Experienced Leaders Needed for New Problems

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Aside from the actual labor performed, small business and subcontractors have been the backbone of the American economy.  Unfortunately, the backbone becomes very fragile and weak in turbulent times due to any number of factors: lack of training/education, insufficient credit resources, or uncertainty on how to proceed into the future.  We, as mentors, must start moving to the forefront of our industry so those in need will recognize that resources and assistance from peers is readily available.

We are constantly bombarded with constant news reports of bleak economic outlooks and uncertain times of historical proportions.  As we all enter this portion of American history together, we are faced with an interesting predicament – the vast majority of us have not experienced this situation previously.  Our ability to adapt and react to the ever changing landscape of the current economy will only be successful if we utilize all resources available.  To that end, we need positive influences – mentors and/or teachers – to help navigate through the pitfalls awaiting our arrival.

I’ve been fortunate to have two great mentors in my life.  The first is my father, who gave me the motivation to become an entrepreneur and the other I had the pleasure of workign with through CFMA’s Mentoring Program.  Not only do both have a wealth of industry knowledge to share, but they were also able to help me increase my performance and efficiency at work.  We discuss time management skills, the pros and cons of delegation, the willingness to give up control in certain areas, and how personal behavior traits may be perceived by others.  I continue to utilize all of these discussions on a weekly basis both in my professional and personal life.

The uncertain future that we all currently face, though freightening, also serves as an opportunity to take a personal inventory of our skill sets and potentially ask for assistance form peers.  Though this may seem to be a daunting task, I assure you that it will be very worthwhile if you’re honest and give it your best effort.  Everyone has a natural desire to succeed.  Who better to ask those who have had a similar opportunity previously and are able to guide us around mistakes they may have seen along the way?

“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall in the ditch.” – Jesus Christ

What’s Holding You Back from Becoming a Better Leader?

Leadership, in its simplest form, can be reduced to the practice of understanding and implementing the basic skills: conflict resolution, effective communication, and motivation.  Independent of style, all leaders have a profound understanding of these three basic fundamentals.  Leaders couple these basic skills with specific attributes – beliefs, values, ethics, character, and knowledge.  A title of CFO/Controller, Director, or Manager goes not make you a leader; rather, it gives you the responsibility and authority to initiate certain goals within your company.  An important idea to keep in mind: Authority does not make you a leader – it merely makes you the boss. 

The majority see the obstacles; the few see the objectives; history records the successes of the latter, while oblivion is the reward of the former.” ~Alfred Armand Montapert

However, leaders can become blinded by small details – obstacles, if you will – in day-to-day activities. While leaders must occasionally analyze the finer points of a situation in order to make informed and confident decisions, they must not allow details to become distractions. The ability to work through and/or around distractions in order to develop timely, appropriate solutions is one of the greatest challenges leaders face every day.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” ~ General Colin Powell 

Simplicity is the common denominator found in exceptional leaders. The ability to dissect problematic situations is not easily acquired, but it’s a trait leaders must learn in order to be effective.  The best way to accomplish this is through “thoughtful reduction” – removing those ancillary or peripheral pieces of information that can muddle the view of the real problem at hand. Great leaders “sharpen the saw” through a continuous process of self-study, self-awareness, education, training, and experience.

 “You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” ~ Edwin Louis Cole

We, as leaders, cannot permit our companies to become stagnant or our personnel to become complacent. Don’t waste a single minute – begin bettering yourself and your team today. Remember, a healthy competitive nature is a good thing – it makes us stronger leaders!  As a professional, this can be achieved, in part, by earning a designation, such as the CCIFP designation, which exhibits your willingness to develop your personal and professional skills, while raising the bar for yourself, your company, and your staff.

We must lead by example – specifically, we must exhibit those traits we want others to display. Let your employees see that you are willing to benchmark yourself against your peers in the same manner in which you benchmark their performance.  Too often, we’re the ones who ask others to change, while sometimes appearing reluctant to do the same.  Demonstrate that you desire to be at the summit of your profession – a goal that others in similar positions strive to attain. Lead by example and others will be certain to follow.

When Optimism is Over, Persistence Pays Off

Anyone currently in the job market will tell you how easy it is to lose faith and keep hope alive that you will find an opportunity soon.  As someone who has straddled that fence for many weeks now, I can attest to how difficult it is to remain positive.  Those few employers actively searching have an overwhelming number of qualified candidates more than willing to jump at their opportunity – or any opportunity.  As a self-defined “realist” – I tend to analyze the facts before drawing a conclusion instead of maintaining blind optimism/pessimism – I have learned an important lesson as I continue my quest for a new opportunity: when optimism is over, persistence pays off.

James Caan once said, “Success is the result of clear goal, unshakable confidence, proper planning, enthusiastic action, and consistent persistence.”  In this most unstable time in United States economic history, persistence must be the game plan to finding opportunity and seizing it.  Optimism is great, but an unwavering drive to find that chance is what will lead you to your opportunity. It is extremely difficult to maintain the energy and drive to continue sending resumes and follow up correspondence, all while maintaining hope that you will be asked to interview.  What you must always remember is that the force that drives you to continue your quest is exactly the desire, motivation, and work ethic that your future employer will certainly be looking for in their perfect candidate.

As we continue this journey together, I encourage you to remember the words of Thomas Edison, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”  Remain steadfast in your journey – keep your head up, shoulders back, and walk proud – for now more than ever you need to appear confident as well as qualified.  Maintain the “consistent persistence” and keep taking “another step forward.”

Finding Support from Afar

As an executive who recently began searching for a new opportunity, I find myself constantly challenged to remain focused and positive.  Amid the cover letter preparations and resume submissions, it does not take long to begin to feel as though the opportunity to fully utilize my experience and talents will not present itself.  I quickly found myself searching for two things simultaneously: new employment and positive thinking.  Much to my surprise, the very thing I have attempted to do for others was returned to me.

As an active user of Twitter, I do my best to post positive thoughts and quotes throughout the day hoping that it will find someone who is struggling and, perhaps, in need of reassurance.  As I began to review my recent tweets, I quickly realized that I needed to start reading them with a little more thought and attention.

Many have come from friends whom I follow and have now come to appreciate even more.  I was reminded by S. Max Brown (http://twitter.com/smaxbrown) that “We never know why things happen the way they do, but we have the choice to be better because of them.”  Paul Harris (http://twitter.com/paulvharris) taught me that Marvin Phillips said “The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph!”  My friend Coach Otis of NYC (http://twitter.com/NYC_CoachO) shared advice from Alan Stein (http://twitter.com/AlanStein) who said, “Adversity is usually a prerequisite to great things.”  Coach Starkey (http://twitter.com/LSUCoachStarkey) reminded me H. Jackson Brown said, “It doesn’t take talent to hustle.”  Finally, my good friend Steve Keating (http://twitter.com/LeadToday) shared more of his wisdom when he posted Ben Franklin’s insight: “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

I’m not sure why things have happened the way they have for me, but have accepted that this is the adversity that will lead to greater things.  I will continue to hustle with the hope that the extra umph will separate me from the crowd.  Most importantly, I will remain diligent in my search for my new opportunity.