I’ve spoken about connections to the past quite often. Vision plays a role.
Call them connections, call them reminders, call them divine coincidences, sometimes the universe ties events of the past with things transpiring today. Sometimes they are “huh, that was interesting” moments and sometimes they hold powerful lessons if we choose to look.
I subscribe to the newsletter series by Jason Barnaby of Fire Starters (if you don’t subscribe, you should). Jason sends out quick thoughts three times a week. In his Monday blast (aptly titled M3 – Monday Morning Motivation), a few weeks ago Jason spoke of vision, but not just vision. Repeated here, with permission, Jason said:
“If you are a leader, whose permission are you waiting for to lead?”
“If you serve a magnificent God, do you have a magnificent vision to match?”
“These are two quotes by T.D. Jakes from the Global Leadership Summit several years ago that I think about at least once a week. They had a PROFOUND effect on my life’s direction and what I am doing now with Fire Starters Inc.”
Even if you aren’t a person of faith, the question of magnificent vision still applies.
So how is your vision for what you are currently doing and hope to do in the future?
Are you happening to it or is it happening to you?
Are you being proactive or reactive?
Worse yet, are you living someone else’s vision for your life?
You have gifts, talents, abilities, experience, wisdom, and insight that the world is waiting on and desperately needs.
As many of Jason’s posts do…it got me thinking.
I talk to Information Technology departments (and HR and Marketing departments, too) a lot about vision.
We discuss how to create one, how to communicate it and how to define and execute strategies to achieve it.
What about my own vision?
Is it a magnificent vision?
And, what of leadership?
What of my leadership?
Wow, pretty heady stuff for a Monday morning! But this post is about connections, right?
Then it happened.
My son, Brad, was dropping off his son, Jordan, for another fabulous day with grandma. When he arrived, he handed me a folder. “Mom found this as she and Randy were packing for their move. She thought you might want it.”
In the folder was a picture. The picture was taken about 34 years ago. A picture of my dad, holding on to my two sons, Jeremy and Brad.
A vision I could follow
Having just visited my dad the day before lying in bed at the nursing home, seeing the fifty-five-year-old version of my dad was a bit shocking, to say the least.
The man in that picture is six years younger than I am today. Yet in a 35-year blink of an eye, he is nearing the end of his journey.
The folder also contained an old newspaper. A copy of the Indiana Baptist Observer from December 1995. There on page one was a letter from my dad to the American Baptist Churches of Indiana reflecting upon his pending retirement on the 31st of that month. In it, he reflects back on his 40 years in the ministry with the realization that his calling, the calling he had been following his entire career (and perhaps his entire life), was a call to lead.
Dad was a great preacher, teacher, coach, and counselor, yet, his calling was to lead…and lead he did!
Though he never used the words “magnificent vision” (or, even vision for that matter), what jumped off the page to me was his magnificent vision for the churches he served and for the denomination organizations he led. He had a vision for what they could be and what they could accomplish.
Others followed too
He also wrote of his vision for the future of the church, the challenges ahead, and the need for a new generation of leaders to help the church navigate that future.
Jason’s quote of T.D. Jakes rang in my ears.
“If you are a leader, whose permission are you waiting for to lead?”
Gene Ton would say,
“If you are being called to lead, why aren’t you listening to that call to lead?”
Whether it is for a church, a business, or your family, friends, and organizations…quit sitting back waiting on others: lead, my friend, lead!
You might be surprised how many others believe in your vision, too.
/jst/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jeffery_S_Ton_340x156_darkblue.png00Jeffrey Ton/jst/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jeffery_S_Ton_340x156_darkblue.pngJeffrey Ton2019-09-18 12:30:432019-09-18 12:30:43What is YOUR vision for the Future?
On the eve of their first North American tour in four years, a tour projected to make 100s of millions in revenue for the band, the Stones abruptly announced they were postponing the tour. Within hours, Jagger himself (well, whoever manages his Facebook account) took to Facebook to apologize to fans:
“I’m so sorry to all our fans in America & Canada with tickets. I really hate letting you down like this.
I’m devastated for having to postpone the tour but I will be working very hard to be back on stage as soon as I can. Once again, huge apologies to everyone.”
It wasn’t long before rumors began to spread…it was health related…it was Jagger’s health…it was Jagger’s heart. Within days, the official announcement was given. Jagger, age 75, was to undergo a heart valve replacement. Fans around the world (and in Indianapolis) were on pins and needles waiting for word. Soon, a picture of Mick walking in the garden a few days post-op appeared. Then the rescheduling of the tour was announced. Finally a video of Mick rehearsing his Jagger moves…but still we wondered, on stage, in front of thousands, for hours on end, could he still move like Jagger?
Finally, opening night. Soldier Field, Chicago. 61,000 of our closest friends. All with that question in our heads. I’ve got to think the band was asking the question, even Jagger himself. Jagger didn’t wait long, shortly into their first number, “Street Fighting Man”, he pranced the stage and the runway. You could almost see the sense of relief on the faces of the Stones. Charlie’s grin said it all: “He’s OK, we are OK.”
“Resiliency Like Jagger” probably wouldn’t be a hit like “Moves Like Jagger” was for Maroon 5, yet there are some lessons we as leaders can take from the Rolling Stones front-man.
Resilient: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. Check! No better example of resiliency than a 75 year-old performing like a 30 year-old 2 ½ months post-op. As leaders, we must be resilient. Our teams are watching us. We have to lead through the successes and setbacks. How we react will serve as a model for our followers. It’s not about ignoring adversity and hoping it goes away. It is about acknowledging it and attacking it head on.
Empathetic: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Check! Just re-read his post made shortly after the postponement. “I’m so sorry”…”hate letting you down”…”devastated”. He understood our feelings, he made us feel like he was sharing in those feelings. For a leader, empathy is a critical skill. Those around us want to know that we feel what they feel, that we understand the challenges they face, that we are in those challenges with them, side-by-side.
Communicative: ready to talk or impart information. Check! Jagger and his team took us through the journey. The announcement, the apology, and the progress. They shared the why, they shared the plan, and they shared the results. The old adage “Communicate early and often” is truer today than ever before. It builds trust. It creates confidence. It develops understanding. Communication is not a one and done. Leaders who master the art of effective communication will be able to lead their followers through adversity.
Committed: feeling dedication and loyalty to a cause, activity, or job; wholeheartedly dedicated. Check! The Stones could have cancelled the tour altogether. Jagger could have said I’m done. It’s not worth it. After all, they’ve been doing it for over 50 years. They certainly don’t need the money. They showed commitment and dedication to their craft, to their love of music and to us, their fans. Know a leader who gives up in the face of a challenge? They won’t be a leader long. Commitment to the vision, commitment to the mission, is vital for our followers. If we change plans every time the going gets tough, our teams will get frustrated and give up.
There you have it. Your moves like Jagger! Resiliency, Empathy, Communication and Commitment. Let me ask you. Are you ready as a leader? Are you ready to bust your moves like Jagger?
/jst/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jeffery_S_Ton_340x156_darkblue.png00Jeffrey Ton/jst/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jeffery_S_Ton_340x156_darkblue.pngJeffrey Ton2019-07-08 20:03:102019-07-08 20:03:10Resiliency Like Jagger - Leadership Lessons from a Rolling Stone
The hustle and bustle of business travelers grabbing the hotel breakfast before they headed out to this meeting or that meeting barely registered in my consciousness as I mentally prepared for my fourth talk in four days. After finishing my oatmeal, I googled Top Golf, the location of my talk later that morning, and checked the drive time…nine minutes. “Still plenty of time to rehearse a couple more times before heading out”, I thought to myself.
After rehearsing in front of the hotel room mirror (timing myself with the clock app), I checked-out on my phone (I love technology!), and headed to the parking garage to jump in the rental car. Having spent some time in the area, I had driven past the Top Golf many times. Their giant nets jutting up into the sky are hard to miss. Being unfamiliar with the highway system and traffic patterns however, I pulled up my calendar app, opened the meeting invitation and clicked on the address of the event to navigate by GPS. Still about nine minutes drive time. I fired up the podcast I’d been listening to last night when I’d arrived and headed out.
Expecting to turn left at the first traffic light, I was a little confused when Google said to go straight at the intersection. Hmmm, must be routing me around some heavy traffic. I’d gotten into trouble before when I thought I knew better the Google. In a few minutes when it directed me to merge onto the interstate heading east, it seemed odd. I knew the Top Golf was west of the hotel…or I thought I knew. Surely, Google knew how to get me there, besides, it now said six minutes to destination. I kept driving. Maybe there is more than one Top Golf in the area?
The map showed my exit approaching. Exit right, turn left and go over the Interstate, turn left again on the frontage road and I’ll be at Top Golf. I glanced to my left, expecting to see the familiar netting stanchions, but only saw blue skies above an office building. More confused than ever, I dutifully followed the route guidance. A few minutes later, I arrived at my destination. Not only wasn’t it a Top Golf, it was a residential neighborhood. I pulled into one of the side streets and stopped.
I googled Top Golf and it said I was 14 minutes away. What is going on? At least now my technology was telling me to drive west, which made far more sense to me than heading east. Within a few minutes I passed my hotel and several minutes after that, I saw the familiar netting of my destination.
I’d been listening to a podcast about the various ways great speakers mentally prepare themselves on the way to deliver their message. Some want silence, some want a playlist, none listed getting lost by blindly following a GPS as a way to prepare. I was thankful, I had left plenty of time to navigate here from the hotel. The thought, “must have been a bug in the interface between the Calendar app and the Maps app that took me the wrong way”, crossed my mind as I walked into the venue.
Ironically, my talk that morning was to a group of Information Technology leaders and the theme was driving your value in this amazing time of technology evolution. As way of an example, one of the questions I ask is “how many of you used your GPS to come to the event today?” As I got to that part of my talk, I had to chuckle to myself about my morning.
That afternoon, still curious about what went wrong, I discovered the issue. The address on the meeting invitation was missing the first digit of the address. It was a mere coincidence that the error resulted in the exact same nine minutes of drive time, in the opposite direction. Somehow, the fact that it was human error made me feel better about blindly following directions that I knew in my gut to be wrong.
Later, as I drove home (heading east correctly this time), I had time to think. There had to be a lesson in this experience. A lesson beyond, “Ton you are a dumbass for relying solely on technology and not your gut instinct!”
Leaders and Followers
Leaders need followers and followers need leaders. Sometimes leaders are followers and sometimes followers are leaders. As a follower, we have the responsibility to use our brains (and our guts). We don’t just follow blindly. Verify the facts. Reach our own conclusions. If our conclusion differs from that of the leader, respectfully ask why. It is our choice to follow. If the why rings true, or the consequences of not following outweigh the discord in our guts then follow. However, when the facts don’t align, and we have asked our “why”, we know our truth, we have the right not to follow, and, in fact, become a leader ourselves.
As a leader, we have a responsibility as well. In this data driven world, we have to acknowledge data can be wrong. When our gut is telling us one thing and the data is telling us something entirely different, we must pause and ask why, we must verify the facts. If we still reach the same decision, then so be it. We will not always be right, but we will know we used the data available to us and we will know our “why”. We then have the obligation to explain our “why” to those who follow us, so that they too, understand the decision, even if they disagree with it. Those that share our belief in the “why” will follow. Those that don’t, won’t…and that’s OK.