5-Steps to Bring Your Dream to Reality:


Dreams-300x199

Dreams abound in our lives. The question is “how many of our dreams go unfulfilled throughout our lifetime?” For many, unfortunately, this is quite true. There is a simple five-step solution to bring more of our dreams to fruition. Here’s how:

  1. Dream – The intangible world

Dreams exist in what is called the ‘intangible” world of our thoughts, ideas and fantasies. We can acquire a dream from inspiration or our deepest longings for something meaningful and fulfilling. A dream is simply a colorful picture of the future, of what can be? Before we can crystallize our dreams into reality, we have to ask ourselves a few questions:

Who I am? – Identity

Why am I here? – Purpose

Where am I going? – Destiny

Some dreams are simply silly ideas, conjured up from the lack of knowledge and experience. I remember when I was in Junior High School. I was a good basketball player, making the all-star team from a large middle school with four teams. From these four teams, 60 players were vying for the same All-Star team, of which only the top twelve made the cut to represent the school in regional tournaments. Since I was one of the twelve, I thought to myself, “When I grow up I want be an NBA basketball player.” All my dreaming of becoming a player on a big league team subsided when I stopped growing after my freshmen year of High School. So what would I become? What would I do with my life? Not all dreams are meant to be.

  1. Desire – Giving birth to your dream(s)

Once I had a dream list for my life, I had to access something different from within to make my dreams a reality. Desire, therefore, became the starting point to refine my dream list. Desire is rooted in your heart, where a constant vigil happens of thinking through your dream. Once a dream has taken root in your heart, you can start moving into a desired direction. After all, God will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4), if you prioritze him in your life. Your heart is the center of emotional activity, where motivation takes place and passions grow. You must acquire the motivation and draw inspiration to engage your dream to the next step.

  1. Design – The plan of action

Once you have something burning deep within your soul, you must sit down and create a plan of action. Planning is not a strength for most people, but a crucial step that must take place. Planning requires a person to think and write out goals, objectives and reasons why a particular dream is truly yours, and second, that you are the only one with a unique dream tailored for your life. A plan of action should consist of three basic features:

  1. Creating vision for your dream, the one thing that will keep the dream alive before you.
  2. Listing objectives; small action steps, people and resources to make your dream happen.
  3. Assessing your objectives: This is an evaluative process of measuring your effectiveness. How will you know when certain steps have been achieved? What more is needed for the journey ahead?

These are just three areas that can branch out into more steps. I have listed only the critical ones to get you started.

  1. Diligence – Taking decisive action

Once you have devised a workable plan, you must be diligent – day in and day out, throughout the process. Dreams are achieved with grit and commitment to see them through fruition. Diligence is simply paying attention, making necessary corrections as you go, and acquiring the stamina needed to make it through testing and trials. There will be obstacles along the way that will test your resolve and character. Don’t take short-cuts through this process because most, if not all trials, are developing the character you need to live out your dream. Your process maybe short or long, but regardless of the length to achieve your dream, this process will make you a better person or leader along the way. Dreams exist to stretch you and make you into a different person. If your dream doesn’t challenge you along the way, it was just a bad idea in the first place.

  1. Discover – the tangible

Once you have taken the steps to make your dream tangible; this means it is becoming a reality right before your very eyes. You will have discovered more about yourself, and you will be better prepared to sustain your dream, and appreciate your new reality in a better state as a person. Soon you will see pieces of the puzzle come together, where the picture becomes more evident and tangible.

Life Coaching for Teens


Life Coaching for Teens is a leadership workbook I put together to aid Latino youth, which explores topics on the essential foundations in leadership development.

I am making the PDF copy available to you to use in the training and development of Latino youth.

Link: Life Coaching for Teens _ Seminar Version

Please fill out and provide your comments about Life Coaching for Teens, thanks!

The Leader’s Alphabet


A = Attitude & Action
B = Bold & Benevolent
C = Character & Connector
D = Diligent & Dependable
E = Excellence & Empowerment
F = Fair & Firm
G = Gratuitous & Grateful
H = Humble & Helpful
I = Innovative & Initiative
J = Justice & Jovial
K = Knowledgeable & Kind
L = Loyal & Listener
M = Mentor & Motivator
N = Noble & Nice
O = Opportunist & Optimism
P = Provocative & Probing
Q = Qualified & Quintessential
R = Resilient & Righteous
S = Sensitive & Secure
T = Tested & Trustworthy
U = Unifier & Understanding
V = Vision & Values
W = Wise & Winsome
X = Xample & Xtra-ordinary
Y = Yearns & Yields
Z = Zany & Zealous

Business woman with a group

Can you add any other attributes?

Accountability: Raising the Bar of Personal #Integrity


Business woman with a group

Accountability is first and foremost one’s responsibility to measure personal standards of living by evaluating behaviors through a Biblical filter, then realigning oneself to expected standards of righteousness. This is accomplished in many ways. Too many people would rather forego accountability and live independent lives; this was not God’s intention from the beginning (Genesis 3:7-11 & 4:5-13). We are to live in community with God and others, affecting and challenging each other’s lives. The purpose of Christian accountability is to walk before God in holiness. There are many methods available to secure credibility and restore integrity, the following five cornerstones of Christian accountability do just that.

1. Conscience (Self-Awareness)

A speaker once asked the audience in a seminar I attended, “Where did you get your conscience?” Silence filled the room. When no brave soul responded, the speaker answered his own question, “You acquire your conscience from your parents?” He then explained himself, “Parents are the primary source of moral teaching.” Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition, or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong.[i] Do you remember being corrected for certain things you said or did as a child? You bet you can. We carry these moral bearings introduced first by our parents throughout life; they are very much part of what shapes our conscience. When we attempt something outside these moral teachings an internal code embedded within brings awareness to our poor decision-making.

2. Conviction (Spirit Awareness)

Another method of Christian accountability is the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit. Conviction is the quickening of your mind and spirit that something you are about to undertake is inappropriate. An interesting aspect of conviction is that you feel a strong impression within to do the right thing. The Spirit presents or reveals an exit sign directing you to do the right thing. Sometime ago I purchased one of my favorite High School albums (this is 30 years after High School). I just wanted to hear some music from the good ‘ol days. At the time of purchase I didn’t think much of it. When I heard a certain song lyric I felt a strong conviction override me. I was stricken and grieved within my spirit. As soon as I arrived to my house I threw the c.d. away, and asked God to forgive me. I came to understand this album represented my old life; the one I walked away from to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit was not pleased with a certain lyric, and made me aware of His sentiments.

3. Community (Saintly Love)

We cannot avoid a conversation about accountability without discussing community. You and I belong to many communities; family, ethnic group, the workplace, neighborhood, and other associations. The most important community, in my opinion, is the faith community; the house of worship you and I attend on a weekly basis. The loving and caring relationships within this community bring accountability to our lives.

One day as I shared this insight with a friend at church. At mid-stream he stopped me and shared a story with me. On the previous Sunday, for some reason, he decided to attend an earlier service, missing his usual service time at 11 a.m. The people he would usually connect with on a Sunday morning noticed his absence. So later on that afternoon he received a few phone calls from those church members asking about his whereabouts. The people he had come to know and love where simply concerned about him. Community is crucial for your wellbeing. In a community you have people who love and care about you and are willing to ask about your life, most importantly to align your life.

4. Communion (Sacramental Grace)

The Sacrament of communion is a personal confrontation of one’s life in the presence of Christ Himself; a sacred act of introspection, evaluation and confession. No one else is involved in this spiritual practice but you and God. According to Scripture, prior to receiving communion:

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

This is a powerful and dreadful statement. The writer goes on to say,

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [a metaphor for passing away]. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”[ii]

Communion, therefore, starts by confronting self, by going into the private recesses of our mind and inner spirit, inviting Christ to probe deep inside for the purpose of revealing shortcomings in my personal walk with Him. Also in this process, we take a look back to remind ourselves of His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection; the price he paid for our sins to remind ourselves that we now belong to Him. We are also reminded of His return, which means that between His death and His second coming you and I must live holy lives, pleasing to Him.

5. Correction (Sages and Seers)

Correction is the final component of Christian accountability. This is where your pastors, the sages and seers, in your faith community come into play. The writer of Hebrews notes,

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account,” [iii]

Pastors, mentors and ministry leaders are “sages and seers” who are part of your spiritual development. You must allow them access to your pesonal life from time to time, because they impart wisdom and insights into your life bringing you to another level of spiritual order and operation. After all, faithful are the wounds of a friend, right?

These five tools to bring accountability to our lives are meant to realign us to right living. One thing is for sure, we will have no excuse when we stand before our Maker. He has provided you and I with at least five accountability mechanisms so we can walk uprightly before Him each and every day.

Is there another form of Christian accountability? Are any of these five new to you?

Endnotes:

[i] Wikipedia: Conscience, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscience, accessed 1.11.11.
[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:28-31 (NIV).
[iii] Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
[iv] Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

#Leading a Thriving #Organization


tree

Organizational executives, managers and leaders have good intentions to create thriving organizations that reflect their vision and mission for successful outcomes in the marketplace. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work for many organizations in various capacities; as an employee, a middle manager, a pastor, an executive, as a coach and marketing consultant. In other words, I have seen the internal dynamics of how organizations are managed and led; some thrive whiles others struggle to survive. To accomplish this monumental task of building a thriving organization it will take an organization to understand and embrace the four pillars of a thriving organization, which are simply strategy, synergy, structure and systems. Let’s start with the first critical layer of strategy.

1. Strategy

The original meaning of the world strategy reveals the “art of the General”, which implies the General’s broad grasp of the craft of warfare based upon years of acquired acumen and intuition from experiences on the battlefield. We can break down this art form into to three layers: hindsight, insight and foresight. Likewise, those in positions of mid to higher management in an organization have years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom derived through their education, exposure to people and events within an organization, and past experiences on the job. The accumulated wisdom of these employees is critical for tapping into new strategic methods for success.

Strategy is the sum of two parts: it’s your acumen and your approach. Strategy is melding what you already know and how you will go about executing what you know. Strategy, however, fails on many accounts. The most critical one is the lack of collaborative imagination that keeps many organizations operating in the dark at mediocre levels. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, understood the power of collaborative imagination. His wisdom was and is today second to none; the biblical narrative notes a person like Solomon will never be matched again, so listen carefully! King Solomon provides our culture today with a great Tweet tucked away in Proverbs 24:6:

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”

Can you imagine tapping into the combined acumen, intuition and experience of many advisors? So why don’t you take an assessment of the creative members on your team and begin to tap into their combined wisdom for strategic advantages and advances in the marketplace. The wisdom is all around you… are you listening?

2. Synergy

One lazy afternoon, on my day off, I went to the afternoon matinee to see the movie Pitch Perfect. It simply amazed me on many levels! It wasn’t the humor, although I had a load of laughs. It wasn’t the brilliant singing that caught my attention although it was American Idol on Steroids. The main message for me was how a singing team formed and fermented into greatness. Let me see if I can sum up the important snippets of the movie that helped me see how teams form to create dynamic energy and synergy:

1. Pride was present at first since the old guard did not want to give up their place or stature on the team. So they resist anyone trying to introduce new ideas, which will improve the team’s performance.

2. Then there is friction between the old guard and the newcomers since the new ideas being offered are better than the old ones. It’s takes some time for the old guard to realize their methods have become obsolete.

3. Thirdly, the old guard finally accepts reality and realizes it needs to adapt and change. They are now willing to make some accommodations to make the team better.

4. And finally, the team comes together to implement the new ideas. There’s a dynamic shift in team culture and performance.

Synergy is hard to create but when it is present it is dynamic and energizing. When a team creates synergy it begins to release that corporate magic many organizations long for. How do we know when synergy is present? It is evident when optimum energy is released and dynamic synergy is increased.

3. Structure

Every organization is structured in a unique way. Some structures are more rigid than others, such as the military and Law Enforcement agencies, while other organizations tend to adopt a more fluid and flexible approach. “By structure, we mean the framework around which the group is organized, the underpinnings which keep the coalition functioning. It’s the operating manual that tells members how the organization is put together and how it works. More specifically, structure describes how members are accepted, how leadership is chosen, and how decisions are made.”[i]

The structure solely depends on what your organization wants to accomplish. For instance, let’s take two examples from nature to make my point. An eagle and a duck are structured quite differently from one another since they have different purposes to perform. One is meant to fly in high altitudes, and to dive at fast speeds to catch unsuspecting prey by surprise. Eagles like to be alone most of the time; they are the kings of the air. While a duck is given webbed feet to navigate through the water, and tightly knit feathers to keep them warm in cold climates. Ducks like to fly in teams, and work together to fly long distances.

Each bird has a particular function to play and purpose to fulfill. These distinguishing features provide you and I insight into the roles they perform in their respected environments.

Let’s take another example from nature. What about a tree? An Oak tree has a firm base extending to the general body. It is immovable and strong. Then as the branches move out they thin out and become more flexible, bending by the wind, even with the subtle breeze. Structures in organizations should have a stabilizing structure but should also allow flexibility is some areas of the organization to accommodate quick changes.

4. Systems

Systems are like highways that connect motorists to interchanges, intersections and bridges, which provide a proper flow of traffic so that people can get to places in an efficient manner within a specified time frame. Let me provide you a personal example:

I remember a time when our church fed thousands of inner city people on a Saturday afternoon. At the time, our church had an extraordinary cook on staff that was once Donald Trump’s private Chef (and you know Mr. Trump is a pretty picky guy). Anyway, when it came time to feed the multitudes, I just happened to walk into the kitchen area where I overheard the Chef say, “This is how we are going to take the food out to feed the folks.” To shorten my story, he had adopted a system with six steps before the people could even receive their food on the table. I thought to myself, “This process or system is going to take forever. We can do better?” So immediately, I took the Chef aside and advised him of a more efficient way. After I made it sound like it was his idea, he adopted the new system. The result of this simple change in the flow of food delivery was that everyone was happy, from the volunteers who had to serve the food, to the Chef himself, and the multitudes receiving our compassionate services for the day. All it took was a simple change to the “system”, which provided more efficient outcomes.

Systems should be made simple, but most people make them more complicated than they should be. The Chef in this situation had extraordinary skills but he lacked the basic skills of how to deliver his product efficiently.

What area above is the weakest in your organization? Which one is the strength of your organization?


[i] An Organizational Structure: An Overview. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1092.aspx, accessed on 4/7/2013.

Default Leadership: The Presumptuous Leader


 presumption

The “presumptuous leader” sounds like an oxymoron. Well, it actually is one! Leaders who are presumptions think of themselves a little higher than they actually are and think they know more than others. Allow me a short illustration:

I was recently promoted to a new position and took hold of my new branch which had a lot of potential for growth and profit. However, after a quick appraisal of the store’s metrics I soon discovered the store also had some areas that required immediate attention and improvement – most noticeably its leadership presence. This particular branch had been on the decline for some months with the present management who was feeling the pressure from top brass concerning some alarming numbers. During my first few days in the office, my objective was to get to know my team members by simply interacting with them and observing how they worked with each other, but most importantly how they perceived me as their new leader. On the onset I detected some resistance from the store manager, the second in command. At first he was a little distant, cold and “short” with me. One time, during a brief interview, he must have presumed we were done with the conversation, so he got up and walked away. I sat on my seat stunned thinking, “Does this guy have any social skills?” Over a period of two weeks, I knew I had a lot more to work on than getting the store to operate at peak performance. I needed to groom my store manager with the right leadership skills for personal, team and corporate success. Throughout my interactions with the store manager I soon found three default characteristics of a presumptuous leader:

1. Previous work experience does not add up to competent leadership

After spending some time with my store manager, I noticed how he would keep bringing up his previous employment experience, “In my previous job I supervised fifty employees.” And the time I asked him to do the schedule he made a point to say, “It’s easy, doing a schedule for four people is nothing compared to what I used to do.” My first thought, “Wow, I have a great leader working with me. We are going to turn this store around quicker than I first anticipated.” Soon enough, within a matter of days, I noticed the incompetence surface. He lacked the basic skills of supervision, delegating responsibility and holding his direct reports accountable for their work performance. My initial thought was, “Now, how did this guy get to a position where he supervised fifty people?” It just didn’t add up.

2. Layered expectations is a form of controlling others not leading them

There’s nothing more I dislike than someone saying, “They are not allowed to do that!”, or something similar, “The previous boss would only let me do that.” After a few comments like these I had to put a stop to that kind of managerial thinking. In a learning environment managers must relinquish some control and trust others to learn and do the job. After all, we must advance not only the agenda of the organization but also employees to their next level of operation. So I asked myself, “Where did he get this learning?” After some brief dialogue, it was the previous General Manager who would not allow certain people to do some basic things, such as count the cash drawer upon opening or closing the store. My style of training is a “cross-trainer” approach where everyone gets to participate and learn a new aspect of the operation. This happens gradually when someone is willing and ready to learn the next new thing. A working environment must be empowering not controlling others based upon one’s position or title.

3. Leading from behind is not authentic leadership

After a week or so I noticed the store manager was not leading his direct reports properly. So I asked him, “How do you lead your team?” He responded, “Oh, they already know what to do. I just let them do it.” I then asked, “How do you know they are accomplishing tasks on time and being effective in their jobs?” He just stared at me. His style of leadership was laissez-faire, from a French term meaning laid-back leadership. When I questioned his style of leadership he simply replied, “I’ve always done it that way.” Presumption – yes or no? As a leader, you have to engage your direct reports with vision and responsibility, and responsibility with accountability, and timed tasks that are measured by effective performance and results.

What did I learn in the first two weeks of this encounter? First, I learned that the more someone is “experienced” the harder they are to train, because “they just seem to know so much” more than you. Employees who brag about their previous work experience must embrace new learning experiences. Second, bringing correction to a leader who seems to “know it all” is difficult to do but it’s a must. A leader must have the courage to have transparent and regular discussions. What kind of discussions? The one’s where you tell your direct report to “push the refresh button” and to start all over by learning how to lead effectively.

The Engaged Leader: A Surprise Visit by a Regional Vice President


Joined in business

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” –Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Our morning at the office was akin to any normal day; staff members arrive, greet each other, clock in, make coffee, and do whatever it takes to get the operational apparatus moving for the day. After thirty minutes, we settled into our workstations and commenced small talk with each other before engaging in our daily routine. All the sudden, I observed through the front office window what seemed to be the Regional Vice President entering the office at a fast pace. Somewhat startled, I exclaimed, “It’s the V.P.!” before he entered the office. I was surprised to see the Regional Vice President was by himself, without the usual entourage of the Regional and District Managers with clipboards in hand ready to write down every detail of the meeting. Normally, these types of meetings from out of town brass tend to create a tense working environment, where our district leaders prepare store managers and staff, days ahead of time. During these scheduled visits every office in the region walks on “pins and needles”, hoping team members will say the right things, present the goal board properly (the current performance metrics), and ensure the office is up to corporate standards; clean, neat and organized. Not this time?

As the Regional V.P. walked in, we got up and greeted him one-by-one. We were so happy to see him without the usual hype. In other words, we did not have to conform to a false corporate mold to make a good impression.

For reasons I will go into in a few moments, my colleagues and I were not intimidated at all by his presence. Our meeting with the Regional V.P. lasted about fifteen minutes. After his departure, the office was energized by his presence, so I sat at my desk and wrote down a short list of what I saw and felt from the Regional Vice President. One thing is for certain, I witnessed first hand a masterful leader working the room, and making impressionable connections with each employee. The following observations were noted.

  1.  An engaged leader is personable

The Regional V.P. was uniquely personable. As he entered the office he shook our hands, and called us each one of us by name. I couldn’t help but think, “This guy must do his homework before he visits a store. He knows each one of us on a first name basis.” His demeanor was totally non-threatening and genuine, unlike the meetings of the past. He was very personable, which made us feel like real people, and not corporate robots doing and saying the right things.

  1. An engaged leader gives hope

As he continued his conversation with another employee and I, he said, “We are going to grow old together, right?” We said in unison, “Yes, we are!” Immediately, I understood the meaning of this phrase; it is one used by married couples that are recommitting to each other for long period of time. I felt like he was putting us as ease by this comment. I felt secure and confident about the future. Leaders, like him, offer hope and build confidence for the future in a single and sincere sentence. Without hope you get a sense that there is no future to look forward to; only the daily grind of complying with charts and targets. The Regional V.P. simply imparted hope in a single sentence.

  1.  An engaged leader offers coaching

He soon asked, “How is your store’s performance?” So we led him to the break room where our goal board was located with updated metrics showing our activity, performance and profit for the month. After a brief overview by my colleague, he offered some coaching tips of his own. The coaching moment was helpful and pleasantly welcomed and acknowledged. We have not received this type of coaching even from our direct supervisors.

  1.  An engaged leader knows your status

Just before his departure, he asked a few of us about our status for our next level promotion. He went around the room asking and listening to everyone’s response. When he approached me, he asked, “Have you taken the test for General Manager yet? Surprised that he knew my status, I answered in the affirmative. What I could not grasp was his knowledge of my promotion, which was already in the works. I thought, “He is the Regional V.P. – He has got more important things to worry about.” This made me and the team feel that he cared for our professional development and advancement.

  1.  An engaged leader creates synergy

When he left the office, synergy was obviously present. We were all thrilled about his visit. We could not stop talking about what he said and what he was going to do for each one of us. The atmosphere in our office was literally transformed by his presence and concern for our future. After his departure, we then put our hands to work with more enthusiasm.

  1. An engaged leader follows-through

Some of us had some concerns about certain issues that were not being addressed in a timely manner; like our monthly bonus extensions, and promotions. Within a half-hour, after his departure, we were getting calls and emails from our District Managers noting, “We are taking care of that email you sent two weeks ago.” I was simply amazed at the speed of their responses. I have not seen such follow-through in such a short time frame.

Learning from Others

I was so fortunate to witness a leader who was engaged in what he did, and how he did it. The root meaning of the word engage is “to get the attention of” or “to bind oneself” with another as in a pledge. Our Regional Vice President certainly got my attention and respect. I was now interested in committing myself further under his regional leadership. Leaders who engage their employees, like our Regional Vice President, create empowering win-win cultures by lifting the attitudes and morale of front-line workers.