Three Leadership Lessons from The Hobbit

Source: Wikipedia

Last night was date night with my daughter.  We finally went to see The Hobbit and thoroughly enjoyed our journey to Middle-earth.

In addition to amazing scenery, battles against evil and miraculous rescue from near death, the movie also included some interesting leadership lessons.

When Gandalf was asked why he included Bilbo Baggins, a rather unlikely member of a team facing perilous danger in their quest to reclaim the dwarves stolen home, he responded  ” Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? That’s because I am afraid and it gives me courage.”

Leadership lessons:

  1. Recognize you are not invincible and include people on your team that can help address your weakness.
  2. Look beyond the obvious solutions and be brave enough to make decisions others don’t understand and may not agree with.  Be prepared to answer the “why” when it comes, but don’t let the fear of the “why” stop you.

In another scene early on in the movie, Bilbo Baggins is decidedly reluctant to leave the comfort of his home, his books and his shire.  His youthful dreams of adventure have been replaced by a love of doilies, a stocked pantry and his mother’s good dishes.  Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his much younger self, a hobbit who raced through the shire in search of adventure, who was constantly late for dinner and wouldn’t have been able to tell a doily from a dish rag (Those of you that have seen the movie will recognize that reference!) and tells Bilbo “The world is not in your book and maps. It’s out there!”  And in the end, Bilbo decides to go on this unexpected journey and his world is changed.

Leadership lesson #3: Look for hidden potential.  Encourage, support and perhaps sometimes even push a little, to get team members outside of their comfort zone. Provide them opportunities to be better than they may believe they can be.

Fortunately, most of us do not need to ask our team members to take on challenges that will pull them away from family and friends for long periods of time.  The monsters we ask them to face are deadlines, new learning and personal fears and insecurities instead of orcs, goblins and trolls.   Whatever the quest, whatever the goal, as a leader it is our responsibility to help our team be successful.

Your thoughts?

Success from a Millennial’s Perspective

Google “managing millennials” and you’ll find a long, long list of articles and resources all addressing the question “How do organizations adapt to the unique perspectives and qualities millennials bring to the workforce?”

I was recently given the opportunity to read a book written from a millennial’s perspective on how to be successful in today’s constantly changing corporate work.  The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World, written by Aaron McDaniel, touches on basic truths that apply to all generations.  Perhaps the scariest part is Aaron’s statement that these concepts are not being taught in college.  Hopefully that is not true across the board.

I must admit I was really hoping to learn something completely new, completely different, but I didn’t. And that’s not a bad thing.  In the end, the road to success hasn’t changed a whole lot.   Success is not a right; success is not a given.  Success depends on a willingness to:

  1. Work hard
  2. Take risks
  3. Learn from others
  4. Learn from mistakes
  5. Create a career path
  6. Be flexible
  7. Challenge yourself

Aaron speaks to millennials from a millennial’s perspective.  Remember how your child believed his teacher or scout leader, instead of you, even though the message was the same?  A millennial hearing the message from one of their own, someone who has enjoyed significant success, may be more willing to listen.

Aaron also provides specific examples of how behaviours that are new in today’s corporate world apply to old truths. For example, the importance of acting professionally is not new.  Aaron reminds young workers that their behaviour, even when on break or outside of work, impacts other’s perceptions of them.  Posts and updates on Facebook, twitter, blogs and other social media channels are open and accessible for all to see and posting  unprofessional “party ‘til you drop images” on a public forum may very well impact the next promotion, the next job opportunity or the successful close rate with customers.

For me, the two most important lessons from this book are:

  1. Take control of your career.  Create a career plan.  Identify where you want to go and what you need to do in order to get there.  Nobody is waiting to give you what you want.  Go out and get it.
  2. Learn how to successfully leverage mentorship.  Identify potential mentors and ask them to be a mentor.  Recognize and value their time, their knowledge and their experience.  And when someone asks you to be a mentor, do it.  Giving back and helping others succeed is good for them and for you.

The Young Professionals Guide to the Working World is an excellent resource for millennials looking for ideas and suggestions on how to be successful in today’s corporate world. The truths Aaron outlines have stood the test of time. They work and he is a living, breathing, millennial example of that.

(Thank you to Career Press for the opportunity to read and review Aaron McDaniel’s book, The Young Professionals Guide to the Working World.)

Feel Good Friday – 228 Random Acts of Kindness

I start most days getting local, national and international news the old fashioned way … at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper.  Every once in awhile, I seriously consider cancelling my subscription, blocking all news feeds and news channels and just pretending that there is no world outside of my own.

There are so many bad news stories; stories of people losing their home, their money, their health, their life.  Stories of strife, turmoil, greed and hatred.  And then, every once in awhile there is a story that brightens my day.

This story happened right here in Winnipeg.  One person at a Tim Horton’s drive-thru picked up the tab for the next car in line. That person then paid it forward to the next car and so on and so on.  For the next three hours for a total of 228 transactions, customers in the drive-thru and the restaurant kept paying it forward.  (For the full story, click here.)

We all have the opportunity to make someone’s day just a little brighter.  Smile and say hello to a stranger.  Hold the door open for someone.  Let someone into your lane instead of hurrying to get in front of them.  Tell someone you work with how much you appreciate them.  Let the dishes wait and cuddle with a loved one instead.

It’s feel good Friday.  What will you do to make someone’s day a little brighter?



‘Tis the Season for Resolutions

“New Year’s Day now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” ~ Mark Twain

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when many people start thinking of all the things they can and should be doing to make their life, their business, stronger and better than it was the previous year.  All too often, the resolutions are a repeat of previous year’s failed attempts at change or progress and this time next year, will be pulled out again to try just one more time.

Perhaps it’s because so many resolutions, both business and personal, are made because someone has told us we should, not because we have any passion or desire to make the change.  Now, sometimes those people may be right, but unless we can find a way to personalize the benefit of change, the chance of success is slim at best.  Instead of resolving to be better at promoting the business, clearly identify the personal benefits of doing so.  Better promotion = more business = a week away with the family during the  holidays.

Another reason resolutions fail is because they are ambiguous. What does “better at promoting the business” mean?  Is it more sales calls?  Is it different marketing activities?  A clearly defined goal or resolution provides direction and purpose.

Perhaps it’s fear that  holds us back.  We may not like where we are, but it is at least a place we are familiar with. There are no guarantees of success when we try something new and failure hurts.

And, last but not least, perhaps it’s because we make the list so long we have no idea where to start. Which changes have the potential to make the greatest positive impact on your life or your business?  Focus on those first. And plan how to achieve them.  Identify who can support you in the process.

What are your thoughts? Do you make resolutions and if so, what do you do to increase the odds of success?

What’s Your Happy Pill?

When my children were young, we always had happy pills on hand. If I’d had a tough day and wasn’t feeling my mommy best when I picked them up after work, I’d ask them for a happy pill before we got into the house.  Or if I noticed one of them wasn’t quite their exuberant self, I’d hand them a little happy pill to take on our way home.  Sometimes the pills were invisible; sometimes they were candy coated.

Of course, there isn’t a pill that magically takes away the bad and replaces it with goodness and light and as my two children grew up, we stopped playing the happy pill game.  Sometimes, I miss that silly little game.  It was such a great way to say “ I’ve had a bad day” or  “I see you’ve had a disappointing day.”  Our small happy pill ritual opened the door to hugs and further discussion.

I’ll admit that sometimes I think it would be nice to solve all the challenges, the disappointment of half successes or full on failures with a happy pill, but looking back on all those moments, I’m glad it wasn’t that easy.  If it was, I may never have learned I was strong enough to overcome challenges. I would not have learned how to pick myself up from failure and find a new or different way of achieving success.

Having said that, I believe that in some respects we do have happy pills available when we are feeling down, when things aren’t working our way, when we’re not sure we are on the right path.  My happy pills are memories that bring a smile to my face.  My happy pills are the many people in my life who bring me joy; my husband, my children and the rest of my family and family-in-law.  Instead of getting caught up in my problems, I choose to pop a happy thought into my mind.

 What do you do when you feel the world is against you? How do move your attitude from negative to can do?