Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Versus You - Who's Winning?

"We miss life's greatest opportunities not because of our inability to negotiate with others, but because we can't negotiate with ourselves."  - Erica Ariel Fox

At the recent 20th anniversary of the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit, those words from Session Five Speaker Erica Ariel Fox cut through me like a fine ginsu knife.

Ms. Fox started her talk with those words and while I did hear and retain many other great points from her talk, those words reverberated in my heart since that day.

Being the typical type-A personality who has recently discovered many of her deeply introverted characteristics, understanding and managing myself has been (and continues to be) the greatest challenge of my life. Even as a wife, mom, entrepreneur and public servant, managing my own heart/will and subsequent actions is my greatest feat every single day.

I often look at my "performance gap," which Fox described as the distance between what you ideally want to do when you living your best life versus what you actually do in real life. And while I mind that gap pretty closely, it is indeed still a gap. Here are three actions I find helpful in closing my game and winning the battle of you versus you:


I absolutely crave and need solitude. Daily. Each day, I start the day in a raggedy yet comfortable green chair in my family room. Whether it's reading or praying or just being still - and it's really all three - I do not start many days without my "me" time. Solitude is my best place to hear from God. It is the time I hear myself as well. I tap into my deepest desires each day in the quiet. I reflect on the good, bad and everything in between in the wee hours of the morning when no one else is moving. I have also scheduled "me" time away from my house. When I was writing my first fiction book, I went away for a night to a hotel to finish it. Being alone really stimulates good and ways for me to look closely at who I am versus who I want to be.

Wise Counsel

Not a day goes by that I do not seek out wise counsel from a variety of sources.  From my posse of fellow elected women officials to my very best social worker friend from college, I look for opportunities to hear from others about how I'm doing. I also have a personal board of directors. This unpaid but richly compensated group serve as a sounding board for my ideas, dreams, frustrations and battles. There are baby boomers and millenials. Spanish speaking folks and black folks. Gays and straights and of course, men and women. This very diverse and eclectic group has a cornucopia of knowledge between them. Yet, they all know me well and I know each of them well. That mutual trust and confidence gives me the ability share my heart and expect theirs in their words and deeds.

Own It 

The buck stops with me. I own my every move. Right or wrong, I take responsibility. That gives me the freedom to truly go for all I desire because in the end, it's all on me. This is especially true in my dealings with others.  Even as self-aware as I am, it is very easy to look at others as I maneuver through life.  A client. A spouse. A child. Another parent. People do impact our lives and our ability to get where we want to go. No denying that. However, our own responsibility trumps all others. We own our actions and reactions. We own our feelings and behaviors. And until we truly embrace that ownership, we will find ourselves with a larger gap between the life we want and the life we have.

While the battle rages, I can honestly say, the "me I want to be" wins more often than the shadow me. And by making space to be with me, seeking wise counsel and owning my journey - I am certain I'll continue to negotiate well with me. And win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

If Forced To Pick One, Love Wins at #GLS14

One of my favorite #GLS14 Speakers, Erica Ariel Fox

Days later, I am still unpacking all the great wisdom imparted on me at the 20th Annual Global Leadership Summit. For many months to come, I'll be sifting, sorting and applying much of what I heard. When asked over the last few days to, "give me your favorite idea," or "who was your favorite speaker," I've been a bit stumped. So many great concepts rush to my mind and all the quotes I was tweeting started forming in my mind's eye. No one thing or one person jumps out.

Carly Fiorina reinforced my original attraction to her as a leader and has added many dimensions since I first "met" her on the Summit stage in 2007.

Jeffrey Immelt illuminated and shattered my view of the "typical US based CEO" with his warmth, candor and humility.

Susan Cain taught me to learn from someone very different than my normal teachers.

Patrick Lencioni did not disappoint and drove home many thought provoking ideas.

Joseph Grenny, my favorite from GLS 2013, further solidified major keys to meaningful influence.

Erica Ariel Fox challenged me to better negotiate with myself while Allen Catherine Kagina encouraged me as a fellow public servant.

However, if I was forced to pick one thing that impacted me most at this year's Global Leadership Summit,  I'd have to say it was the overwhelming sense of love and compassion I physically felt every minute of every hour, I was on the South Barrington campus during the summit this year.

Maybe it was because of my tense and often numb reaction to what was going on some 310 miles to the southwest of us in Ferguson, MO.

Perhaps it was because I had the chance to meet,  connect with and receive amazing hugs from the current and former leaders of Compassion International.

Honestly, I cannot pinpoint exactly why I felt that love but it was real.  Love and compassion was in action throughout the two days...

In the eyes, hearts and hands of the volunteers I interacted with.

In every speaker's talk.

In the songs we sang.

In the comedy of Michael Jr.

In the lunch catch up with my kid's former ministry leader.

In the side conversations overheard while waiting to buy books.

In the replied tweets of new friends.

And while I may forget lots of what I "learned" at #GLS14 - I know I won't forget how I felt at my 8th Global Leadership Summit.

I felt loved.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grow Yo Self

Courtesy of Willow Creek Association
As a leader, it is imperative to make space to grow and improve.

Leaders must examine their leadership.

Leaders have to gain perspective on new and improved ways to motivate .

Leaders need to pause from leading and "fill" themselves with wisdom and actionable teachings.

Leadership requires refueling and rejuvenation.

Leadership necessitates sharing with other leaders.

Leadership demands honest reflection.

True leaders get this and take steps to intentionally make themselves better.

Regardless of where you do it or who you learn from, as a leader of anything, it is imperative that you take time, often, to grow yourself. Much like a favorite television character of mine chimes "treat yo self," I'm gonna chime, "grow yo self."

Growing yourself as a leader is the chief form of self-care. Whether leading a family or a team at work, leading of any kind demands growth. The responsibility of decision making and taking action is too great to be left to chance. Leadership encompasses followership and followers require care. One cannot care for others well if they are not caring for themselves. "Grow yo self" is not a joke or an option for anyone who leads in any way.  Here are a few ways, I grow myself as a leader:

Reading is great way to grow yourself. It requires attention and focused time, alone. You can learn from a variety of teachers and at your own pace. Not only does reading give you perspective you otherwise might not have, it makes you rest from your routine and break neck pace of living. And while I don't read as much as I like, it is a priority to read at least one book every few months to keep my learning going.

Fellowship with other leaders is key. I have several networks of leaders -  business leaders, political leaders and mommy leaders  - feeding into my growth. All these networks are intentionally formed and meet regularly. Sharing our challenges with one another fuels our individual and collective growth. Each meeting, whether by phone or in person, revives and rejuvenates me as a leader. They are non-negotiables on my calendar.

And every year since 2005,  another way I make space for growth is by attending the Willow Creek Association annual Global Leadership Summit. This annual August gathering, that subsequently travels around the globe all fall, has become a fixture on my calendar. Marketplace and church leaders from around the world gather to hear some of the best teachings in a unique format with many tools to take your learnings and put them in action. And over the last three years, as I've built my business, it's become a team experience. It's part of the compensation of working for Relationships Matter Now, LLC., even for contractors who work on ONE project with us.  This conference is part of the DNA of my company because my motivation and inspiration to start RMN was nurtured in the summits leading up to its incorporation in 2010.

Tune in to my social channels this week to get a glimpse. And take it as fuel to find your own way to "grow yo self."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

6 Hours In A County Fair Booth Made Me Unstoppable

Not sure what it is but I've always loved the county fair. Or any fair for that matter. Roasted sweet corn. Hot sugary funnel cakes. The noise. The crowd. Animal smells.

Yeah. Love that.

This year, I woke up after my visit to the county fair feeling something different.


For the past two years, I've volunteered at the Democrats of McHenry County booth at the McHenry County Fair. And you may ask, "Why in the world do you feel 'unstoppable' after that?"

Well, it's simple.

Have you ever stood as a volunteer in a booth, at public event where you see people's disposition physically change as they spot you?

Have you ever had someone snatch their kid's hand away from a basket of candy you were holding out?

Have you ever seen someone almost break their own neck not to make eye contact with you?

Have you repeatedly been told "no"? Even before you stated anything?

Have you ever been called a baby killer to your face?

Have you ever had people argue with you unilaterally even when you were not arguing with them?

Well all that and more happened on my 5 hour shift in the Democrats booth at the county fair last week.  Now, to be fair (no pun intended),  our county is reasonably split - 45% of registered voters are Republican, 38% Democrat and the rest are Independent.  On paper, we should not be so outnumbered but the perception about our county is that it is overwhelmingly Republican.  And the behavior of most of the people I encountered last week would reflect that perception. You may be thinking - "what in world were you saying to those people?"

97 days until the election.

Know you have a choice in McHenry County.

Absolute power corrupts.

People who run unopposed do not work as hard.

That's it. I wasn't pushing anything or anyone. I was simply reminding people what a democracy looks like and yet I was met with some very vocal and non-vocal rejection.

And I love it!

Here's why:

I am in the arena.

I care about something.

I'm proud to stand by what I care about.

I'm stronger for looking people in the eye and owning what I believe.

Guys, I am not advocating that you go stand in a political booth. That is only for the sheer lions of this world, like myself. But what are you waiting for to stand up and get involved? Get out there and get in an ARENA, TODAY!

What do you care about most?

Education? Support a PTA/PTO. Go to school board meeting.

Economic growth? Get to a local municipal meeting. Question your officials.

Elderly care? Volunteer at a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Literacy? Join your local library "Friends" organization or run for library board.

Women's Issues? Call your local YWCA and get involved.

Whatever the cause, there is an arena waiting for its warriors. Every voice counts. All people matter. Stop buying into the belief that you cannot make a difference.

For every 5 rude and fearful people I encountered last week, there was one who silently walked by with the thumbs up. For every 5 people who stopped to tell me I was not welcomed or wanted in this county, there was one who stopped and thanked me for being there.

One man with courage is a majority - Thomas Jefferson

It's not rocket science. It's part of the human experience. And because of my time in that booth last week - I recognize my power as an individual contributor to this great nation.

When will you recognize yours?