Girls running in a field with superimposed text: the importance of play

On our journey to productivity, we must recognize the lighter side of leadership.

The Lighter Side of Leadership

The lighter side of leadership encompasses the play that we need to do as leaders. Unfortunately, this is often something that we forget to do.

Play in children has been shown to, “to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.”

In fact, play is so important to children that it has been declared a basic human right.

However, what we fail to realize is that play is just as necessary, just as vital, and just as beneficial to adults. Somewhere along the way, we forget to play.

Benefits of Play

“Play” as leaders extend the same benefits. Through play, we develop resilience, learn emotional intelligence, group dynamics, and practice grit. Most importantly, as leaders, we discover the benefits of laughing. Laughing lowers blood pressure and pain levels, calms tension, relieves stress, promotes creativity, and aids in the fight against depression. As it turns out, laughter really is the best medicine.

When we as leaders engage in play, both privately and with our teams, we are modeling what holistically healthy leadership looks like. We set the standard that while we take our work seriously, we don’t have to take ourselves seriously.  Girls running in a field with superimposed text: the importance of play

More than that, I’ve also become a firm believer that a team’s ability to play together is one of the easiest tests of true team dynamics and strength. One group was notoriously good at working together … or so they thought. Their meetings were very structured, a lot of agenda items were discussed, and everyone left with a list of tasks to accomplish. 

One day, I suggested that we go out together, as a group, and do something fun. Bowling, laser tag, board games, it didn’t really matter. The point was to do something together as a group that didn’t involve work. What I wanted was this group to play, to experience fun together, to find a lighter side to leadership.

It was rebuffed.

Instantly.

By all of them.

The excuses varied. Some were “too busy.” Some “couldn’t see the point.” The result was the same. This group continued to experience a slow decline in productivity, trust, and goal achievement.

Leaders without play produce leadership without vision.

Bringing in Play

All of the team-consulting activities I bring in involve play. Leadership personality assessments, team-building, corporate revisioning, sales and marketing, all of it requires an element of play. Along the way, we’re going to talk growth strategies and productivity, but not of it happens without play. 

The ability to laugh at ourselves.

To open up and be vulnerable.

A grand discovery that we don’t have all the answers. (One of my personal favorites is team-building from an escape room, if you want to know what that looks like, you can email me here).

In our leadership journey, never forget the importance of play. It keeps us grounded, builds trust with our teammates, and builds the character and grit we need to succeed.

If you want to enjoy a bit of the lighter side of leadership, watch the video below. In this installment of, “The Lighter Side of Leadership” we taste mystery cupcakes and talk about surviving life in quarantine.

Smiling employees with overlay text, "Service with a smile"

In a world increasingly divided and hostile, the best thing we can offer is service with a smile.

The Benefits of Smiling

It’s not something we think about often, but there are benefits associated with smiling. In addition to providing a warm, welcoming demeanor, smiling has other benefits, like:

  • Increased mood
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Aid digestion
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Decrease pain
  • Stronger immune system Smiling employees with overlay text, "Service with a smile"
  • Create a positive mindset
  • And more!

But here’s the crazy thing. Smiling, scientists have discovered, is contagious. This means that when you smile (and get these benefits), others will too!

Service With A Smile

I remember a conflict I was in with one former employer. He wanted to know why I never smiled at him when he walked into the office. Convinced something was wrong between us, he began to harbor feelings of anger and resentment. It carried into other spheres of working together, and eventually, I was almost written up over it!

The sad truth? My desk faced the doors and I’d often look up, lost in thought. If they walked by, it wasn’t that I was upset, angry, or dismissive of them. I was simply thinking too hard!

But this did cause me to become more aware of my facial expressions towards others. Instead of dismissing those claims, I took them to heart. I want everything I do to be a warm, welcoming place for people to be around.

I made a conscious effort to work on smiling when engaging others. For someone used to being accused of RBF, this was no small challenge. It has been, however, entirely worth it. The effort to put more work into smiling and engaging others has proved useful for business and personal reasons.

Engaging Leadership

One of the great things that smiling does for us as leaders are that it engages others. It marks us as warm, approachable, open, affirming, and in control.

Smiling communicates that we are calm and steadfast.

Providing service with a smile is more than plastering on a fake veneer, it is training our brain, and those around us, to look for the good in all situations.

It demonstrates our ability to work under pressure.

Service with a smile provides reassuring calm in the midst of surrounding storms.

One area I’ve seen this work is in parenting. When I need to have difficult conversations with my children, I make sure to put on a smile. Not to dismiss wrong or correctable behavior, but to let them know that it is okay. Everything is going to work out fine. Sometimes, I even let them know, “I’m not bad, but I do want to talk about what happened.”

This works in the workplace as well. Really, in all areas where we feel called to lead. 

Service with a smile lets others know that we will all get through this together.

Take An Inventory

The easiest way to get started experiencing the benefits of smiling is to smile. The quickest way to get there is to take an inventory.

Where are the moments we struggle with the most? How have we responded? What would we like to do differently?

Start by planning your day, based on how you want to engage the world and what you hope to accomplish with a smile.

Then, think about the common places where you’re interacting with people and write down intentional things you will do to smile and engage them.

One area where I had to work hard (and to be honest, I’m still working at) is to smile when I produce online content. It’s not that I’m unhappy or grump. Instead, it’s that I take seriously my calling to make great content that I get so focused on that that I can forget to enjoy myself.

I’ve started to write down physical notes when I record (or speak live) to smile. It’s actually in my notes, BE SURE TO SMILE HERE.

It engages the audience and creates rapport.

Smiling communicates value.

It demonstrates appreciation.

As leaders, everything we do is monitored. To be at our best, one simple way is to smile.

Creating opportunities for service with a smile transforms our thinking, influences our actions, transforms conflict, creates opportunity, and advances the mission.

Smile on!

Person Rock Climbing with Overlay text "Do Hard Things"

One of the common phrases in our house is, “Do hard things!”

It’s a call. A challenge. To our kids, but also to the adults. Life requires, necessitates difficulty. We should rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things

Life is full of the difficult.

Taking our first steps requires doing hard things.

When we’re young, learning to walk is hard. Yet without knowing any better, our natural instinct is to persevere. We fall, we rise again, and we take another step.

Somewhere along the way, however, we get talked out of that mindset. We learn to shrink back, play small, give in, and give up. Ultimately, we end up missing out on some of the greatest aspects of life.

Because everything we’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Our ability to push through, rise to the occasion, and achieve the difficult things, determines how far we get in life.

 

Don’t Run From Hardship

One writer from the early church history penned the idea of difficulty this way:

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. (The Voice)

We were warned thousands of years ago about the necessity of doing difficult things in life. From cleaning our rooms to forgiving someone who offends us, the message is the same: do hard things!

Got a side-hustle you want to be your full-time gig? Do Hard Things. 

Looking to advance in your career and get a promotion? Do Hard Things.

 

Discovering the need to be a better parent, spouse, or lover? Do Hard Things.

Trying to lose ten, fifteen, for fifty pounds? Do Hard Things.

Convicted to swallow your pride and ask for forgiveness? Do Hard Things.

A Call For Growth

Ultimately, this is a call for growth. For all of us. We are presented each and every day with the chance to grow and get better.

For my son, it’s cleaning his room, engaging in his math homework, and being nice. (Even when his little brother is legitimately being annoying).

 

For me, it’s putting in the focused effort on the right action items every day. Ignoring distraction, feeding my quest for self-improvement, and growing a business.

For you, it might be something different. Maybe it’s to put the phone down and engage with the family. Perhaps your growth point is to finally start that business venture that has you so scared (I can help). Maybe there’s that small voice that is urging you to show up, to speak up, and to act for justice.

Whatever it is. Embrace the call. Press into that feeling. Rise to the occasion.

Do Hard Things.

Abraham Lincoln Statue

Growing Leaders

I’m becoming a huge fan behind the idea of “Dynamic Leadership.”

More than influential, this is transformative.

For the individual, the team, and the organization. Most importantly, it’s also highly transformative from a customer experience.

To be dynamic simply means to be in constant change, to make progress, or to be characterized by energy and new ideas.

Isn’t that what we want from leaders.

Isn’t that what we want to be as leaders?

Dynamic Leadership

One great example of dynamic leadership is Abraham Lincoln. Viewed as one of the greatest presidents in American history, I’m amazed at his leadership journey. From a small town, this largely self-educated individual rose to lead the nation through the greatest turmoil it ever experienced.

In total, some 620,000 American soldiers died in the conflict. To date, 1.2 million soldiers have died in war. This means that nearly 50% of all American soldier deaths happened during the Civil War.

It’s an amazing statistic and a wild time in our history from start to finish. In August of 2019, I started listening to Shelby Foote’s three-volume series on the Civil War.

In addition to other articles, books, and journals, I have become fascinated by the leadership story of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s overriding commitment throughout the Civil War was the preservation of the Union. That is, he wanted above all else, a continued united group of states.

But throughout the war, his vision of what this was and how it needed to look changed dramatically.

Changing Morals

One big area of change, thanks to the influence of Frederick Douglas, was his stance of slavery. Lincoln went from fairly apathetic about it to strongly convinced of its evils and the need to abolish it.

His values changed. Abraham Lincoln Statue

The experiences of his life changed him.

He was open to others, listened to their experiences, and became convinced of the need to change his stance.

Lincoln was a dynamic leader.

Compelled more by the conviction to lead, help, or serve he was willing to personally be wrong in order to accomplish what was right. Many of his correspondences with military leaders gave them his input or insight, but he deferred to them to do what they thought. In short, he trusted their expertise, more than his own, to accomplish the mission.

This was true, despite the increasing pressure and opposition from friend and foe and in spite of personal losses and setbacks.

Becoming Dynamic

Becoming a dynamic leader isn’t easy … but it is worth it.

Dynamic Leadership allows us to lead both up and down an organization.

Dynamic Leadership promotes humility, service, open-mindedness, and grace.

Most importantly, dynamic leadership leads to the transformation of individuals, teams, organizations, cultures, and yes, countries.

If you’re interested in becoming a dynamic leader, let me know. I’m preparing to launch a fully online leadership course in dynamic leadership where we’ll talk about growth points, visionary leadership, and team dynamics.

A Name on the Back of a Jersey

Every jersey comes with a name on the back. It is an identification of the player. More than the team, more than a number, this is a particular someone.

Jones.

Brady.

Manning.

Mahomes.

Davis.

Let me tell you why I’ve given up wearing jerseys.

A Life of Passion

I love sports. More than anything else, I love all things Nebraska. Husker volleyball, baseball, wrestling, basketball, and football. If they have a team, I’ve watched it on tv. I’ve been to several sporting events in person.

I plan on dressing up as Scott Frost, the football coach, for Halloween.

My wife was appalled at my petition to name some of our kids after Husker greats.

I love all things Huskers.

Along with this, comes several decades worth of memorabilia. Shirts, cards, magazines, autographs. My parents have a “Husker Hall of Fame” in my childhood home.

But I’ll never wear a jersey, Husker or otherwise, again.

It comes down to me, about a shifting philosophy in my own thinking.

The Name on the Back

The short version is that it comes down to the name on the back. I’ve got nothing against the team, the number, or the player. Instead, it comes down to my own sense of identity.

I root hard for my team, but for years I wrestled with the belief that I should root that hard for myself. I’ve learned that I need to root for my own success and my own victory. 

Every season is a fresh start to be special. Sitting at 0-0 I carry the belief every fall that my favorite football team will finish 14-0. A Name on the Back of a Jersey

But for years, I struggled with bringing that same belief into my own life.

I was, so I thought, a victim of my identity. I was trapped by my past. My belief was that I was stuck in a predetermined path and that any changes I made would be minor at best.

While my team could do great things, I could not. 

In short, I would’ve been embarrassed to wear a jersey with my name on it. I was comfortable rooting for other people, but not for myself.

If my team can go 14-0, why can’t I?

Wear Your Own Jersey

So I’ve changed my philosophy on wearing jerseys. I wake up every day with the notion that I want to wear my own. I don’t want to champion someone else’s skills, abilities, or passions more than my own.

This isn’t arrogance, this is assurance.

I was created for a purpose. I have passion. In this world, I am capable of unleashing great good.

My investment in myself will benefit me, my family, and those around me.

I also unwaveringly believe the same thing about you.

You were created for a purpose You have a deep passion. You are capable of unleashing great good in the world. Your commitment to you will benefit you, your loved ones, and those around you.

Wake up every day and put on a jersey that has your name on it. Commit to living your best values and transforming the circumstances around you.

We aren’t victims, we are overcomers.

We aren’t stuck, we are capable of great transformation.

If you need someone willing to champion you and come alongside you as you learn to put on your own jersey, reach out to me. I’d love to help