True Leaders Delegate

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For as far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed being a leader. Whether it is was being the Line Leader in my Kindergarten class, a member of the Student Council during my High School years, or my most current roles while volunteering with the Junior League of Long Beach, I have always gravitated toward leadership and personal development. I love working with logistics, being creative, making decisions, and mentoring others, so it’s no surprise I always seems to find my way to projects and programs that provide me with opportunities to lead. However, being a leader sometimes came with great stress and doubt.

What I learned about myself as a leader, is that I take on too much, and do not always delegate tasks to other members in the group. This is not good. Time after time again, very wise and influential leaders in my life have reminded me to delegate, and have explained that without this, I will not be leading effectively. Here are two reasons why this is so:

1. Stress for you – When you take-on most of the project or a job alone, you overextend yourself, leaving room for error, burn-out, and stress. It’s a bummer when you find yourself stressing and dreading something you were once very passionate about—especially when it’s volunteer work.

2. Others suffer – When you are the one taking the bulk of the work, the other members of your group suffer, because they do not get the full experience. Sometimes you may consider group members to be “slackers,” but more often, they are just as motivated as you, but may not feel comfortable speaking up, or confident in taking on certain tasks.

As an effective leader, you must be sure everyone in the group is represented, empowered, and have a meaningful experience. In a classroom setting, you may assume a “slacker” in the group doesn’t care, but, maybe all that person needs is someone to have confidence in his/her skills, and to be challenged in a healthy manner–and that’s YOUR job, Leader!

What’s was so scary about delegating?
For me, it’s all about control. I am a tad bit of a “control freak” and worry about the way a task might get done. I even do this at home with my husband, when it comes to taking care of our toddler. I hover and do most of the work, while he is offering to take the baby off my hands so I can relax or get things done. Rather than thanking him, and leaving him with some information about baby’s schedule, I overextend myself prepping meals, setting out clothes, etc.—just to ensure it gets done my way. This does not empower my husband at all. Instead, it undermines him, and creates more work for ME.

What steps can I take to delegate effectively?
Take the time to outline the project at hand, and consider each member of the group. What are each members’ strengths? What have group members expressed interest in doing? From there, assign roles, and announce assignments to the entire group, that way everyone is on the same page. My suggestion is to be somewhat flexible with assigned tasks, and make sure everyone is comfortable with his/her roll. If there are issues, go ahead and discuss other options as a group, and find a diplomatic way to work through the assignments. Remember to encourage your group members, and explain why you assigned the tasks in the manner you assigned them. I can speak from experience that it’s always nice to be recognized for strengths—especially for strengths I never knew I had!

In the May 2014 issue of Real Simple Magazine, an article was featured about leading a group. I perked up and took note (well, I ripped the page out, to be exact). This article, written by Kaitlyn Pirie, was based off author Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last. One really great lesson in this article touched on gaining the trust of group members. This is very important. Imagine trying to delegate to a group of people who don’t trust you—sounds awful, right? In order to maintain a positive and meaningful project experience, it’s probably best to learn from Sinek:

“Give them independence, but check in on each person periodically. In other words, let people succeed and let them fail while providing training and guidance.”

As tough as it may be to watch a task fail or become neglected (as they sometimes do), it is important to provide the task-owner the opportunity to rectify the situation on their own, while lending your support. It is not your job, as Leader, to fix the situation, rather it is your job to assist the group member in fixing the situation.

I have many years of delegation practice ahead of me. I not only strive to delegate professionally, but in my daily life. I truly believe that perfecting this skill will lead to harmony and balance in the project and among the group members, making the experience truly enjoyable and meaningful. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

-Lauren T.

Cleats for Confidence

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How sports give sense of self-worth that no amount of make-up can

My cleats, shin guards, and jersey are the same as the rest of my team. The one major difference- a sports bra. My soccer team is all boys; the entire league is for that matter. Returning from summer vacation, I don’t feel relaxed. I’m a ball of nerves because it’s soccer season. It’s the start of seventh grade and I can’t wait to return to my team. We won regional championships the years before. My mom delivers terrible news, cushioned by the “good” news. She forgot to register me on time for my league; I couldn’t play with my team, but there is a spot on the all-boys league.

Playing sports as a child changed my life and helps me today to be a productive part of a team, remain confident, push myself, and take a win or loss gracefully. The valuable lessons learned from my year on an all-boys soccer team are outlined below. However, speaking with my friends these lessons also incorporate other sports- rowing, tennis, track, etc.

Stepping outside comfort zones physically

I was ready to quit and find another sport. My mother pushed me and said it would be a rewarding challenge. As a 12-year-old girl, this type of positive encouragement was lost on me. I was dragged to my first practice. After a scrimmage I realized boys’ soccer, although played differently, was still soccer. I was very far out of my comfort zone and while no one was mean to my face, I knew boys looked at me differently and probably resented having me on their team. Rather than give up when faced with this challenge, I played harder and ran faster. I stopped listening to what the other teams said, and the negative thoughts in my head. At the end of the season, I had a new confidence about me. I had played with boys, found my way as an individual into the team, and made some great plays. To this day, I count it as one of the bravest things I’ve ever done.

Working well with others

Working with a team and coaches taught me to meet goals and how to bounce back from a loss. In life (school and work) you will have to work with teams to complete a task. There will be interpersonal challenges, but playing on a team taught me how to work with people to accomplish a goal and to be part of a team, not just an individual. It allowed me to work well with others to solve a problem, or win a game.

A lesson in winning and losing

When one player was having a rough day, we would all pitch in to check on her, make sure she was okay. If she missed the final shot, no one would give her a hard time- just the opposite, we were there for her, telling her what a great shot it was and how next time she would make it and we were proud. If we won a game, we were taught to be humble- shake the losing teams’ hands with dignity. After a brief celebration for hard work, it’s back to the drawing board and how we can do better next time. I am now practiced in promoting others’ strengths, not calling out weaknesses.

Loyalty to a team

Loyalty to my team is engrained in me. I take that with me to work, tennis games, and group projects. If one person missed a goal and we lost the game, they were never to blame. In fact, no one was to blame, the team as a whole was just to practice harder and go over any mistakes made. Steadfast determination and a will to be better kept us all going and aiming for something better. Knowing that my team needed me always motivated me and on the days I was dog tired and didn’t want to move, I still made it there. That sense of responsibility has stayed with me. Being part of team takes you outside of yourself and makes you see the bigger picture.

Relieve Stress through Sports

If I had a bad day at school- got a poor grade on a test, a friend was mean, a boy ignored me- I knew I had soccer. The second I got on the field, my stress dissipated. Like all forms of exercise, endorphins were released and I was one happy girl. Coming home with cleats clogged with dirt, grass stains on my jersey, possibly blood, I felt accomplished. During practice and games, I was in the zone, completely focused and in the present moment. All my worries were gone, which was a big deal for a teenager with some serious angst.

Idolize Strong, Athletic Women

“True champions aren’t always the ones that win, but those with the most guts.” – Mia Hamm

I have watched World Cups, Olympics and national soccer games for years now. Mia Hamm was my idol growing up; she was a local North Carolina star before going to the big time. Her determination, seamless team work and grit made me want to be like her. She darted up and down the field like a graceful warrior. We need role models like this who aren’t afraid to play rough and stay humble. Playing for the Women’s National Soccer Team for 17 years, she brought in not only World Cup titles, but also Olympic Gold. She built one of the biggest fan bases of any American athlete. There are women from all sports to admire. They are brave, take risks and defy gender boundaries.

As you can see, sports can give a sense of self-worth that no amount of makeup can. What might seem like a recreational activity, in all actuality, is much more. Sports provide an invaluable life class of sorts that aids in personal development, values, leadership and self-esteem of an individual.

-Annie C.

 

 

A Life Lived Backwards

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I have a unique vantage point on life insomuch that I work in hospice. If you do not know what hospice is, it is the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual care an organization gives to an individual and their families in the last six months of his/her life. Other than the day to day interaction with my phenomenal patients and families, the favorite part of my job is what people say about their loved ones after they pass.

This is not just in my work, but with my family, friends and in the community. I love when people tell me, “I wish you knew her”, “He was the best person I know”, “She was amazing”. My heart fills up with pride (almost always for a person I never knew) and my next question is ALWAYS…”What made him/her so special?”. When I ask that question, there is never a shortage of answers and the person I am speaking with goes on and on about the exact reason his/her loved one was one in a million:

She loved to throw parties
He took great care of his family
She was the life of the party
He gave the BEST hugs

The lists goes on and on…After one of these life-affirming interactions with one of my co-workers, I wonder what people will say about me when I am gone. Will my loved ones know that I would have done anything for them? Will they know that my number one passion after my family, friends, and vocation, was travel? Will they tell people I LOVE to laugh? Will they tell people that I had the heart of an advocate? What will people say?

I realized at that point that I needed to write my eulogy and live my life backwards. As a recovered control freak, I now understand that if I would like for people to talk about me in a certain manner after I am gone, I had better start living that way right now. Why do people wait till the end and hope they got it right? What would it look like for all of us to start at the end, living how we hoped our life would be seen in its entirety?

How empowered we would be if we knew that we could start at the end and know that we created the legacy we intended for ourselves? We are not victims of what people think of us based on what we are trying to work towards, we are constantly evolving into who we want to be.

Ever since this conversation with one of my co-workers, I have started to craft what I would like my loved ones to say about me once I am no longer here and this is what I have come up with:

When the question is “What was Cheryl like?,” my loved ones would say:

“I wish you knew her. She was passionate about life, people she loved and people that didn’t have a voice in their community. She loved to laugh. She believed I was special and because she believed I was special, I believed it too. She lived in the moment and didn’t worry about tomorrow because she believed it was already taken care of. She would have done anything for the people she loved and they knew that. She went through great pains to make sure that people who met her never felt alone or less than unique. Other than the people in her life, her deep love was travel and made a commitment to visit one new place every year. I wish you knew her, she was amazing!”

The bottom line is that we have to start where we hope to end. We want to have a vision for who we think we are going to end up being and start there. Do not be afraid of the fact that life ends, but embrace that if we start there we might be able to influence the ending. You are already amazing! Don’t wait till someone says it after you have gone, that is true today, tomorrow and always!

As an exercise in growth, try writing what you want people to say after you are gone. You are extremely brave, have your loved ones read it and see what they think!!

-Cheryl L.

Volunteering to Make YOU and the Community Better!

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Dr. Seuss had said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I love this quote if you think about this in the respect of giving.  This could be giving your time, your ideas, your hands to help someone, giving something to someone less fortunate, listening to others and providing advice and input, whatever it might be. Giving and helping others is considered a form of volunteering. Our communities, schools, neighborhoods, and families & friends need those that “care a whole awful lot” involved in making our world a better place. This is our responsibility.

April 6th – April 12th is National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, 2014, is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals. National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change – discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to make a difference.

The act of giving, or volunteering, is a very special thing because it benefits all that are involved. The impact is felt by the recipient, the giver and actually spreads to others (you’d be surprised to see how your actions can be  inspirational to others on the sidelines!). I credit my volunteer involvement for the person I am today. I have learned so much about myself, others, and our community — something I couldn’t have learned in school. It has been the one thing to bring me out of a bad mood or give me the sense of worth that other people and things can’t do. Please take a moment to read the 10 top reasons to volunteer. I encourage you to think of something special you can do this week to mark National Volunteer Week and spread the act of giving to others!

Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer:

#10: It’s good for you.
Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards.
It reduces stress: Experts report that when you focus on someone other than yourself, it interrupts usual tension-producing patterns.
It makes you healthier: Moods and emotions, like optimism, joy, and control over one’s fate, strengthen the immune system.

#9: It saves resources.
Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on local improvements.

#8: Volunteers gain professional experience.
You can test out a career.

#7: It brings people together.
As a volunteer you assist in:
Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
Building friendship and teamwork

#6: It promotes personal growth and self esteem.
Understanding community needs helps foster empathy and self-efficacy.

#5: Volunteering strengthens your community.
As a volunteer you help:
Support families
Improve schools
Support youth
Beautify the community

#4: You learn a lot about yourself and where you live

#3: You get a chance to give back.
People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit people they care about.

#2: Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.

#1: You make a difference.
Every person counts!

-Alex W.

 

The Importance of a Thank You

The Importance of a Thank You

Since I was a young girl my parents always emphasized the importance of writing thank you notes. As a little girl it was something I did because I was told to, but as I got older I understood the positive effects of showing gratitude. It is very easy to make assumptions that someone knows you are grateful or appreciate their contribution, gift, kind gesture, or additional hard work. Everyone becomes so caught up in the busy world, in media, TV, stresses, gossip, work or projects, and just the ongoing struggle of limited time and resources, that they overlook this simple yet mighty gesture. In my opinion, “thank you” might be two small words but their impact is greater than we can measure. What can’t be forgotten is how much easier and enjoyable life is with good deeds and hard work, and the role that showing appreciation and gratitude plays in people continuing to work together as teams and the importance of continued acts of kindness for the livelihood of the human spirit.

Thank you’s are an important piece for continuing to build relationships and for connecting with others. I read a great quote this morning, “the happiest relationships are built not just on trust and love but on politeness, mutual courtesy, and gratitude.” LOVE IT! I wish we could hand this quote out on cards everywhere we go. Can you imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if everyone showed this type of courtesy and gratitude? I don’t know about you but I would be much more inclined to give of myself, even to people I don’t care for that much, if people shared their appreciation with me.

To elaborate more on the importance of a thank you I’ll share a short story. I helped host an all girl’s bullying prevention event (Finding Kind, I encourage you to check it out) the past two years and an interesting tool was taught to combat bullying among school aged kids-writing thank you notes. That’s an “ahah” moment isn’t it. Teaching the importance of thank you notes and showing appreciation as a way to connect with others, showing value and worth, and hopefully, creating relationships built on understanding to prevent violence. As someone who writes thank you’s regularly, I have to admit there is a small selfishness that comes with the act because of how good I feel communicating to someone what difference they have made in my life, and sharing positivity. I think that using this communication as a way to bring people together, and combat misunderstandings and potential bullying, is a paradigm shift for our society to consider. In case you need more reasons to start communicating thanks more, please see below for a list of 10 reasons a thank you note is important. I challenge you to write one thank you note a week to a classmate, coworker, peer, family friend, family member or significant other, and see what change it brings to your life.

Why “thank you’s” are important:
1. appreciation is a big motivator in relationships
2. can change someone’s day and becomes a ripple effect
3. people like to help others who value them (thanking someone communicates this)
4. it is contagious!
5. if we don’t thank someone for something above and beyond that they have done, they might not do something special again because they didn’t feel valued
6. you never know how someone is feeling, a “thank you” could be the one small act that makes their day better
7. a “thank you” is a connector and brings people together
8. it feels good to express thanks
9. it can clear up any misunderstandings
10. showing sincere appreciation has lasting effects

-Alex W.