And This is It

This is it.  The last blog post during my year as the Women in Leisure Services’ National President.  I will confidently turn over the gavel to Michele Greenburg McClung at the National Luncheon.  Serving WILS in this capacity has been my pleasure.  I believe strongly that the more we support each other, the more we will all grow as individuals and as a vital service to our communities.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my varied musings, book reports and personal stories.  I committed to this blog on a bit of whim as I prepared my remarks for the 2014 National Luncheon, but I stuck with it, making posts each week.  It’s been fun and I truly enjoyed the experience.

I have also enjoyed getting to know many of our members as they have contacted me to comment about something that I wrote.  Whether it was to agree or disagree, I enjoyed hearing the many viewpoints.  I also enjoyed learning that we really aren’t as different as we may think.  Nearly each time I shared a personal story it was met with a response of “me, too!”.  It’s nice to know we aren’t alone on our journeys.

My wish for WILS is that it continues and strengthens around the bond of building and supporting more female leaders in our field.  This takes commitments from many in order to lighten the work for individuals.  May you all take a moment to commit to one small way to give back and/or help our membership and impact grow this year.

I’m glad to be a part of the WILS sisterhood!  Where there is a WILS there is a WAY.

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Think Well, Do Well

I firmly believe that they way I think about myself influences how I act and, in turn, influences how others react to me.  Author Brian Tracy takes this one step further in his book, Leadership, (2014, American Management Association) by writing “You are what you think you are.  Your self image determines your performance.”  This confirms that having the Monday blues at work may be causing more issues than a dependence on caffeine.

Stepping up to leadership requires a high level of self confidence.  Leaders have to be sure of their vision, direction and ability to achieve.  It’s difficult to do this when a person continually second guesses their abilities or lacks courage or confidence to be bold.  And it’s difficult when you’ve been up all night with a sick child or worry about something away from work.

I find that my focus and self confidence wanes the most when I am facing big issues away from the work place.  These are the times when I find myself exhausted, short tempered and lacking in patience.  These are not good traits for a leader needing available for the many needs and demands of the team.

I look to a holistic solution to do my best to keep work, life and family in a constant motion of shifting balance.  Notice I didn’t just say balance.  I think that is impossible.  Instead, I’ve become comfortable with letting one area be out of balance at the expense of others for short periods.  It’s a juggling act, but in an unpredictable world, it’s the best I can do.  And I’m OK with that.

The other more important note to this concept is that, as leaders, we impact how others see themselves.  Helping others to feel their worth, feel appreciated and believe in themselves allows for growth and confidence.  Believe in yourself, believe in others.

Ode to Coffee

What’s my real secret to everything – coffee.  It is the morning magic that gets me started each day.  A warmth that gently warms my spirit to start my day.  A calming presence close at hand throughout my morning meetings.  And occasionally in a decaf form with a mixer in the evening as I wind down.

My history with coffee flows through my family.  I’m pretty sure the first kitchen task I learned as a child was how to make coffee for my Dad.  He could drink coffee from sunrise to sunset – nonstop.  It was also a part of the farm work-life cycle.  Mid-morning and mid-afternoon brought a coffee break with sweet goodies and a cup or two of coffee.

Coffee time was “sacred”.  Each day when my dad would arrive home from work he would sit at the kitchen table or the back porch and have a cup of coffee before doing any thing.  The golden rule in our house was “leave him alone” for this 15-20 minutes and life was good.

I didn’t start drinking coffee until several years into adulthood.  I started because it was “the thing to do” at my work place.  Every morning the boss would walk down the street mid-morning for a cup of coffee.  If you went along, you knew what was going on in the City.  I quickly joined in and have been addicted ever since.

I feel at peace and relaxed with a cup of coffee watching the sun come up.  It’s like an old friend as I spend time next to my dad’s bedside.  Funny, he doesn’t really care for much coffee any more, but once in a while he asks for a swig from my cup.  It makes him happy.  It makes me happy.  Coffee is a good thing.

Courageous Patience

The words “courage” and “patience” aren’t two words used together very often.  I recently ran across them while reading Leadership, a book by author Brian Tracy (2014, American Management Association).  Tracy explains that “courageous patience” is a leader’s ability to stay the course and work toward an ultimate vision even when the pace is slow and the rewards are few.

In my years at Parks & Recreation Director one of the more frustrating parts of  my job is that many of the development projects or “next big thing” fizzle before seeing the light of day.  Sometimes, as many of half of my efforts don’t lead to outcomes that either the public or many of my staff ever know about.  It’s all important stuff.  Often groundwork is laid in one project with results not realized for several years.  It’s long term vision with very few short term rewards.

I keep going because I realize that even a project that doesn’t go forward often reaps rewards in additional relationships and connections.  Pieces that fall apart often come back together in a new or better end result.  It takes patience to have a long term view.

It also takes patience to keep an analytical eye on projects and to be OK with “pulling the plug” so as not to waste staff time or organizational resources.  This is one of the toughest calls that a leader must make.  Answering the question “is this the right thing for our organization/our community” for long term sustainability, rather than short-term gain is not easy.

Courageous patience is an acquired skill necessary to stay the course as a leader.  Take a moment to wait, see, and “just be” rather than always pushing ahead.  The results will be worth it.

Fewer, Better

“Do fewer things, but do them with excellence.”  Advice given by Minneapolis business leader Harvey Mackay in his column on 1-27-14.  Mackay’s weekly columns are filled with sage advice such as this.  This one made me stop and think.  It seems contrary to my often multi-tasking, break-neck-speed life.

Yet I know that the moments I cherish most in my memories are the moments when I am fully present, enjoying and concentrating on one thing.  This happens during a marathon for me.  Running for several hours, there isn’t time or space to do much of anything else.  I am committed to the finish line and fully engulfed in getting there.

It also happens when I take time for art.  Painting at the local pottery studio or working on a quilt I can “lose” hours away from the real world.  These are the times I recharge.  These are the times when I feel I come closer to excellence.

Putting this into practice in my office is a bit more difficult.  E-mails flood my in-box, the phone rings and then my boss stops by with “do you have a minute”.  It takes concentration and determination to prioritize and do one thing, one thing to the best of my abilities, at a time.  Yet, the mark of a successful day is my feeling of satisfaction of something done well, something accomplished.

Stepping away from the frazzled, multi-tasking pull of today is difficult, but  definitely worth it.

Weeds or Flowers?

As a Parks & Recreation Director, this great debate enters my inbox and voice mail each and every summer.  Some residents notice and contact me to comment about the wonderful “flowers” in our parks while others call to lament about the many “weeds”.  Often both sides are talking about the very same plants.  I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I think it is the same with many of my daily tasks.  Some days I feel blessed to do errands such as go to the grocery store.  “Isn’t it amazing that we have all of this wonderful food, right at our finger tips!”  Other days I dread the chore.  “Grocery shopping is such a pain!”.  Notice, the task doesn’t change, only my reaction to it is different.  And the reaction comes from me – from my head – not from anything the grocery list has done to be good or bad.

We also have a choice about how much effort or resource to put toward something.  In the case of our local parks we don’t spray to kill all of the dandelions.  Yes, the are considered by many to be a weed.  But, they don’t stay long and killing them all would be cost prohibitive.  A choice has been made.  As my Park Superintendent likes to say “Dandelions may be obnoxious, but they aren’t noxious.”  Meaning, we can live with them and concentrate on removing other things.

The challenge then, is to the see the beauty and the flowers instead of a patch of weeds.  Look closely or maybe back up and squint, I think you will see the same.

Goal DONE!

Whew! and Yahoo!  Today I write this with two major personal goals off my plate as I finished a marathon in Rhode Island on Saturday.  I have now completed a marathon in all 50 states and completed 100 lifetime marathons.  I am happy!  I am relieved!  I am ready to retire from marathons “for a while” and concentrate on other goals and pursuits.

The miles have been worth it.  The travels have been spectacular.  My running friends – quite amazing!  I had no idea when I first ran just one block then almost puked in the year 2000 that I would become a running junkie.  This is a sport that has continued to give and give – just what I Juli Johnson Running Pictureneeded when I needed it.

Time alone exploring trails and parks.  Time with friends talking about every topic imaginable. And time with my two kids!  Goals, pursuits and practice with determination.  Running has brought it all together.

Big thanks to my husband, kids, family and friends for cheering me on through this pursuit.  Thanks to my favorite running travel buddies – Lisa, Nici, Christa, Jim and Kathy.  I have also been honored to run 25 of my marathons with the Mainly Marathons race group.  I couldn’t have been more lucky than to have found such a supportive race organization and group of traveling runners.  I now believe I can finish anything.

For today I will celebrate!  I will eat (a lot!).  Tomorrow I will contemplate a new goal.  A new connection.  Many new experiences await.  Happy trails!