Lead in the Moment

Driving results by embracing the moments that matter.

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A Family Thing

The family business…they have existed for centuries with great success.  Although we might recognize an organization as a “family” business, it is likely that you will employ those who do not share your DNA.  How does employee motivation factor into your organization?  This creates an interesting dilemma - how do you keep your employees motivated when it is common knowledge that they will have the ability to progress only so far within your organization?  Better yet - how do you keep them motivated when they are tasked with teaching the next generation of family leadership?  I am not sure how I would feel about this, putting in your time for an organization knowing that you will never get to the level you want because you have the wrong last name.  What is your take on this?

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What is your Joy?

What makes us joyful?  This is a question that we don’t ask ourselves enough in our hectic lives.  I recall a song we used to sing in Sunday school when I was a little kid.  “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”  I used to wonder who or what put it there?  Did someone come along and say, “Hey, here is your joy, put it in your heart.”  Or was it just a feeling that came over you when something good happened? 

I don’t believe I truly understood the idea of joy until I became a young adult.  Sure, I was comfortable with the idea of happy, and I am basically a happy person by nature.  But pure joy was something I probably felt as a small child and then truly understood later in life.  I now see joy as those moments in life when you find pure happiness that just comes along, the feeling that your heart is just overflowing with joy.  Of course the big moments in life bring us joy - such as the day I married my husband along with the days we adopted our children.  Events such as those make it easy to understand pure, unadulterated joy.  There are also moments that bring joy that just sneak up on us.  Watching our daughter play outside in the snow when she thinks no one is watching - she is simply joyful.  Hearing the laugh of our 2 year-old when he finds something funny - a happy, joyful noise. 

Where do we find joy in our everyday lives?  When we are faced with the problems that accompany adulthood, are we too jaded to look for the simple joys in life?  Do we consider just being happy enough for us?  I bet if we were able to block all of the outside “noise” in our lives, we might just be able to find the joy down in our hearts. 

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Leadership or Control Freak?

I was having a discussion with someone the other day about the idea of leading vs. controlling.  Do you lead by telling everyone what to do, or do you provide guidance and then step back? 

At times I often find myself falling into the pattern of controlling - especially since becoming a parent.  We are so used to directing all aspects of our family life and schedules that we sometimes forget it is okay to just provide direction and allow things to happen on their own.  That little controlling voice inside my head does creep up every now and then and creates more chaos than order.  For example, how many times are we attempting to run out the door in the morning to get the kids to school on time and one of them is not quite moving as quickly as you would like.  Instead of making them responsible for their own actions, you just pull together the homework from last night and stuff it in the backpack at break-neck speed while grabbing their hat and gloves to throw in the car, just to make it easier.  Instead of using these moments as a teaching tool for our children, we just become frustrated and act like crazed lunatics.  How productive is that?

Is this a pattern with your employees?  Micromanaging their every move to the point that you would just rather do the job yourself since they won’t do it in the manner you want.  Or better yet, do you find it easier to do it yourself than try to explain once again how you want it done when they didn’t get it right the first time they tried?

I believe ego plays a big role in this type of behavior.  Over the years, we have held positions because we are good at what we do.  When we have to share these tasks with others, we become the “all-knowing” one, the person who can perform the task better than anyone.  It is difficult to provide guidance and take the big step back.  With our children, we want them to be able to perform a task and not struggle.  So, as the parent, we will step in immediately when they make a mistake or have problems.  It is no different with our employees.  We often jump in to save the day when all they really need is additional guidance or coaching to help them learn.  As their leader, that is our job, to provide guidance and assistance so they can thrive - not control their every move.

As a leader, do you like to pull the puppet strings?    

Filed under Leadership Development leader servant leadership management leadership errors leader development change management

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The Moments that Matter

Have you experienced a customer service moment in time that has changed your entire perception of an organization?  Check out my latest publication, “The Moments that Matter” on:





Filed under customer experience Hospitality Industry hospitality customer service extrodinary service

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Keep Moving Forward

When opportunity comes knocking, don’t slam the door in its face.  Always a credo I have lived under throughout my life.  While change can be big and scary, I always get some sense of exhilaration from moving to a new town.  I love the mystery of finding that new awesome spot for lunch, a new park that the kids will love, or the fun festivals that give a locale its character.  I guess it is no mystery that I have moved around quite a bit since I graduated from college.  And no, I was not running from the law – I just happened to work in the hospitality industry and moved often to advance my career.  When my husband came home and asked how I felt about the possibility of moving to Detroit, I really didn’t know what to think.  I had been to downtown Detroit once when I was in high school, and I didn’t really remember much of the experience.  All I knew about Detroit was what I heard in the media.  And at this point in my life, I usually believe about half of what I hear from the popular media.  So, we talked about it and decided it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up.     

When we told people we were moving to Detroit, everyone said, “Really? I am so sorry,” or “why would you want to move there?” I don’t understand why someone would say this when they have never been to this city.  Yes, the city does have its own set of issues, but I believe you could probably say the same for many other cities across the country.  Every city has issues, they just vary from place to place.  While the media portrays the city of Detroit as this miserable hopeless place that people should flee, it is amazing to see what kind of city actually exists.  I can look at this objectively, as I am not a native, I am not a Michigander so I don’t possess the same sense of “hometown pride” that others that were born and raised here might have.  What I have noticed in my short time here is a place that has this crazy frenetic energy.  It appears as if people have this sense of hope, like everything is going to be okay if they just keep moving forward. 

To truly understand a place, I feel it is important to be still and watch what goes on around you.  As I write this, I am being quite cliché and sitting in my favorite coffee house in downtown Detroit – The Roasting Plant. I love one of their tag lines, “Fueling the Motor City.”  – It is as if they believe they are keeping the city of Detroit moving.  Besides having the best cup of coffee in town, they are also located in a great part of the city, Campus Martius – a crazy hub of activity.  Watching all of the young professionals grabbing their important cup of human-fuel on their way into the various office buildings.  People are sitting at tables like me and tapping away at their computers.  One cannot be sure if they are actually working or just checking the sports scores from last night.  Trying to look official while easing into a busy Friday.  Cars keep moving around the circle, trying to get where they are going, dodging the multitude of pedestrians attempting to cross the street anywhere but in the crosswalks. 

This place is always moving.   Shuttle buses weave through the city with “Opportunity Detroit” splashed across the side – like a rally cry to those who live here.  Inspiring everyone with an idea that the city is sitting on the verge of greatness.  There is an opportunity for something amazing to happen if everyone keeps moving forward.  The city is alive and buzzing with activity.  Crews are setting up a stage for an upcoming concert in Campus Martius; vendors are setting up booths in Cadillac Square to sell their goods to all who come by to visit.  Food trucks are parked, primed and ready for the lunch rush.  People are taking a mid-morning break to escape the confines of their office buildings and soak up some late summer sunshine.  I’m still looking for the abysmal existence that is supposed to belong to this city.  I am aware that it exists, but I haven’t found it in this part of the city. 

It’s high noon, and people are still on the move.  An afternoon concert is entertaining the masses while they hang out by the food trucks, eat their lunches, enjoy the weather, and dance when the mood strikes.   People move about enjoying their afternoon, wondering how long they can stretch their lunch hour. 

When the workday concludes, people pour out of the various office buildings to gather together to enjoy their summer.  They eat, drink, listen to music, and laugh.  They gather together to prepare to see their beloved Tigers or Lions.  Fans of all ages dressed in their team colors enjoy the scene prior to heading over to the game, moving in the same direction.     

There is a true sense of community in Detroit.  The energy flows throughout this city and is a contagious force.  When Detroit made a bid to host the X-Games and lost out to another city, did they sit around wringing their hands about the injustices of life?  No, they went back to work and are in the process of developing their own event for the city.  The can-do spirit here seems to defy reason.  Despite the financial crisis that has put the city on the brink, the attitude is one of defiance – this will not break the spirit of those living here, they simply will not allow it to happen.  They have an immense amount of pride and love for their city.  They keep moving forward. 

The media wants everyone to think that Detroit is all doom and gloom. Problems do exist, but it does not dictate the attitude of its residents.  I would challenge those naysayers to come and get a true representation of what Detroit and its people are all about.  They are not about giving up and going into hiding.  They are about rolling up their sleeves and moving forward to prove everyone wrong about their city. 

Formulating your own opinions prior to making an informed decision about something may not always be a popular or hip thing to do – people believe it is important to listen and follow what the popular media feeds us.  We allow our opinions to be formed by Twitter, Facebook, and whatever major celebrity might be blogging about.  Had I listened to the popular media and those who thought their opinion was worth sharing, I might have missed out on experiencing life.  Had my thoughts been governed by what I read online or watched on television, I never would have discovered many great places nor had as many wonderful experiences like we are having in the “D”!

Filed under Detroit Michigan OpportunityDetroit TheRoastingPlantDetroit Rebuilding ASSEMBLEDetroit XG2D PureMichigan CadillacSquareDetroit CampusMartiusDetroit

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No News is Good News

Everyone has used this old saying at one time or another.  What happens when you want the news regardless of how good or bad the message may be and no one will give it to you?  The idea of timely communication shouldn’t be a mystery – we all have gadgets that can get us pretty much any information we want at a moment’s notice.  Why do so many people have issues communicating with one another when we are a society connected as well as we all are?

Building a home is not for the faint of heart.  The best way to sum up the process is this:  you pay a significant amount of money and have little or no control over anything.  You are basically at the mercy of others.  While we are currently dealing with the pain of trying to finish a new home, the idea of “no news is good news” came to mind.  We sometime believe the builder is not returning our phone calls because he doesn’t have anything new to report, or he is afraid he will not be able to give us positive news.  In this case, the concept of no news is not good news.  While we may not like the message, not receiving any information is worse – we feel as if we are left out there hanging.  When we finally receive a phone call, we are pretty worked up wanting to rip into him before “hello” even comes out of his mouth. 

How do your customers feel when your lack of action is perceived as neglect?   Probably not very confident in your abilities and pretty ticked off.   What you might consider to be “no big deal” can cause a client to move their business elsewhere in rapid order.  It would be so much easier on a service provider if they simply returned phone calls, emails, etc.  Do you really want to encounter irate customers on a daily basis because you do not respond back in a timely fashion?  Granted, it is never fun to deliver a bad message to your customer, however it is easier to deal with bad information up front then waiting until the last minute and springing it on them.  Talk about sitting back and watching the fireworks begin!  Delivering bad information is like ripping off a bandage – you know you have to do it, so you might as well get it over with as quickly as possible.

Do you expect rapid communication from your employees when you request information?  When you ask for something, is it okay for them to wait a day or so before getting back with you?  Do you extend the same courtesy to your employees?  If they send you an email, or leave you a voicemail, do you ensure you respond back as quickly as possible, or do you get to it when you get a chance?  Communicating in a timely fashion shows that you value the needs of the other person – whether it is a customer or an employee.  Even if you do not have something new to share, at least let them know that you are working on their situation, and you haven’t forgotten about them. 

No news is good news?  Some might agree that there is a time and a place for this, but when it comes to your organization this is probably not the motto to employ!  Unless of course you enjoy dealing with angry customers and employees!  

Filed under leadership communication employee relations

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On showing us his new office - EJ “This is my new corner of the world.” Elizabeth “Daddy, you used to have a rectangle.”

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Why Doesn’t Your Sign Work?

Sitting in the apartment looking out over the city one evening, a building stood out from the others, not because it was impressively lit, but due to a blaring gap.  A portion of the sign did not light up – the irony of this issue was this building housed a power company. 

Does the outward appearance of your company convey the correct message about who you are?  Many organizations spend astronomical amounts of money in order to create a message about who they are and what they do.  Once this carefully crafted image hits the streets, what the organization does in order to keep the image intact makes all the difference.  The first thing that came to mind when seeing this broken sign was the reliability of their product.  If they could not keep the sign working on their own building, would they be able to keep the lights on in my home? 

Sometimes we forget that our image needs to be tended like a garden.  If we ignore what is going on, it will just look messy.  Paying attention to the small (or not so small) details may not seem as important as say, providing a positive customer experience.  But doesn’t a customer experience include the outward image you portray?  What do they see when they pull your organization up online, what do they see when they drive into your parking lot, or what does your sign say about your organization?  

The importance placed upon the outward appearance of your organization should matter to everyone, not just leadership.  Do you provide your employees with an outlet to voice their concerns if they see something that does not fit with your organization’s message?  If they see a broken sign on your building, are they encouraged to let someone know in order to get this fixed quickly?  At the same time, do you have someone available who can fix these issues as they arise? 

What does the appearance of your organization say?  Have you taken a walk outside and looked up recently?


Filed under image organization leadership organizational message

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We Can’t Call Him Sarah!

This post is a departure from my usual postings.  The process of adopting our second child brought to mind the idea that sometimes life doesn’t always follow the carefully planned path you laid out.  Opening your mind to the idea of something unexpected may reap the greatest rewards.

Back when we submitted our paperwork to adopt our second child from China, we thought we had it all figured out – been there, done that.  We were the proud parents of a 3 year-old daughter whom we adopted from China in 2005.  We put together the mountain of paperwork, completed all of our requirements and off to China the dossier went.  We also knew that when we received our next daughter, her name was going to be Sarah Rose.  We realized it could be a bit of a wait compared to when we adopted our daughter (a total of one year from the exact moment we decided we wanted to pursue an adoption until we received that ever-precious referral photo!)  We had no idea what was in store for us over the next few years… 

Fast forward 5 years, paperwork renewed 4 times, a second home study completed when we moved from Virginia to Oklahoma, our original adoption agency going out of business, and a very impatient 8 year old girl wondering when we would ever get her little sister.  We were beginning to think that our joke might come true – our daughter would be a freshman in high school before we would travel to China again!

A few people had spoken with us about the possibility of going the “Special Needs/Waiting Child” route to complete our family.  We really didn’t give it much thought.  Honestly, we did not consider ourselves “special” enough to deal with the myriad of issues that could come with adopting a child with special needs.  The traditional non-special needs adoption was our comfort zone, we understood the process, and we wanted a child as young as possible. 

After a few friends followed their hearts and adopted children that were on the Waiting Child lists, it piqued our curiosity.  These children had little to no health issues; they lived the same lives as their siblings.  Why would they be considered “special needs”?  At this point, we started poking around the waiting child page on our agency’s website.  We were still hesitant to make that leap - what if the issues were more severe than what we would be told up front?  What if the child refused to attach to us because they were older?  We came up with a million reasons why we were not able to consider this option.  So we continued to wait, and wait, and wait.

I always believe that God speaks to us when we are ready to open our hearts and listen.  He spoke to my husband in a dream when we were first considering adoption.  He told us we would have a daughter with dark hair.  We figured that was a sign that we needed to act upon!   As we had been lurking in the shadows of the Waiting Child list, we received the monthly update, listing the existing waiting children.  Honestly, we had not looked at this list in a long time – typically I just deleted it as soon as it hit our inbox.  However, on June 8th of this year, something made me open this email, open the website, and there he was – this adorable little boy with a repaired cleft lip.  As I read his profile, I called my husband over to read it as well and it just kind of hit us out of the blue – we wanted more information on this little boy.  Immediately we sent out a request for information and waited (it was a Friday night, so we knew we would probably not hear anything until Monday.)  We tried not to get too excited, as we didn’t know if his file was still available.  We cautiously told our parents, also warning them not to get overly excited, as we did not have a lot of information on him yet.  

Monday came and we received an email with a comprehensive overview of this precious child.  It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with his sweet little face smiling at us from each picture we opened on our smartphones.  Once we had an opportunity to review all of the paperwork, it became apparent that he was supposed to be a member of our family.

Throughout the process of submitting the necessary paperwork, one of the questions posed, was the impact on our family a special needs child would create.  As a parent we realized that a special need wasn’t an impact, it was simply taking care of your child.  Yes, we realized this child would have additional medical needs, but after we did our research, it wasn’t as scary as we originally thought.

Due to the fact that we kept our paperwork up to date, it was amazing how quickly the process flowed.  From the time we first saw our son’s photo, it was exactly two months later that we were sitting on an airplane on our way to China.  Needless to say, it was an extremely dynamic couple of months.  We had to move our preparations into warp speed.  All of the things we didn’t think we would have to worry about for quite some time became extremely important.  We needed to get a bedroom ready, we needed to childproof the house, and pull out all of the baby items we saved from the first time around. 

While we were in the throws of preparation, we realized we didn’t have a name for this little guy.  Of course we couldn’t call him Sarah, as we thought it might make him the subject of ridicule and he would probably object to that, as he got older!  We started throwing out names, but we just couldn’t figure out what to name him.  After a couple of days struggling with this, his name came to us and we all liked it.  The most difficult part of this whirlwind preparation was complete!  Now all we needed to do was board a plane to China and go get our boy!

Our trip was an amazing event for all of us, especially for our daughter, as she finally got the sibling she had been wanting for so long.  The morning we received our son was filled with excitement, anxiety, and great anticipation.  We wondered if he would want to have anything to do with us?  We had prepared our daughter and ourselves for the possibility that the baby would cry and not want to be with us initially.  As the many children arrived that morning, each family experienced something different – some children cried, and some appeared shy.  After 5 ½ long years waiting, we spotted him being carried into the room.  As they placed that precious little boy in our arms, any fears we had about not being able to parent a “special needs” child disappeared – he was simply our son and we all loved him immediately.  Despite the craziness of the office, the noise and number of people everywhere, he didn’t cry or try to get away from us; he came to us immediately.  Although he was only 15 months old at the time, it seemed as if he knew that he was becoming a part of our family and he was happy with that!  We will always treasure the memories of his first smile and laugh brought to us by his sister playing with him.

In the beginning of this process we thought we had it all figured out.  We knew exactly how this was all going to play out – we would get our referral, travel to China to bring Sarah home and live happily ever after as parents of two girls.  As you can see, life does not always follow the path that you expect it to.  Had we not opened our hearts and minds to the prospect of a Waiting Child adoption, we would not have our son. Not a child with a special need, but our 21 month-old sweet, energetic, sometimes stubborn, rambunctious, and amazing addition to our family.  

It goes to show you that not everything in life requires the best laid plan; sometimes the best things come from moments when you open yourself and your heart to possibilities. 

Filed under adoption special needs adoption Chinese adoption international adoption