Happy Friday!

Posted on June 29th, 2012 in Uncategorized by John Jensen

Happy Friday Leaders,

I want to leave you all with a quote before the weekend begins.  Take some time to think about it, but I think it speaks a lot about the need for us as leaders to be proactive.

 

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Enjoy your weekend!

John Jensen

Flamingos

Posted on June 27th, 2012 in Perspectives on Leadership by John Jensen

Hello Leaders,

Today I am going to share with you a story from another blog here at UW-Whitewater.  Oddly enough, this story is about flamingos.  I think that this story speaks a lot about leadership, even for humans.

Here is an excerpt from the story, please click the link to read the rest!!!

“An ecologist studying flamingos on Kenya ’s Lake Nakuru has noticed an interesting phenomenon. Every year, when the time comes for migration, a few flamingos start the process by taking off from the lake. Since none of the others take any notice, they soon turn round and come back.

The next day they try again. This time a few others straggle along with them but, again, the vast majority just carry on with business as usual, so the pioneers return to the lake. This trend continues for a few days. Each time a few more birds join in but, since the thousands of others still take no notice, the migration plan is aborted.

Finally, one day, the same few birds take off again. This time however, the tiny increment to their number – maybe just one extra flamingo – is enough to tip the balance. The whole flock takes flight. The migration begins.”

Read the rest by clicking here!!!

Until Next Time,

John Jensen

“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”  -Jim Henson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qualities of a Leader

Posted on June 26th, 2012 in Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Leaders,

There are several characteristics that are important in order to be an effective leader. There are the obvious ones such as having good & effective communication skills (both verbal and written) and ability to work collaboratively. One that I would also add to the list is fueling your work with your passions.

Being able to communicate your ideas and thoughts to others is crucial to being able to effectively motivate others. These skills are also directly connected to landing a good job. Many employers say that the most sought out characteristic/skill is the ability to work in a team. If you are unable to work with other people, it is safe to say that it’s impossible for you to provide and leadership to the group’s efforts. Additionally, the ability to work with people that are different than you, individually or on a team, is part of successful team and life work. It is a crucial skill to being successful and being an exceptional leader as well.

Let’s visit your ability to communicate – Often we concentrate on our verbal skills, and they are important. However another characteristic that is important is being a good writer. Your ability to write connects and helps create a respect between you and “followers” as well as other leaders. If you are unable to communicate in a competent fashion through writing, your followers will not take you as seriously. So those English classes you took are very practical in these situations. Being able to spell correctly, using correct grammar, and having an effective vocabulary can be extremely helpful when it comes to communicating with other leaders and followers – especially when communicating not only your passion but your connection to others.

In my opinion, there is one characteristic that is more important to being a leader than any other. You must be passionate. It goes back to the quote I shared with you from David McCullough Jr.’s commencement speech, “I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.” If you are not passionate about whatever it is that you do, you are significantly at a disadvantage as you try to lead others. A leader must truly believe in whatever it is that they are doing, that’s why they take the risk of leading. A leader’s job is to motivate others to believe in their cause as much as they do. I challenge you to find a leader that was not passionate about whatever it was they were doing. Martin Luther King Jr. was passionate about the cause of equality. Steve Jobs was passionate about making technology more advanced and assessable. Susan B. Anthony was passionate about women’s suffrage. Our Founding Fathers were passionate about the cause of independence.

As a Political Science major, I like to look at political figures to analyze this. Barack Obama’s Presidential race in 2008 was so successful because he was passionate about “change” and his followers connected with that passion. Ron Paul’s popularity among his followers has been so successful because of how passionate he is about the cause of “liberty”.

Believing in your cause is so important to being a leader, that passion alone can drive the other characteristics on its own. Find what you love, do what you love, and believe in its importance no matter how bleak things may seem sometimes. People will follow when you communicate your passion AND when they see it.

Until next time,

John Jensen

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” -Nelson Mandela 

“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”

Posted on June 22nd, 2012 in Perspectives on Leadership by John Jensen

Leaders,

My apologies for not having a blog post yesterday, it was quite the busy day in Career & Leadership Development.  But alas, I am here for today’s post!!

I found this picture the other day and wanted to share it with all of you:

When we think of a “servant leader” I can think of a few people from history.  George Washington comes to mind, Gandhi is definitely another, but Martin Luther King Jr. (much like Gandhi) is the epitome of what it means to be a servant leader.  For anyone who is reading this blog for the first time, a servant leader is someone who always has other people’s wellbeing at heart when they do something.  Gandhi led the Indian people through a peaceful revolution against Great Britain to gain independence.  Gandhi didn’t do this because he wanted to become a historical figure, he did it because he saw his people suffering and he knew he needed to do something about it.

Martin Luther King Jr. also saw his people suffering from the unjust laws of segregation, and Dr. King knew it needed to change.  His ability to empower others and articulate a dream and fulfill their ambitions is what made him a leader.

Dr. King followed Gandhi’s philosophy of civil disobedience and non-violence.  He was arrested 16 times during his lifetime, all for standing up against the laws of segregation.  Once he was even arrested for trying to order a sandwich.

The quote that goes with the picture above, Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Is so important to the idea of being a leader.  Obviously, being a leader doesn’t have to involve revolution or social movements, but it certainly requires one to stand up for what they believe in.  Dr. King gave his life for standing up for what he believed in.  We as leaders must be willing to address problems when we see one and be willing to be the ones who try to change it, big or small.   It is so easy to sit back and complain about an issue, but it takes a true leader to stand up and do something about it.

 

Author’s Note: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. is a fantastic read for anyone wanting to know more about Dr. King.  I strongly recommend that everybody take a look at it.

 

Until next time,

John Jensen

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Importance of Involvement

Posted on June 20th, 2012 in Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Leaders,

One of the most common misconceptions about college is that it is all about getting a 4.0.  Students are told that employers are going to be looking at their GPA and students with a 4.0 have a higher advantage over a student with a 3.0.  The part that those individuals leave out is that they assume the student with the 4.0 and the 3.0 were equally involved.

Employers look at a couple of things when reviewing a potential employee.  Employers will look at past work experience, they will look at how well you did in school, but they will also look very closely at the things that you were involved in while attending college. Those involvements are your demonstration of things you know. The organizations that you were involved in and the leadership roles you took on in those organizations can outweigh what our GPA was in college.  Now, in no way am I saying that it is not important to keep your grades up.  What I am saying is, learning to balance getting good grades and being involved is much more important than just focusing on your GPA.  A student who maintained a 3.2 GPA and was involved with organizations and held leadership positions will likely get a stronger look than the student who received a 4.0 and did nothing outside of class.

Being involved in student organizations teaches interpersonal communication skills, leadership skills, managerial skills, and builds experience.  Employers are looking for individuals who know how to work in a team, and being involved in a student organization will help show that you have that imperative skill.  My challenge to you is to find at least one student organization that you want to be involved in.  Get involved with it, take on a leadership position, and perfect your resume to help give yourself an advantage.  Prioritize your work in the classroom, but get involved and apply what you’ve learned.

Until Next Time,

John Jensen

Body Language

Posted on June 19th, 2012 in Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Leaders,

I’m sure that most of you have at least heard of the concept of body language.  Body language is the true language of our subconscious mind.  We use our body to communicate feelings, sometimes more than we use words to do so.  Our body language often gets the better of us and communicates things that we would often prefer didn’t get shared.  Most successful individuals are masters of body language.  These leaders learn to manipulate their body to convey a certain message rather than the one they may actually be feeling.  Many politicians hire body language trainers to teach them how to look more competent and more put together.

Understanding our body language is imperative to building strong relationships and building leadership skills.  I am not going to attempt to give you a crash course in body language, as I am still learning many of the tricks to using effective body language!  But I will share with you a documentary that I found on YouTube several days ago that I found to be extremely helpful.  I understand it is a relatively long video, but I strongly encourage that you give it a watch!  There are tips for how to look more competent, how to use your voice more effectively, and how to make other people feel like you are a true leader.

 

Here is the video:

 

 

 

If there is ever a topic you would like me to write on please feel free to post a comment on one of the posts!

 

Until Next Time,

John Jensen

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Being Mr. G”

Posted on June 18th, 2012 in Perspectives on Leadership by John Jensen

I came across a video a while ago from a Toastmasters competition.  For those of you who don’t know what Toastmasters is, it is an organization of public speakers that hold competitions in public speaking.  The video is of a speech by J.A. Gamache from 2007.  In this speech Gamache tells a story that I would like to share with you.

 

It is a bright sunny day and you are taking a train.  You are wearing a pair of sandals you proudly made yourself.  As you board the train, one of your homemade sandals falls off to the track.  You try to retrieve it, too late; the train starts to pull away.  What would you have done?  I would have cursed my bad luck “Man, losing a sandal.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, I once read a biography of a man I like to call “Mr. G” who once lived the same situation.  When Mr. G realized he could not get his sandal back, he quickly pulled off his other sandal and tossed it by the tracks.  When asked why he did that Mr. G replied, “the poor man who finds my first sandal will be very grateful to find the second one. 

This story, in my opinion, really embodies the idea of servant leadership.  When you live as a servant leader and when you embrace the behaviors of a servant leader you will begin to see these unfortunate situations as an opportunity to serve your fellow human beings.  “Mr. G” in this story takes his own misfortune and turns it into an opportunity to better the life of someone else.

At this point you are probably asking yourself, “Who is this Mr. G?”  I’m sure you have heard of him.  His name was Mahatma Gandhi.  Gandhi was an amazing individual who was capable of carrying out a revolution of love and peace.  Gandhi was also one of the greatest servant leaders that has ever lived (in my opinion.)  Gandhi had no desire to become rich or famous, in fact he gave up his profession as a lawyer in order to live a life of poverty and to lead his revolution of love.  Gandhi was dedicated to helping the people of India gain their independence from Great Britain.  Gandhi once said, If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”   This quote has often been translated to the famous bumper sticker “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  While Gandhi never actually said this, it is the basic meaning of the Gandhi quote above.  It is also the philosophy that we as servant leaders need to embrace to make the world a better place.  So next time misfortune crosses your path, try to be a Mr. G and turn it into an opportunity to improve humanity.

 

Here is a video of the “Being Mr. G” Speech:


 

Until Next Time,

John Jensen

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. –Martin Luther King Jr.

Laughter is the best medicine

Posted on June 15th, 2012 in Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Leaders,

One of the things that can really hold someone back is stress. However, it isn’t the stress that holds us back. It is our ability to manage our stress that defines how we will react when we have stress. Too often individuals will let their stress get the better of them and will completely shut down. There are others that can take stress and turn it into positive energy.

This blog post isn’t going to try and give you ways to manager your stress; every person has his or her own way of doing that. This post will give you one of the most important tools necessary to managing stress. This isn’t a tool that will only work for some people; this is a biological tool that can help you manage the stress in your life, as well as assist with your immune system, and basically all parts of your body.

The idea for this blog post came from a Snapple bottle cap fact. The cap told me that the average 6-year-old child laughs 300 times a day. When we think about it that is a lot of laughing! The Snapple cap also told me that the average adult only laughs 15 to 100 times a day. Obviously our sense of humor changes, as we get older. A 6-year-old probably thinks that unfunny things are actually funny. I still don’t understand the enormous gap between 6 and adulthood though. Do our lives become that serious as we enter adulthood that we (potentially) decrease our laughter by such huge margins? I believe that we simply don’t understand the importance of laughing.

When we laugh so much more than just ridiculous noises happen. When we laugh we begin pumping lymph fluid around our body. The convulsion that we experience when we laugh pumps these fluids through our body and helps dispose of waste products from our organs and tissues. Our lymph system is not like our cardiovascular system where the heart pumps blood through our body. It also isn’t like our respiratory system where our lungs pump oxygen into our body and pump Carbon Dioxide out. Our lymph system requires us to move around in order to move lymph fluids around our body.

Laughter also increases the amount of oxygen we take into our body for a short time. Oxygen is a much more powerful element than we commonly think. Most bacteria and parasites die in the presence of oxygen. Even cancer cells are destroyed when exposed to oxygen. The hyperventilating like motions that we experience while laughing are responsible for this quick intake of extra oxygen.

Besides these physical benefits, laughing is also a great way to work out. When you laugh you increase blood circulation, especially to your abdomens. So that 6-pack you are working on? You should add in about 10 minutes of hard laughter and your work out routine should be pretty well rounded. Working out and physical activities release endorphins into your body. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever.
Laughing also releases a lot of chemicals into your brain, including serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that helps relieve stress in your brain and body. So all that stress you are feeling about work, school, relationships, and whatever else you may be stressed out about can be easily resolved (or at the very least reduced) by sitting down and watching a funny movie, a comedian, sharing funny stories from your past, or pretty much anything that makes you laugh. Your body will thank you for the time you spent laughing.

Ever since reading that Snapple fact, I have made it a priority to spend 1 hour every night finding things to laugh at. Most of the time this can easily be done on YouTube or Netflix. My challenge for you is to sit down for one hour every night and just laugh.

Until Next Time,
John Jensen

“Fortune and humor govern the world.” -Francois De La Rochefoucauld

Commencement Speeches

Posted on June 14th, 2012 in Perspectives on Leadership by John Jensen

Leaders,

 

Last week I found a news article about a commencement speaker at a high school that told the students “You are not special”.  After reading what David McCullough Jr. told the students at Wellesley High School in his “You are not special” speech, I decided to begin reading and listening to more and more commencement speeches.  The reason I decided to do this is not because I have a lot of free time, and it certainly isn’t because I like graduation robes…  I decided to do this because in these speeches you can watch successful people share their wisdom with a future generation of leaders.  In these speeches I have found some quotes that, I believe, speak incredible truths that we as leaders need to embrace.  Not only should we embrace these thoughts and philosophies, we must share them with the next generation of leaders.  So far the four speeches that I have enjoyed the most are by David McCullough Jr., Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O’Brien, and Whitewater’s very own Robert Gruber.  I would like to share with you some of my favorite parts of each speech.

 

David McCullough Jr.

Commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

            All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

            You are not special.  You are not exceptional.

 

McCullough is not telling these students they are low lives or that they don’t have their accomplishments.  What he is saying is that because everyone is special, no one is.  McCullough goes on to explain that in our society accolades have become more important than genuine achievement.  He says we “compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.”  Genuine achievement is what we need to strive for, not a participation trophy.

 

My favorite quote from this particular speech is

I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.

 

Don’t do something unless you truly love doing it.  Doing something you do not believe in 100% leads to bad results.

 

Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.

 

The next speech is Ellen DeGeneres’ speech at Tulane University.  Ellen’s speech incorporates a lot more humor than the others so I encourage you to go watch it on YouTube.  But I will share my favorite quote from her speech.

 

For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity, and not to give into peer pressure. to try to be something that you’re not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person. to contribute in some way. So to conclude my conclusion: follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, and by all means you should follow that. Don’t give advice, it will come back and bite you in the ass. Don’t take anyone’s advice. So my advice to you is to be true to yourself and everything will be fine.

 

Conan O’Brien’s speech, while just as humorous as Ellen’s, has some more sincere moments.  Conan does spend the first about 10 minutes of the speech goofing around with the 2011 graduates of Dartmouth University.  Towards the end Conan speaks about his disappointment after losing his show on NBC and the transformation he went through before starting on FOX.

But a little over a year ago, I experienced a profound and very public disappointment.  I did not get what I wanted, and I left a system that had nurtured and help define me for the better part of seventeen years.  I went from being in the center of the grid to not only off the grid, but underneath the coffee table that the grid sits on, lost in the shag carpeting that is underneath the coffee table supporting the grid.  It was the making of a career disaster, and a terrible analogy.

 

Way back in the 1940’s there was a very funny man named Jack Benny.  He was a giant star and easily one of the greatest comedians of his generation.  And a much younger man named Johnny Carson wanted very much to be Jack Benny.  In some ways he was, but in many ways he wasn’t.  He emulated Jack Benny, but his own quirks and mannerisms, along with a changing medium, pulled him in a different direction.  And yet his failure to completely become his hero made him the funniest person of his generation.  David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson, and was not, and as a result my generation of comedians wanted to be David Letterman.   And none of us are — my peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand different ways.  But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.  It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.

 

I have told you many things today, most of it foolish but some of it true.  I’d like to end my address by breaking a taboo and quoting myself from 17 months ago.  At the end of my final program with NBC, just before signing off, I said “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen. “ Today, receiving this honor and speaking to the Dartmouth Class of 2011 from behind a tree-trunk, I have never believed that more.

Thank you very much, and congratulations.

 

The quotes from Conan’s speech above, I believe, speak greatly to how important it is that we commit ourselves to keep dreaming, but to always allowing our dreams to change.  We should all have goals, and like Conan said about Johnny Carson “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.  It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

 

Last but not least, Robert Gruber’s Commencement Address to the UW-Whitewater Class of 2012.  Robert is a professor of accounting here at UW-Whitewater.  Robert was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer that doesn’t respond to chemotherapy or radiation in February 2011.  He gave a very inspiring speech.

 

“Don’t ever feel sorry for yourself. You’re the only person who spends 60 seconds every minute, 60 minutes every hour, you’re with yourself all the time and there is no one else in the world will do that. It doesn’t do any good to feel sorry for yourself. Love and cherish your support team to the fullest…”

 

Robert explained the philosophy of Walt Disney called “plus-ing”.  The philosophy of giving your customers more than they paid for.  He believed in getting the work done but never sacrificing quality.

 

I hope you never settle for good enough.  I hope you always remain true to yourselves when the circumstances around you are anything but normal.  And I hope that you plus everything you do.  If you do these things I suspect you will be happy and successful for a very long time.

 

I have found these speeches to offer a lot of great perspectives on life and leadership and I encourage you to watch every one of them in their entirety.

 

Here are the videos:

David McCullough Jr. h

Ellen DeGeneres 

Conan O’Brien 

Robert Gruber 

 

Wednesday’s Post

Posted on June 13th, 2012 in Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Hello Leaders!

I’m sorry that I was unable to pump out a blog post for today!  I was attending the Alumni Leadership Day for the UW-Whitewater Foundation.  But I did want to share with you a quote that I really enjoy.  It is from a commencement speech by David McCullough Jr.

I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.”

My experience today at the Alumni Leadership Day event really proved the importance of this quote.  I will have an actual blog post tomorrow!

Until next time,

John Jensen

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” -Nelson Mandela

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