A Tragic Comic – Robin Williams R.I.P.

robin williams fly be freeI still remember the first night I saw Robin Williams’ magic at work in Mork and Mindy. I must have been just 10 years old, and my brothers and I had come home from our weekly evening out at Ukrainian folk dancing and activities. My Mum had recorded the première of a new TV show – Mork and Mindy. We’d seen his guest spot in Happy Days and knew there was more to come. “You have to watch this!” she told us. My brothers and I watched the oddball performance of the multicoloured alien, Mork, and then spent half an hour afterwards running around twitching our ears and saying, “Nanu Nanu!” We gleefully mimicked throwing eggs into the air, with a courageous shout of “Fly! Be Free!”. “I knew you’d love it!” exclaimed my delighted Mum.

Robin Williams was a one of a kind talent – part comic, part tragic player, or perhaps I should say all of both. Known the world over, he made hundreds of millions of people laugh and cry, with his mad-cap stream-of-consciousness improvisations and imitations, along with his earnest and deep portrayals in a number of meaningful film roles. And then there were the interviews where he openly shared his engulfment within depression and addiction.

But unlike other ‘whirling dervish’, ‘genius’ players, you never heard about Robin Williams being mean-spirited towards others, throwing excruciating tantrums on set or demanding that people fill his bathtub with Perrier so that he could be ‘in the flow’. Instead, you heard about his generosity in an industry not known for its generosity of spirit. And you laughed when he went on a riff.

It’s sad that, in the midst of being one of the most recognised individuals on the planet, adored from afar by millions and acclaimed for his gifts and talents, that he never could completely shake off the doldrums of depression and the addictions that ruined some of his relationships and his sense of self in the world.

One has to believe that he often thought that he was only as good as his last manic impersonations and jokes, that the laughter, although earned, was still in response to something he did and not in camaraderie with who he was, deep down; that sense that operates in so many people that despite the fact that they’ve ‘made it’, that they’re still not connected to others in a genuine way – without ego, without semblance, without seeking a reward – simply to be.

People can feel separated from others in many ways. Leaders can say that they are ‘alone with the burden of leadership’. Carers can feel that they are ‘alone in their sacrifice’. Pioneers can believe that they are ‘out there alone, forging the way’. And people can try to supplant their dismal feelings with artificial rewards and stimulants – fame, money, power, success, adulation, praise and prominence, drugs, alcohol and self-inflicted pain. But in the end, we all need to simply ‘be’ in deep connection with those around us. Fame, wealth and approbation won’t bring satisfaction and deep-seated contentment any more than it did Robin Williams.

So be open and real with those around you and if you feel alone or depressed or anxious, don’t try to ride it out alone. Seek and accept the help of others. Dark times come to all, but then so does the light. Stopping while you are in the depths of blackness means that you will miss out on the brightness to come. That was part of the genius of this tragic comic – both the dark and the light expressed so forcefully through one person.

Sadly, obviously, Williams was alone at the end when he acted to end his time in this life. It is a sadness for his family, almost too terrible to contemplate. And that, for those of us who have been close to others who suffer or are suffering, is a lesson: they need us to be with them, to accept them for who they are and what they feel, to be with them through trials, and to simply lend them courage by being with them and showing them that we need them, want them and value them and their struggles. We must simply ‘be’ together.

Suicide inflicts terrible pain on those around the person who takes his or her life. It’s not something you do just to yourself, but to those close to you as well. His family will be devastated and possibly guilt-ridden, despite the fact that they did not do the act. So if we ever have the chance, let’s encourage others to turn away from despair and into safety with others, sparing all the pain.

In the meantime, for all of those who ever had a laugh or a compassionate tear prompted by him, let’s spare a thought or a prayer for the loved ones he has left behind, and remember Robin Williams for the good that he did. May he rest, finally, in peace and may his family know some too.

- Peter J. McLean

5 Reasons Why People Don’t Lead and What You Can Do About It

In an earlier post I noted that “Leadership is Not a Position” and that some people swear off their involvement in leadership. Why do some people seem eager to take the reins and some people swear off involvement or responsibility?

Here are 5 reasons why people may be holding back and what you can do about it:

  1. A lack of experience, and related confidence, with how to get things done within a particular organisation or system. When people don’t know how things work, they are hesitant. People may not know how to make applications for changes, not know whom they should approach, or may not know how something would work practically within a given system, so they hold back rather than find out. So, for yourself, find out. For others, show them how things work and help them to understand, so that they feel more confident leading improvements or initiatives.
  2. Lack of extrapolation of the consequences of inaction. Many think that, “Well, it will be okay if it doesn’t happen. I don’t have to lead it or suggest it.” You need to actually think through what will happen if you don’t do something. It’s also an important element to persuading others. Seeing what problems or disasters may loom through inaction can be very motivating – for you and everyone else.
  3. They have been repeatedly blocked in the past. “What’s the point of trying to do anything? Other people will just keep blocking it … it happens again and again. I’m done!” That kind of hopelessness can only be cured through encouragement and walking alongside others. Either be the ally others need, or find the allies for yourself. Beware: if this is happening with the people under you, your organisation is in huge trouble. If this is happening to someone’s ‘team’, then it’s time to reassess the position of the person in charge, because they’re not leading, they’re tackling.
  4. They lack confidence, or experience, in seeing the successful results of their own ideas in action. Whether you’ve never experienced it in your development, or whether you’ve been humiliated or laid low by failures, knowing that your ideas will bear fruit is important to your desire to lead. If your big projects have failed, then it’s time to take on smaller ones and see them succeed again. What projects? Well, think about very small ones and approach them from an angle that people don’t usually think of: that of a systems failure, of a customer, a competitor, an antagonist or a bizarre situation. How would you mess it up, or how would you find a chink or a way to improve it? Come up with a solution and see it implemented. Keep doing this and see your confidence (or that of your people) blossom.
  5. They are suffering from low self-esteem or sense of futility due to perceived rejection. Perhaps they’ve been demoted, or come from another position or company. Perhaps they had a hard time winning or keeping the role they have and just don’t think they’re worth it. Contemplate their background before rushing to a judgement as to their worth – or yours.

Of course, as I noted in my points, these apply to ourselves as much as to others.

Make the choice now: will you hold back or will you lead and what will you do about it today?

© 2014 Peter J. McLean

To develop you leadership and those of your people, contact me. You can also visit one of our websites at www.lamplighter.com.au or www.authenticspeaking.com.au for resources and articles. Or subscribe to my video seminars to help you become a better leader, a better communicator and to achieve your aspirations and goals.

Leadership is Not a Position

I just got off the phone with someone in a particular company who had been recommended to me. This person is a specialist regarding an issue I needed to pursue within the organisation. The individual tried to be helpful but, when I asked for further speculation regarding future needs, was unsure and volunteered that they were not in a policy/decision-making role anymore and could not predict what the hierarchy would pursue.

“Yes, but you can still influence them regarding the decision, tell them the best way to go and your recommendations, steer them towards the best result!”

“Oh, we’ll, I don’t know whether I’ll be invited into that discussion at all.” And thus this person dejectedly disavowed any potential involvement – or responsibility.

Too often, I encounter people who have stalled in their willingness to lead. They are at the point where they think leadership is a position: you must “be invited” or appointed in order to lead.

Whilst invitations are wonderful and appointments are rewarding, add legitimacy and grant authority, they do not constitute leadership.

I’ve worked in many organisations where I knew that the people with the titles weren’t the ones who made sure things happened or who ensured that everyone was behind or against something. I’ve also been the one saying “Let’s do this!” and initiating projects and organising people without a hint of a position in sight.

Leadership is about taking responsibility and influencing an outcome simply because you feel driven to.

Leadership is not a position, it’s a choice.

Are you choosing to lead today?

© 2014 Peter J. McLean

To develop you leadership and those of your people, contact me. You can also visit one of our websites at www.lamplighter.com.au or www.authenticspeaking.com.au for resources and articles. Or subscribe to my video seminars to help you become a better leader, a better communicator and to achieve your aspirations and goals.

Your Gifts Are Being Underrated – By You

I can guarantee you: you are underrating your own gifts and talents.

The vast majority of people whom I meet underrate their own gifts and talents. I see it reflected in the many works and conversations surrounding people’s thinking about their strengths. “Work to your strengths” they say, and this becomes a skills list, not an exploration of their potential. You shouldn’t just work to your strengths. No, you should embrace your underlying gifts and talents – who you are – and use everything you have to develop, apply and work with your skills in order to achieve something you believe in. That means that sometimes you’ll be working against what you perceive as personal weaknesses,

If people just worked ‘to their strengths’, here’s a list of some of the things they would do:

  1. Stay in exactly the same job year after year for fear that that is all they are good at and all they will ever be good at.
  2. Never get married, because they’re good at being single and that’s it.
  3. Never learn a new skill or hobby, even as an adult, like drawing or singing or kayaking, because they’re simply not good at that and never were as children.
  4. Tell themselves they should never aim for promotion or executive positions, because they should simply stick with what they are currently ‘good at’.
  5. Never take a course or tried to develop in an area of fear or challenge, because they just don’t have the skills.
  6. Stick with overeating and no exercise, because frankly, they just aren’t good at that ‘self-discipline stuff’.
  7. Never spend time helping their own kids with projects, sports or social events or talking through personal issues, because that’s better left to ‘the professionals’.

How the Deficit Mentality Brings Us Down

I cannot begin to recount how frequently I encounter the deficit mentality everywhere I go: from government, to schools, to management, to recruitment evaluations, to executive appraisals, to team assessments, to personal growth and development. “I’m not good at that and never will be.” You don’t have to be good at everything – that’s just vain ego-driven nonsense – but if you seek to learn and grow as an individual or as a corporate entity, then you will be trying things that are out of your comfort zone, that you may not, at first glance, be good at.

Instead of having a deficit mentality through which we view everything – I am, or they are, not good at this and that – develop a ‘surplus’ mentality that looks at everything as a surplus from which you can draw, in order to accomplish something meaningful.

That Voice in Our Heads

We all have that voice in our heads that says, “You’re not good enough” and it’s hard to not listen to it at times. But whatever your beliefs or your faith, it’s a truism that the human spirit is capable of greatness. If you don’t believe it, watch my 8 year old daughter, whom we once thought might never be able to walk by herself, take her first steps. It doesn’t mean we won’t grumble and complain along the way, but we should accept the encouragement, help and positive vision of others as part of our daily walk.

This doesn’t mean that we are an island to ourselves. Every human being acts in relation to those around us. And we should learn to trust and work with the gifts and talents of others. If we simply rely on ourselves, we will fall flat on our faces. My daughter already knows that. We should all learn that lesson as well. It is strength to seek the help of others, not weakness. The fool relies only on himself, but the wise person seeks counsel.

Imagine, however, if you truly sought to understand and utilise your gifts and talents – and those of the people around you – to their fullest extent.

What People Have Achieved

Here are some of the things that people from history have achieved, despite the odds being that they would never achieve because it went against their perceived strengths:

  1. Albert Einstein progressed from being a boy who didn’t do very well at school and was lousy at mathematics, using his visual, allegorical imaginative bent to become one of science’s most venerated theoretical physicists.
  2. Helen Keller, blind, deaf and mute at a very young age, became a world leader and political advocate for numerous causes, an author and inspiring public speaker and lecturer.
  3. Winston Churchill went from a young man with a rebellious spirit and a speech impediment, to becoming the “bulldog” that helped the UK – and the free world – to weather the storm of Nazism.

And more recently…

  1. A hippy-ish, sometimes grumpy computer geek was sacked by his own company and, with his eye and instinct for technology design, returned to lead it to become the Apple that we know today.
  2. Bindeshwar Pathak used his academic, sociological bent to found a company (Sulabh International) dedicated to building toilets and thereby working to eliminate a whole aspect of horrific class denigration in modern India and emancipating thousands of women and families.

And if you think that each of these individuals accomplished what they did by themselves, then you need to go and read their stories properly. It was always the assistance of others that helped to draw out and to complement their own gifts and talents in order to pursue an admirable goal.

What You Should Do

Don’t underrate your own gifts and talents – those of yourself, or of your people. You can do more and should try to do more than you think – both personally and organisationally.

© 2014 Peter J. McLean

To better utilise your gifts and talents and those of your people, contact me. You can also visit one of our websites at www.lamplighter.com.au or www.authenticspeaking.com.au for resources and articles. Or subscribe to my video seminars to help you become a better leader, a better communicator and to achieve your aspirations and goals.

 

An incredible moment in my daughter’s life

The most amazing thing happened!

I haven’t written a lot in this blog about my kids – because that’s not the purpose of the blog and I don’t want to use their personal lives as fodder for business or for others. My wife also has concerns about creepy people out there. But I can’t hold this back.

Those of you who know me, family, friends, colleagues and clients, those with whom I have worked, who have heard me speak, or have read my newsletters and blog over the years, know about my daughter Alyssa, who has cerebral palsy. I wrote last year about how she had started to walk in a walking frame, while rigged up with her orthotics.

Alyssa turned 8 years old mid-May. A couple of weeks later, she actually took two quick, surprising steps by herself – kind of falling towards a spot. And then two weeks later again, on June 10 last week, this happened at her school:

(Click here if video does not appear above)

This is the first time she has walked by herself!

It is a miracle in progress that she is able to do this. You probably have to know her in full to deeply appreciate why and how much. Her excited helpers, and my eldest daughter who was at school (daughter #2 was home sick), were able to show me after school that day, when she walked again in the school office in front of me – all by herself!

In the video, her aides are giving her the plastic piping and baton to help her get a sense of balance and to help her feel like she has a hold of something. It’s like a tightrope walker holding a long beam for balance. And you can see how Alyssa is not exactly thrilled to be doing it, but she keeps going.

So many people – literally hundreds – have been directly involved in her care to get her to this point. And this is a day that we have never assumed was coming. We have been hoping and working, but have slowly moved from despairing that she would ever be able to even move around independently, to acceptance, to seeing slow changes, but not taking it for granted that she would ever be able to walk.

You can take your Gold Medal Olympians and your Mt. Everest climbers. That’s a piece of cake compared to the fundamental neurological change occurring in Alyssa, and the challenge, the bravery, the effort and the love required of her and all those around her every day (including the world’s greatest sisters who are there caring for, helping and, if necessary, carrying her every step of the way) for the last 8 years that made this momentous achievement possible.

There’s still a long way to go – she has to do this more than once and learn to walk consistently and confidently all by herself, she has to learn how to navigate and cope with bumps and uneven ground. She also is still trying to develop the very basics of speech and communication. She does not have the ability to care for any of her basic physical needs.

But what she has done even to this point to overcome is more than most of us ever have to face in a lifetime – and she has done that through the collective efforts of so many wonderful people. Mary and I thank you all from the depths of our hearts.

Alyssa, you are awesome!

[My thanks to Alyssa's aides and Beechboro Christian School for allowing me to make this video public.]

Peter J. McLean

Don’t be a ‘Doom and Gloomer’

I wrote in one of my Management Memos during May that we should prepare for an uplift in economic confidence in Australia come July 1. With economic data for the 1st quarter of 2014 just released today, it appears that we have had our 23rd consecutive year of economic growth, despite the federal government’s doom and gloom. (It’s nice to be right.)

So why is everyone always so fearful about the economy? People withhold spending and investment because everything’s ‘so tough’, but the reality is that Australia has a globally enviable situation. Yet many businesspeople seem more morose about it than Greece is about theirs!

We cannot approach the building of our careers, businesses and lives on fear, but on an expectation of positive outcomes. Why? Because, frankly, it’s far better than crying “We’ll all be rooned!” all the time [see the Aussie bush poem 'Said Hanrahan'] – makes you better company, more enjoyable to be around. And, equally frankly, it helps you to put your money and your energy upfront doing good, instead of hoarding it because things are ‘so bad.’

I enjoyed listening to the MD of Atlas Iron last week at a business lunch, who kept pointing to the positive in their business. It’s a great success story off the back of a startup during the GFC. MD Ken Brinsden is also the Vice Chairperson of Manna Inc., which provides tremendous help and food to the homeless and disadvantaged in Perth. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Manna’s founders before and some of my friends have helped on numerous occasions. Helping others in desperate situations did not come about through a doom and gloom attitude. It came about through realistically examining tough circumstances, and following through on a calling and a desire to do something positive about it.

There are many people who are ‘doing it tough’ in our economy and they ought to be leant a helping hand. People who are so concerned with their own looming catastrophes will not be the source of that help, but the people who open their eyes and step out to do something positive will.

In terms of your business and your leadership, look up. Don’t just be ready for an uplift in confidence, make it happen!

Riding for the Disabled Swan Valley Arena Launch

This past Saturday, amidst the torrential rains and floods in the Swan Valley, the Pavlinoviches launched the new equestrian arena purpose-built for Swan Valley Riding for the Disabled Association (WA). My daughter Alyssa is one of those who benefits from the generosity of the many volunteers and the grants from Movies by Burswood, LotteriesWest and other very generous individual contributions from builders and tradies, not to mention, once again, the generosity of the Pavlinoviches who have hosted RDAWA Swan Valley on their property for years.

Here’s a 90-second statement from the Federal Member for our area of Pearce, Christian Porter, regarding the day. Thanks to Mr. Porter for his sponsorship and assistance as vice patron of RDAWA Swan.

(Click here if you can’t see the above video thumbnail.)

The arena (or ‘Shed’ as it’s being called), will allow RDA riding sessions to always be held as scheduled – rain or shine – which makes a great difference to the people and families involved. Thank you all.

Peter J. McLean

How to Manage Millennials

I just skimmed through yet another ‘How to Manage Millennials’ article on a business website, in which self-appointed experts (read: someone under the age of 35 with no real job or management experience) on ‘millennials’ tell everyone how to manage them. It reminded me of this video, which is the best training video ever regarding managing the younger generations:

(Click here if you can’t see the video thumbnail)

I’ve worked with tremendous people of all ages. My advice: manage people as individuals, not stereotypes.

Peter J. McLean.

Read more blog articles at http://theleadershiplamplight.com or visit our website at www.lamplighter.com.au

McLean’s Management Memo No. 7

Tips to help you to lead your business and life exceptionally. Subscribe to the leadership lamplight blog to receive these regularly in your inbox. Feel free to forward this to anyone who would benefit.

  1. Most Performance Appraisals are useless. They are long after you need them, everyone prepares for them incorrectly, they are used as political manoeuvring tools and worse. Instead, have more regular Performance Improvement Planning sessions, conversations and accountabilities. Steep your conversations in the positive and in realities and work towards them together. Then celebrate the successes, but you’ll be on top of poor performance much quicker.
  2. Move your HR from the ‘expenses’ column on your ledger to the ‘investments’ column and treat it that way.
  3. Engage in tax planning with your accountant before the end of financial year – it will help put all of your affairs in sound order.
  4. Plan on taking advantage of an upswing in the Australian economy and confidence come July 1.
  5. If you’re in a position to, you should be planning on supporting yourself and your loved ones entirely on your own well into ‘retirement.’ Don’t plan to rely on anything from the government. If possible, leave more over for others in need.
  6. Equally, don’t plan to retire in order to do nothing – plan to retire in order to move into even more satisfying activity. My father’s a few years into professional retirement (he’s in his 70s) and is heading off tonight for a trip to Europe that he’d saved for. No one wants to die in spirit long before they die in body.
  7. If someone sends you an email promoting an online marketing/social media presentation and calls it a ‘preso’, then don’t waste your time. You have all you need to know about the value right there in how she/he names it.

© 2014 Peter J. McLean. www.lamplighter.com.au  Blog: http://theleadershiplamplight.com

McLean’s Management Memo No. 6

Tips to help you to lead and manage exceptionally. Subscribe to the leadership lamplight blog to receive these regularly in your inbox. Feel free to forward this to anyone who would benefit.

  1. There’s never a good time to get started, so you may as well start now. There’s always something that can prevent you from undertaking something great – finances, timing, personnel, know-how, competition, the next-door neighbour’s dog…so the best time to start work on a great idea is right now. The US was formed in the middle of a rebellion/revolution and ended up becoming the most powerful individual nation of the 20th/21st Centuries.
  2. You’ll never be perfect – but you can keep getting better. Strive for dramatic improvement, not perfection. The iPhone is in its 6th iteration (or 7th, depending on how you count them). Samsung has multiple variations of its smart phones. Not one of them is perfect, but they keep getting better each time. They are products that people won’t live without.
  3. Daily accretions will yield a huge return. Make them a habit. My 11-year old daughter has written over 14,000 words of a draft novel – and it’s incredibly good! And she only did it during this year. The plan is to publish it in a couple of years. She has a very full life, but she’s written that novel by taking just a few spare minutes in the car or after homework and play and before dinner, or in some other spare time. It’s a daily habit of adding a little at a time and it has so far produced great fruit.
  4. Yield to the influence of talented people. Jennifer Lee, co-director of the Disney worldwide hit Frozen, tells that she had an entirely different script and very different characters until the songwriters brought in “Let It Go”. That changed everything for her and pushed the movie in an entirely different direction – ultimately creating the hit it now is. If you have talented people around, be prepared to go with the flow.
  5. Honestly admit failures, but dwell on the successes. Organisations can become propaganda vehicles when everything is always happy-chappy. People learn not to pay attention to the in-house rag always praising everything that’s going on, especially when the walls are falling around them (hello Qantas). But when the leaders honestly admit mistakes and then actually learn from them, it inspires confidence. Then you can point to the successful overcoming of those mistakes and obstacles.

© 2014 Peter J. McLean