Sunday, February 24, 2013

Startups and Fire-building


I love fire.  I love building fires.  I always have and I always will.

My love for fire-building is directly related to my passion for starting new ventures,  envisioning possibilities and planning/executing the outcomes.

A Home Example
Last week, I began to build a fire in order to roast marshmallows for S'mores.  Two of my daughters and a bunch of neighborhood children descended on the fire pit and exclaimed, "Fire! Can we help build the fire?"  I agreed to let them help and I instructed them to grab some firewood from the pile behind my house.  I then proceeded to create a basic log cabin framework for the fire.  Before I could stop them, the children ran up and threw all of their wood into the fire pit.

I saw a teachable moment.

I shared with them how to build a fire.  In particular, I described how we needed to start with the small tinder and then build up the fire. In my mind, we needed to start with the end in mind.  The specific end was a bed of hot coals that would be ideal for roasting marshmallows for all ages.

As I was sharing with the children, I realized that I was describing any new start-up venture. 

Start-up Ventures
Every start-up venture requires a vision and a strategic plan that constantly keeps the end in mind.  In many ways, leading a start-up venture is like leading the creation of a fire.  A fire requires wood (physical resources), helpers (human resources), a vision of a blazing outcome, a strategic plan for executing to that vision and leadership to orchestrate the effort.

The temptation in many start-up ventures is to seek to create everything at once.  Like the enthusiastic children throwing all of the wood into my fire pit, the natural human tendency is to look for immediate results with or without an intentional plan.  

Leaders of successful start-up ventures, however, orchestrate the physical resources and human resources to work together to realize a vision through executing a strategic plan.  The strategic plans requires decision-making that is guided and controlled by the vision.  In the case of a fire, the strategic plan involves knowing what type of wood to add at each specific point as the fire increases.  As the correct type of wood is strategically added at the right moment, the vision is realized.
  • How do you strategically approach start-up ventures?
  • In what ways can you orchestrate your resources (physical and human) to realize a vision through a strategic plan?
  • How do you see and experience enthusiastic helpers throwing all of the wood into the fire pit at once and how can you help them think & act strategically?
If you have resources and enthusiastic helpers, then that can be a blessing and a challenge.  The blessing is that you have resources and helpers.  The challenge is that you have resources and helpers.  The difference between success and failure in a start-up venture is how well a leader orchestrates those resources and helpers to carry out a strategic plan in order to realize a vision.

I love leadership challenges like this one.  I love building fires...

Let's go build some fires...

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Rejecting Mediocrity - Decide to Be Present

Every man needs to decide to be present around his wife and family.  The impact of that decision has both immediate results with the current family and life-restoring ripples for generations to come. 

What will you decide?

Every decision like this one requires intentional action and every decision for action requires accountability in order to follow through.

I gather with a group of men for something we call "MANera" at a local Panera Bread every Thursday morning.  One of the primary goals of our discussions and resulting action steps is to reject mediocrity on all fronts of our lives.  

This movement of men started with 5 men who were sick and tired of mediocrity in their marriages, parenting, leadership and overall life impact. We met to have "throw down" discussions about these areas.  Each discussion yielded a tangible action step to be completed during that week with a report back to the group. This call to action has reset the trajectory of numerous lives and has resulted in having 90 men gather for MANera a few weeks ago.  MANera is not your normal "men's ministry" gathering.

A recurring theme during the 2+ years of MANera gatherings has been the challenge of transiting home from a day of work or a business trip.  I have heard countless men share how they struggle with reentering the home world after giving it all in the work world. 

There are three primary reasons that I have heard from men in the group discussions.
  • I feel more in control at work than I do at home because I have position-given authority.
  • Family relationships are unpredictable while work tasks are predictable.
  • I am more alive at work because I see results while at home I experience frustration.
Stereotypically, men struggle with navigating the differences between work and home. Men oftentimes, whether consciously or unconsciously, give up on the struggle and the result is they check out at home.
In response to this challenge, the MANera men have generated a set of action steps over time to reject this mediocrity in their lives.  

Here are a few that have helped the men who have decided to be actively present at home with their families:
  • Decide on a specific place on the commute home that is approximately halfway home.  At that point, make the conscious shift from thinking about work toward thinking about home.
  • Decide to never enter the house while talking on the cell phone.  Decide to do this and then actually do it.
  • Decide to ask your wife, "How is your day going?" at least once during the day (phone call, text message, email, etc.) so that you have a better sense of her emotional mindset when you come home.
  • Decide to ask your wife about her day first before you share anything about your day.  Decide to listen to her and pay attention to what she is saying.
  • Decide to make eye contact with each person in your family as soon as possible upon entering the house and saying something (a word, a phrase, anything) that lets them know that you care about them.
Every man has to make decisions.  What drives and shapes your decisions?

A majority of men do not have an intentional game plan for reentering the home world after being in the work world.  We would all criticize a football coach for entering a game without a specific plan.  We would all criticize a leader in our businesses for entering a new year without a plan.  We would all criticize the military if they entered a mission without a plan.  What then lets us off the hook regarding our families?   
It is time to MAN UP, make a GAME PLAN and decide to BE PRESENT at home.

Make the right decision.

If you decide to disregard this, then recognize that your wife and children are thinking and feeling, "C'mon Man!" even if they don't say it out loud.  They are feeling it.

C'mon Man!  MAN UP, make a GAME PLAN, and BE PRESENT at home with your family.

Your decision to do this will have an impact on their lives and countless generations going forward.

Decide to reject mediocrity and be present with your family when you are at home.