This week is full of diverse experiences that remind me of my many privileges for which I am grateful.
On Sunday morning I participated in the Cooper Norcross Bridge Run, a 10k race from Camden, NJ over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to Philadelphia, PA and back. I marvel at and am humbled by the thousands of people who come out to the race in support of the Larc School, which offers special education programs and therapies for students with moderate to severe disabilities, to help them maximize their potential growth, development, and independence.
As I’ve shared before, I’m NOT a runner at heart, and certainly don’t strive to “win.” If I cross the finish line on my own two feet, it’s a win!
(When I shared this philosophy with my 81-year-old mother-in-law, she laughed and said, “That’s what my friends and I always say: the goal is just to stay vertical and ventilated!”)
But it’s a privilege to be healthy and able to run and raise awareness in support of the Larc School which is why I do it almost every year. That’s why I wanted to share my “vertical and ventilated victory” with all of you, so I’ve brought you all with me across the finish line (try not to be TOO unimpressed by the time on the race clock):
(Click to play: Cooper Norcross Bridge Run Finish Line)
Special thanks to all the race day volunteers who work to make the event possible!
Today, of course, is Election Day here in the US. Campaign season in general seems to bring out the worst in most people because it reduces any possible relationship between a candidate and voter to a momentary transaction: which button they push or box they check on the ballot.
I may not always like my options at the polls, but I am very aware of the fact that although voting is my right as a citizen, it’s also a privilege I have that many have fought and died for, from the revolutionaries of 1776 to the women’s suffrage victory in 1920 and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. It's also a right and a privilege far too many around the world still do not have.
So I will always vote when I have the ability to do so, at the very least to honor their sacrifices, even if I have to “hold my nose” in the process. I encourage you to cast your vote today as well (whether or not you hold your nose too) if you share the same privilege.
On the other hand, something I’m extremely happy to share with you is that my guest this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, is Samantha Sayward, Senior Walk Director for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s is a particularly personal disease for me, as my father passed a few years ago after a five-year bout with it. (Here’s a quick one-minute video overview of what it really is.)
The Walk to End Alzheimers is an annual event at sites all over the country, and I can only imagine that it's no small task to coordinate dozens and dozens of events with hundreds of employees, thousands of volunteers, and tens of thousands of participants, while ensuring that everyone is safe, happy, feels valued and like their efforts made a difference!
For me, the biggest point of distinction in our conversation was the importance of making a relationship transformative, rather than transactional. We are all in such a rush nowadays, it’s easy to focus too much on the task at hand and forget to take the time to build a relationship with the person collaborating on the task with us, whether a future client, volunteer, donor, employee, or otherwise.
That extra effort may seem overwhelming at times, but its impossible to build a connection with the other people involved without it. As Sam discussed, failing to build these relationships can determine whether employees respect the boss as a person, or just the boss’s rank. And the difference that makes to the culture and success of the organization overall is equally transformative, for better or for worse.
Some key leadership lessons she shared to close this gap include:
- The value of asking discovery questions and then simply LISTENING without interjecting personal experiences, and opinions
- The importance of encouraging your staff to provide feedback on your leadership style (hint: if you put your ego aside and receive the feedback objectively and gratefully, it makes you a better leader)
- Being accountable for your actions
- Being kind to yourself in the process – leadership is hard and the learning curves are often steep!
Apropos of this week’s theme, I’m also grateful to Sam, a US Navy veteran, for being on the show in time for Veterans Day, coming up on Friday.
To Sam, Ralph Galati, Joey Fay, Tom DiBiase, Sheriff Errol Toulon, Stephen Forzato, Jennifer Ewbank, and any other prior podcast guests – as well as any of you, my readers – who were formerly or currently are actively in the armed forces, law enforcement, or any other similar role of service, THANK YOU.
It is because you selflessly put your own lives on the line to protect my rights and freedom that I can sit here and write these newsletters; freely voice my opinions and observations on podcasts, stages, tv and radio; and even openly complain about my government and candidate options at the voting booth.
How often do we have trouble simply walking away from a disagreement without trying to get the last word in, much less refusing to relent until we “win”? Despite these very human tendencies, Veterans, active military personnel and other law enforcement professionals fight for my rights to do these things even if they disagree with every last opinion I hold.
For me, I think that is the greatest lesson in servant leadership and humility.
Finally, I thank each of YOU for your continued support, and allowing me to provide value, ideas, and even a little inspiration to you each week.
(Don’t forget to vote!)