Friday, December 16, 2011

Do I Really Have To Be Connected 24/7?

I just finished up the last day of a two-day intensive leadership workshop facilitation. And it is also at the end of an eight-day road trip to the UK that involved two other one-day workshops. I tend to crash when it is over from being so fully engaged in the work and the participants in each workshop. So I get back to my hotel; a very nice, fairly high priced one, and plug in my computer (Ethernet connection only in the room). I find I am still working off of the 24 hours I had purchased the night before. How much time did I have left? Would I be cut off part way through answering the myriad of emails I, of course, had to absolutely respond to? Maybe I better Skype home right away to say hi to my wife or my daughter and granddaughter? I choose the Skype option first.
Understand that our client pays for my travel expenses, so I could just purchase another 24 hours of Internet time. The problem is the fact that it tends to be the most expensive hotels that always charge more for Internet service annoys me. I travel often and am amazed at how the more reasonably priced hotels offer you free Internet, and in some cases, even free breakfast! Why is it that the hotels that are already charging us a significantly higher rate always then hit you with an additional Internet service fee? In this case it was an additional 15 pounds per 24-hour period. And the added value I have of treating my client’s money as if it was my own also lingered in the back of my mind. So if I was disappointed about the prospect of 15 more British Pounds to get a few more hours of world connection, then I decided that I would not renew for the additional 24 hours. After all, I was exhausted and would likely be in bed within 3 hours and my flight left mid morning the next day.  Surely, I could survive without connection to the world for that short period of time.
So thinking how the concept of paying such a high fee for a service like internet at a high priced hotel annoyed me so much, I jumped at the opportunity to scrape a few extra minutes off the back end of the previous 24 hour paid period. I called home, did some emails, connected with a couple of others that I cared about and saw were online and even took a quick peak at my local newspaper. And then I decided that my stomach was overriding my sense of annoyance and headed off for dinner.
I returned from dinner and sure enough, there was the message on my computer screen challenging me to buy another 24 hours of Internet service. I will admit that I took a good long look at that message before deciding no. I unplugged my computer from the Ethernet cord that bond me to the desk and hard chair and took my freedom to sit in the easy chair and kick back. I set my legs up on the coffee table in front of me and started typing this piece of literature you see in front of you right now. While typing I realized I would not be able to post it as soon as I finished because I was not connected! So you would not receive this until well after its completion. Maybe even up to 24 hours later! Can you imagine not instantly getting my thoughts out for the world to see the moment I braved committing them to type?
The real point I was considering was that as I taught the people in the workshop about authentic leadership and how to become a coach like leader, I noticed today how many of the people in the room would be moved to distraction whenever their mobile devise pinged or vibrated. Here they were trying to learn how to be more engaged with their people and they were so easily distracted by a tiny machine that signaled that it was so much more important than the human being in front of them. I wondered how they would ever become the great leaders that their people tell wonderful stories about when they can be so easily distracted from showing the person in front of them that they really matter.
The most reflective time I have had during this eight-day road trip has been the last couple of hours since my time ran out and I chose not to buy more Internet connection. Are you truly taking the necessary reflection time needed to most effectively lead? If you are not, I can assure you that you will not be one of the names I hear when we ask people in our workshops to share the stories of the great leaders that have impacted them in the past. In fact, I am willing to bet that you may be more like the leaders that qualify for the number one reason employees leave their organization. What has always topped the charts of the top reasons someone chooses to leave their organization is that the relationship with their boss sucks. Which one are you? The one that fits into the stories of great leader coaches or the one that fits into the basket of the primary reason people leave? The choice is yours.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thanks Mom And Dad

I have the fortune of still having my parents here on this earth. Every additional year I get feels like a bonus. I had the opportunity to visit them again recently. They live in Florida and with me in western Canada there are few opportunities to visit. I had some workshops to deliver in Florida and spent the weekend with them. Interestingly, as I flew back home from that trip I caught an article in our local Calgary newspaper titled “Being A Jerk Could Be in Your Genes”.
Since my work as a coach keeps me busy working with leaders and executives I was drawn to the title and thought how interesting it is that we work with so many leaders that seem to have not been at the meeting when the kindness gene was being handed out! Did they really miss the meeting or did life train it out of them?
The article suggests that research shows that “people with a certain gene trait are known to be kinder than people without it, and strangers can quickly tell the difference”.  Brain research has shown that the chemical messenger called oxytocin actually makes us kinder to one another, more empathetic and trust worthier. The research identified a gene sequence that showed those with this particular gene naturally “make more eye contact, tend to smile more, tend to have more head nods and so on” versus the people without this gene.
The research also raised the question of nature versus nurture.  This gene trait “doesn’t necessarily determine how kind you are, stressing more research needs to be done on external factors like rearing and life experiences”. There are people without the kindness gene sequence that are extremely wonderful people and there are those with the gene that are not wonderful. The research suggests, “there is no one gene for empathy, sympathy, kindness or trust. There are many factors that ultimately influence whether we are kind, compassionate people”.
With this I see that I have my parents to thank. Besides the genetics of flat feet, weak ankles and a bigger than usual Italian nose, my parents graced me with the gene (the OXTR gene) that created a natural kindness in me. As well, I see that nature was not the only factor. They made sure I was raised with a kind eye toward others and life in general. I am sure this has guided me to the work we do and a purpose of impacting those I meet in this world to see others in a kind way. For this I am most grateful.