Steven's Own Words

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017!  How does it feel so far? Here’s your first challenge of the year. Over the next 12 months you are either going to let things happen, or make things happen.  Which will it be? I’ll give you a minute to decide. …(Theme from Jeopardy plays in the background) Alrighty then! You’ve decided? Excellent! Assuming you chose to make things happen, here’s step two: Look in the mirror, stare yourself in the eye and say out loud to yourself that you have  decided to spend this year making things happen. And repeat it until you can do so without laughing and feeling silly, because you’re likely going to feel pretty stupid. Say it ’til you mean it. Say it until you can actually hear the words speaking to your soul. Say it until it’s no longer just a task, but a mantra, one that you own, one that empowers you, one that you actually mean and believe. Some of you are going to be like me, and it is going to take a while because the little gremlin voice in the back of your head will be shouting at you the whole time, telling you you’re full of crap (you’re not), that WAY too much is out of your control (it isn’t), that if you were capable of “making things happen” you wouldn’t be in this situation of your life (that’s bull – – – -) , or maybe that you’re weak (ha! You are strong beyond measure!). That voice isn’t you. Don’t own it. Instead, laugh at it. Tell it he’s wrong. Then, write down every single thing that voice screams at you.  Every last...
In Between The Holidays

In Between The Holidays

[Originally shared in my email newsletter on December 27th – sign up here!] Can you feel it? It’s approaching. That magical moment between the past and the future. That split second when it’s neither 2016 and all that has been, and 2017 and all that can be. There’s something special about the time between Christmas and New Year’s. Like a state of suspension. In a way it can seem like the slowest week of the year.  For many of us, it’s time off. The stress of the holidays is behind us, and what lies ahead is the endless potential of a new year, A new chance — A new opportunity — to be the person I always intended to be.   It feels like the last restful breath of the year.  Let me ask you, have you had a chance to hear that still, small voice I wrote about last week? Take a listen, and in these fleeting moments that remain of 2016, take a moment to rest, to dream for the future, to connect with others and to listen for the miracle that is you. See you in...
The Magic Isn’t Where You Think

The Magic Isn’t Where You Think

Shhh… Listen. Can you hear it? Get Quiet. Be still. Listen.   Turn off the music for a minute. Can you hear it now? Close your eyes. Rest your body. THERE! There it is!! Did you hear that?! Shhh… Don’t hold your breath… Breathe gently. Let it it find the rhythm of your breath and ride those waves into your conscience… THERE! Did you hear it now? That still small voice? That purity of thought? That brilliant spark of an idea set deep inside of you, waiting to be heard, longing to be seen? This is a time of year wrapped up in so many things: good, bad, happy, sad, joyful, mournful, loving, scary. It’s a time for miracles and a time, for some, when miracles have proven a fantasy. Whatever this season holds for you, I encourage you to take a moment to get still. To look deeper. To listen closer. To feel more courageously as the real miracle of the season occurs. The real miracle is you. It’s your heart and your love and your compassion and your wisdom. Deep inside of you lives a truth desperately seeking to be heard. Listen. Can you hear it? Our deepest fear, as Marianne Williamson taught us, is not that we are inadequate, but rather that we are powerful beyond measure.  Deep below the distractions of the season, the lights, the sales, the money, the decorations, the family obligations, the services, the tree…lives a deeper magic: You.  Do you have the courage to listen? This season calls us, at the darkest time of the year, to find the light, to share the love, to bring the warmth that ignites the soul. The...
The Missing Link To Great Leadership

The Missing Link To Great Leadership

Good leaders have a clear vision for where they are going. True. Really good leaders have a clear vision for where they are going and a solid plan for how to get there. Also true. But great leaders? Great leaders have something else. Something good leaders, even really good leaders, too often feel is unnecessary, or too “touchy-feely.” That something is A Story. Let’s be honest, your plan & vision don’t matter if you can’t lead others into where you are going! What makes great leaders truly great, therefore, is the story. Think about it this way: people will do tasks assigned to them because that’s how they get a paycheck. If that’s all you seek from those you lead, don’t waste your time cultivating a story, because you’ll never be able to sell it and no one will care.You’ll get lackluster performance and virtually no loyalty. However, leadership isn’t about tasks, is it? Leadership is about people. Remember: we manage tasks, but we lead people. Managers who fail to lead rarely inspire loyalty, rarely get people to achieve above and beyond their expectations, rarely engage in emotional connection that creates a cohesive team that supports and inspires each other to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders, however, do just that. And they do it through the story. Too often leaders are so eager to explain the “how,” when what really gets people engaged is the why, the reason behind what you’re doing. Why are we going down this path and not that one? Why are we focusing our efforts on this product line? What makes you right when the...
Is It Lonely At The Top?

Is It Lonely At The Top?

“It’s lonely at the top,” isn’t it? We’ve all heard it before: that once you succeed in reaching your goals, establishing yourself in a place of leadership, you’re often more alone than ever before. It’s in the nature of the position, we’re told — but I have to heartily disagree. So often, leaders (especially new leaders) look around and believe that every single piece of work is theirs, and theirs alone, to carry. They believe they have to make all the decisions — after all, that’s why they make the big bucks. Besides, it’s their knowledge and talents that got them to the top to begin with. They refuse to delegate, or perhaps simply don’t know how to do so effectively; they are afraid to rely on others; they micromanage away any potential support from below. In other words, for most of them it is lonely at the top, because they have isolated themselves and fail to let anyone in. But if we were to dare to lead with an invitational mentality, I’d argue that it wouldn’t be near as lonely or as stressful. Try saying specifically what you need to those you’re leading. Invite people in.Behave in a way that shows others they are welcome. It’s true, leadership is often about the courage it takes to act when others fear to do so, and therefore the loneliness often stems from waiting for others to catch up. Trust me, though, they’ll catch up a lot faster if you let them know that you want them with you and you trust them to engage and take responsibility and authority for meaningful aspects of their work. Take the...
Women Aren’t Allowed

Women Aren’t Allowed

Sorry for the click-bate title, but it’s true. They aren’t allowed.  Let me back up. This weekend we watched Whiplash (admittedly we’re a bit behind on our movie watching) and if you haven’t seen it, suffice it to say that, while an oddly and strange-to-admit great movie, it can be summed up this way: A tyrannical instructor/band leader in a prestigious New York music conservatory achieves greatness in musicians by belittling, cursing, yelling, hitting, threatening, manipulating, interrogating, intimidating, and verbally and emotionally abusing his students. Despite the common knowledge of such behavior, he is left to do so because he achieves great results — they repeatedly win national competitions — up to the point that a past student hangs himself. Eventually he gets his due in more ways than one, but not necessarily in the way we might like. Other than losing his job and driving one student to tackle him on stage out of anger, he has no real consequences for his actions. The character’s argument for his behavior is that it weeds out the weak and creates the greats. Though, ironically, he also admits that he has yet to produce a great such as Loius Armstrong or Buddy Rich, while never realizing or admitting that the reason might well be his tactics. Now imagine for a moment a woman in that role: yelling, intimidating, belittling, calling her students derogatory names. Do you think the students would have responded, submitted and tolerated such behavior for as long? If our current election cycle has taught us anything, it’s that women have to play the game differently. Because we do respond differently to aggression in women than we do...
Thanksgiving: Just In The Nick Of Time!

Thanksgiving: Just In The Nick Of Time!

In a couple of days, some of us will make a decision to spend time with family and friends. We’ll celebrate love and connection, share in good food, and to honor those in our lives with each other’s presence and kindness as we give thanks for so many blessings. In a couple of days, some of us will choose to avoid age-old traditions because members of our tribe feel differently than us. Emotions are raw, and there is too much at stake to just sit idly by, avoiding the elephant in the room. So, rather than engage in an argument, you will deem it best and more respectful to stay away. In a couple of days, some of us will show up at family gatherings, armed and ready to defend our positions, to share our feelings, to provide ample evidence to support our views. Alcohol will flow, tongues will wag, and wedges will be driven deeper into the cracks of already fragile relationships. And worse, each side will walk away triumphantly — always believing in the sanctity and validity of their position, proud of the verbal and intellectual blows they landed on their opponent, unaware (or perhaps, uncaring) about the damage left in the wake.   I don’t know what this Thanksgiving holds for you. But may I offer you an important reminder as you head off into this week? Acceptance is not agreement.  I need not agree with you to accept you or to love you. Jesus, Gandhi, MLK and many others have taught us that. We live in trying times — and for many, frightening times. This is true. But within...
Real Leadership Begins Now

Real Leadership Begins Now

…But not with those two. Not with our political leaders. Real leadership no longer resides in the candidates or our elected officials. They may have power, but let us not confuse power with leadership. They’ve done their damage to our nation’s discourse. And at some point this evening this election, hopefully, will be over, and if there is any grace in the universe, the results will be indisputable and decisive with no question and no ambiguity about who is the real winner. One thing is for sure, however: regardless of who wins, their opponent will go back to their wealthy, posh life and cease to be affected by the damage left in the wake of such hatred and meanness. We the citizens, on the other hand, will, in the morning, have to face our neighbors, our coworkers and our family members with whom we have disagreed these past two years, many with the same level of hatred and meanness demonstrated in the campaign. We will see them over the fence in our neighborhoods, In our churches and synagogues and mosques. We will face them across the table at Thanksgiving dinner. We will drive behind them on the road, their vehicles still adorned with stickers supporting views, values and visions we vehemently disagree with. We the citizens will have to live with each other and learn once more how to: Communicate Work together, Love together, Laugh together, Live together. We will cry together at the funerals of those we love regardless of our political affiliation, and in doing so will turn to each other and hug and console, forgetting for the moment that we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. We will cry...
What Do You Want Your Workplace To Look Like?

What Do You Want Your Workplace To Look Like?

Most companies, I find, are really one of two things: a Silo, or a Matrix. Not sure what I mean by that? Think about it this way: based on these definitions, which organization would you rather work for — and create? SILO: si·lo  ˈsīlō/  noun mid 19th Century from the Greek siros meaning “cornpit” 1. A tower or pit used to store grain for the purpose of compressing and storing grain as silage 2. An underground chamber in which a guided missile is stored and readied for firing 3. A system or process that operates in isolation from others MATRIX: ma·trix  ˈmātriks/  noun From the Lating meaning “breeding female,” later “womb” 1. A medium, structure or environment in which something develops 2. A mold in which something such as a printing type or phonograph is cast or shaped 3. Mathematics: A rectangular array of quantities or expression in rows and columns that is treated as a single entity See? We all can recognize traits of our own companies in one of those two. But who wants to work in an airtight container designed to compress grain into silage or fire guided missiles, when you could be operating in an environment designed to be a breeding ground for life and development? I know which I’d prefer. What about...
Your Team Is Your Muscle

Your Team Is Your Muscle

Huh?!  My team is what?! Think about it this way: When you go to the gym and sweat like a maniac doing a 40-minute routine that would kill an elephant, is that what builds your muscles? No, that’s what tears your muscles. They grow stronger during the resting period.  Your team works the same way. NO ONE can run, push, work at 100%, 100% of the time. When we are so busy ‘doing,’ there is no room for learning! The learning happens in the downtime, when you can review, assess, analyze, question, absorb, rest, distract, make room for new ideas…when you can get better. To build muscles: Exercise, Rest, Enjoy, Repeat. To build teams: Work, Rest, Fun, Repeat. If there’s no fun, no resting, no downtime to process, you won’t be able to achieve your full...

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