Author Archives: William Auxier

The Woman Behind Thanksgiving Day

The Woman Behind Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday, a special day of being thankful for my family and friends and the love we share, celebrated by a great feast.  When I was a boy, we always celebrated Thanksgiving Day with my mom’s side of the family.  Mom was one of ten children born to Georgia and Randel Gholson.  They lived on a farm and when the Gholson Family met at their home on Thanksgiving Day, that meant over 40 people in attendance, mostly made up of my cousins.  We had great times running through the woods and playing in the barn on their farm.  Once Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved into town, we held the feast at our house.  Behind our house was a park where we always played football before the big feast.  There are many memories of chaos, camaraderie and home cooked cuisine, along with all the love that made it happen.

sarah_hale_portrait

New York was the first of several states that made Thanksgiving Day an official holiday.  Of the states that celebrated Thanksgiving, they all celebrated on a different day. Many states, particularly those in the South, were oblivious to this emerging tradition and holiday.  That was, until Sarah Josepha Hale, (you probably know her most famous work as an author, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), provided leadership and launched a campaign in 1827 to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  Talk about a woman with patience!  It took her 36 years, during which time she published magazine articles and editorials along with countless letters to governors senators, presidents and other politicians.  Finally, in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed a proclamation for all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”  The last Thursday of November was established as Thanksgiving Day until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales.  Yes, even back then, holiday commercialization was an issue.  President Roosevelt’s plan became known as Franksgiving, a label dedicated to the divisiveness of this issue.  In 1941, he reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday of November,

If it were not for the perseverance and leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale, and her 36-year campaign to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday, who know how things would have turned out.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for my family, my friends, my memories of Thanksgiving Days of the past, and, for Sarah Josepha Hale.  And I’m thankful to you for reading this!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Your Humble Servant

Your Humble Servant

Your Humble Servant

Your Humble Servant

My son and I both love football.  We agree on many aspects of the game, but one area where we disagree is centered on players’ arrogance versus humility.  I do not like flamboyant players who perform attention getting celebrations every time they do their job.  If you watch the game, you’ve seen it.  A defender makes a tackle on a routine play, but the celebratory dancing and gestures make you think he just won the Super Bowl.  I prefer a defensive player who makes a tackle, like he is supposed to do, it’s his job, and then prepares for the next play.  My son on the other hand likes the confidence, the brashness, the intimidating message that a celebrating player sends with his antics.  And therein lies the problem:  humility is not exciting.  While we might appreciate the trait of humility in others, most people prefer to be viewed as confident and bold.  This is true if you are a football player and for leaders too.

Research has linked levels of humility with a higher sense of purpose, better health, increased workplace harmony, longer lasting marriages, greater generosity and even an improved love life.  What would a higher level of humility to for you as a leader?

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Posthumous Leadership

Posthumous Leadership

Posthumous Leadership

Posthumous Leadership

Posthumous Leadership We all have heroes living and past.  My dad was a hero of mine, a great influence on me and he had a huge impact on my core values.  Because of that, my philosophical foundation of leadership is built on lessons I learned from him, as well as others.  My dad passed away over 20 years ago, but that does not diminish the impact he had/has on me.  How you lead is dependent on who you follow.

Abraham Lincoln is another person who has had a major impact on me and my philosophical foundation of leadership.  Considered one of the greatest Presidents in American history, President Lincoln has influenced many, who, like me, never met the man because we were born many years after his death.  Posthumous leadership is an incredible phenomenon.

I love college basketball, particularly March Madness.  I recently learned of an incredible story of posthumous leadership about one of the winningest men’s college basketball coaches in the history of the game.

Posthumous LeadershipCoach Dean Smith coached men’s basketball for 36 seasons at the University of North Carolina.  Players he coached include Michael Jordan and James Worthy among others.  When he retired from coaching in 1997, he was the winningest Division I men’s basketball coaches with 879 career victories.  Two of his teams won national titles, one in 1982 and one in 1993.  Coach Smith had a reputation for winning.  He also had a reputation for caring for his players.  That appreciation of players transcended his life when he passed away at the age of 83.

In his will, he left every letterman he had ever coached at the University of North Carolina $200.  A $200 check was sent to those players along with a note that read “enjoy dinner out, complements of Coach Dean Smith.”  Coach Smith will forever be all about his players.

What will your posthumous leadership gift be?

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Speaking When Angry

Habit #7 Speaking When Angry

Habit #7 Speaking When Angry

Speaking When Angry

I worked with a guy once who was known for his anger.  When things were going the way he wanted, he was one of the nicest guys you could know.  When things didn’t go according to his plan, DUCK!  He could rip your head off with a tidal wave of angry exclamations with every third word being the “F” word.  At the same time, his business unit was consistently profitable, consistently hit its targets and his staff was loyal.  Anger can have value as a management tool, however, speaking when angry is “Habit #7” on Marshall Goldsmith’s list of habits that hold you back.

It’s hard to predict how people will react to anger which makes it an unreliable leadership tool.  You may have a loyal team because dissenters leave and others never speak up out of fear.  Extreme displays of anger suggest someone has lost his temper and is out of control. It’s hard to comprehend how someone out of control can be an effective leader.  And why do other effective leaders not need anger to lead successful teams?

Worst of all, a person, particularly a leader, who has been labelled as a “hot head,” may find it nearly impossible to shake that label.  That makes it difficult to change, difficult to evolve, a key component of being an effective leader.

If you find yourself wanting to speak out when you’re angry, take Marshall’s advice.  Before you start to speak out of anger, look in the mirror.  You will then see the real source of the anger.  Keep your mouth shut and no one will know.  Holding your tongue is a lot to ask, especially if it’s your natural inclination to speak out, but the payout of saying nothing will be a huge step forward toward being a more effective leader.

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Smile

She’s a Great Leader, Always Smiling…

She’s a Great Leader, Always Smiling…

Smile

Have you ever been around a person who is always positive, always smiling? When you interact with someone who’s in a good mood, a leader or otherwise, it’s contagious. Emotions are shared thru verbal and non-verbal communication. Being engaged with someone in a good mood will cause you to subconsciously begin to copy their body language, their tone of voice and facial expressions. Once you start mimicking these behaviors physically, you will actually begin to feel those positive emotions. Research indicates that when you smile, it elevates your mood and those around you.

Sigal Barsade, Ph.D., a psychologist at Yale, conducted a study to research this concept. A group of volunteers were assigned a task. Privately, Dr. Barsade instructed one group member to act overtly positive. She then recorded the interactions of the group members and tracked the emotions of each individual before and after each session. What she found was that when the positive person entered the room, his cheerful mood was mimicked by the rest of the group almost immediately. In addition, individual performance increased and the group’s ability to achieve its goal also improved.

Looking for greater success? The next time you walk into a meeting, take a look in the mirror to see what your face is saying. A simple smile could transform you and those around you.

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Bedside Manner Leadership

Bedside Manner Leadership

Bedside Manner Leadership

Bedside Manner Leadership

Anyone who has worked in healthcare for a period of time knows that some physicians have a fantastic bedside manner and other physicians can have terrible bedside manner.  The incredible phenomenon that results is that a physician with great bedside manner can have a great reputation even if their skills as a physician may be limited.  The opposite of that is also true; a physician with poor bedside manner and a superb skill set can have a terrible reputation.  The goal of course it to excel at both, great bedside manner and great skill set.  Doctors who are both are considered gifted.

bedside-manner-2The same holds true for leaders.  Gifted leaders use both their heart and their head.  Leaders need the intellectual capacity to handle the challenges they face, but intellect alone does not make an effective leader.  Effective leaders walk the talk.  Effective leaders understand that leadership is about both what they do AND how they do it.

Authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, in their book Primal Leadership:  Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, describe a concept they refer to as the open loop.  The human brain is an open loop reliant on connections with others for our emotional stability.  In addition to our emotions, other people can actually change our physiology including sleep rhythm, cardiovascular function, hormone levels and even immune function.  Negative vibes from another lead to negative outcomes for group members while positive vibes lead to positive outcomes.

The authors site a study of 62 CEOs to make their point.  The CEOs and their management teams were assessed on how upbeat they were and the level of conflict routinely experienced within their group.  The researchers discovered that the more positive the moods of the people were in top management, the more cooperative they worked together and the better the company’s business results.  The longer a company was run by a top management team that were more negative and did not get along well with each other, the poorer the company’s business results.

How effective are you at walking the talk?  Are you leading with your heart and you head?  Even if you are not a physician, how’s your bedside manner?

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Leadership, Money & Happiness

Leadership, Money & Happiness

Leadership, Money & Happiness

Leadership, Money & Happiness

We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy your love.  I have a different take on that expression; money can’t buy you love, but neither can poverty.  I always thought that regardless of whether I was happy or sad, it was better to have a few of the comforts that money can provide.

I have witnessed first-hand individuals moving up the ladder, achieving higher and higher leadership roles.  Along with that came pay raises, therefor, more money.  While not everyone is this way, I have seen some try to use that money to bring them happiness.  One individual confided in me, right after he purchased a very expensive sports car, he thought it was pretty cool the first week or two, but in less than a month he was thinking about how he had wasted his money.  The car wasn’t making him happy.

Leadership, Money & HappinessDaniel Gilbert, Ph.D., a Harvard psychology professor and author of numerous books, wrote a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology where he claims that if money isn’t making you happy, you’re not spending it right.  “Money is an opportunity for happiness, but it is an opportunity that people routinely squander because the things they think will make them happy often don’t.”  The study concluded that there are ways money can be used to boost well-being and life satisfaction.  First, money is best spent on experiences instead of material things.  Second, those who spend money on others experience greater happiness then spending on themselves.  Finally, spending money on numerous small pleasures increases happiness more than splurging on a few large ones.

Money can’t buy you love, but neither can poverty.  Money can boost happiness if used in a happiness boosting way.  This is important for leaders to know for themselves, but even more importantly, how they can pass this lesson along to others so they can buy a happiness boost instead of squandering their money AND their happiness.

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Nice Guys Finish Last... and First

Nice Guys Finish Last…And First!

Nice Guys Finish Last…And First!

Nice Guys Finish Last... and First

Have you ever participated in volunteer work that left you feeling great?  Delivering meals to shut-ins and those less fortunate left me feeling great recently.  It also left me with a feeling of appreciation for what I have in life.  Research backs up the warm fuzzy feeling you can get from giving to others.  Michael Steger, Ph.D., conducted a study that concluded that helping others makes you feel happier.  Another study, by psychologist Patricia Frazier at the University of Minnesota, concluded that when an individual’s sense of meaning is threatened, that sense of meaning can be restored by acts of generosity.  And still another study, this one led by Wilhelm Hofmann, Ph.D., found that people enjoy a lasting sense of purpose when they do what they think is right. In other words, people lead a more meaning filled life when taking daily moral actions.  This reinforces the express that “givers gain.”

Nice Guys Finish Last... and FirstThere is another expression, “nice guys finish last.”  That is exactly what Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found.  Grant’s research found givers bunched at the bottom of the success ladder.  A givers’ trusting nature and willingness to sacrifice leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.  What you may find surprising is that Grant also found givers bunched at the top of the success ladder.  Admiration and loyalty can be won with a reputation of unselfishness.  This creates long-term relationships that enable givers to reap tremendous rewards.  A key element of givers at the top of the success ladder is their ability to know how others perceive them.  Sharing credit is one thing, making sure others know you are sharing credit makes a difference.

Effective leaders understand the concept that givers gain.  The most effective leaders practice the concept that givers gain.

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Snob!

Snob!

snob-web

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with the young man who had been selected to take my position as the regional director.  He was telling me what a “big deal” it was for him to be promoted into this position.  He said to me, “you have to realize that I come from a hard-working blue-collar family.  I’m not a blue-blood like you.”  Those words triggered two reactions in my brain.  The first reaction was, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Talk about humble beginnings!  I would be glad to have a “humble beginnings” contest with most anyone.  My second reaction was, COOL!  He thinks I’m a blue-blood!  I’ve come a long way.

As I reflected on that conversation later, I started questioning the “cool factor” of being thought of as a blue-blood.  What did he mean by that comment?  Did I come across as well educated?  Did he perceive that I came from a family of high socio-economic standing?  Did that mean I was arrogant?  Did that mean I was a snob?  I never did follow up with this young man to clarify his comment.  Regardless what he meant, it triggered a response in me that made me take a closer look at my humbleness.  I twisted his comment around to focus on being a snob, and the last thing I wanted was for anyone to consider me a snob.

Are you a Snob?Snobs can make others doubt their self-worth.  A person born into families that confer education, wealth or status can inherit a sense of privilege and make them come across as a snob.  The truth is, people have a natural tendency to see others from outside their respective group as inferior. People of lower status often practice reverse snobbery when they perceive others being something they do not.  Reverse snobbery reinforces social barriers that focus the attention on differences instead of similarities.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, offers the following advice on how to handle a snob:

First, don’t buy into it.  Reverse snobbery is not the solution to deal with snobbery.  If you don’t respond to a snob’s attempt to impress you, the snob will take less pleasure in doing so.

Second, take pride in the traits that make you stand out.  Snobbery triggers envy because our social status is threatened.  Focus on qualities that make exceptional.

Third, recognize where the need to be a snob comes from.  People who position themselves above others are often insecure.

What about you?  Are you a snob?

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Reversing the Brain Drain

Reversing the Brain Drain

Reversing the Brain Drain

Reversing the Brain DrainBefore my maternal grandmother passed away, she had thirty-three grandchildren along with a few great-grandchildren.  When I would go to see her, she would go through several of my cousin’s names before “landing” on mine.  She would say something like, “Well hi Mike, Gary, Jimmy, Terry, I mean Billy.  It’s good to see you!”  I always thought it was pretty funny.  It wasn’t like she had mental issues, she was just older with a lot of grandchildren!

Research indicates that the human brain begins to slow down after a person turns forty.  No matter what you do or how sharp you are mentally, over time, complex mental processes can dull.  Effective leaders need mental sharpness, so what can you do as you age to keep that mental edge?

The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas offer these ways to reverse brain drain:

  • Rest your brain and then reboot.  Each day, disengage briefly to free up your mind.  A few short mental breaks can help improve decision-making, problem solving and productivity.
  • Focus on one task at a time.  Multitasking can impede productivity.  Interruptions can impede productivity.  Multitasking and interruptions can also add time needed to complete a task.  By giving full attention to one task before stating another you can be more effective and more productive.
  • Prioritize your daily to-do list.  Identifying the most crucial tasks on your to-do list boosts productivity, efficiency and the quality of your work.
  • Say no to the status quo.  Stop doing things the same way.  Experiment with new ways of doing things.  Try new approaches.  The result will be a healthier brain and more creative solutions.

Effective leaders are always evolving, always learning.  Doing so can plug the drain, the brain drain that is.

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