September 2, 2014

C Stands For Calm, Cool and Composed: Lessons from Kanya West, Serena Williams, Joe Williams and Taylor Swift

If you are following my blog, you probably know by now that I am knocking out the alphabet…the A, B, Cs of leadership.

I have been delaying the letter “C”, because I have to tell you…I had nothing…nothing that had been really discussed before.  I thought about collaboration, communication, creativity, blah, blah…boring!  It’s all been said…yes…we all need to be better communicators, we all need to collaborate more, and we can certainly all use a bigger, better dose of creative thinking.

But…what struck me on Monday after Kanye West pulled his little stunt at the VMA awards is that our leaders are not keeping their cool.  For some reason, they think they are entitled to telling the world what they think.   And yes…Kanye West is a leader in the music and entertainment industry.  Even though he can act a bit like a jerk at times, people love his music and his “in your face” approach.  But, on this occasion, he crossed the line. He chose to show up on the red carpet with a bottle of Hennessy drinking from the bottle in front of the cameras and then stole the thunder from Taylor Swift. Her shining moment, first VMA award and he had to march onto the stage to announce that Beyonce really had a better video…YUCK!  The world is now turning on Kanye.  His colleagues are dissing him, his fans are deleting his music from their i-pods and the media is having a frenzy.  I believe Kanye needs a PR damage control consultant.

This incident came on the heels of Serena Williams, another leader in the athletic world, cussing out a line judge for crossing a boundary with her foot.   Once again…why is it necessary to use the language that she used…she basically threw a temper tantrum, and her star power and respect have gone into the ditch in a flash.  She is now being called the female John McEnroe (watch here as McEnroe goes after the judge…looks familiar, eh?. )  Young women all over the world have admired Williams from afar…wishing they could be her…cheering for her and looking up to her.  Not any longer.  While there will always be Serena Williams fans, she just lost a huge following of people.  I will still watch her…she is amazing, but I will be wondering if she is going to lose it and watching for another outburst.

A couple of other examples: Republican lawmaker Joe Wilson shouted out YOU LIE! during a speech by President Obama recently.   And, apparently our own President did not know the audio was still rolling yesterday when he called Kanya a name.

So, here’s the deal.  When you are a leader, all eyes are on you.  If you are saying or doing something that crosses a line…especially in public, you are going to get your hand slapped.   If you have a violent outburst, you are going to lose followers.  On the same note, I completely understand losing your cool one, even two or three times, but when it becomes a repeating pattern, it is time to start implementing a few steps to turn this around.  So, here we go:

1) Know what your triggers are.  Keep those in check.  When you receive a trigger that is going to be followed by an outburst or an inappropriate action, stop the process by getting yourself out of the way.  I know this is not possible on the tennis court, so when you cannot get out of the situation, close your eyes, take a deep breath and count to ten.

2) Write out on paper the triggers that get you fired up, and notice when you are getting ready to move into an encounter, argument, and think of something positive…just do this one time.

3) Walk it off…movement can help.

4) After you get the trigger, write down 10 things you are grateful for.

5) Look more closely at what attention you are seeking.  Maybe it’s time to look for positive attention for doing something great for the world…not for attacking others.

6) Be mature and professional.  Taylor Swift appeared yesterday on The View, and here is how she responded when asked about Kanya West doing his thing:

“Wow, I can’t believe I won… This is awesome… Don’t trip and fall… I’m gonna get to thank the fans, this is so cool… Oh, Kanye West is here!’,” Swift told the ladies on The View, “‘Cool haircut… What are you doing there? And then, Ouch. And then, I guess I’m not gonna be able to thank the fans.’ ”

What a class act this young woman is…we can all learn from her response, and according to an article on Fox News, Swift says she has moved on from this incident.  She is one calm, cool and composed leader.

Leadership Lessons Learned From President Obama’s Actions on the Skip Gates Incident

I know everyone is commenting on this story, so I of course have to throw my two cents in…from the perspective of leadership.

There are a few things I think we can all learn from President Obama’s words and actions.  Watch the video first, and then read my thoughts below:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

1) “Well, I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.”

CON: When a friend is involved in something of this nature, it is critical for a leader to be extra cautious before making a statement or decision.  When friends and family are involved, a leader’s perspective can get a bit fuzzy.

PRO: I appreciate that the President said “I may be a little biased here”…if you have a bias, it’s better to state that than to just breeze over the bias.

2) “I don’t know all the facts.”

CON: It is best to not make a statement until you have all the facts…period.  This one can hang you as a leader.

PRO: Again…at least the President admitted that he did not have all the facts.

3)  “Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home”

CON: While I realize our law enforcement professionals have some flaws and many have been accused of racial profiling, I simply don’t feel that it is appropriate to even suggest that any police officer or department acts “stupidly”.  Choose your words carefully (hastily may have been a better choice here.)

PRO: The President did not “couch” his words.  Being direct can work, but you do have to be very careful who you are speaking to and the words you use.  Many people are now saying that Obama called the Cambridge police officer,  Sgt. James Crowley,  stupid…that is not what he said.  He said the Cambridge Police acted stupidly (that is a behavior…and I don’t believe Obama was calling Crowley stupid.)

4) “As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society. That doesn’t lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that’s been made. And yet, the fact of the matter is that, you know, this still haunts us.”

CON: A sensitive button got pushed, and an assumption was drawn that this incident was related to racial profiling.   That is a very slippery slope, and if the President had done his homework on Crowley, he would have known that he has a record of speaking out against racial profiling and educating others on how to stop it.  As a leader, before you discuss sensitive subjects (race, religion), it is best to make sure that you are not speaking from the place of a “hot button”.

PRO: The President took a stand, and we need someone who is willing to take a stand right now and speak from a place of passion.

In closing, I admire President Obama for going back and calling both Crowley and Gates to the White House for a beer.  I have seen a lot of mending happen over a few drinks.

Do You Give Up Too Soon?

The thing that I think I most admired about the way President Elect Obama ran his campaign did not have to do with his charisma or calm demeanor…it had to do with his willingness to stick to the course…his perseverence was most impressive. He stayed on course, continued to speak the same message, had his same core campaign team in place at the end, and even though the media had predicted him the winner, Obama was still out (the day before the election) knocking on doors and telling people to get out and vote. “We can’t quit” were the words he kept saying over and over again, and his strategy worked!

This stick-ability is what we all need right now. With the economy heading south, it’s very easy to just throw in the towel and call it quits. But…I am here to say with confidence that there are opportunities out there that can help us all get through this time…but not if we’re going to quit!

So, today’s post will give you a few strategies that I use with my clients to help them see a project through.

1) If you are not succeeding on the third try of doing something, switch approaches. You may be stuck in a worn out groove that has become outdated. Try a new approach that others are using that seems to be working. Try a new marketing approach or a new way of delivering your message. Shave with your less dominant hand. The key here is to switch up the way you are doing things.

2) If you are having conflict with another person, talk about it, and stay on the behavior…not the person. When leaders are “stuck”, 99% of the time, it is because there is another party involved and a conflict is looming. I highly recommend the book Crucial Confrontations for every leader I meet. The book has gobs of suggestions on how to tackle those tough encounters.

3) Stop taking things personally. When you take things personally, the world is all about you! Do you think Obama let what the world was saying stop him? Absolutely not! He kept on going even in the face of backlash and doubt that he was not experienced enough to lead our county. When you depersonalize the situation, you can look at the facts, questions and answers objectively and move ahead from there.

4) Choose your battles. Are you trying to fight each and every battle that comes your way? If so, you may be “battle spinning” as I call it. There are some battles worth fighting for and some that you need to let go. Choose your battles wisely.

5) Say “no” to your own procrastination. We all procrastinate, and when we procrastinate, we are not in action. We are thinking about all that we are not doing or have not done. Look closely at your reason for procrastination and move that off your agenda. If you are going to persevere, you need to do it without a laundry list of activities on your plate.

Idealism, Web spark teens’ interest in presidential race

This article discusses teens’ keen interest in the Presidential election and why Obama is still the preferred candidate for young voters.

The paragraph on teens and civic/social causes is most interesting. Check out the article on Chron.com.