On President’s Day Leadership

When I hear the word “President”, I think about leadership. I posted the following on facebook this morning:

Today our Nation celebrates President’s Day. Although I do not agree with our current President on much of anything, I do respect the office of the President of the United States. If were in charge, it would be mandatory that any new President go through a minimum of military basic training and one deployment, if they have zero active duty military experience. In addition to the oath of office, I would ensure that they commit their leadership to some of our past President’s thoughts as quoted below:

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – President John F. Kennedy
(How many promises are made during campaign time, then never heard again?)

“No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.” – President James Polk
(How many costly vacations are there now, with the average American family having zero? This country and those who do actual work for or fought for her owe nobody a vacation. If you are a person that requires this much vacation, this is not the job for you.)

“We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.” – President Jimmy Carter

“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” – President Abraham Lincoln

(We say we are there, but we are not even close).

 This post has sparked an entire conversation about leadership. The following is my list of leadership observations, which means these are the characteristics I have found successful leaders to have in common with each other:

Leaders get up and are productive early in the day. They do not sleep until 10am.    Ever.

I’m not certain more of a statement is needed – but if I review in my mind the characteristics of the smartest savviest leaders I know, I have never known any of them to be in bed until 10am.

Leaders do not dress like they just rolled out of bed.


Leaders are consistent.

Leaders are instinctual decision makers.

They can or are capable of making 30 decisions in 30 minutes – No lie. Decisions that move in the forward direction of productive momentum. This reminds me of my early soccer coaching days. I never allowed the forward offense to “stop” or “trap” the ball that was already headed towards the goal. Instead, I taught them to move to the ball – and continue its momentum.  I watched many coaches with pee-wee players spend a lot of time on drills for “trapping”. It puzzled me. Even the youngest kids show offensive or defensive skill sets early on. Teach the defenders to trap and stop – then send. Teach the offense to move to the send, not stop its momentum. Of course, I also like to make them practice with their arms locked so they moved as one – you know, as a team toward the goal, until they “get it” about team work. Oh yes, that’s right – my generation likes all players to be treated equally, with equal play time and everyone is a winner with a trophy. Yeah.  Because real life is just like that.

 In professional settings, I have always enjoyed allowing employees to job swap for a day. In medicine, the clinical back office thinks the administrative/clerical staff does nothing all day long but sit.  They think this – until they sit in that chair for a day and have to multi-task more than an air traffic controller while having a sweet cheerful voice (as in “receive them well”) every time the phone rings out of the 151 calls tracked on a medical Monday morning.  This one day of job swapping can work wonders for team work.

Leaders use excellent language and have great communication skills.

 I believe, really believe that words DO matter.  The words leaders use compel people to follow them. It amazes me when (as a consultant) I receive a call from a very frustrated business owner and he or she rambles on about why nothing works in their business, sighting many examples of poor productivity  Inevitably, I visit their work environment and observe those in charge (or owners themselves) as the most negative people ever. They hate their work, their job – their own company. They hate themselves. They speak ill of their employees – yet they wonder why in the world no one likes to – or wants to work for them. Here’s a hint: if you can’t stand yourself and think your company is a lousy place to work – so do we!

My father hated foul language. He did use an occasional “cuss word” – but rarely did he have to raise his voice. He told me that simple people used simple language, and he felt strongly that if people needed to use foul language to get their point across – they were most likely suffering from very low self esteem or a poor education, and almost always did not see the value or pride in a properly kept self or property. Definition: guilder.

 Leaders Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities

            Successful leaders just love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create.   When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to serve others and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do. People who truly possess a servant’s heart will be successful. It just follows a natural path.

            I had a conversation with a local chiropractor last week and as we discussed adrenal fatigue, etc – the subject of vacation came up. I know he’s trained to recommend certain things, but with tact and couth, I vetoed his recommendation.  Specifically – a long vacation – like on a ship. These types of vacations could drive most leaders completely out of their mind. He secretly admitted he felt the same exact way. A ten day cruise would have the exact opposite effect on me, than what I assume is it’s purpose.  I love to travel – I just don’t want to travel slowly, and for the sake of all things good – not on a germ infested ship with little to no chance of getting off safely in case of an emergency. And no food that I could ever eat.  Did we not learn anything from the Titanic? Floating hotels, I just don’t get it. I prefer to spend my money getting quickly to my destination and to learn as much as I can about the people and their customs while I am there.  In other words – leaders work. A lot. They do vacation, but they tend to still engage in learning activities while “at that place of rest”. Although I have not mastered the skill of power napping, I think I do fairly well at “power vacationing”.  Normally, there is so much information flowing and synapsing through my brain – that taking a long lunch or a Friday Funday session feels like a vacation.

 Leaders have positive energy and a positive attitude

As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed.  They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum; they expect that they will fail – a lot.

Leaders create, implement and manage systems.

            Not that they don’t recognize the importance of their people, but they all recognize that in general – people are not manageable, but systems are. They build their systems so that a mediocre person with mediocre talent can follow them and are ecstatic when they get a stellar performer. When this is done well, anyone who can follow their systems can work for them. Period.

They “kick non performers” off the short bus – fast.

            It never ends well otherwise. If the best behavior is exerted in the first 90 days, and that behavior is nowhere close to acceptable, they act quickly – and save themselves time, money and headache. it sounds mean, but it is what it is.

 Obviously my observations have been most beneficial when applied appropriately. I also have some personal rules that I apply to almost all situations (both business and personal).

I chose to spend my time:

  • With those who build me up.  If I am the sum total of the five people or activities that I spend most of my time with and those five people influence the way in which I behave and act in the outer world, and the way in which I perceive, think and feel in the inner world of my mind – I must chose wisely.
  • With a close friend or two that are capable of being my mirror mentors – they tell me exactly what they see in me, about me, with no holds barred, even if I don’t want to hear it – and I usually don’t
  • With those who are far smarter than me. That’s just – well, smart. In opposition, I have watched many bad leaders only allow those not as smart as them under them – so they are never challenged.
  • Not watching television that has any chance of “dumbing” me down. There are a lot of options out there. I have a hard time even understanding why anyone would spend time watching most television and feel completely lost when people speak of “honey boo-boo, duck anything, etc”. I don’t judge others, it’s just not for me and I don’t have the time.
  • Reading. Everything. I don’t believe everything I read, but it’s important to know what’s out there and form my own opinions
  • By only spending my money with people and businesses I like. I watch sales people and meet with many of them. Most of them do not get “it”. Long before I had a business degree, I formulated with a best friend the rule that in order to spend my money with you- I had to like you. Period. It just cannot be painful to spend my own money. In fact, I had an exact example situation of this today. Said stalker rep showed up on site after leaving or being forced to leave his last company. He freaked me out then with his stalker like tactics (private jet, pick me up and take me to dinner, where do I live? Creep) and today’s purpose after several unanswered phone calls and texts (like he’s my friend and can text me) was to show up on site and tell the staff that he knew I was blowing him off, but he had urgent information that was crucial to my business. The only thing crucial to my business is that he is not in it.
  • Raising childhood cancer awareness. Many times I have felt heartbreak more than I previously thought I could bear. This is hard “in the trenches” kind of work that I want to quit every day. I have never wanted to quit anything more or as often. There is nothing natural about personally witnessing a young child die and their mother’s grief – and then most of his friends too. This experience has led me to be ashamed of my generation/adults and the decisions we make. We can and must do better than this. I guarantee that in any other situation (be it a shooter, or terrorist, a drunk driver, a text message sent while driving, etc – if those acts killed 7 kids each and every day, we’d have federal legislation in no time to ban whatever it was – the gun, the texting, the drinking and driving. Point taken?  46/7.



For the record (the early years)

It’s true. People search the web for information on people like wild animals forage for food. I’m actually not kidding!

It’s a proven theory from the 70’s – and everyone knows we got a lot of good things in the 70’s, right? The optimal foraging theory is based on the assumption that, when searching for information, humans use “built-in” foraging mechanisms that evolved to help our animal ancestors find food. Why is this important? Well, if you understand the behavior, you can normally feed them what you want them to “find”. I. Love. This.

So, here goes – blogging about the blogger. I blog for a lot of people and companies and I love it.  I facebook, I tweet, use Voxer, Myspace, LinkedIn and just about everything in between. Most of these profiles are locked down like Ft. Knox on visitation day, so I thought instead of others assuming what they know to be true – everyone can just read, learn and enjoy the things that make me – me, or not.

This blog is probably most importantly for my children. They are amazing kids, probably better than any I have ever known – and better people than I deserve to call mine. I scrapbook their stories so that the world and they – will know how wanted they are and how loved they will always be. They are both so unique and there is no way I can say all I would need them to know on this one post, so I’ve added their own categories and will post about and to them there.

What would I give to have a book or blog of thoughts that my own father or grandfather wrote? Probably a right arm. (note to my mother: start now, you can write it on regular paper, no need to blog). I have possession of one I spent the weekend writing with my maternal grandmother, all about her life and memories- and it’s amazing.

So – what do bloggers not do well? Write about themselves. Specifically I mean.  Some of these things you will already know (skip em). Some of them you won’t and some of them will probably make you a little uncomfortable. All of the information is my recollection and some of you may not agree with all it’s contents- it’s okay. Really.

To start – I am the baby of the family. Babies of the family are the natural leaders – right? No.  Dear ordinal position theory, you stink! I do not fit this model, some might say.  I am so glad that it was required Early Childhood Ed reading – it slowed me down I tell you! I didn’t fit any of those there-in. Don’t get me wrong, I love being the baby of the family – and could not imagine it any other way. My only sister was  nearly 10 when I was born which means, I basically had two mothers. This did not harm me in any way. I have always wanted to be like her and will never even come close to being as smart as her – but it’s a pretty good goal. I’ll keep trying.

I have brothers. That alone should be a complete paragraph. I spent most of my    primary school years being asked if I was the “Woodard boys” little sister. I did not  deny this fact (read, actually lie), however -I did craft a “Sandi is my older sister”  answer and found this generally more advantageous. Now, if it were other kids asking that question – specifically of the bullying type – you can betcha that’s exactly who I was.  They have beat my butt, clothes lined me on a bicycle, unscrewed the bolts to my bike tires then dared me to ride DOWN Dayton Hill (ER visit), insisted that they could only learn how to pitch a fast ball if I was their target on the cement wall outside,  and they convinced me that soaping the windows of the catholic church across the street was a rite of passage on Cabbage night (they totally lied) and this is just the first 8 years of my life. But you know what? They also cleated the kid who “whacked me out cold” with a baseball bat (ER visit), hung a kid over a bridge (they still deny) because he wasn’t nice to me, and most notably are very good men, gainfully employed and have served our country extremely well (so they have saved your ass too). They would come to me no matter where I am if I called them. No questions asked.

Recently, I was asked if I ever misbehaved (as a child, please). I guess the logical answer would be yes, because I have been disobedient – but never twice about the same thing. Being a good little sister means you take copious notes and learn from their, plus your mistakes.  I think that very quality made me somewhat invisible (re-read paragraph above) if you don’t understand.  I do recall very clearly knowing that everyone was looking for me at Lake Bomoseen, Vt. (age 3 maybe?) and staying quietly in the floorboards of my fathers Thunderbird while everyone looked for me.  I was playing with one of those clicky-type torque wrenches. I only came out when I heard my sister’s voice in that panicked “oh my God I think she’s drowned in the lake kinda voice”. That was bad.

My siblings and I have “matching cousins” – in the early days, it meant our mothers     matched our clothes (Dutch Maid clothes, seriously). Growing up it meant you always has a cousin in your class, and graduating class. We were then and remain now, very close. We are more like siblings, although our mothers to this day deny they did this on purpose. In regards to this extended family, I am not the baby – that would be Duane (my matching cousin). I have many stories that could be told. But,  one of the best was when he and his friends (John Iffland &Bill Humphries) thought they had the perfect plan and would “handcuff” me to the woodpile. Idiots! I stood very still and let them do it. All smart girls know that wood piles move.  So, being boys – they celebrated a short lived victory and went off to play war somewhere else. I un-handcuffed myself, then broke those handcuffs so they couldn’t really learn how to use them later – and then beat their butts. All three of them. One of the greatest Uncle’s ever (Pastor Bob Flower) could not stop laughing long enough to discipline anyone.  Post note: Bill is now a cop, so I hope he has mastered better use of handcuffs. Now that is just hysterical!

Yesterday I drove to Alabama to attend the celebration of life service for a dear friend’s father. What does this have to do with my cousins? At the end of the ceremony – at Mr. Grimes request we all sang “I’ll fly away”.  One of the best things about living in the South is that every person there knew every word of that song. It immediately took me back to a day in a small church in Vermont where my Uncle was preaching. With all my heart, I was singing this song thinking that the verse was “I’ll fly away, oh Lori”. My matching cousins laughed and told me how dumb I was. The greatest Angel God ever let our family borrow (the preachers wife, and my Aunt Pat) told me I could sing that song exactly that way, and she preferred that version herself. . A little nudge from your northern family. God sees me here too – in the South.

My parents have told me that in my lifetime I will only be able to count my true blue friends on one hand. I didn’t like this. I thought then that they were wrong, but life lessons have made me realize that their number is probably more accurate. I know this doesn’t sound real positive. But think about the people around you – would they ever be there for you – just and only for you – if there wasn’t something in it for them? Just be real for a minute. I think too many people are tuned into the WIIFM channel (whats’ in it for me).  I am blessed with a lot of friends and when I was really young – most were  girls. They are people with whom I couldn’t live without and I am still in contact  with today.  For this I am ever so grateful. But, the truth is – I think I am better suited to be a guys friend. Not many women have the capacity to do nor accept this. I have the same male best friend since middle school.  I’m not talking about “good” friends,  I’m talking about “take-a-bullet-for-you-kinda-friend-even-though-they-aren’t-related”.  Now, his wives (yes,plural, but not at one time) have not always loved this fact (refer to most women are not capable of this) – but if they hang around long enough to really know us – the fact that we are inseparable is evident. We don’t get to see each other often, but when we do – it’s like we never missed a day. He is close by (2 hours drive to your bff!) and he is one of the best friends a girl could ever have. He is newly engaged and I am praying this is his forever wife. He deserves someone who accepts him for him, and not for what he

can do for them.  He is also a firefighter, which means I worry about him – a lot. When we retire, we’re going to live in a box (if we have to) and go to every home New York Yankee game. If we can afford it, we’ll travel with the team. Trust us with it Lord, we’ll do good!  My TN best friend &  I have known each other about 3 years or so. He pushes me to be a better me (not a different me). He doesn’t spend a lot of time telling me what I want to hear – but what I need to hear – which is usually more outside of my comfort zone.   They get me. They talk like me. They are not offended by me. We say things the others don’t like sometimes, but as quickly as we say it and don’t like it, we forget about it. We do not keep score and remain bitter.   Strange to meet someone and in very short time and become forever friends, no matter what. He’s a police officer – so I’m sure you can see the pattern – more worrying. These guys help me keep myself in check,  but more importantly I have never heard a thing I told them come back to haunt me.

I did the usual things graduated, got married, traveled world-wide with the Unites States Air Force, graduated some more, had 2 children and never intended once to be divorced and be a single mother.  Never could have imagined that in a million years.

Post divorce  I moved to the South, where I have met a lot of wonderfully smart God loving people. I think one of the things that southerners do better than northerners is fellowship – with everyone.  Now, this is not the best place for a girl who can not tolerate many foods – specifically comfort type foods, but I love it here. If I could only get my family to move here. I digress, I think this is the one place I have lived that I have met and loved so many others. I do seem to be a bit of a wanderer, but I could never leave this place not irrevocably changed (and yes, there are places I lived that didn’t have much impact on me…cough Clovis, NM cough). There are families here that have adopted me or me them – and they deserve posts all of their owns too.

It’s hard to describe what makes me me without talking about my parents. I have the best parents for me – and better than most out there. My mother is the one singular role model I could attempt to emulate, but probably will never come close to her qualities. She is still the glue that keeps all of this crazy family together.  My father was an incredibly smart man, probably one of the smartest I’ll ever know. He could fix anything, and had few words – but always great advice. Unfortunately had a disease called alcoholism. He wanted nothing more than to beat this – and one that he tried to overcome, but eventually paid the ultimate price for. He passed away at just 56, and did not live to see us become what we are, nor meet many of his grandchildren – and none of his great grandchildren.

Other than what you read above – things that I love are – traveling -anywhere. The New York Yankees – and most specifically #2. I am not just a baseball fan, I love the strategy of it all. My second sport love would be Football. Again, not a normal thing – I am not as die hard to one specific team – but I think Tom Brady #12, NE Patriots makes the NFL look as easy and normal as back yard football. I am an avid reader and can not imagine not having a good book or e-reader near-by.

So, you’ve read about the early years. (with some great Mom, Dad & career stories to come)
Be sure to subscribe.Until next time  ~ LLW