February 19, 2007
The cheating I blogged about last week is perplexing, but Nascar put on a heckuva race yesterday in Daytona. The photo finish was one for the history books (and another example of how little things can make a big difference in outcomes. Harvick won by about 1/3 of a car length).
Mark Martin finished second for the fourth time but demonstrated what a champion he really is in his comments. He said his car and crew were great but he “didn’t get it done.” Martin took responsibility and proved what a stand-up guy he is. (If you don’t follow racing, there aren’t many drivers as consistent as Mark Martin. His discipline, physically and emotionally, are legendary.)
February 17, 2007
I’ve had an interest in Nascar, and most motorsports, for years. With the recent fines imposed on teams and the expulsion of crew chiefs for cheating, it seems Nascar has joined the ranks for sports that are character-challenged.
Before any sports fans get defensive, let me clarify: I know that not all professional athletes use performance enhancing drugs, cheat, or behave badly off the court or field. But you’ve got to admit that the NBA, NFL, professional cycling and now Nascar provide ongoing examples of the underbelly of professional sports.
In Nascar, they say it’s only cheating if you get caught. It is a light hearted comment, but the reality is that cheating is cheating whether or not you get caught.
Yes, professional sports are entertainment, and maybe that is part of the problem. But with so many amateur athletes who aspire to go pro, wouldn’t it be nice if there were more visible and consistent role models of character in professional sports?
Nascar had its original roots in running moonshine, a quaint concept now but obviously high-illegal back then. Nascar established itself as a legitimate motorsport and won fan loyalty by being “grassroots”. As popularity grew, so did sponsorships and money. Of late there is more at stake financially, so could that be one reason why cheaters take more risks and get caught more often?
Cheating in business was once taken more lightly until Enron and WorldCom showed us that cheating is never good and at worst disastrous. When will professional sports learn what companies learned the hard way.
Kudos to those who continue to play their sports, amateur or professional, the “old way:” through commitment, practice and hard work within the rules of the game.
December 28, 2006
Some recent random surfing reminded me of a subject I’ve seen written about often: how to be perceived as an expert. Much of the advice is about what you can do to make people think you’re an expert in your area of interest (blog, write an article, etc). I rarely see anyone address how to actually be an expert. That takes much more time and effort than the several simple steps to appearing to be an expert.
I realize that someone can be an expert and not be perceived as such. From a marketing standpoint, they aren’t benefiting from their expertise. But what worries me are those perceived as experts who really aren’t. Positioning yourself as an expert when you’re not is an ethical compromise. Knowing more about a subject than the average person doesn’t qualify one as an expert. It is disconcerting but often necessary to question the expertise of those giving information and advice.
Real expertise takes years of concerted effort (I’ve read one study that suggests 15 years is typical for acquiring a level of expertise). It involves much study, experience, reflection, teaching, writing, testing, research, reading and more.
In the age of instant gratification, unfortunately, more will pursue the expedient path of perceived expertise rather than the arduous course of actual expertise.
December 14, 2006
Comedian Michael Richards got deservedly dressed down for his hateful tirade at a comedy club. The public outcry, fueld by the distribution of his comments via YouTube and the internet, was appropriate.
So why is it Rosie O’Donnell and other comics can say equally hateful things about Republicans/christians/conservatives–and I mean obscenity on par with Richard’s remarks–without so much as a raised eyebrow?
Do Republicans/christians/conservatives/ ever say inappropriate things about those they disagree with? I’m sure it happens and when it does it is just as inappropriate. But I’m not talking about having an opinion that is passionately opposed (and disagreement is often unjustly labled as “hate speech). I’m talking about mean-spirited language you wouldn’t want your kids to emulate even if you agreed with the assessment of the comedian (for an example, catch the recent Comic Relief which veers off course and stops being funny when comedians verbally attack and abuse those they disagree with). I don’t agree with the approach of several well-known television ministers, but I’ve yet to see any of them foam at the mouth yelling “Rosie O’Donnell sucks!” while simultaneously flipping her off.
Our culture faces many problems, but one of the biggest in my estimate is this: we don’t communicate anymore. There is no dialogue. The convenient way to disagree is to use mean-spirited or hateful monologues amplified to the equivalent of yelling to take the opponent off at the knees. Nobody learns anything. There are no new ideas or insights. Positions don’t stand a chance of softening or changing. The people who agreed with the “yeller’s” opinions still agree, and those that disagreed still disagree.
And we wonder why it is so hard to make progress on thorny issues?
What a sad state of affairs when we need to be reminded: hateful rhetoric is never appropriate, regardless of one’s opinion, beliefs or world-view.
November 30, 2006
I just did something I rarely ever do: I responded to an internet “freebie” marketing offer. It centers around the 12 days of Christmas, and I’ll purportedly get lots of free, valuable, cool stuff. Past experience has shown that more often than not, what you really get is spammed to high heaven once you’ve provided your email address.
So why did I respond to this one? Connetion. The guys who emailed me are authors of a book to which I contributed. I’ve been in touch, via email, over the past couple of years. I’ve never met them, but they’ve been stand-up in their dealings to date. So when they emailed and said “This is good,” I believed them.
Of course there is still some risk. If they picked the wrong pony by recommending this program, their credibility will be severely damaged. That is the risk we all take. When we have connection, whether a little or alot, we want to be careful not to breach that trust or erode confidence.
Connection is powerful in sales and marketing, and it is powerful in business and life. We allow ourselves to be influenced by a leader, with or without a title, because we feel a connection based on past direct or vicarious experience, so we trust them. This connection is built slowly over time, and must be judiciously guarded. Ultimately, it doesn’t give us power over people, but rather power with them. It is influence by consent and commitment, the best power of all.
November 27, 2006
Our family just spent a wonderful four days at Lost Valley Ranch outside of Deckers, Colorado, where we rode horses, ate too much great food and enjoyed the splendor of the Rocky Mountains.
One of the wranglers was a young man named Matt who really impressed my son Hunter, who is nine. His professionalism, knowledge of horses and willingess to make guests feel special made him a hit with our family.
On the day we left, Matt handed Hunter an envelope. Hunt was thrilled. Inside was a Christmas card with a picture of Matt riding his horse in the snow, and a handwritten note telling Hunter how much he enjoyed meeting him, and encouraging him to be a role model to his younger brother (a desire Hunter had shared with Matt). He encouraged Hunter to come back again and closed with a bible verse for Hunter to look up.
I had made friends with another wrangler named David with whom I shared a love of books and philosophy. On our group trail rides I had as much fun talking about books and life as I did riding.
Without exception, all the staff at the ranch were warm, friendly and anxious to be of service. They all had a positive, upbeat attitude that just can’t be faked. When was the last time you can recall a hotel stay or vacation where everybody you encountered was that way? I’m not sure what the owners, Bob Foster and his family, have done to create this kind of extraordinary organization, but I’m impressed.
The ranch was beautiful and the activities enjoyable, but the positive influence of employees like Matt and David and the other Lost Valley Ranch team members–leaders without titles–made for an extraordinary vacation.
You can bet we’re looking forward to returning.
November 20, 2006
In a USA Today interview, the head (National Commander) of the Salvation Army, Israel Gaither, was asked about the concept of “sevant leadership,” a term coined by Robert Greenleaf. I liked his response:
“I define it a little differently than servanthood, or servant leadership. Servant leadership can be inactive. Serving leadership is active. It’s not just a mantra…It’s about giving myself absolutely to my mission.”
Watching President Bush in Indonesia reminds me of how tough it can be at the top. He has been met with demonstraters ranging from disgruntled to downright hateful. It can’t be fun, but I suppose after several years of leading the free world, one gets used to it.
Any time you take a stand, there will be those who not only disagree but criticize and in some cases disrespect and demean. It is more apparent in the case of world political leaders, but it happens at every level.
There is consolation in believing one is correct in his or her stance. And that means being as well-informed and reflective as possible in determining one’s position. As I’ve said before, it is possible to be sincere and still be wrong.
We won’t always agree with a leader’s position, most will at least acknowledge if not respect his or her conviction.
November 8, 2006
In the wake of elections, Ted Haggard is old news, but the lessons from this tragedy are still timely.
I applaud the reaction of his church: removal on the basis of moral collapse and a refocusing on what is most important, and that is their faith in Jesus. Human leaders will always be imperfect and as we’ve seen, some will fail terribly. When a believer’s focus shifts from the person of Jesus Christ to one of His followers, there is always the grave potential for disappointment. Any organization, faith-based or secular, needs to be bigger than an indivdiual leader.
One of the greatest dangers of being in a high-visibility leadership position is the double-bind: even if a leader recognizes a problem in his or her life, they risk censure and loss of credibility if it becomes public while they are trying to address it. And if they don’t address it, the problem can grow and consume them as it did Haggard. It can seem to be a no-win situation. The solution isn’t simple, but it invovles (among other things) accountability and sensitivity. A leader’s inner circle must not only hold the leader accountable but be hyper-sensitive to matters of confidentiality. And yes, there are problems that would require a leader to relinquish his or her position of trust while the problems are being addressed.
One of the most discouraging aspects of a leader’s fall is that while the leader is capable of change, people’s memories are long and the leader becomes trapped in the moment of his or her fall.
I once heard a pastor from Africa say, “Whatever you don’t conquer will conquer you; whatever you don’t fight will fight against you.”
My heart aches for all those so negatively and terribly affected by Ted Haggard’s situation including him, his family and his church.
Breached trust by any leader impacts the willingness of people to trust any other leader, especially in areas of moral or religous leadership. I do believe in Romans 8:28, that all things work together for those who love God, and in situations like this, that belief is tested. But one good that can come of this situation is to remind all of us to continually re-evaluate our own beleifs and behaviors for congruity, and to war against those demons that threaten to defeat us.
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What if your character were as visible as your competence?