“What’s become clear to you since we last met”

Posted in Leadership, Life on March 21st, 2011 by kjr – 11,916 Comments

For those of my readers who are RLF grads, I hope the title of this post brings you a smile and some warm, powerful, teachable memories.

For others, some background; I understand that Ralph Waldo Emerson would greet friends he had not seen for a time with this question – “What’s become clear to you since we last met?”

For whatever reason, it seems to transport a conversation immediately to a deeper and more meaningful level than simply ‘how are you?’ or ‘how’ve you been?’

So after a long break in writing I’ll summarize what’s become clear to me since we last met – virtually, of course.

  • Structure (like a commitment to write a weekly blog post ­čÖé ) can at times feel like a straight jacket to me.
  • Work-life balance is hard, and fragile.
  • When we commit ourselves to something not totally under our control, then items of our own desire will take a “back seat”.
  • Life is uncertain, and fragile


Two friends, good to great leaders I will add, had their jobs eliminated. An earthquake of an 8.9 magnitude puts the efforts, tasks, and ambitions of humans, compared to forces of nature in perspective. I said a final goodbye to a dear friend who passed away – she was a person who made me feel needed, important, valued.

When responsibility progresses beyond that first level of leadership, then you, by the very nature of the task, are leading leaders.

It’s easy to be a leader, when times are good and people like you. It’s something else when you need to be steadfast to what you know is right, in the face of opposition.

Seeing the excellent in the difficult

Posted in Leadership, Work on February 3rd, 2011 by kjr – Comments Off on Seeing the excellent in the difficult

Earlier this week, I was able to help clear the LARGE flat roof of our Church. Now, in almost every other situation I’ve been dealing with of late related to snow, I will admit that there has been lots of whinging. (I love this word, look it up.) –and I have not looked forward to what has become the daily routine of moving snow, and now, ice.

But this was a different experience !!

I enjoyed it. Everyone else enjoyed it, too.

I have thought a lot about why that was, and how it relates to work and leadership. So, I broke this experience down and made some observations:

  • Risk/reward/meaning:┬á The potential for destruction (roof collapse) or damage (lots of leaks) were real to a building that was personally important to these people. The reward was the continuation of a place meaningful to everyone involved.
  • Know how: You could not take a snow blower up there; this roof has a rubber sealed top. A snow blower would cut that, causing leaks. It simply had to be shoveled, put on tarps and dragged many feet to the edge, and pushed then off the roof. Someone, and I don’t know, who had the idea of plastic tarps, teams of shovelers, teams of pullers, but someone knew how to get this done. Someone even told me an average shovel weighed 17 lbs. (Who would ever weigh a shovel full of snow anyway?)
  • Communication: Word went out the night before of the need – strong backs, lots of people, bring plastic (only plastic) shovels. 70 to 100 people showed up at the appointed time. 8:00AM.
  • Use of talents: Clear appointment to the task, after a conversation that went like this: “We need someone over there working to pull that tarp, would you want to help them?” It was clear, respectful, and the person was made to feel part of the decision process of what he/she was going to be working on.
  • Achievable: It was clear to see as time went on that we’d be able to accomplish the goal, actually sooner than originally thought possible.
  • Community: It involved many people, those who called, cooked, shoveled, pulled, moved snow again after it was dumped off the roof. I think it was community that added the ingredient crucial to enjoyment. Could 7 people instead of 70 have accomplished ┬áthis? Yes. Would it have had the same reward? Yes; would it have been as clear? Yes, but it would not have been as communal and would have lacked the sense of involvement – which generates enjoyment.
  • Commitment: I actually thought about those who lead this effort – trustees of the building/congregation’s physical welfare. They must have shown up at 7:00AM or earlier that day, and they were the ones who stayed to clean up carpets, sweep the last of the snow away from doorways, and put away tools (tarps and shovels) after the rest of us left.

Are we lacking all of the above in our work lives, even our personal lives? In the work we do, or the leadership roles we perform are we seeing and demonstrating:

  • We know the risk
  • We know or have access to the know-how
  • We are able to communicate what, when, and the expectations specifically
  • We are using people for their best. Placing them where they want to be so they can contribute and succeed – with involvement and respect for their wishes and ideas
  • We are working on “stuff” that is meaningful and achievable. Is the goal something we can sense and see, not an unknown illusion?
  • We are part of, and belong to, a community of others who share the same goal
  • We are lead by people (or leading people) with commitment to go the extra hour, prepare before others show up, stay late when others are gone. Not for praise, recognition, or reward, but for the benefit of the community and to push everyone to the goal.

These ingredients made a drastic change in approaching, completing, and now pondering a difficult job- one that as I was doing it alone made me whinge. But the things I outlined above made a difficult task… excellent. How can we do that in every aspect of our work, leadership, and life?

Knowing when – means you must know yourself . . .

Posted in Leadership, Life on January 13th, 2011 by kjr – 1 Comment

I took a walk the other day, before yesterday’s storm dumping on us with another 24″ of course. It was a beautiful day and I am fortunate to live close to the Connecticut Blue Trail System. At a point I came to this section of the trail. The Blue Trail continued where you see the tracks of either tires or a snowmobiles, not sure which. The more narrow side trial had this single set of foot prints leading up hill.

It made me think of the last verse of a well known poem that reads:

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I  then pondered how does one know when to take that road less traveled? Me, I like the well worn path. I appreciate things well proven. I see wisdom in the well established.

Yet, there are times when I have had to go that lone path and taken a turn less popular, unknown, and one that left me open to critics and cynics both.

It “feels” less risky, easier, and popular to stay on the well worn and wider path, but, is it?

Don’t you think it’s wisdom that guides us then? But wisdom must be established on values. ┬áValues – those unalterable convictions we hold?

Don’t you need to Know yourself well in order to know when we should take the path less traveled? When we are unwilling to stay the course of others. I think this is a part of wisdom, knowing yourself – weakness and strength, the pleasing and the uncomely.

And values, do you know what the few core values are that you hold? I don’t think there can be more than 5 to 7 core important values any one person holds so high that they believe they will not compromise on them.

And the full poem I was thinking of . . .

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference