Archive for Leadership

Dear Carlton©

What would you say to your 22 year old self?  Read what I shared with my son who recently turned 22!! Chime in with your words of wisdom.

 Dear Carlton©,

As you celebrate your twenty second birthday, please know that I’m also celebrating the gifts that your life has given to me.  I often think about the person I was before you were born as opposed to who I am today.  The two people are so vastly different.  As a result of guiding and listening to you, I have become less selfish and a better me.  I often think about your journey filled with positives and a few sprinkles of pain.  All of your experiences have resulted in you becoming a wise young sage. 

Carlton and his mom in 1993; Carlton snowboarding in 2009

As you continue to develop into an independent man, don’t lose sight of your teachings and always strive to do what is right even when you are tempted to do wrong. The path from twenty two forward is about maturing you, trying on adulthood as if you were trying on a new wardrobe.  Some things and some relationships will fit while others will not.  In life, fear is a constant and will always be nagging at your heels.  Don’t allow it to consume you; don’t allow it to swallow your dreams.  Being a healthy and wise person should be at least two of your primary goals. You can have them both.  Just know, this level of strength begins first with management of the mind.  What do I wish I had known at twenty two?  I knew a lot but in many cases, I didn’t’ execute or I didn’t listen well enough.  I hope you will do a better job.  Below are just a few that come to mind that I felt important to share.

The world judges you differently than your family

Our family sees you as this wonderful and responsible person.  The world may see you differently; although you want to control this; know that you can’t all of the time.  People see you through their past experiences.  You have excelled beyond many of the judgments placed on you for simply being a black male.  You are not a rapper; you have zero rhythm like your Uncle Tommy and Marvin, you don’t wear saggy pants and you are neither a threat nor a thug.  Yet, because of the color of your skin, for some in this world, they will not see you as Carlton but will see you as a suspicious black male.  Don’t take it out on them and stay true to who you are; don’t allow their ignorance to frustrate you to the point that you stoop to their levels.  Guard your heart and keep racism and prejudices at a minimum of arm’s length from your soul.  I have experienced many forms of discrimination in my lifetime and learned more about myself as a result of that treatment. You can get through it; don’t take it personally.  Find the humor and absurdity of it all and when you can, you will experience adulthood.   You come from a lineage of highly intelligent and hard -working people.  Your heritage is one that is rooted with philanthropists, educators, entrepreneurs and engineers.  In the heat of these controversial moments, find solace in knowing your ancestors born into slavery had the courage to name their firstborn Favor.  This always gives me the strength to endure knowing that our forefathers had the courage to think positively even in simple actions.  I imagine the difficulty they faced and find my complaints to be petty excuses.  As our grandparents did, we must also choose positive language and actions even in the midst of trying times.    

The more you’re out of your comfort zone, the more you grow.

When I was your age, I was preparing for graduation believing at that time that I would always live in South Carolina.  I did not have a need to move nor an interest.   Most of my family was in SC and it was my comfort zone.  Each step of my professional journey was an older person on my job or a sibling believing in me and seeing more in me than I saw in myself.  At BellSouth, it was my manager.  He thought I could conquer everything.  Each big challenge of the department somehow landed on my desk.  Even though I was scared to death of failure, I would always try because I didn’t want him to ever be disappointed in me.  Looking back on it now, these are the kind of people you need on your journey.   It was this manager that pushed me to get an MBA and the same manager that motivated me to pursue careers outside of BellSouth after I finished my MBA and landed a role at Intel.   He was someone that I turned to on any major decision including our move to Costa Rica, my divorce and job transitions.  He always had my best interest at heart.  He taught me that failure isn’t terminal; it is one step closer to success if you honor what you learned as a result of failing. You need a person like this in your life. 

 

 Carlton with mentors Reuben Miller (featured in red shirt) and Demetrius Whye (right photo)

 Look for someone who is constantly learning, a great listener, not afraid of sharing what they know and willing to invest their time in you.  As they are investing in you; find ways to give back to them. The more balanced the giving and receiving is on both ends; the stronger the bond will become.  As I look back on the past 20 years, the greatest leaps I’ve made in personal and career growth has been in opportunities that when first presented, I was afraid to say yes.  Learn from my mistakes; be open to big and scary things and you will find this is where true growth resides. 

Invest in your future now

If I had just listened to my brothers, Lord knows,  I would be better positioned for retirement today.  I remember many conversations about stock with your Uncle Fred while in college.  I had no interest in it at the time; it sounded so foreign and gobbly gook.  My brain was focused on the here and now and finals were waiting for me post my visit.  Fred was adamant and had designed a well thought out financial plan for me to follow. It consisted of me taking my surplus scholarship funds and investing them in stocks of my choice he would say.  At the time, I remember his stock preferences for me were GE and Disney stocks. He had laid out a moderate and aggressive risk plan for me to implement reflecting on it now.  The aggressive option would require me to take out student loans although I didn’t need them; put those funds into stocks since his belief was that the interest rate of the stocks would exceed the rate of the student loans at the time. I was not comfortable obtaining loans when I didn’t need them.  Fred gave me the space to fully decide on my own.  He had planted me with some good ideas. I did nothing. I just didn’t get it and I didn’t get it because I wasn’t really listening.  So, I find myself now implementing the same lessons Fred shared with me in my freshmen year of college.  Just last week, Fred and I are still having great stock conversations. It took me 7 years after those lessons to truly understand stock and the importance of having time on your side.  It was a huge miss on my part.  Rather than asking more questions to get a better understanding, I shut down the dialogue.   Eventually, I took his advice but it is hard not to think that maybe I would be closer to my goals if I had acted on his advice much sooner.  Consider this: If you start saving just a mere $100 per month, starting at age 25, by age 65 you’ll have about $185,700. Trust me; you will need more than $185K but see this as a real opportunity that you could tap into right now by making simple choices today about what you save. Begin to think of investing in you first and start putting aside a portion of your check for your future.

I know that a great future awaits you. But don’t focus so much on your future that you sacrifice enjoying the moments in your reach.  Continue to laugh, spend time with family and friends and snowboard like crazy.  These are the things that make you smile and bring you joy. Don’t lose out on those and continue your work in helping others.  Look forward to seeing the twenty five year old Carlton!! Love, Mom

 PS. If you read this and it doesn’t resonate, remember the words you penned below in elementary school(smile!!). You were wise then. Stay wise.-):

 

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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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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
10/16/2009
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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It’s Plan Time. Develop A Plan for You!

In the next couple of months, many companies and organizations alike will kick off their 2010 planning and budget process.   Many of us are quite familiar with this process as we have either led these strategic planning processes for our organizations or we’ve provided necessary input many times over.

 While we do this for our companies and our big projects at work, many of us do not prioritize this very important annual exercise for ourselves and neither do we apply the same level of diligence in the planning for our very own personal goals or our longer term vision for ourselves.

What if you were asked about your company’s plan for the next quarter and in the same conversation asked about your own personal goals for the next quarter?  Many of us would be fluent on the company’s goals but would flounder on our personal goals.

Just supposed we took the same care and diligence this year to perform a strategic planning session for 2010 for us, for our personal goals.  What if we stopped to assess our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats in the way of our personal success?  What if we simply stopped ourselves to reawaken the vision within us that we’ve allowed to stay buried underneath layers and layers of fear?  What if we took some positive steps in the direction of  realigning our day to day activities towards those tasks and habits that will move us closer to our longer term personal goals and dreams?

Try the following steps as a part of your upcoming budget and planning process for you!

1)  First, draw up your vision board or key vision themes of what you want success to look like in a finite period of time.  Start with over the next year just to ensure the goals are tangible.  You may want to ask yourself some key questions that will aid you with your vision.  Ex.  What would I be doing if I knew I could not fail?  What am I crazy passionate about?  If I am being successful in 2010, what would that look like?

 2)  What are 3 things I can do in the next quarter that would move me closer towards my success goals? 

 3)   What does my support structure need to look like that will enable a faster speed and steady path toward achieving my goals?  Who or what things do I need to move out of the way that are no longer serving me?  Are there habits that need to be broken or new habits that I need to create to aid me in my journey towards getting closer to my end state goals?

 Once you’ve completed these 3 steps, consider enlisting a coach or a support buddy that will keep you on your toes and inquire frequently about your progress.  You do not want to share your vision with just anyone.  Make sure it’s someone you trust versus a vision buster. 

 This will be a great first start towards you moving closer to your dreams and I wish you well as you start this very important journey. 

 Unless you have a definite, precise, clear set of goals, you are not going to realize the maximum potential that lies within you. -Zig Ziglar

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