Archive for Leadership Skills

This Life – A Poem of Reflection

This Life

Given to us as a gift
To use as we choose.
Some use it wisely
Others wander; stay confused.
Many focus on gaining riches
And success by the world’s definition
Big houses, fine cars, titles,
Awards and recognition.
What I know to be true
Witnessing the death of a close friend.
She longed for peace in her final days
Not the world’s wins.
So a lesson for us all
Is to focus on the now.
Love and live your life with purpose
Let the earthly possessions take a bow.
 ©-Barbara McAllister

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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and a Committed Life

On this Monday, many from across the nation will have an extra day off in honor of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   Honoring the full intent of his dream will require more than simply escaping with a vacation day.  It calls for a deeper reflection of how one can do better; calls for me to assess how I can be a better person knowing the extent of his sacrifices for my quality of life.  

Dr. King is most notable for his plight for social and economic injustices.  He will always be remembered for his Nobel Peace Prize and leading a non violence civil rights movement.  While these items are very important to remember, my adult years have allowed for a greater appreciation of him beyond the fight for civil rights.   I have grown to marvel at the interworking of his thoughts. As an aspiring writer, I marvel at his command of words along with the rich images created by his writing.  It is pure joy reading his letters or listening to his tapes.  His ability to deal with change and transcend fear are excellent models for transitioning through the years of the forties.    “Life’s common denominator, “he said,” is death and all the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine luxurious things of life to leave behind. I just want to leave a committed life behind.” 

Leaving a committed life behind requires us to take baby steps in this very moment. How we choose to use our day and where we focus our time will ultimately result in our legacy to this world.  Dr. King was fearless enough to have these frequent conversations. He was clear on his life’s marching orders.  Although his time on earth was cut short, the impact left is a huge footprint.  And that is his bigger legacy; not the civil rights movement, his gift left to this world is a perfect demonstration of a committed life

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Parenting Is A Lot Like My Day Job

You must admit that most of us are open to inspiration from any source. Inspirational breakthroughs are especially warranted when leading teams though challenging work or complex environments. Even with an attitude of openness towards trying new strategies, I never dreamed parenting a teenager would help me so much in my role at work. There is a deep reservoir of similarities. Here are just a few examples. You will be able to relate even if you don’t have kids because when you look in the mirror, you’ll be reminded of the kid you once were.

Transferable Knowledge:

 1) Change: A shift in behavior is not as easy as the owner visualizes in his or her mind. “Just don’t leave your dirty socks on the bathroom floor.” No matter how clearly the owner of the change sees value, there will not be a sustainable shift until the person sees value what’s in it for them. There has to be an upswing somewhere or a cost for not changing to get buy in.

 2) Training: Just because you gave training one time does not mean it will be done to precision immediately after the training has been done. “Son, this is the trash can, this is the bag that goes in it . Once the trash reaches this level, it should be emptied.” That sounds pretty clear, doesn’t it? Verbalizing training is one thing, PowerPoints are good, too, but getting someone to ownership is a whole different story. It may take several iterations of training and hand holding before the behavior sticks.

 3) Attention Span and Distractions: To get the mind share of a kid is really tough these days. On any day, the number of distractions is overwhelming. With ear phones on, texting in the right hand and updating a Facebook status on his netbook while completing homework, my son will declare if you are lucky. “oh, you said something?” This is true at work too. In the middle of meeting, keystrokes are pecking in the background and you’ll get. “can you repeat the question?” People are overwhelmed with content and overloaded and distracted with technology. You rarely have 100% of a person’s mind share. .

 4) The Right Information and Solution but Wrong Timing: Sometimes you can give your kid quality information like, “you know planning ahead on your homework assignments will prevent you from staying up all night.” In that moment, the information may not have an impact. Don’t assume because it wasn’t received the first time that it is impossible to be heard at a moment when the timing is better. If the information is the right information and adds value, stay focused and eventually it will coincide with the right timing.

 5) “No” is debatable sometimes:  Kids are never discouraged by “ no.” I love their resilience. No is never the end of the story for my son. It’s the beginning of new dialogue. Experiencing this with him has increased my persistence at work. Kids simply do not focus on the no; they focus on working on a solution that moves the conversation from “no.”  They keep working it creatively from different angles. Although sometimes no ends in a definite no, it is never personal and there is no fear about bringing the topic up again in the future.

 I’m sure there are many other similarities and some under construction, too. Share any similarities you have experienced between parenting and your day job. Watching my son grow up mirrors in so many ways how my projects grow up at work.

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There is so much to do!

This poem was inspired by our visit to Oriental Weavers in Cairo, Egypt. In this visit, the company shared the manufacturing process of bringing together 14 unique strands of thread in various colors chosen to create the rug master pieces we see in places like the Marriott, Home Depot, Target and other retail locations. I was also inspired this week by our local site host, Nada El Gammal. She has the energy of 20 expressos and the knowledge of ancient historians. Nada, Thank you for the insightful agenda that you put together for our team. You gave so much of yourself this week and we sincerely thank you!!!! We hope you get some much deserved rest post our journey back home. 

At Oriental Weavers standing next to a rug of Cairo's President

At Oriental Weavers standing next to a rug of Cairo's President

There is so much to do!

My heart is saying this out loud
As I pack my bags, ending our Cairo trip
There are children to be educated
And gaining skills that will have them better equipped.

There is world peace on the line.
We don’t have time to sit still.
Let’s share the core of what we experienced here.
No wars or weapons or violence in the streets.
We see beautiful human beings working so their families can eat.

What a great spectrum we’ve seen of the haves and the have nots
It’s now up to us to do our part.
The best of us will be those that give.
Rather than stay silent in our comfortable spots.

Our team is woven like an Oriental Weavers rug
Young Middle East ambassadors of truth, you’d might say.
Each one respresenting their unique strand.
Bringing a different perspective causing you to think a different way.

No need to stand alone.
There is so much to do.
We saw first hand the value of bringing many threads into one.
We have the talent of the million dollar loom.
With a call to action in our hands
Waiting for us to answer in alignment, “yes, we stand.”

We stand for sustained improvement, aligned objectives and results.
We stand to make a difference.
We didn’t travel all this way to take notes and complain.
We stand to collaborate on key issues that will bring about change.
Change that brings us together for the greater good.
Because woven together , we create an unbreakable foundation.
Strands out of alignment result in gaps to our nation.

There is so much to do.
And the doing starts with me and you!

Barbara McAllister
EOP (end of poem)

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Saying Thank You

Developing the habit of saying thank you is a fundamental skill that should rank right up there with teaching your kids how to potty or how to ride a bicycle or drive a car.

I’m likely one of the few die hards left that still believe in the value of writing hard copy thank you notes.  I keep 2 to 3 boxes on hand in my office.    Additionally, we have a household rule that you cannot enjoy the birthday presents given until the thank you notes are in the mailbox.  My son often screams, “why can’t I send an email?”    My typical response is the person giving you this gift, took time out of their day, most likely left work early to mail this gift to you; the least you can do is write a thank you note in return.

So often, networks are broken,  repeat business dissipates and relationships aren’t maintained because we fail to offer our appreciation and gratitude.   Last week, I saw an antique car on the road that reminded me of the car my cousin’s father drove us to high school in every day.  The car was an old Pacer Model and immediately drew out  feelings and memories of him picking me up every morning,  going out of his way to encourage me to excel in school and providing the cool option of not having to ride the bus.

I pulled over at that exact moment, called him and said thank you!  It made him feel good, brought so many laughs and it deepened my appreciation for what leaders do.  We help even when it’s not required and always have a heart of gratitude and appreciation towards others.

Is there some one you need to thank today?  You will be amazed at how embracing the diligence of saying thank you will move you closer to your life’s purposes and goals.  Someone will remember your heart of gratitude when you need an opportunity door or two opened on your behalf.




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5 Must Have Skills to Succeed At Almost Anything

 We are coming off of a pretty tough past couple of weeks with many families losing their loved ones. In my prayers this morning, I asked God for a less intense week on the emotional side so I can focus!  Although, it wasn’t my family, I could relate to the loss.

 Whether you are a Michael Jackson fan, puzzled by the Steve McNair mistress tragedy, touched by the fighting spirit of Farah Fawcett, or reflecting on a loss of your own; death brings about moments of introspection.  

 It is often during these times that we cut to the chase rather quickly on coming to terms with the reality of our own longevity.  It is during these times that we call into question our true meaning and purpose.  Many of us ponder if we are on track to our life goals or not. What are we on this Earth to do?

 All great thoughts to process; It is a great time to ponder and an awesome time to thank those in your life that you value and love.  Bring more focus this week to all of these things and begin to tackle challenges now that will make a huge difference in the quality of your life.

 Here are 5 key skills that you will need to pack along with you to succeed at almost anything including improving your quality of life.  There are many others but this is a solid must have set to get us up and moving towards our goals.

 1) Self Management“This above all, -To thy own self, be true!”   You must have a strong sense of your strengths as well as your weaknesses.  In minutes, you should be able to articulate what works for you and have the ability to quickly discern between what  a great working environment looks like for you vs a poor one.  We cannot run away from our weaknesses. Manage them too. Be honest about them and incorporate a plan around how best to manage them including calling in the experts when needed.   The better you know self, the better you will be able to choose ripe environments for you to excel.  It can be as simple as knowing your prime productive hours or as complicated as knowing the required Myers Briggs leadership style of your manager.   

2) Planning and ExecutionIt is golden to plan and platinum to act on the plan.  Your plan is just a piece of paper until you put some feet on the plan. Get that plan to walking! To be successful, you must have the ability to critically think, take in various pieces of information and translate all of that into an actionable plan both short and long term.  In parallel with planning is the execution.  It is crucial to act.  Actions separate the “wannabees” from the “get er dones!” 

3) Networking – Leaders that are the most influential, get the most done (results) and at the same time maintain high quality trust relationships are those who will have mastered the art of networking.  We were created to be in fellowship with each other.  We will not be productive long term in isolated environments.  A viable and healthy network can put your plans, ideas into action and in places where you personally cannot reach. Let your network help you achieve your dreams. Thank them often and try giving them more than you receive. 

4) An Avid and Active Learner – No one has to tell you how quickly things change in our economy. By the time you starting using your new cell phone, the manufacturer has released an upgrade.  Similarly, you want to be able to be just that flexible and agile as it relates to work.  When one program shuts down, everyone knows you can take on this new challenge because you saw it coming and was already preparing yourself in advance for the change. I know a custom builder that was excelling in the housing market builde craze of two years ago.  When that came to a screeching halt, it didn’t deter him. He took those same skills, transferred them and is now excelling at home renovations and other build projects. We have to stay on top of everything; learning, reading, exposure beyond your comfort zone and never feeling like you know it all will keep you poised well for success.

 5) Relaxing and Self Care – My brother, Marvin, would call this, “knowing when to hold and knowing when to fold.”  We have to prioritize our self care and relaxation as #1.  Stress is bad for you and bluntly, will kill you.  Being able to laugh and finding a way to manage yourself without injury even during your most stressful moments is a key to success.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illness and injury, 40 percent of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful. This means we need to have readily available a fire proof way to fight stress.  Think of it as a stress extinguisher. Just as you would have one ready for fire, have one handy for stress.  You may need the travel kind that you can also carry on the road (smile!!) 

Here’s to a good week of introspection and planning.  Remember to secure that stress extinguisher if you do not already have one.  Let me know how things are going.  Feel free to share your top 5 or other skills missing from the list above. 

Cheers, Barbara

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