April 6, 2013
Living Through Transitions by Dennis Clemmer
Transitions have been on my mind a lot recently, given several family events. Both of my daughters are pregnant, expecting to deliver daughters of their own this summer, two weeks apart. For Valerie and Gordon, this is their second child. Evan, our grandson, will turn three shortly after his sister is born. Tasha and Travis, for whom this is their first, have lived fairly carefree lives, enjoying outdoor activities such as rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking and traveling.
Inviting a new member into the home will require adjustments for both families. Evan, who has had the full attention of his parents, will now need to share that time with his little sister. Tasha and Travis will have to consider the well being of a little one before heading off to their adventures. We grandparents could be facing some adjustments of our own.
The other recent event in my family, bringing a less than happy reaction, was my brother’s unexpected loss of a job when his company downsized (shared with his permission). After 23 years of steady employment he now needs to look for work.
The past 12 plus years of working with companies going through transitions has offered me the opportunity to witness the challenges, opportunities and benefits of such changes. It has also offered me the opportunity to witness a wide variety of responses. For some it has been an invigorating, energizing experience resulting in a renewed sense of purpose. For others it has been an opportunity to explore unused skills. For still others it has been a gut wrenching time, leading to questions about self worth and vocational direction.
Transitions are emotional events. They force us to reach deep inside ourselves, and our reactions sometimes surprise us. What we envision as joyful transitions sometimes bring unexpected challenges. Changes we see as difficult sometimes bring pleasant benefits.
I first learned of my brother’s loss of employment through an email, but I really couldn’t determine how the news was affecting him. When I called him I was encouraged to hear him say that, while all of this had taken him by surprise, he was going to approach it as a chance to make a fresh start. He likened it to my attitude 13 years ago when I made a career change. Of course his transition was the greater challenge since it was forced upon him while mine was chosen.
So, what determines one’s ability to manage transitions gracefully? The following are attributes I have observed in others who have adjusted well:
- Open mindedness
Developing these attributes will help prepare all of us for expected or unexpected transitions. What are you doing to foster these in your life?
January 4, 2013
Planning for Success by Dennis Clemmer
Three days from now Notre Dame and Alabama will be playing for the National Championship of college football. I am an avid fan of Notre Dame which doesn’t sit too well in this part of the country. But that is beside the point.
Recently I was reading an article about Notre Dames’ preparation for the game and a member of the team commented that their focus was on daily practice goals. In his view the accomplishment of the daily goals was instrumental in being successful on game day. Wishing or hoping they would win the game was not part of the strategy.
Obviously setting daily goals doesn’t guarantee a win as there are factors that are outside players’ control that may result in a less than desired outcome. Injuries would be one such factor. A key player being knocked out of a game can play a major factor in the outcome.
When I joined North Group I was challenged to set personal annual goals. I did so at first, more out of a desire to demonstrate my commitment to the group, than a belief that it was a useful discipline.
After 12 years of developing annual goals I have come to realize how doing so helps to structure my behavior during the course of the year. Since my goals are not just about what I want to accomplish within the business, they guide my activities related to spiritual development, family life, physical well being and leadership.
The December 27th Lancaster Newspaper devoted a section of the paper to personal fitness and the importance of setting goals for achieving this. One of the articles highlighted the issue of commitment/staying motivated. The personal fitness industry is well aware that follow through with goals set at the beginning of the year is a real challenge.
Staying focused on goals throughout the year happens best for me by meeting quarterly with an accountability partner. While I am somewhat embarrassed to acknowledge this, approval of someone I respect is a motivator and knowing that every three months I will be asked how I am doing keeps me actively working at the goals I set.
Developing annual goals for the past 12 years has taught me the following:
- Setting goals in broad areas – spiritual development, family life, business, personal fitness and community service – keeps me from being one dimensional
- Meeting with an accountability partner increases my level of self awareness and uncovers other areas of my life that need attention
- Making corrections midyear for over ambitious goals is okay
- What I learn in the process is of greater value than achieving the set goal
I challenge you this year to consider setting goals for yourself, finding an accountability partner and enjoying what the journey teaches you.
September 5, 2012
Living a Life of Purpose by Dennis Clemmer
I thought I had chosen my theme for this blog until I picked up the Perspective section of the August 26 Sunday News.
First, I read Joe Lapp’s article, “Living the Lessons of a Life Still Cherished.” The story is about Glen Lapp, Joe’s cousin, who was killed in Afghanistan in August 2010. Glen was serving on an 11-member medical team delivering medical aid to a remote mountain village when he was killed by militants in what Joe described as a “random act of war violence.”
What impacted me as much as Glen’s willingness to put himself in harm’s way was his quiet influence and “taste for adventure” that led to Joe joining him on a cross country bike trek and later to Joe moving to Pakistan, then Burundi and Ghana where he and his wife are now engaged in humanitarian aid.
Then I read Helen Coldwell Adams’ article about a family that, following the loss of the husband’s job, moved to Brazil to work with girls caught in the sex trade. What had been a devastating event -- loss of a job -- became the catalyst for examining other options.
The word that rang through my mind as I read these two articles was “significance.” I was impressed with the desire of these individuals to live lives that counted for something. That had purpose. Where they could best use their gifts.
It is easy in the business world to forget about things like significance and purpose. Business is about products and services and bottom lines. And while those things are important, I believe it equally can be about purpose and significance. And one doesn’t have to travel to Brazil, Pakistan or Afghanistan to make a significant difference in the lives of others.
Recently I was sitting with one of my coaching clients when he looked at me and stated passionately, “This is what I was really meant to do.” What he was referring to was his role in developing those around him. He had found what he believed was the most significant contribution he could make in life.
What about you? As you go about “taking care of business,” are you also making a positive difference in the lives of others? Are you willing to be a person of significance?
January 22, 2012
What's the Big Deal about Culture? by Dennis Clemmer
At times you undoubtedly get tired of hearing us pound away at this organizational culture stuff. There are times when I, too, think maybe we overdo it. About the time I begin to think that, a story or two emerges that makes me realize just how important the culture of an organization is.
I, along with my wife, Fern, are part of a couples group that we affectionately call The Big Chill. (Many of us met at college, like the couples in the movie, “The Big Chill.”) The group has been together for over 35 years, and at the beginning of each year we go on a weekend retreat. It’s a time marked by fun, reflection, stimulating conversation and great food. During the course of the weekend we give each member of the group air time to talk about things that are important to them.
One of the members of our group, while visiting two different organizations, described overhearing employees at both places grumbling and complaining about issues they experienced in their workplace. (The employees were particularly free to discuss these issues because no one from the leadership group was around due to being off for the holidays.)
Another member of our group, engaged in important and meaningful work, shared that the toxicity within the organization where he works contributes to his frequently feeling drained and discouraged.
This got me thinking about the leadership in these organizations. Are the leaders unaware that people in their organizations experience their work life so negatively? Are they aware but don’t know what to do about it? Are they too busy working on their own agenda that they don’t take time to connect with their people and ask about how their work is going? Or do they just not care? The not caring I find hard to believe.
Susan Scott in her book, Fierce Conversations, uses a phrase she learned while working with a commercial fishing company, “The fish rots from the head.” How employees experience their workplace is the direct result of those providing primary leadership.
The creation of a vibrant culture does not occur accidently. It happens through intentionality—living out the organization’s core values, engaging employees in meaningful ways, consistently sharing important company information, providing resources for people to do good work, and affirming work well done. Rocket science it ain’t. Disciplined behavior it is.
So, what do you want your employees to say about their work experience when you aren’t around?
We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 5, 2011
It's All About Integrity by Dennis Clemmer
Had a chance meeting with a friend recently at a social gathering, and as we were about to part he stated, “Great seeing you. Let’s do lunch sometime. I’ll give you a call.”
Sad to say but I doubt that I will get this call for lunch. How do I know? It’s happened before and the guy’s track record for following through on this type of thing isn’t good. Not a big deal, right? Wrong!!
I got to thinking about this type of behavior recently when Roger North circulated a presentation that one of his clients attended. The presentation was on the Ontological Model of Leadership (I know, pretty scary sounding) with one of the elements of the model being “integrity.” The speaker was reported to have joked, “Eighty percent of firms have ‘integrity’ as a core value, but 100 percent of firms don’t know what it means and thus don’t have ‘true’ integrity.”
So what is “true integrity” and how does this relate to my friend from whom I won’t get a lunch invite? According to this model, integrity simply is honoring your word. That sounds doable. But how many of us actually practice it?
Yesterday I emailed my wife asking her if she was interested in taking a walk after she got home from work and she replied, “Yes”. In the meantime I got to working on some projects around the house and recognized I was not going to have much energy to walk and emailed her stating that plans had changed. Unfortunately she left work before the email arrived and was disappointed when she got home and learned that our walk was off.
I could easily rationalize that the projects I completed were important and therefore my decision to not walk was justified. But did I know when I began to work on these projects that I would likely have to cancel the walk? Absolutely! So I made a decision that doing the projects really was more important than taking a walk with Fern.
So what are the lessons to be learned from this? I will suggest several:
- One should only make statements of intention when there is a commitment to making that intention happen.
- We have endless capacity as human beings for rationalization and justification when we don’t make something happen. Be aware of that temptation.
- Failure to make something happen can occur through no fault of our own. When that occurs it should be communicated as soon as possible to those who are impacted.
- Statements of intention, when not acted upon, can lead to an erosion of trust.
It is all about integrity!
We welcome your comments at email@example.com.
June 20, 2011
The Power of Influence by Dennis Clemmer
I wasn't able to attend the celebration of Tom’s 20th business anniversary so I sent a note to be read at the event and emailed him about getting together for lunch. It was over 20 years since I had seen Tom. He and I worked for the same organization prior to the launching of his business, and I had served as his manager. Now Tom was a successful businessman, and I thought it would be fun to reconnect and hear his story.
Upon meeting at the restaurant Tom gave me a warm hug. He truly seemed glad to see me again. Over lunch we got caught up, reminiscing about the days we worked together and some of the crazy things we did to keep work from getting too tedious.
During the course of eating our lunch Tom turned to me and said, “One of the things I am trying to be more intentional about is thanking those who have contributed to my success. You are one of those persons. You were the first professional who truly believed in me and affirmed my abilities.”
I was dumbstruck. I was unaware that I had had such a significant impact on Tom.
Driving back to the office I thought of others who have worked under my leadership, wondering if they, too, would view my impact on them as positively as Tom had. I also reflected on a number of persons who have contributed to my development as a leader.
As I thought about these persons, it was easy to identify key characteristics that impacted me the most:
Vulnerability – The most influential leaders in my life were quite comfortable admitting what they didn't know. They talked freely about mistakes they made and took responsibility for areas in their lives that they thought needed further development. It’s freeing to work with a leader who is truly “human.”
Humility – Ray was one of my first mentors. I consider him to be the most humble guy I have ever met. While well connected with “movers and shakers,” he was equally comfortable relating to those less well off. This humility, demonstrated by a respect for all, regardless of their lot in life, had a great deal of influence on me as a young man.
Curiosity – Persons who have had the most influence on me were never satisfied with pat answers. They exhibited a keen inquisitiveness about situations and people. They knew that things are not always as they appear, and that curiosity is a great antidote to rushing to judgment.
Thank you, Tom, not only for taking the time to express your appreciation for my leadership, but also for reminding me of those who have positively affected my life.
We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.