When is the Last Time You Took a Field Trip?

Last week I joined a couple of close friends for a field trip to Boulder, Colorado. We spent the day learning from a startup company that helps creatives do what they do better. 

I left with my head spinning on many levels. As a speaker and coach who spends most of my time encouraging leaders and organizations toward high performance, I was grateful to have the chance to be the one taking the notes. 

Field Trip 1

The day reminded me of the importance of field trips. When I was a kid in school the field trips were my favorite days of the year. While most of the fun was missing class, I actually learned a thing or two when we left the routine of the classroom. As a leader it is easy to fall into the rut of the routine. 

For me, I’m glad I took time away from the norm and flew across the country. The field trip forced me to do three things. 

1. Think – The leaders in the room last week were thought leaders. Their intelligence was on full display, and honestly, at times I struggled to keep up. I spent most of the day listening. On the plane ride home I found myself thinking in new ways. Scalable ways. Simple ways. I realized I don’t spend enough time thinking. 

In a blogpost on thinking, My friend Mark Miller wrote, “Leaders are not generally paid for the work of their hands as much as they are for the work of their heads.”

Do you spend too much time working in the business rather than on the business. Leaders who invest time on the task of thinking create a tremendous competitive advantage.

I challenge you to carve out time to consistently think. A field trip can jump start your brain. It worked for me.

2. Question – I was fascinated by the processes of the startup. They clearly have also spent time thinking. Their thinking has led to simplicity and simplicity has become a filter to attack complexity.

Field Trip 2Seeing their systems and processes made me question my own systems and processes. When I started my company the goal was to survive. Now that I have been at it for a while survival is no longer the target. I now hope to thrive. This will not happen and my business will not scale unless I continually work on my infrastructure. Making the visit out West helped me surface several questions that I am confident will force me to refine moving forward.

Are you using a simple strategic process to help you win in today’s competitive world of craziness? If you want to put yourself in question mode, go look at how others are doing things.

3. Learn – My thinking and questioning led to learning, which was ultimately the goal of the trip. I was different when I left than I was when I walked in. I gained a greater appreciation for the link between technology and transformation. And on a side note, I discovered Boulder, Colorado is worth another visit. 

Anytime we travel we open ourselves up to all sorts of learning possibilities. When is the last time you learned something new that forced you to change the way you work? I’m guessing it was the last time you removed yourself from your daily routine.

Thinking, questioning, and learning are all vital for a high performance leader. If today finds you lacking intentionality in any of the three, I suggest you take a field trip. It will make you a better leader.

Leadership Begins at Home,

Randy

Can you think of a place you visited as a leader in hopes of learning? What was the result of your visit?

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Your Problem Solvers Might Just Save the Day

One of my favorite things I do throughout the year is spend time with the Pittsburgh Pirates MLB Club encouraging the coaches and players. Every time I am with the team I feel like I receive more value than I add. Yesterday was such a day.

I had the chance to hang out with the Buccos and attend a game at PNC Park in the Steel City. What a game! The good guys Raised the Jolly Roger and sent the first place Nationals packing in a thrilling 3-1 victory.

Pirates ace, Gerrit Cole became the first pitcher in baseball to win 14 games this year, but it was not without excitement. In the top of the eight inning, on a hot day, Cole ran into trouble when a couple of Nats reached base. With two outs and the game on the line, Bryce Harper, the NL leader in home runs came to the plate representing the potential winning run.

Thankfully, the Pirates have a structure to solve problems. It is called a bullpen. After a meeting on the mound, Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle called on reliever Tony Watson and a few pitches later the fire was out and so was Harper.

Bullpen

The bullpen is one way baseball teams are prepared to handle a crisis. The relief pitchers represent their problem solvers.

When you look at your organization do you have a structure in place to solve problems? High performance organizations expect the unexpected. They resist the temptation to ignore difficulties. 

Someone once told me there are two types of leaders … goal setters and problem solvers. If that is true, it would be a mistake to undervalue the problem solvers on your team. As you approach this week, I encourage you to identify 3-4 problems you are currently facing and then mobilize and unleash your bullpen. Rather than looking down on them for not being goal setters, recognize their value to your organization.

Remember, the next time you find yourself in trouble your problem solvers might just save the day.

Leadership Begins at Home,

Randy

What structure do you have in place to solve problems?

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The Lesson of the Learning Curve

A couple of summers ago our family had the opportunity to visit China. On the first day of our trip I found myself in trouble.

We sat down to have our first meal in the country and the waiter handed me a pack of chopsticks. Uh-oh!

I was horrible. The first week I lost about five pounds. Not because the food was bad. It was because I was a disaster with the sticks.

There was no turning back, though. No forks in sight. It was sink (starve) or swim time.

After a week, I began to get the hang of them. After two weeks, I was showing signs. By the end of the trip, they were suggesting that I take on an Asian name.

Using chopsticks three times a day for three weeks reminded me that proficiency is available in almost any discipline … but discipline is required.

Any time you try something new, there definitely is a learning curve. Unfortunately, the curve is when most people give up. For some reason we all like straight roads more than the crooked ones. May I remind you, the best places are at the end of crooked roads … places where the view is worth the effort to get there.

On the last night of our trip I attended a cookout with our team members and a group of Chinese high school students. The meal was grilled chicken and baked beans. It was the first western meal I had eaten in a couple of weeks.

I found myself sitting by a young boy from China, both of our plates loaded down, but with one noticeable difference. In his hand was a shiny American fork, and in mine was a set of old wooden chopsticks.

In that moment I was proud of us both. For we both had mastered the challenging “lesson of the learning curve.”

I hope you have too.

Leadership Begins at Home,

Randy

When was the last time you tried something new?

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Singular Focus

While there are many activities and pursuits that make up a life, there can really only be one priority. You have to decide on something.

For me, one of the best reminders of what is important was written by a guy named James Dobson, who founded an organization called Focus on the Family.

Leadership Begins at Home“I have concluded that the accumulation of wealth, even if I could achieve it, is an insufficient reason for living. When I reach the end of my days, a moment or two from now, I must look back on something more meaningful than the pursuit of houses and land and machines and stocks and bonds. Nor is fame of any lasting benefit. I will consider my earthly existence to have been wasted unless I can recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, and an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me. Nothing else makes much sense.”

If you are having trouble finding joy in your life, could it be you have settled on the wrong priority?

Maybe it’s time for you to become a bit more singular, stop chasing happiness, and live by “A” priority.

Here is a poem from Martin Baxbaum to consider as you attempt to focus on what matters …

You can use most any measure when you’re speaking of success,

You can measure it in a fancy home, expensive car or dress,

But the measure of your real success is one you cannot spend,

It’s the way your child describes you when talking to a friend.

Leadership Begins at Home,

Randy

If you were to choose a ‘singular priority’ for the next month, what would it be?

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