Waiting

“What can I do whilst I’m waiting?”- The thought passed through my mind several times yesterday.

I waited in Starbucks for a hot chocolate. I waited on the train to arrive. 90 minutes later, I waited on another train to depart. I waited on Cristi for an appointment in the bank. Later still, I waited in the queue for cinema tickets with other family members.

What do you do when waiting? How do you use that precious gift of time?

Waiting can be frustrating for many! Here is one view on waiting – “to allow time to go by, especially while staying in one place without doing very much, until someone comes, until something that you are expecting happens or until you can do something.”

Even when we have the right perspective, waiting can be hard. We’ll always be waiting for something. But a season of waiting doesn’t mean sitting still. Conversely our waiting seasons can be a time of great productivity!

Our thoughts are our seeds of action. Someone once said that life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. When you have a time to hand, rather than just waste it – be more productive.

Why not:
– Breathe & enjoy the gift of time
– Keep your eyes open for humour in the present, you can always find something to smile at!
– Pick someone and start a conversation

What can you do to use the gift of waiting?

Serendipity

Stepping on the train yesterday was far different from a few days before.

Currently, I commute into Edinburgh to work with Standard Life Aberdeen, for a few days each month. The train is always crammed full with people – catching up on social media, reading a free newspaper or listening to their tunes.

Yesterday was unconventional.
It was a public holiday.
The train was quiet.

On the platform, I met a friend. Although, we see each other regularly, we rarely talk for more than a few seconds. Boarding the train together, we then sat together and spoke for 40 minutes on our commute into the city.

Serendipity – “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

We talked. We listened. We talked. We listened. We talked and then listened some more. We both recognised the power of open, honest heartfelt communication.

Serendipity, in fact, is the chance to be in the right place at the right time with the right people, so that good things happen. Yesterday, felt as if our conversation was of some significance in our lives – as if it was the most important one we might ever have – because who knows, it may just be.

So much of life depends on chance meetings that can lead in new directions.

Look out for one today.

Shortcomings

How do you measure up to your shortcomings?

At every stage of our lives we can struggle to overcome our weaknesses and shortcomings. This week, I have been in several learning workshops and coaching sessions where the topic of emotional intelligence, specifically self-awareness has been to the fore. Embarking upon a personal, searching inventory of yourself – is always revealing.

It is not an easy thing to uncover a personal weakness or shortcoming. Some people can feel defeated by their personal weaknesses and give way to despair. Others will endeavour to hide, ignore, or compensate for their shortcomings because of pain, embarrassment or their pride simply gets in the way and they procrastinate any actions that need to be taken.

Do you recognise that you have a challenge?

Are you determined to overcome it?

Once we recognise a shortcoming, we need strong determination and substantial effort to overcome it. This challenging process – facing up to our shortcomings – will refine our character and subsequently our weaknesses can become strengths. Facing shortcomings and taking action is acquired in humility.

Look ahead. Don’t let your past shortcomings limit your future potential. Take action.

What will you act upon today?

 

Consistency

My experience is that what we do consistently – will truly shape our lives.

What makes the difference in our lives is not the speed or the rapidity with which we move, but the steady, deliberate progress we make. Developing the habit of consistency isn’t about obtaining quick results, rather, its about making incremental progress and improvements over an extended period of time. I believe the power is within each of us to create our own momentum. A few minutes set aside every day to focus on specific goals and develop regular habits, will help to keep you moving forward. Daily, my personal habit of journal writing helps to keep me on track by measuring progress towards my goals.

Consistency is not about senselessly repeating an action over and over again. It’s about learning, growing and adapting your actions that lead to cumulative improvements over an extended period of time. Consistently choose to do the best with the talent you have.

Building strong consistent daily actions creates consistent results. Building a business, paying off the mortgage, getting an education or to accomplish anything great, requires consistent, deliberate, steady effort to make progress. Consistency is the difference between failure and success.

What are you consistent in?

Thinking Time

“Don’t just do something, sit there!”- is a phrase I have stumbled across several times recently.

It’s extremely difficult NOT to do something these days. In the frenetic pace of life, whether it is a work task, an urgent assignment, homework, something needs fixing, the school run – taking time to “sit there” and think, rarely (if ever) tops the list of things to do.

We think far too seldomly. Conversely, we tell ourselves not to think, by saying “don’t just sit there, do something!” In several coaching sessions and workshops recently, this theme has been a topic of some healthy conversation. Ultimately, our discussion peaks at the realisation that we need to think, before we act. The lesson is that we need to put the thinking in before the doing.

In my own life, there have been many times that I have felt a bit harried, time poor and harassed. Then, some years ago, I decided and chose to change. I realised that I needed to simply “sit there” for a while every day and declutter my noisy mind. As an early riser, the first hour of every day is my precious contemplation time. Those 60 minutes of thought and study are a daily gift to myself.

A little time set aside daily to think about what really matters makes all the difference.

When will you “sit there?”

Leadership Essentials – Humility vs Pride

“Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.” said the late John R.W. Stott.

In many of my coaching conversations these last few weeks I have become increasingly aware of the dangers of pride. In turn, I have spent some time reflecting on my own situation and simply invite you to do likewise.

Today, I want to sound a warning voice. Simply stated……..beware of pridewe must be alert and we must be on guard against the perils of pride. I’m not talking about the glow of pride you feel as your daughter receives an award, or upon graduating from University. Rather, this form of pride is much more insidious, crafty, cunning and sneaks up on you, creating a lofty and arrogant assumption that you are somehow superior in some or indeed many respects, before you realise it is even happening.

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free,” C.S Lewis remarked, “which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people….ever imagine that they are guilty of themselves…”

Try this little self test.

  • Are you critical of others?
  • Do you look down on others? Do you scorn or ridicule them?
  • Do you find yourself critiquing many things your boss or colleagues share, thinking you can do much better?
  • When you do something good, do you hear a little a voice inside congratulating yourself?
  • If someone corrects a mistake you made, do you feel defensive and resentful?
  • Do you find ways to let others know of your success without appearing to boast?
  • If someone you know receives something good, do you hear a voice inside saying, “What about me?”
  • When someone does something that creates inconvenience for you, do you feel annoyed.

These points were all adapted from an article by Kim B. Clark, but I’d like to echo his sentiments and sadly confess that I have first-hand experience of the questions asked and could go on. A heartfelt sincere asking yourself these questions, is like peeling back the layers of an onion, there just seems to be more and more.

Lifetime observations help me to conclude that positions of authority, leadership and power can lead to pride and unrighteous dominion. Economic prosperity can somehow and oftentimes does lead to pride. Pride is all about selfishness, looking inwards and thinking – its all about me. Somehow, it is much easier to see pride in others, than it is to see it in yourself. Proud people are pretty resistant and everyone else is the problem. Looking at the news from around the world these last few years it is brutally evident to see examples of the dangers of pride in some of the political and business leaders on the world stage. In addition, pride and arrogance are obvious in many of todays political leaders, whether liberal or conservative, making matters much worse than they need to be. In my opinion, pride is very, very dangerous and can produce widespread suffering in society when people in leadership and power are corrupted by it.  Further, there is an overarching culture in society today that simply states…. “its all about me”. Sadly, I’m sure many will recognise that malaise. Pride’s family of behaviours includes conceit, self-righteousness, boasting, selfish ambition, showing off, vanity, and impatience.   Thankfully however there is a powerful antidote…..All of these can be replaced by cultivating humility.

Humility. These day I guess it’s an unfashionable word. The dictionary defines humility as “modesty” and “lacking in pretense”, but that doesn’t mean humble leaders are meek or timid.

Ezra Taft Benson shared “Humility does not mean weakness. It does not mean timidity. It does not mean fear. A man can be humble and fearless. A man can be humble and courageous.” I also love this anonymous quote that states: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less”. Humility is selfless not selfish. In fact I believe that humility is being authentic without any pretence or arrogance. It is really about being true to yourself and knowing your limitations, from the inside out.

In Harry M. Jansen Kraemar’s book “From Values to Action” he dedicates a whole chapter (4) to genuine humility as one of the principles for values based leaders. He states “you recognise the value in everyone; you know you are no better than anyone else; and the higher you move up the organisation, the more you stay grounded.”

In a Harvard Business Review article from a few year ago, it states that “The Best Leaders are Humble Leaders” https://hbr.org/2014/05/the-best-leaders-are-humble-leaders

In addition to the four suggestions made in the HBR articles I’d like to ask further – how do we cultivate humility?  In our own consultancy, the first of our strapline words is Reflect. As I have written about previously, I am an avid journal writer. By chronicling in my journals what goes well and what could have gone better enables me to learn from my actions. Over many years of doing this I’ve discovered that there is always room for improvement.

I have been fortunate to work with many humble leaders over many years. It has been my experience that humility inspires loyalty, it also helps to build and sustain cohesive, productive teamwork. Jim Collins was a fan of CEOs he saw demonstrating modesty and leading quietly, not charismatically, in his bestseller Good to Great. He called these CEOs Level 5 executives.

Collins found Level 5 executives built enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. They channelled their egos away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. At a deeper level, he found that for leaders to make something great, their ambition had to be for the greatness of the work and the company, rather than for themselves.

Humility, like other virtues, can be developed. We can actually become more humble if we focus on appreciating the strengths of others and serving them, on being teachable and admitting our mistakes. We need…… no, we must continue to share this message in our homes, communities and business organisations to better prepare those who lead now and in the future.

Final Points to Ponder….

  1. What are some ways I could recognise pride in my speech, my attitudes and my actions?
  2. As outlined, humility is the antidote of pride. How can I develop humility?

Charitable Service

In regard to service, Jeffrey R. Holland stated it is “the finest exercise for the heart ever prescribed.”

A genuine act of kindness or a simple gesture of goodwill, always goes a long way to soften the heart of another person.  When did you last look for an opportunity to render some caring service to someone either at home, in the workplace or in your own community?

A few years ago, a friend suggested that I read “The shed that fed a million children.”

I found the book inspiring.  It reminded me that if we so choose, each of us can make a difference.  A few months later, I was fortunate to sit with Magnus MacFalane-Barrow, the founder and CEO of Mary’s Meals, at an Awards Dinner in Glasgow.  When the Bosnian conflict was making headlines in the early 1990s, Magnus and his brother Fergus were moved to help. What neither of them expected was that a one-time road trip in a beaten-up Land Rover would become Magnus’s life work – leading him to leave his job, sell his house, and re-focus his life to feeding the world’s poorest children, from the shed in his father’s garden in Argyll.

He was named one of 2010’s ‘Top 10 Heroes’ by broadcaster CNN and received an OBE in the 2011 New Year’s Honours list. In addition he was on the 2015 TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people. He is the founder and CEO of the charity Mary’s Meals, which sets up school feeding programmes in some of the world’s poorest countries, and has received numerous awards for. He has also been awarded Honorary Degrees by the University of Stirling, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Hull.  – for more information see https://www.marysmeals.org.uk/

In the last few years, I have been fortunate to coach a few members of the leadership team at Mary’s Meals.  What inspires me is their love, compassion and gritty determination to make a difference and help children all over the world.  Each time I visit, an indelible impression of  doing good is etched into my heart and mind. Their example of rendering service reminds me of the New Testament scripture in 1 Corinthians “Charity Never Faileth”

In the relentless fever and complexity of our modern day living and chasing the next big thing, my invitation today is a simple one – slow down a little, consider what matters most and don’t miss out on the simple things in life.   If this is you, it’s time to put a stop to it and make the goal less about being better than, or greater than, or richer than.  Notice the little things, at home, in your workplace and in the community.  Reflect up on them. Choose to do something and make a difference. Consider an act of kindness, service, charitable giving or simply doing good.  I can promise, that feelings will swell within your heart, it will increase your sense of belonging and provide a sense of purpose and meaning.

Go on – you can do it!

Vision

From Proverb’s in the Old Testament we read “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It has taken me quite a while to understand what that statement really means.

When driving at 70 mph on the motorway, what does it feel like to drive when dense fog starts to settle in front of you? As the fog starts to thicken and you realise that you can only see a few metres in front of you, I know that my heart starts racing a little. I flick the fog lights on taking my foot off the accelerator at the same time.

When the fog is really thick, I’ll slow down to a crawl and take it very slow, so that I don’t run into someone ahead of me. Take that experience to its extreme. When fog is so dense that even moving forward very slowly is dangerous, there is also the fear that someone may rear end you, which can be very alarming.

As the fog starts to lift and you emerge from its grasp, you can see a few metres ahead, then 20, 30 and its gone. How do you feel then? Relief perhaps? You start to accelerate once more.

Think about what actually changed during those few minutes on the road. The only thing that really changed was your vision, your ability to see. With vision you saw the road clearly ahead. When there was no vision, you were as is states in Proverbs, in danger of perishing.

When you have no vision for your life, your family, your career or for what you want to accomplish, its a bit like being caught in the fog on the motorway.

How can you increase the vision in your own life?

Values – questions

“How do I figure out my personal values?” asked a course delegate. “There are lots of ways” I responded , “but you need to ask yourself the right questions, here is one to start with – are there things I keep feeling inner promptings to do?”

Roles

Have you considered the many different roles you have in life?

Our roles are the relationships and responsibilities that we have in life. Each of us holds various roles at the same time.  Subsequently, each of us will face times when the various roles we play may compete with each other, forcing us to consider who we are and consequently what role should take precedence in a particular moment.  There may be days when you feel torn and unsure if you’re doing the right thing and making the right choices. When those moments come (and they will), pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself what matters most- you are simply one person!

Each of us can make our own list of the roles we have.  For example here are a few of my own: Husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, coach, facilitator, trainer, writer, blogger, friend, volunteer, learner, steward, provider and so the list goes on.

Have you ever thought about your own roles recently?  Your roles will change in priority day to day, for example through the week, you may be more focused on career and work goals, trying to balance a few others in between.  Whilst at the weekend you may focus on a parental role, or a hobby, volunteering or serving others.  Creating a list and putting each of these roles into a priority ranking will really help you to figure out what matters most.  In amongst all of these roles – remember the most important role in life is being you!  So frequently ask yourself:

  • What do I need physically – rest, exercise, less food, more food?
  • What do I need mentally – stimulation, meditation?
  • What do I need emotionally – solitude, support, security, a pick up treat?
  • What do I need socially – interactions with friends, new connections?

Get into the habit of asking yourself these questions often, then pick the thing you need to do and do it for yourself that day.

As you consider each of your roles in life and figure out what matters most, the question will almost certainly arise “how well do I fill these roles?”  Or for that matter “what kind of performance have I been giving of late?” Or even “what kind of feedback  have I been getting in some of the roles I fill?”  Recently, I have been challenged to consider my own performance in a few of those roles.  In some areas I have rated myself doing well, in others I have some real areas that need attention.  Frankly, its a bit of a mixed bag.

 

Every now and again it’s good to reflect on your roles and visit them one by one.  Maybe it’s time for a bit of a spring clean and as you prioritise your own, perhaps there are one or two lower down the list that could be eliminated, especially if time is an issue and you have too many roles.  As we journey through life the roles themselves and our own priorities will change.  As our children are growing, I recognise how little time I have left with them in our own family home, subsequently in my own list of priorities it is ranking near the top.

Stop, pause and reflect on your roles, determine to do better and focus on what really matters most.  What will you do differently today?