch him run and hear his excitement and after a few doggie sniffs he quickly moves on. My neighbors fully expect him to behave this way because they’ve witnessed this so many times. And now it’s the talk of the neighborhood…how snooty little Louie DiStasi can be.

I make excuses and justify his behavior by saying things like, “He’s very focused on his walk,” or “Don’t take it personal, he’s anxious to keep moving.” It is obvious his reputation clearly precedes him as we walk through the neighborhood.

This behavior has me ponder the importance of our reputations. It is much harder to build a reputation than to destroy it. Building a good reputation requires patience, solid values, intentionality and time. Destroying a good reputation only requires a single moment’s mistake. To build a good reputation, be a person who is worthy of one. Demonstrate the characteristics you want others to associate with you.

I had the honor and pleasure to work with Ken Blanchard in early 2000. During a Lead Like Jesus workshop in 2001, he shared a memorable exercise that left an indelible imprint on my mind and heart.

Ken told a story about Swedish chemist Alfred Bernhard Nobel, who invented dynamite in 1866 and became rich. Nobel was as interested in drama and poetry as he was in chemistry and physics, but it was in the sciences that he made his fame, and by the time of his death he held more than 350 patents and controlled factories and labs in 20 countries.

When Alfred Nobel’s brother died a newspaper mistakenly published an obituary of Alfred that emphasized the fact that he had invented things that blew up and killed people. Nobel, not wanting to be remembered in that way, pledged his wealth toward the betterment of humanity. In his will he directed the establishment of a foundation to award annual prizes for achievement in chemistry, physics, literature, and efforts toward international peace, which is known as the Nobel Prize. This award is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the world and includes a cash prize of nearly one million dollars.

Ken asked,What do you want your obituary to say about you?” He had the participants write out their thoughts. And then he asked, “What do you have to do today to be the person you want to be remembered as?”

That exercise had a profound effect on me then and still does today. I don’t want to be gone and people have to drum up something about me being a compassionate and deeply caring person. I commit to living out those characteristics today.

I encourage you to do the exercise Ken has had so many people around the world engage in doing: write your own obituary. Take time to figure out how you want to be remembered and then commit to being that person today!

As for Louie, it may be too late. It seems his reputation precedes him and not in a good way. We’ll have to continue to work on his relational skills and how he engages with others. Stay tuned!

**Louie and I hope you and your family will join us in remembering the countless men and women who have fought for our country. Give thanks for those who have given their lives and always thank a veteran and those currently serving!**

Click the image for information on how to order Louie's Leadership Lessons

Click the image for information on how to order Louie’s Leadership Lessons

 

NEW email sig

Email DiStasi Advisors, click on our card

Louie Is A Creature Of Habit

Louie is such a creature of habit. He sleeps until I awake, then he jumps on the bed when I call him for morning snuggles, after which he heads down to the kitchen for his breakfast, back up stairs to watch out the window, then goes on a walk after I’ve showered and dressed, (this is all before 7a.m.). His days are mixed with whatever my schedule includes. Sometimes that IMG_2731means long walks, a visit to the park, or visits with the grandpups (Evi and Mea). Other times are spent in his cozy crate (whether I’m home working or out) and an afternoon walk with Sully. He has dinner, then an evening walk and play time, and he’s off to bed at 8:30 p.m.…no matter what is going on in my home.

I’ll change our walking pattern and even then he will stand at the crossroad and wait to see what direction I’ll go in and then happily trots off in that direction. His habits make him feel comfortable. And given his past, I am happy to accommodate him.

I have to laugh when I watch his quirky little ways. I am reminded of a story I heard long ago from Zig Zigler. A young bride was cooking dinner for her husband. He watched her carefully season the roast and then proceed to cut off one end, and then the other end. He asked his wife why she cut off the ends of the roast. She replied that her mother had always done it that way and that was reason enough for her. Since the wife’s mother was visiting, they asked her why she always cut off the end of the roast. Mother replied that this was the way her mother did it. Mother, daughter and son-in-law then decided to call grandmother and solve this three-generation mystery. Grandmother promptly replied that she cut the end of the roast because her roaster was too small to cook it in one piece.

We do things a certain way because we’ve always done them that way and, quite honestly, we’re comfortable with that. But is that always the best way? Not necessarily. Regardless of who originally penned this saying, whether Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, or perhaps Mark Twain, these words still ring true today: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” Many work environments today are stuck in the “We’ve always done it that way,” syndrome with no end in sight.

History and tradition are necessary for a rich working environment where people learn how the business started and how it hasIMG_3446 grown. And many processes are in place because of the hours put into finding just the right workflow. However, many ideas are tossed to the wayside because a leader or leaders cannot see that though something might have worked in the past, there are possibilities to make a change for the better going forward. Even worse, sometimes our prejudices are based on “We’ve always [voted, practiced, treated people] that way” in the past and we’re not self aware enough to break out of that thinking.

The key to breaking through this barrier is TRUST! When I challenge Louie to do things a different way, he trusts me enough to comply. He may look at me as if to say, “Are you sure?” or “Is this the way, really?” But he carries on because he trusts me.

If leaders are secure in their roles and they exude trust with their team and vice versa, the culture breeds openness and spontaneity of new ideas. The next time there’s even a hint of We’ve Always Done It This Way (WADITW), carefully consider the following steps:

  1. STOP before saying another word and take a deep breath!
  2. ASK a question that begins with, “What if…”
  3. LEADER, remain quiet and listen.
  4. BRAINSTORM, write down all the ideas on a white board. Give people ample time to ponder and discuss.
  5. REVIEW all possibilities and decide on a path of growth together. You may decide the way you’ve done it IS the best way at this point, but at least you’ll have more buy in.
  6. ACCOUNTABILITY is the key to keeping trust alive and follow through on getting things done.

I know this takes time and effort, but the loss of creativity and teamwork has a much greater cost on productivity, efficiency and profitability for the organization as a whole. Breaking through the barrier of WADITW is freeing and breeds a culture of trust, thereby increasing engagement.

While Louie likes his comfortable habits, he also exudes excitement when I change things up for him. He can sense my enthusiasm, and he trusts that whatever adventure I am willing to go on, will be good for him.

Click the image for information on how to order Louie's Leadership Lessons

Click the image for information on how to order Louie’s Leadership Lessons

 

NEW email sig

Are You Doing What You’ve Been Created To Do?

IMG_3252A few weeks ago during a beautiful, spring-like day, Louie and I took a long, quick-paced walk. As we headed into the homestretch, we slowed, and Louie stopped to investigate a grassy area. Suddenly he took three hops and then pounced on a tunnel that clearly contained a live mole running for its life just a few inches underground.

Louie was unstoppable. With his long snout he dug, snorted, clawed, and tore away chunks of grass. I was amazed as I watched him and could only imagine the mole’s heart racing as it made its way under a fence to safety. Louie made it clear that no mole is safe in his neighborhood. And with that he turned, puffed out his chest, and pranced away.

I’ve never seen Louie hop, but the bounce in his step and the sheer determination in his hot pursuit of the mole made me smile. Rather than walk away in defeat, he strutted off knowing he did exactly what he was created to do—hunt moles.

As we walked I wondered about being created for a purpose. Louie instinctively knows to track a scent, and nothing deters him once he is on one. But what about you as a leader or those you lead? Are you doing what you were created to do? Are you providing the environment for your direct reports to do what they’ve been created to do? Very few people do, and you immediately recognize those who are: the speaker who captivates you till the end, the author who unlocks a truth deep within, the woodworker who takes your breath away with his talent, the businesswoman who builds a relationship while providing the exact solution needed, and the teacher who watches another class graduate.

Yet so many times people are placed in roles because a function needs to be filled. The frustration builds when a particular position is not at all what that person was designed to do. For instance, a company just lost its vice president of sales. The organization already has a successful account manager, and due to budget and time constraints, management decides to promote this employee into the role. It is unlikely that the account manager will be successful because he or she may not be a hunter or is uncomfortable going after a deal. Most account managers prefer to nurture accounts, follow a process, and assist customers with their experience. As a result, sales will suffer and the new vice president, once thriving and successful, will suffer as well.

Once we recognize that we aren’t doing what we were created to do, we may feel a prolonged level of dissatisfaction. That’s when it is time to take stock and make changes:

  • Listen to your gut. We’ve heard that intuition or following our heart gets us into trouble, but most of the time, there is a reason for that gnawing feeling that something is just not right. Listen to it and investigate; dig around to find out what’s causing these feelings.
  • Listen to and watch others. I remember the movie Chariots of Fire, about the Olympic runner Eric Liddell, who explains to his sister, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” As you see others light up and recognize their purpose, take note of the times you have felt a high level of energy when you were doing a certain task.
  • Passion is another way to understand what you were created for. There are certain issues that fire you up. Even as you read this, you can think of one or two. Take the necessary next step to get involved in such causes. Don’t let the uncertainty of the second step keep you from taking the first step.*
  • What are you gifted in? What do people ask you for help with? What drains you, and what gives you energy? Recognize that the life-giving activities are the ones you were created to do.

The good news is that we were all created for a purpose, and we all have different purposes. Once we understand what we are created for, life becomes so much more rewarding. Imagine yourself as a leader helping those around you find their purpose.

Be aware-not everyone will appreciate your purpose or calling. I’ve blogged about the dream slayers in our lives. This is very similar. There are people who would rather have mole tunnels and rows of dead grass in their yard than a hound dog burrowing his nose in the ground. I recently gave a speech and challenged people to assess the lies in their life that cause them to hide behind a façade. Not everyone wants to face that challenge. I’ve been called to help women be strong, bold and humble without being pushy, rude or weak. Achieving that balance means first addressing the lie that knocked us off kilter.

As for my little buddy Louie—he is not a retriever; he’s a hunter. He is in his element when he hunts moles. He can pick up the scent of a mole several yards away. Although I am really proud of his ability to scare them away, I don’t want to know what on earth he will do if he actually catches one. Stay tuned!

* Henry Blackaby

Out, damned mole! Out, I say!

 

8 1 15 book cover

NEW email sig

Be Present

Lou and EllieConfession time…I’m a multi-tasker and have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. In fact, I was one of those kids who received the checked box next to the comment, “Does not concentrate on task at hand,” on almost every report card throughout grade school.

To this day, I justify my struggle with focus by saying I am a very creative person and I need to live experientially and savor the richness of the world around me in order to be a better writer. However, I understood very early in life that if I did not learn to focus I would be in trouble. The only nun who was impressed with my creativity was my English composition teacher.  The others—not so much. So I became very intentional about focus and it has paid off.

Which brings us to Louie, who shares my struggle with focus. I recently shared with our trainer that he seems a bit skittish when I walk him in the dark and he has a hard time focusing on what he needs to do while we’re outside. The trainer reminded me that I am alpha, which means confidently leading Louie in a way that is fun and gives him safe freedom to do his thing, despite the darkness.

One beautiful morning, right before dawn, we walked a little further than normal and were moving at a pretty good clip. Since there was no one else around to whom Louie could react, I decided to check emails on my phone. In a flash, Louie jerked to the left, my phone went flying and three large creatures ran in front of us. They were harmless deer but they definitively startled Louie—and me. The deer moved on but it was a few minutes before my heart stopped racing and Louie settled down. As I picked up my phone, I had to shake my head…I know better than to check email, walk the dog, and pay attention to my surroundings simultaneously. Walking Louie only takes a small chunk of time each day, and he deserves my undivided attention—especially when we’re walking in the dark.

And so it is with our teams, loved ones, friends, and people in general. Yet, we pay so little attention to others and rarely give them our focus and undivided attention. We sit in restaurants on our phones, checking Facebook or seeing if we received that “important” text or email. If we are attentive, it is usually because we want to get our point across as soon as that person stops talking. Let’s face it; sometimes it’s easier to carry on “virtual” conversations than it is to fully engage in real ones.

There is no greater gift we can give someone than to be fully present. People long to be known and understood. And the best way to know someone is to intentionally focus on what they are saying by not only hearing their words but also hearing their heart. It takes time and effort to truly “hear” people, yet it is the best way to demonstrate that you value and honor them.

At the time of this writing, we were celebrating Christmas. What better time to practice being fully present with whomever you’re with. Take some time to truly focus on those around you and whom you spend time with. Be intentional, put down your phone, step away from the technological noise and listen to their words and pay attention to what their hearts might be saying. We’ve been given the best gift humanly possible through the birth of Christ. He modeled how to connect deeply with others. I once heard Willow Creek Community Church Founder Bill Hybels said. “You will never lock eyes with someone who does not matter to God.” I often remind myself of that as I sit across the table from someone, walk through Findlay Market, or take Louie on a walk and say hello to neighbors I only see occasionally throughout the winter months. I am intentional about locking eyes with others not because I learned this in a business course or from the latest new leadership guru, but because people matter to God and therefore matter to me!

The best present you can give to others is to be present with them.

8 1 15 book cover

SAFE AND SOUND; The Key is Consistency

Dreamin'We usually express a deep sigh of relief when we hear the words “safe and sound” from a loved one.  The term is actually a Naval insurance term. Whenever a ship returned from a journey overseas, if everyone were ‘safe’ it meant there were no injuries or deaths. The ship was ‘sound’ if it had not suffered serious damage. So it is with Louie.

When Louie settles in for the night, I love on him, and invariably I hear his “safe and sound” sigh. His being content and safe is largely due to my consistent loving and firm behavior. He never has to guess how I am going to respond. He has learned that a certain behavior from him will evoke a certain response from me. I don’t let bad behavior persist and then pounce on him. I am consistent with his discipline and even more so with his rewards. Because of this, he feels safe and is responding very positively to his new environment.

Consistency doesn’t mean we are robotic. Louie loves variety and enjoys a new adventure or a new path to walk. And the point isn’t simply to be consistent. Anyone can be consistently bad! The point is to be consistently good. For the sake of this book, let’s stick with the good; my consistent behavior should always move Louie toward being a happier dog who loves his mama and his home! And so our leadership behaviors must be consistently moving our team toward having more trust, being more creative, experiencing contentment, and being more productive.

It is next to impossible to trust an inconsistent leader. Their employees continually walk on eggshells because they never know if something is done perfectly, or if their very best effort will ever be good enough. An inconsistent leader may preach values but proceed to gossip about someone. Consistently excellent leadership behaviors promote a safe work environment.

I can certainly look back over the years and recognize that my own inconsistent behavior made it very difficult for people to be around me, much less for them to be content, happy, creative and productive employees. I’ve also had a number of bosses who were very inconsistent with their behaviors. The mood was always, “do your job, keep your head down and don’t do anything to rock the boat.” On the contrary, consistent behavior that builds trust means remembering the following:

1. Be who you say you are. People want to see you live the values you talk about.

2. Being inconsistent does not necessarily show up in an explosive temperament. Inconsistency can also be demonstrated through passive aggressive behavior.

3. Be open to change. A safe person is not afraid of constructive feedback. Model a willingness to work on your weaknesses. Your team just might follow your example.

4. Be open and transparent. When we are guarded, people suspect we have something to hide. On the other hand, don’t go overboard on sharing personal data in an effort to prove you don’t have anything to hide! Be genuine and discerning.

5. Have fun…lighten up, be consistently joyful.

We demonstrate love by being consistently loving. Louie is learning that when I leave, I’ll be back; when I say let’s go for a walk, I head for the door; and when the babies are around and I move into my Nonna role, he knows to watch over them as well.

Click the image for information on how to order Louie's Leadership Lessons

Click the image for information on how to order Louie’s Leadership Lessons

Courage Often Masks Fear And Pride

Dreamin'If you’ve read this blog since the beginning you know the issues I’ve had with Louie, my adopted pup, and how fearful he can be. I’ve learned many valuable lessons from our trainer, Zig, but one in particular continues to make an impact on us. Zig shared that Louie puts on an act of bravado by growling and barking because he’s masking how fearful he actually is. “You don’t want him to act out in fear because that can be very dangerous,” said Zig. “You can never be sure what a fearful dog might do.”

I recently reflected on this wisdom Zig offered more than two years ago. After an intense amount of work on building Louie’s trust in me and in others, his fear has all but subsided (except for a chance confrontation with a cat or someone new at my door). Occasionally, I see a fearful reaction arise and in a second, if he can’t run (which is his first choice), he turns into a fierce dog. But just as quickly, with one command from me, he leaves it and moves on.

What is it about fear that causes such strong reactions? Sometimes, we are afraid of something and in a second, we make a rash decision to lash out or run. Sometimes sheer determination can look like courage when in reality, we are aggressively masking our fear.

Police officers, firefighters, and other emergency personnel know what it’s like to make split second decisions that override their fears. Their training has prepared them to act in the best interests of others despite how they feel inside because lives are at stake.

But what about the times when fear drives us to make a split second decision that is not in the best interests of us or others? Many times fear and pride go hand in hand and it becomes a vicious cycle. Fear of losing jobs, relationships, social status, leadership, or influence can drive us to make ourselves look better on the outside and attempt to make others smaller by comparison.

I thought about this crazy cycle as I watched the Bengals loss of the playoff game. Was it the fumble or the two plays at the end, or the penalty flags thrown? Or was it the vicious cycle of fear and pride?

I’m not a football strategist and talking football is a far stretch from dealing with little Louie and his fears, but everyone in leadership can learn lessons about dealing with fear and pride. Fear itself isn’t necessarily wrong – it’s a sign that we could be in danger and need to take the necessary physical or emotional precautions. And certainly we can take pride in a job well done. But when fear is unfounded and pride is rooted in self-centeredness, the perfect storm develops and the vicious cycle begins. Sadly, the consequences can have an ongoing ripple effect as we witnessed during the playoff game.

We need to choose our mode of operation before we find ourselves in situations where we might become fearful and reactionary. Firefighters and Police Officers are well trained prior to facing the dangers of their jobs. We would all do well to spend a little time assessing our fears, examining the issues that could cause us to operate out of self-centered pride, and identifying steps we can take to eliminate a knee-jerk reaction. Though I still have a long way to go, I’ve learned to stop for a moment before responding because that brief moment might prevent a negative reaction I may later regret. A “Help me Jesus,” is never a bad idea either!

As for Louie, I think he acts tough not only out of fear but also out of his love for and desire to protect me. He has learned to control it because when I give a command, he listens. Somewhere behind those big brown eyes, he knows I love him and will always protect him.

**********

Let me know what you think of Louie’s assessment of fear and pride: danise@di-advisors.com

8 1 15 book cover

e-mail_signature-2

Sharing A Special Memory From Louie

IMG_2717I love this time of year for many reasons. It is a wonderful time to celebrate life, enjoy relationships, and look forward to a new year, which could mean a new “do over” if we felt the past year was tough. I especially enjoy taking time to reflect on what I would change and how I will strive to be a better person next year.

Added in the mix this year is my love for my crazy dog, Louie! We’ve been together for three years now. I look at him and wonder what our lives would have been like had we not met. We still have a lot of work to do together, but I believe he is so much better off today than he was this time three years. I’m growing too, thanks to Louie.

I am also reminded of the relationships I no longer have. Louie would not be with me if I still had my sweet little Bichon, Cece. And what would life be like if my mom and dad were still alive to see MY grandchildren? Both my parents have been gone 20+ years, yet I still miss them and remember clearly the Christmases we shared.

Our little Cape Cod home nestled in a suburban cul-de-sac brimmed with energy for weeks, beginning with Christmas Eve. We would have a large celebratory meal and all eight of us would pile into the Edsel to go midnight mass. Afterwards, family and friends would come to our home while we kids were hustled off to bed so we wouldn’t “delay” Santa.

We would awake predawn and run down the stairs. We realize now that our parents stayed up all night putting toys and bikes together to surprise us. With six children and a father who was an officer for Cincinnati Police Department, that was a magical feat in itself. But surprise us, they did. And there was always a really “big” gift that would take our breath away at the end of our wrapping paper frenzy. Even our faithful dog, Smokie, would join in on the fun discovering the dog treats my mom wrapped for him to uncover.

More family and friends would come over for a brunch that would last for hours. Once again, we’d pile in the car and head to our grandparents’ home for another large meal and fun times. We sometimes stopped at an uncle’s home and once we kids called it a night, there were even more people who would come and visit with mom and dad.

I can’t imagine how they did it all, but my mom and dad enjoyed life to the fullest, and I will always appreciate that about them. I honor their memories by celebrating Christmas with the same vigor, love, laughter and life.

Sadly, life includes necessary endings. Saying goodbye to my parents, experiencing other tragic losses too painful to mention, and bidding farewell to one too many furbabies I’ve carried in my arms means I have closed the chapter on a part of my life but am opening a door on another. Louie represents one more chapter in my life, and he brings me incredible joy. And each chapter just keeps getting better, as I’ve shared with my daughter Marisa. I’ve enjoyed every stage of her life, but I believe this stage is the best so far!

As we close out this year, I am thankful for the life with which God has blessed me. I am reminded of the life God breathed into our world through Jesus Christ and the necessary ending he allowed so that we may have eternal life and have it abundantly. I stand amazed at the humble beginnings of a King and the necessary ending of a humble servant just so you and I can live life to the fullest. Don’t let searching for things that can’t last cause you to miss that remarkable miracle.

Buon Natale!

 

NEW email sig