Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Celebrating Your Craft

There is a moment of perfect peace that overcomes me when I am in the presence of someone who is excellent at their craft (skilled work, product, talent). Yesterday brought the completion of a 2 day training for Emerging Leader course Instructors.  At the suggestion of a colleague, a person I didn't know was secured to train the group on the process of facilitation. Grace was outstanding. An intriguing mix of gentle and authoritative; open to possibilities and directed. Watching her deliver her session was a moment of perfect peace. She is excellent at her craft and it was a pleasure to experience it.

I have always had a "wish" to be truly excellent at something. (I am sure someone can analyze my first-born, hyper-achieving statement...) Don't get me wrong, I am good (some days great) at a lot of things. But, I mean truly excellent. When I watch a professional athlete this often comes to mind for me. What would it be like to win a gold medal? Be the winner of Wimbledon? And, I  will continue to wonder since I was the only junior on the frosh/soph tennis team at my high school. (Don't feel too bad for me, I was promoted to JV for my senior year...) While I have not achieved a gold medal (or even a trophy), I have learned a few tricks over the years from watching others.

1. Excellence in your craft comes from hard work. Years ago a family friend married a professional athlete. I was blown away by how many hours were spent not only practicing, but studying old recordings of races and developing new strategies. I suppose my assumption was that after winning a gold medal, that kind of intensity could slow down. The same is true for student leaders. Your fraternity isn't going to stay or become excellent if you sit back and rest. Hard work is essential for developing your sisterhood, your philanthropy event, your recruitment.

2. People who are at the top of their craft have others that inspire them. I have said many times that I am least satisfied/most worried when I am the smartest/most creative/funniest person in the room. Part of being great is recognizing others in that arena. For some this may be in the form of a competitor (Who will be Greek Man of the Year?), for others it is a person that you aspire to become more like (Get to know your chapter advisor!). As leaders, we have to surround ourselves with others that are better than we are. This is how we hone and refine our craft.

3. Those that are the best recognize that there is more to life than their craft. I didn't have a chance to talk to Grace after her presentation, but I would imagine that being an excellent teacher and presenter is not what she uses to define herself. My friend who is an Olympian knows and lives in a way that demonstrates that his family is the most important thing in his life. Finding something that you can excel in is powerful. But, knowing who you are and why you matter is an entirely different topic. The same is true for you as a leader.

So, I leave you with this for consideration: Develop your craft. Know that I am cheering you on as you strive and achieve. And, in honor of "the speech that changed a nation" that was delivered 50 years ago today, reflect on this thought...
“If I cannot do great things, 
I can do small things in a great way” 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Good Enough

Come see this beauty in SLP 301!
"And, I think that's good enough!" Those were the words that passed my lips as I randomly drove three
nails into my office wall to re-hang the 8x10 pictures of my family. Last year when I created the collage, I spent over an hour getting them to align in a perfect square with the exact distance between each of the four frames. The truth of it all - that hour would have been better spent elsewhere.

Yesterday, I sat in a meeting with some of the most engaging and competent professionals I have ever known. We spent about 10 minutes discussing in (excruciating) detail a prize giveaway for an event. When we hit the 10 minute mark, I couldn't contain myself any longer. The statement, "I think we have spent enough energy on this." may or may not have come out of my mouth.

So, my message to you today is this... Know what things in your life are fine to be "good enough". So much time and energy is spent getting little things that don't really matter to be just right. What if we spent time on the things that really matter? Over the course of my many years, here are a few gauges I have developed to discern what can be left at good enough.

  • Will anyone else notice or care? I am brave enough to admit that I often am concerned with things that other people really don't care about. As people, we tend to be a little self-obsessed. (Myself included!) I remember the day that I wore navy blue shoes with an all black outfit. I had two pair that were the same style. When I got to work and realized it, I didn't have time to go home. Do you know who noticed? NO ONE. Did it matter to me? Sure. Did anyone else care, much less notice? Nope.
  • What will happen if this isn't perfect? I mean this sincerely... What will happen? Anything life threatening? Catastrophic? There are some things that we do that really do matter if they are on point (risk management comes to mind...), but many other things are really just not that important. We, as leaders, put that pressure on ourselves. When perfection is our standard, it becomes hard to prioritize the things competing for your attention. We should always strive for excellence, but asking this question is a good measure of what can be left at good enough.
  • Will this matter in 5 years, 5 weeks, 5 minutes? This is a Howard Lee special... Goodness I miss that man and the wisdom that only a father can bring. This question was posed throughout my childhood at every turn. It often got an eye roll response from me, but it is good for perspective. Will it really matter? To whom? For how long?
Cheers to you all as you enjoy these last few weeks of summer!