Leadership Is An Action, Not A Role

Earlier this year I had the chance to go to the Director’s Guild Awards with my husband (A show he worked on was nominated for an award).  The first speaker at the event was the President of the Director’s Guild. He knew there were new directors in the audience who had never been to a show like this before and were nominated for the first time. He could’ve used his time to talk about himself or his latest projects, but instead he used his time to set the stage for these new directors.

 He gently lead the audience through how to accept an award, saying things like, “If I were winning for the first time, the most important thing I would do would be to thank my family and the people who got me here.”

Families are often put on the back burner when a crew has to go out and shoot for 2 or 3 months straight and can’t make it home. Or they’re living on pennies because all of their money is tied up in making a movie. They go through so many challenges. They stay through the tough times, and they deserve to share in the good ones. 

 Sometimes on set, your crew starts to feel like your family too. And when a movie is great, it is because the director or the show runner communicated his/her vision with every person on the set, so everyone had the chance to do his or her best to bring that vision to life. The leader gave respect, love and care to the crew, and in response the crew showed up, gave it their all, and created the best possible product.  Well, that’s what happens in the entertainment industry.

 What about our companies, the world outside of the entertainment business?

 Let’s acknowledge the families of the people who work with us. Kids who sometimes miss out on having their parents at their games or theater performances. Wives and husbands who can’t make it home in time for dinner some nights. A strong family and healthy home life makes a difference in our workers’ work. As leaders, we should take responsibility in creating a culture that respects and acknowledges the families of our fellow workers.

 If we want to be strong leaders in business, we need to remember to acknowledge each and every person who is a part of the team, not just the people who give you money. The receptionist who shows up to greet visitors.  The customer service representatives who handle complaints. These people are just as much the face of your company as the sales representatives. Show everyone that what they do, no matter how big or small, is important. And don’t forget to thank them in your award speeches!

Thank you to my coworkers and their families, my mentors, and my family for helping me be the best version of myself everyday.

Listening is an act of Love

Listening is an act of Love – David Isay spoke these words a few months ago in an interview with Krista Tippett. I had heard these words before but after hearing these on a podcast, On Being, these words have given me much to think about and understand the meaning of “listening”. Listening is participating in a conversation because you have to be active and engaged. 

Hosting a podcast has made me very observant and has developed my listening skills as I interview many guests. Because of the subject matter, the questions and responses are not rehearsed. Rather than following a set format, it’s a free flowing format. By listening, my active participation gives me the opportunity to ask the depth of questions that people want to know the answers to. This act of love allows my guests to be comfortable and at ease and they share their stories, their secrets, their goals, and their challenges with me. Listening is an act of love and it is the most important skill to have as a leader in:

  • Business – By listening to people, a leader gets everything as Ben Simonton likes to conclude about strengthening listening skills. This type of leader has great employees, loyal customers, and valuable community and all are important in accomplishing true success in any industry. When people really feel listened to, they participate in the success not the failure of the company. Listening gives a leader a chance to shift, improve, and change the course of business.
  • Community – The smart thing to do is to give yourself the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences. A story of a person who served time in jail or who is struggling to find work or someone who graduated from school or someone who just got married can offer powerful lessons. Listening to people in the small and the big circles that we are a part of is valuable. I remember all the lessons I learned from my grandfather as I listened to the stories of his experiences during and the few years that followed India's Independence.

Sometimes challenge arises when we need to listen to someone with opposing views. This is the time when an open mind can lead in this dance of listening while creating a beautify story. At times, I still fail. I'm not focusing on being perfect but I'm learning to keep listening to myself and others.

History shows that great leaders chose service over self-interests and the finest act of service is truly listening to others. I have heard that in business setting people avoid emotional interactions, but the elite leaders know the value of making themselves approachable by listening to their followers. It's a skill that requires practice but it's worth all the work. I found some great practices in this book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently, by John C. Maxwell.

You are welcome to share your thoughts on this topic.

30 Day Gratitude Challenge - Yes, I quantified it

I have been participating in 30 day challenges this year. 

Recently, I did this 30 day gratitude challenge.  Every day for 30 days, I wrote a thank you note to someone I personally didn’t know but that person had made an impact on my life.  I wrote to coaches, public speakers, teachers, writers, movie makers, and more.  Well, it started as expressing gratitude to people who made a difference in my world.  To my surprise, a few of these people wrote me back.  I made sure I took 5 minutes every day to send my appreciation. This wasn’t a surprise that I ended up quantifying this little challenge.  It’s my nature to measure everything.  The interesting thing is that I found out that some people who receive thousands of messages daily do respond to their emails but not all.  What I learned was that a great way to find out who you would like to work with in coaching capacity is to send him/her a message.  If that person calls you or messages you back that means that he/she has time to work with you.  If someone doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that the person is wrong or bad but that just means they don’t have time to attend to you.  We all want that personalized attention especially if we are spending money; let’s call it buying some attention.  So, a few things I learned:

1.       Weed out people who don’t have the time for you – doesn’t mean these people are bad or mean, but they don’t have the bandwidth to help you out. They don’t have resources, e.g. a customer service person or an assistant to respond to you.  Their attention and goals maybe somewhere else and that is completely legit and honorable.  The process helps you figure out whom you can align with to fulfill your goals that are important to you

2.       It becomes a habit – you listen to a podcast, read a story, watch a video and your auto response kicks in.  You start sending thank you notes.  Your mindset changes as you hear, see, read from a different prospective.  Your attitude and reaction to what’s around you is of appreciation and gratitude

3.       Changes your day – you feel good by making someone’s day.  I can’t explain it, you will have to do this to experience this

The intention of my 30 day experiment was to express my gratitude and I accomplished that and more.  The by-product of the experiment was the most interesting aspect as I was able to identify the individuals that I would like to work with.  And here’s my attempt at sharing the summary of the experiment in an infographic. 

What “Little Boy” Taught Me About Being A Great Leader

It was a perfect Thursday night: Netflix streaming on the television and me winding down after a long day of work. The movie I picked? An independent film I hadn’t heard of before (I rarely watch movies) called Little Boy, the story of a child trying to do everything he can to end World War II and bring his father back home. But it wasn’t just the story that interested me. It was also the movie’s lessons on leadership.