Month: April 2012
Please remember our blog has moved to become part of the Appalachian Leadership Academy website. It’s now at:
Some of the recent posts on the new blog site include “89-Year-Old Realizes Dream of College Degree”, “Butterflies Taste with Their Feet”, “Being Excellent at Anything” and “The ‘Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses’ vs. The Art of War” .
We’ve moved most of the past posts there so, if you’ve missed anything, you should be able to find it.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly creator of the comic strip “Pogo”
Today, I came across an article that read, “About 150 volunteers will plant 80 chestnut trees and other native trees on Saturday at an abandoned coal mine now called Hellbender Bluff, a 750-acre county park in Columbiana County, Ohio.” This struck me as commendable and wonderful but not in any way surprising.
However, the article continued on to say, “The two projects are among more than 30 so far this year to reforest hundreds of thousands of acres of ground disfigured by surface mining from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Alabama. It’s an enormous challenge that will take decades.”
Wow. What a project. The details are:
- Nearly one million acres of abandoned mines that are now mostly grasslands
- Ranging from Alabama to Northeastern Pennsylvania
- Projected to take one hundred years to complete
The elements needed to make this a success are enormous. Yet, someone somewhere came up with the idea and enlisted other people for the project. The idea grew from there and, now, it’s moving steadily towards its goal.
Patrick N. Angel, senior forester and soil scientist at the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, is quoted as saying, “These sites look like Wyoming or the prairies of Colorado. Forests are the natural state of things in Appalachia.”
It’s not surprising that someone would look at an abandoned mine and think that it would be great if some trees were planted there. It’s also not surprising that someone would be bright enough to realize that it would be a great opportunity to plant chestnuts since a tree blight had wiped out four billion of them.
What is exceptional is that some dedicated people decided not to let the enormity of the project stop them. They decided to tackle the insurmountable and make it happen. How many times have we all passed up a great idea after a little thought because it seemed impractical or would take too much effort? It would involve too much time? Where would you get the man hours? Who/what would pay for it?
I don’t know how many times the people putting together this project were told “no” or how many things (or people) blocked their path. Whatever the history of the project might have been, I know I’m not the only one very happy for their vision and tenacity.
Perhaps, today is the day for starting that great idea that might be more than a handful. Perhaps, what we need to do is to see the insurmountable as Walt Kelly and his creation Pogo did, “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”
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Please remember that today is the last day I’ll be blogging on this page. Tomorrow I’ll be blogging from our website.
This is the time of year when many people are either planning their gardens or have already started one, and a garden is what sprang to mind when I came across an article by Tammy Johns, a senior vice president at ManPower Group.
I really don’t think it’s because I’m preoccupied with gardens. (I’m not the black sheep of the family, but I do possess the sole brown thumb of the group.) I think it has to do more with the idea of growing your staff into the employees you need.
Johns mentions the “Experience-Needed” Syndrome which sometimes becomes the “exact experience needed syndrome”. In this situation, employers will come up with job descriptions that are extremely specific and often pass over candidates who would have been better at the job but didn’t have the laundry list of experience.
That’s when I began thinking about gardens. I wondered how many of these companies were looking for a very specific candidate when they could be growing the people they need. How many of the positions in mid to upper management were farmed out (sorry my corny sense of humor overreacts from time to time) when they could be growing someone to fill these positions.
It’s like putting out seeds and plant sets and not bothering to water them while you go from store to store to buy exactly what you already have. You’ve already committed the time and money to make people part of your team. With just a bit more care, they can become the exact employees you need.
- In-house training
- Sending staff to workshops
- Tuition reimbursement
- Even webinars
Can train employees on specific and general areas.
For Tammy Johns article on what employers and job seekers can do to work with the “Experience-Needed” Syndrome, please see “Job Descriptions and the ‘Experience-Needed’ Syndrome”.
Please note Wednesday of this week will be the last day to read this blog at this WP address. After Wednesday, please go to AppalachianLeadershipAcademy.org/blog/
“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Although Eisenhower may not be thought of by everyone for his humor, President Lincoln was well known for his. For instance, he once said, “If I were two faced, would I be wearing this one?”
This shows not only his wit but his ability to be self-effacing which is one of the traits people point to when they discuss what made him such a great leader.
Humor can build common ground, disarm an awkward situation, show empathy, make people feel at ease and decrease stress.
It can be a valuable tool for a leader, but it can also be fraught with pitfalls.
Here are a few suggestions for leadership humor in the workplace.
Humor should be organic. None of the reasons for using humor will work if you’re being disingenuous. You can’t connect with people if you’re not being yourself.
Understand you audience
Science jokes might be hilarious to you, but unless you’re telling it to a group of people with science backgrounds, it’ll speed past them faster than an atom in the Hadron Collider. (See what I mean?)
Self-effacing is effective/Self-deprecating is not
Lincoln’s jab at his appearance is a good example of being self-effacing without being self-deprecating. Making light of a mistake you made or a fault you have with a quick quip can make for a good work environment. However, your staff can’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Be careful that self effacement doesn’t become self-deprecation.
Be aware of boundaries
Boundaries are extremely important. At the least, you could hurt someone’s feelings. At worst, you and the company could be sued. If you can’t figure out on your own what’s appropriate, you might consider some Emotional Intelligence training.
Use positive instead of negative humor
Although making a joke at your own expense is one thing, it’s a different ball game when you poke fun at someone else especially someone you supervise. Always keep things positive and inclusive.
“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” – Carl Sagan
Working for Homer. Does it make you think Doh! or Woo hoo!?
How about Mr. Burns?
It reminds me of a line from a book written by Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series, “We’re being led by an idiot with a crayon.”
What would Homer do in a leadership role? Would he buy a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Leadership (an actual book)? Would he enroll in classes at Springfield University? Would he embrace the motto of Springfield, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”? Would he sign up for workshops by the Springfield Leadership Academy?
In all likelihood, he’d wouldn’t do any of these things. He’d go in search of donuts or cut out early to go to Moe’s.
Which leads us back to our question.
In thinking about what would make you a good leader, look at the qualities you appreciate most in the supervisors you’ve had in the past. Consider the qualities you admired and would like to emulate and consider the qualities you found lacking. Whether it’s reading one of the excellent books on leadership that are available at your local library (always an excellent resource) or attending workshops or classes, learning to be the kind of leader you want to be can keep you from being a Homer to those you supervise.
Don’t be a Homer.
Starting tomorrow (4/12), the ALA blog will be moving to another WordPress page. This new page will be part of our website . I’ll be blogging duplicate posts on both for a couple of days but then will end blogging here. Please join us on the website.