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See Who Shows Up – Step 1 in Scouting Potential Leaders

Leadershipphoto © 2007 Pedro Ribeiro Simões | more info (via: Wylio)
(First in a series on traits of successful leaders, especially non-profits who seek volunteers)

The most important job of a leader is to find and train your replacement. How do you find the right person?

First, watch who shows up for events. Not just the big events with the sparkly toys that get all the attention. See who shows up to do the work before and after the event, behind the scenes, without seeking any public recognition for effort.

It’s easy to show up for the fun stuff. Or most of the fun stuff.

Leaders realize the fun stuff doesn’t happen if someone doesn’t do the tough stuff first.

“There are four aces in every deck,” I was told years ago. “No matter the organization – its size or its scope – generally about 4 key players keep things going.” Maybe that’s why many organizations have 4 top offices – president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

The challenge with most leaders is they are already leading. Most leaders I know are already stretched too thin, especially if they help not-for-profits as a volunteer. They could be great leaders but simply don’t have the time and passion to help you.

The potential leaders who show up most likely have the deepest passion for your cause. Their energy, their time, and their passion follows. As soon as they show up, find ways to uniquely use their talents.

Observe the following the following in new potential leader recruits:

  1. Communication skills – how they relate to others
  2. Work habits – do they go the extra mile and help others?
  3. Work style – what is their work style, and is it a good fit for you? How do they handle stress or tough situations? What stresses them?
  4. Commitment - is this someone who truly wants to help or wants to add a community service line to their resume?
  5. Time frame – some help for a project, a season, a year, a few years, or a lifetime.

The quiet secret of volunteer leadership is you get more than you give. Yes, it’s tough and stressful at times. But whatever you do to help others gives the deep satisfaction of using your talents to help others.

Keep Your Cool, Part 1

Today’s Feature Friday guest blogger is Jacob Yount, of JLmade, a promo, retail, and customized product manufacturing company based in Suzhou, China.  Jacob and I met earlier this year by way of Twitter. His cultural insights from the other side of the planet teach me a lot.

Before I moved to China back in 2001, I was under the impression that the Chinese were a very calm bunch.  I think many Westerners have this idea (stereotype?) in their minds of the solemn, stone-faced, cool-as-a-cucumber Chinese from the mysterious and ancient land.  Even the Chinese play this up;  they do teach to keep your cool in any and all situations.  A calm spirit is an admired spirit here and folks exalt this ability.  In comparing and contrasting Chinese to Westerners (again all from my worldview and time here spent), the Chinese themselves think and say that Westerners are emotional and excitable and Chinese are calm and logical. 
Today I want to break this stereotype for the greater good of China manufacturing.  After 9 years of observation, living here and interacting with society, I can safely and confidently say that CHINESE FOLKS ARE FREAKING OUT. 
Now before I get ugly comments and ugly emails, I’m not saying this is across the board for all individuals and I’m not saying there are not certain situations where they maintain their composure.  But what I am saying is that myth of this supernatural calmness existing here is very far removed from the truth.  I would even go as far to say that folks here are more excitable than what I’ve seen from Western nations and the surrounding Asian neighbors. 
Case in point: bloggers (and not only Western) are commenting the styles of crisis management of both groups in wake of last week’s Japanese tragedy.  While folks in Japan are orderly, allowing their neighbor to go first and making the best of a rough situation, the Chinese were rushing to buy salt.  And now that they realized that they were losing their cool over the whole salt debacle, they are now rushing to get refunds on the high-priced salt they fearfully purchased in bulk!  Something else to lose their cool over… 
Typical Scene:  Traffic Jam, Argument, Chaos.
Almost weekly or bi-weekly in China do I see public arguments.  I don’t mean two folks quietly hashing out their differences, but there will be a curious crowd gathered in a large circle, while two folks stand in the middle and scream at one another.  Usually over that great debate that has plagued mankind for centuries:  “who was right and who was wrong”. 
On the surface, Westerners do seem more emotional, but here’s the difference.  We have mini-ups and mini-downs all day long, on a daily basis.  We laugh, we frown, we smile, we may kick the tires on our car and say a curse word but we are fine in 5 minutes.  The Chinese don’t do this.  They keep the same surface look and feel, but inside they are boiling over and the slightest thing will eventually set them off.  It’s as if there is no release valve and so sooner or later, they combust.  How does it all play out, into arguments, fights, corruption, riots in the under-developed areas (which is the majority and which happens very often), their driving and on a daily basis, hoarding, nervousness, uneasiness, etc..   
There’s a bit of a “fearful” atmosphere in China, especially from the upper-mid-aged folks to the elderly.  These people have seen more social change and development in their lifetime than most folks have or will ever see.  I think of my own in-laws who went through the Cultural Revolution and that their daily life is night and day different from the life that they lived.  This was one of the most closed-off societies in the World for thousands of years and suddenly they are open and booming.  It’s highly competitive, folks don’t feel secure in their jobs, they make low wages, they are not highly skilled, etc, etc… It’s crowded here, it’s easy to get lost in the rat race.  Take all the daily social factors plus add in the concept of “face” over which many Chinese will fight to the death and you got quite a complex, nervous society.
So what’s my point?  They’re nervous, so what?  In my next post, will talk about….drum roll…you guessed it…how this affects your offshore manufacturing.  Don’t misunderstand me folks, my goal here is not to show the bad about China.  If I didn’t love and support this nation, I wouldn’t have lived here for this long. Only giving a perspective that from outside and especially Western point of views, is not considered.  
As said in my first blog post, the point of my blogging efforts is to illuminate from my point of view on “life” and “China manufacturing”.  With Part II, this theme does both, bringing it into full circle.

More Than Good Enough

Houses for salephoto © 2008 I See Modern Britain | more info (via: Wylio)
When Richard and I were house-hunting, we visited one home and discovered a backyard full of dog poop. The sellers thought that getting the inside of the house clean was “good enough” to prep it. We left after we saw the poop. If dog poop was good enough for us to see, what did they think was good enough that we couldn’t see?

“Good enough” is a standard to beat – not meet. Especially in a tough economy.

Yesterday,  real estate agent tweeted a high end house posted low resolution photos in their sales info and noted high res photos would have sold the house.

Imagine a sub with several houses on the market, and all of them are “good enough.” What makes 1 house sell faster than the others? Better structure, features, home staging, and packaging impact the sale.  “Beyond compare” sells before “good enough.”

The same holds true for all businesses.  Most industries now compete on a global level, where there are several other businesses like yours for customers to choose from, just like those houses in the sub. What can you do to differentiate yourself so you get the sale first?

  • Reach beyond the “good enough” standard to offer your customers a value without compare.
  • Show them that you are a wise investment.  
  • Offer the best and friendliest customer service you can.
  • Share your story and what makes you unique in the global subdivision. Build real relationships with your customers and potentials.
  • Package your business wisely. Authentic may be the new “excellence,” but there is still a place for smart marketing with good visuals. Good visuals can bring customers in to get to know you better. A picture is worth a thousand words – doesn’t it make sense to make sure that picture is the best you can provide?
  • Build strategic relationships with other businesses so you can help each other grow.

Tough economy + faster communication in a social media world = companies who settle for a “good enough” standard will fall behind smart companies who aspire to something better.

The Cialis Dance Disaster

Huh?photo © 2007 Goddess Adrasteia | more info (via: Wylio)
Several years ago, I watched a dance disaster with a children’s talent show. A video glitched that was to be the background to a group of fourth grade girls dancing. The girls were going to dance a “Rise and Shine” tribute to Marcia Yockey, a beloved, infamous lady who used to forecast the weather in Evansville, Indiana. The girls were going to sing and dance to “Rise and Shine” while old footage of Marsha’s weather forecasts showed on the screen behind them.

Marcia was a character unto herself, making her forecasts as much entertainment as information. Legend has it she once quit a TV station and went to another because she didn’t like the old station’s new theme song.

A funny thing happened on the way to the performance. The video glitched. As the girls started to dance and sing, a Cialis commercial aired without the sound. So we heard “Rise and Shine” just as the Cialis logo appeared on the screen. The adults in the audience struggled to maintain their composure. The girls dancing spun around, and you could tell they were puzzled by the screen and kept going. Thank God they were too young to know what Cialis treats and how their lyrics conjured all kinds of images never intended.

Businesses can learn from the Cialis Dance Disaster. How many times is a business marketing, getting its message out without realizing what’s going on the screen behind them, that their audience customers see but they don’t? Do they know what’s being Tweeted about their products?

Take it a step further. Does that business understand its customers well enough to really engage with them? Those girls didn’t know what Cialis was, but the audience did. What happens if a business talks iCarly, but their customers are more familiar with Hannah Montana, Happy Days, or – dusting off the cobwebs – Family Affair? What if a business’s client base includes multiple demographics? Do they tailor their message and their communication message to each?

Or are they still old school one message fits all let the dollars roll in?

Businesses who market old school in the new social world run the risk of being like the girls dancing “Rise and Shine,” while their customers laugh and then walk next door to the competitor who integrates marketing efforts to reach clients where they already are.

Whole Hog Biz Errors

“I’m going to have a bachelor party and want it to be a hog roast,” the caller on the radio show began.

“We’re trying to locate a pig and drive 5 hours with it so we can roast it while we spend a weekend in a cabin. Any suggestions?” He continued.

The radio host encouraged him to hire outside help because of potential pitfalls with his plan. I agree.

Our county’s 4-H leaders volunteer to carve a hog at a roast each year after it is auctioned off to benefit our 4-H Center. A local farmer donates the hog, a local barbecue restaurant roasts the hog, a food supplier donates the side dishes, a DJ donates his services, and we carve Porky.

I’ve helped with the carving of 2 hogs. The second time I did it, I was going to have to be in charge, so I recruited a friend of mine, a retired meat inspector, to help. We carved the hog in time to tunes like “Stayin Alive” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Even though I have carved a couple of hogs, hold a Serv-safe food safety certification, and have helped cater dinners of up to 400 people for 4-H fundraisers, there is no way I would ever consider roasting a hog. I do what I know best and rely on other experts in other fields to do the same.

This applies to many small business owners, especially in an Internet age.  We don’t have to roast the whole hog but can rely on experts to do the parts we’re not comfortable doing. That could include hiring:

  1. An accountant to check Quickbook account setups.
  2. A blog designer to design our WordPress website and then train us so we can write timely updates.
  3. An SEO expert to ensure our website wins search.
  4. Marketers who use varied media well so we can integrate our marketing strategy with video and social media components.
  5. A social media expert to help us set up our presence in social media and train us to do timely updates with an integrated marketing strategy.
  6. Graphic designers and artists to create great graphics for our landing pages and other electronic promotions.
  7. Video pros to help us create fantastic, short videos.

If you need help finding an expert in any of the above areas, let me know. If I can’t help, I know pros who can.

Hiring professionals is an investment well worth making.

Hire or Train: What’s in the Budget?

This post is by Nick Carter, author of Unfunded: From Bootstrap to Blue Chip Without the Fuel of Round-A Capital. This is the story behind the story, untold tid-bits that didn’t make the book’s final cut.

Of all the unknowns in business, there are two things you can know for sure: your business needs technology, and technology costs money. It does. It costs a lot of money, in fact. I am learning more and more each day just how expensive technology can be. But it’s not the zeros and ones that cost money. It’s not the silicon chips, the powder-coated metal boxes, the buttons, the switches, or the plasma screen displays. It’s the knowledge that costs the most.

I learned early on that you cannot buy Photoshop and suddenly know how to design. In fact, I tell our customers all the time that just buying our CRM software doesn’t make you any better at selling. The real power in technology is in knowing how to use it. But that know-how comes at a cost. You can get training, and that costs money. You can forego training and just hire someone else to do it, and that costs money. Or you can buckle down, resolve not to spend a dime, and teach yourself how to do it. That, of course, costs time. You know what they say about time, don’t you. Time is money.

Actually, that last little maxim is a valuable tidbit when you’re considering whether to hire or train. There are two basic options for filling technology knowledge gaps on your staff: hire or train. And, at first glance, training seems cheaper. It seems so obvious, in fact, that a few hundred dollars on training is cheaper than hiring someone (either contract or full-time) that you may wonder what more I have to write about. Well, listen up.

Getting trained doesn’t just cost a few hundred dollars for a class. It also costs time. No, not just the time in the class either. If you become trained on a new technology then you become obligated to your business to enact that training. Training on a new process, a new program, a new platform, or any form of new technology means you are now the go-to person for that technology. Whatever it is this technology is expected to deliver for your business, you are now solely responsible to execute. So the question becomes: can you afford to be that person?

The simple fact is that technology never stops. If you’re learning a program’s current release today, you’ll be learning the next upgrade in a year or less. Learning never ends. Last August, I finally made the decision to hire an in-house technician. His job was not only to know how to do what I did not and to do it, but his job is also to continue knowing. He has the responsibility to continue learning, to stay abreast of new technologies, and to keep our company forging ahead. Can you do that job yourself? Maybe. But for how long, and at what cost?

To read more about Nick Carter’s framework for startups, visit www.gounfunded.com/unfunded-book/.

4 Leadership Lessons From George Rogers Clark

George Rogers Clark is an unsung hero of the American Revolution. Few know the tale of how he led his army on an impossible mission and defeated the British at Fort Vincennes in Indiana. Because of his victory in the frontier, the militia could focus on defeating the British in the colonies.

Clark and his men walked from near St. Louis, Missouri, across Illinois, to Vincennes, Indiana in the middle of winter in 18 days. They walked through a record-breaking flood, doing without food, and wading for entire days in waist or higher water. When they reached Vincennes, they tricked the British into surrendering without a battle. How did Clark achieve such success?

  • Inspiration. Clark said if you gave troops a cause to believe in, a song to sing, and a joke to laugh at, they could accomplish anything. Have you given those around you the same?
  • Vision of the Big Picture. In those days when his men struggled through cold, flooded plains, Clark had his drummer boy ride on a soldier’s shoulders near the front to keep the men marching. He would call the whole time they just had a little further to go. He kept the men focused on going just a little longer until they had reached the other side of a flooded shore. Do you encourage those around you to keep going when they are cold, hungry, and exhausted?
  • Savvy Choice of Battles. Clark did not rush into battle just to fight. If he could finagle a surrender with a bluff instead, he did. When you face a confrontation, do you decide when to go head on and when to do an end run?

Sadly, the fourth lesson from George Rogers Clark does not have as happy an ending.

  • Paperwork Matters. As Clark outfitted his troops, he signed personal guarantees to merchants for supplies. Unfortunately, when he submitted the receipts for reimbursement to Washington, D.C., they were lost in transit and never reimbursed. He was held personally responsible for those debts by merchants who had extended credit. Clark and his family, including his famous brother, William Rogers Clark, spent the rest of his life trying to clear Clark of his debts and restore his good name. Pay attention to rules, regulations, receipts, and paperwork, or bad things happen.

Nevertheless, all Americans owe Clark a debt of gratitude. He’s the best example I’ve ever found of how a boy who could not sit still in school channeled his talents and helped others in extraordinary ways.

If you would like to learn more about George Rogers Clark, visit his memorial in Vincennes, Indiana. Each Memorial Day weekend, they host a Rendezvous of reenactments and live demonstrations. I highly recommend it.

9 Keys to Strong Leadership

Keys to Leadership

You’re not leadership material. You’ve got the brains but lack the personality. But you can help leaders with your ideas,” I was told decades ago by a family member. As a brownie dropout who wasn’t involved in clubs or organizations, I believed it.

When I did get involved, that advice stayed with me, so for years I happily helped as secretary for organizations.

Six years ago, I was thrown into a leadership position. My kids were in the Evansville Children’s Choir, and their parents’ group needed a president. I had some ideas of where I would like to take the group. So I was elected president and was so scared I nearly peed my pants on the way home after that first meeting.  I was their president two years.

Then I became president of  Vanderburgh County’s 4-H Leaders and just finished two years as their president.

Along the way, I discovered that I could lead and organize. Maybe I didn’t have the experience of prior leaders, but with the mastery of certain keys, I could manage the job.

What makes a successful leader?

  1. Setting. Find the right venues, and be prepared to work a lot with setting up and tearing down tables and chairs.
  2. Dependability. Show up for the job – not just the big splashy ones but the ones that require work, generate sweat, and involve dirt. When you’re willing to tackle the dirty jobs, so are others.
  3. Communication. Use multiple channels of communication – printed agendas, email, social media, and telephone. You get the best results if you reach people where they are at. If you are recruiting volunteers, use mail merge for personal emails to get the best results.
  4. Inspiration. When you give people a cause to believe in, a song to sing, and a joke to laugh at, they will do great things. At every meeting and in every email, include at least one line of the big picture to remind everyone why we work together.
  5. Careful Stewardship. Count every dollar and make every dollar count. Spend money on yourself and your comforts last. Focus dollars first towards accomplishing your mission. When others see you have integrity, they will contribute more of their time, talents, and treasure.
  6. Organization. Maintain calendars so people know when activities are happening. Bylaws and organizational structures help an organization extend beyond personality-driven leadership.
  7. Delegation. Always train your replacements and help others develop the skills to continue after you. Watch like a lifeguard in a pool at events and spot those who seem to be flailing – help them find their niche and contribute their skills.
  8. Humility. Be willing to admit your faults and apologize when you’re wrong.
  9. Fortitude. If you’re the president, that means the buck stops with you. You sometimes have to make the tough calls and have the rough conversations. You’re the one who sometimes has to say no. You set the tone and the boundaries.

What do you think are the most important traits for a leader? Share them in the comments.

Grab Your Dream Builders

Plunge!  The water feels cold when you grab your new business (your life preserver) and leap into the entrepreneurship ocean.

I knew the water would be cold but!

After you make the leap and start kicking your business across the ocean, prepping to build your boat, be on guard.

People may tell you what to do. As they talk, decide whether they are Dream Builders or Dream Snatchers. What’s the difference?

Dream Builders

  • Offer constructive, achievable solutions
  • Share strategies that worked for them
  • Scout their view of the ocean for tools or clients that might help
  • Cheer victories
  • Encourage you to learn from failures and try again
  • Hold you accountable in a positive way

Dream Snatchers

  • Talk problems, nothing but the problems – the water is cold, your life preserver is tattered on one side, why do you kick THAT way, ride on someone else’s fishing boat instead
  • Suggest you wait till the perfect time when the preserver is perfect and the ocean is warm (ain’t gonna happen – we don’t live in a perfect world)
  • Distract you by demanding you listen to their problems and fix their situations
  • Ignore your victories and ridicule your defeats

After you take the plunge, surround yourself with a smart support team who will help you build your dreams.

Dream builders help you make it happen.

Spend too much time with dream snatchers, and you will fail.

After a lifetime of helping family and friends reach for their dreams, I’m taking my shot at going for my own as a computer coach. Yesterday at a business networking luncheon icebreaker, I sat with a group of other female entrepreneurs. 

They were dream builders. We worked through the icebreaker, gave each other suggestions, and more. I walked out of the meeting ready to kick a little harder and smarter, with new ideas of things to try.

Thanks to the ladies at my table – Brenda Hughes of Evansville Home Staging & Redesign; Penelope Pennington of Milestone Investments; and  Cheryl Mochau, a personal chef and author.

Gotta go – it’s nearly dawn, and I’ve miles to kick before I sleep…

If I kick  well, my clients will leap tough spreadsheets with a single bound, create documents faster than a speeding word processor, tweet like a bird, soar social media like a plane, and become super computer users.

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