A good leader is a good follower

thomas-paine-writer-quote-lead-follow-or-get-out-of-theYou’ve probably seen this famous quote somewhere along the way.

It seems, in most group dynamics, we each fall into one of these three categories. Either we lead, follow, or … we’re one of “them.” Suffice it to say: anyone behind the leader is presumed to be a follower.

Alpha-Beta Pug

We used to have a cute little black Pug. Before Pugs were cool, people thought – especially when we took this little porker on hikes – we had a pot-bellied pig. Can’t say I blamed them.

Anyway, we took her hiking and camping a lot. Funny thing is, being “Alpha dog” (my translation: only dog), she saw herself as behind my hubby (her alpha) and in front of me (her slave and gamma, at best).

So there we would be, in the middle of some trail somewhere, and I would be fighting for my spot behind my long-legged, fast-walking husband…with an animal the size of a wind-up doll power-playing me right out of 2nd place.

It ticked. Me. Off.

Until my husband and I had the discussion and discovered the relationship between his pooch and his wife. We concluded that, whether animal or human, we are either the one in charge, or we aren’t. There’s really no in-between. In this case, I was definitely not the leader. I wasn’t even the one behind the leader.

And that was OK. We all fill our “roles,” right?

It depends. Some followers may blissfully happy following and making their best contributions in that way. But a good leader also needs to know how to be a good follower. (The above is not one of those examples, by the way.) In my experience, the best leaders know how and when to follow.

It’s a big part of letting other people find their own leadership ability.

Lighten the leadership load.

I saw another interesting quote the other day on leadership. It went something like this: “When the leadership load is lightened, great things really start to happen.”

It didn’t quite click then.

In this context, though, it makes sense. The more leaders are OK following now and then, the more great stuff happens. The more they delegate, the more leaders they produce. In today’s world, that’s the sign of a great future.

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Confessions of a sun worshipper

I admit it. I love the sun.

In the last few weeks, I have realized how much sunlight means to my sanity. I’m not just talking about for tanning purposes. Been there, done that; had a real bad sunburn in places sunburns shouldn’t go.

I’m just saying I appreciate the sun more than ever.

Image of fog settling over Rocky Mountains

How Colorado has looked for nearly one month – until today. Photo by Amber Van Schooneveld

No, really.

Colorado has seen more rain in the month of May 2015 than in any other May in history. That is unacceptable, folks.

But wait – it’s reality. Note to self: Suck it up. That’s what big kids do, right?

Meanwhile, back at Rancho Poor Mexican Gone …

I haven’t been able to crank out any content. I have blog ideas outlined or drafted – but every last one of them has been stuck behind the Publish button – or worse, stuck in my mind. Nothing could unclog them.

Anyway, some things have actually happened in the world of Poor Mexican Gone over the last few weeks:

  • My AncestryDNA test results came back – way earlier than I expected. Is that just “delighting the customer” or did I not have enough data in my tree? A new post on that soon. Interesting stuff.
  • More of Braulio’s peripheral family members and their records have shown up in my research, offering more validation (maybe 70%?) that he is in our bloodline.
  • Some great new fabrics came in to help me with my new quilting/sewing addiction (which requires much more time than anyone can imagine).
  • More freelance work has come my way – yay!
  • I’ve been playing more tennis, AND I got me some new kicks for the 2015 season.

So all that to say – it’s been an oddly overwhelming month, mostly in a good way.

But this weather!

And the angels sang

And the angels sang

Ask any Coloradan: If we don’t get our 300+ days of sunshine per year, we’re a collective, hot mess.

As you might have guessed, the sun finally came out today. We’re thrilled and hopeful, with all fingers and toes crossed.

And now maybe, just maybe, the sun will finally unclog the blog.

And we thought blogging was risky business

meerkat on yellow backgroundAs if life with social media weren’t real-time enough. I never thought I’d be curious enough to jump into video, let alone real-time video.

For the moment, I’m not. Not personally, anyway. Heck, I hardly take selfies, much less video of any kind. But I am fascinated by emerging technologies and their potential uses.

I’m sure the response to live video tweeting tools is something like it was back when blogs and social media were winding up, especially in corporate environments:

  • Too risky: Who’s gonna control outgoing content?
  • Too raw: Great. Now we need another editor.
  • Too transparent: The execs will never let us do it.

And yet, just like social media, opportunities abound. If your marketing or communication needs call for the immediacy of video, it’s official: the tools are here.

The space is definitely evolving, but between Vine (edited), Meerkat and Periscope (both real-time), a few practical ideas that come to mind are:

  • Conferences, concerts, sporting events: Real-time action & “reporting” (I cringe to use the term, but hey, these tools make citizen reporters of us all, with or without contextual info)
  • Farmers (or any) markets: Stream what’s at market – today only
  • Flash sales: Discounts on new or limited inventory; viewer-only discounts
  • Restaurants/Food Trucks/Food Service/Cooking Classes: Watch it being made; drive instant traffic
  • Disaster response & fundraising: Show what it’s like “on the ground” (depends on availability of communications services, which can be a tall order in a crisis)
  • Oh and of course – law enforcement. Can’t forget that.

The possibilities are really endless and don’t necessarily have to be invasive or high-risk, although for those of us unaccustomed to putting our entire lives out there, this can feel pretty voyeuristic.

Some folks will “go there” and it will be interesting to see how responsible users will be. But I’m more excited to see how this space matures and the good things it has the potential to do. My mind’s wheels are definitely turning.

Coming out: The Maverick Leader

Embed from Getty Images

Not that anyone needs another assessment. But if you know me, you know I am quite fond of them.

I’ve taken a bunch of assessments over the years, but the ones that stick with me are Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder, which show how you respond to or interact with the world.

But one that, until last year was unknown to me, the Fascination Report, tells how others perceive and respond to you — how you uniquely fascinate them. I got my report while job-hunting, a season that challenged my sense of self, in hopes of getting a good idea of how I come across to others.

The results of my report: I’m a Maverick Leader. (Kind of feels like I should go out panning for gold and stake my land claim.)

In most ways, it nailed me. Unconventional thinker, pioneering, irreverent, entrepreneurial. While I ideate in non-linear ways, I then use a linear approach to implement my ideas.

By the way, it’s not lost on me that assessments – heck, comparison with others – is an all-out American sport, one that can doom us to not ever become what we were designed to be, if we’re not careful.

And granted, assessments like Myers Briggs, StrengthsFinder and others are not always spot on. Worse, they can be used as weapons in the workplace. On the upside, however, they are helpful in identifying our strengths and weaknesses – enough to inform where and how we do our best work, what arrangements make us happiest, etc. That’s what I look for, anyway.

Does it run in the genes?
So I was reading up again on my family, namely my dad’s father, the career grocer and occasional bootlegger.

One aunt tells me he had a little bit of a wild streak in him, shutting down his and my grandmother’s businesses so they could move north to work in the fields.

Picking up and moving like that was typically a necessity for most Mexican families in the U.S. during 1930s and 1940s, not an option. But he needed to get out and see other places,and this was his way to wander — with the entire family, 13 kids in tow.

I’ve always wondered where I get my nonconformist gene. Maybe I’m onto something by looking at my family’s history. Maybe I’ve found it.

When in doubt, switch sides

That’s my new motto for doing family history research. If I don’t succeed on one side, I’ll just hop over to my other parent’s line and see what’s up.

For now, I’m still stuck on my paternal great-grandfather Braulio, not knowing which family he really came from. Researching different possible mothers until the dots connect somewhere.

So while Braulio is on “spring break,” I’ve decided to switch gears to my mom’s musician grandfather, Froilán, who supposedly was shot while playing in a night club.

Shot – or not?
On looking more closely – well, at first blush anyway – it appears he may have survived that gunshot. He shows up in the 1920 Census a state away, in New Mexico – married, but with no spouse or family (both of which he actually had – in Texas).

Did he get run out of town? Was he on the lam for some reason?

If he did survive, he fared better than his marriage did, because that didn’t survive at all.

1920 census screen capture - Froilan Garcia family

1920 Census showing my great-grandfather, Froilan (28), my great-grandmother, Reyes (25) and my grandfather, Jesus (Jesse – 7 years old). After this record, this family seems to fall apart fast.

Lend me some sugar — I am your neighbor!
So, what happened to his wife (my great-grandmother)? Turns out in 1912 she remarried someone who, according to the 1910 Census, had lived just a few doors down.

And the neighbor, Jose Maria Salinas  - who also becomes my great-grandma's husband in 1912.

And the neighbor, Jose Maria Salinas (the “brother in this record) – who eventually married my great-grandma in 1912. He’s single and 30. Whattya think – spells trouble? By the way, no record so far of a shooting. Waaah, waah, waaah…

Sounds like a love triangle to me, if the lore is also true that my great-grandmother married either the shooter or his relative.

All I know is that, my grandpa was orphaned very young because, just six years later, his mother Reyes died from typhoid fever.

Funny, I have so much documentation for this side of my family, I thought their recent history was pretty cut-and-dry. But what happened to my grandfather’s natural father is a fairly big mystery at the moment.

Note to self: Don’t expect closure from following an alternate trail just because you couldn’t get closure from another. Much like an unfinished quilt, these loose ends could paint an incomplete picture for some time to come.

Sigh.

Process is never the goal

Process is a means to an end, the Yellow Brick Road on the journey to Oz.

Photo by Melissa Bent

I’ve been mistaken for a process person before — more times than I care to count.

And it’s true – I’m good at process. I can be pretty religious about it, actually. My mantra is simple: If your work requires recurring activity, for goodness’ sake, save yourself some gray hairs and make a process for it. It clears the way for creativity and innovation by providing margin to discover without the pressure of producing.

I’ve had to become good at process because for so much of my career, I’ve been faced with widget-making at scale. Translation: Lots of repetition. And, if there’s one thing I hate to waste time on, it’s repetition. There’s a reason for the saying, Work smarter, not harder.

So I put in the time upfront to smooth out a process and get that repetitive stuff out of the way – all to free me (and others) up to do the more strategic stuff – the fun stuff.

The way I look at it, process is the foundation for building something strong and enduring. It’s a means to an end, the Yellow Brick Road on the journey to Oz.

The road, however, shouldn’t be confused with the journey. The road is what we must travel to get from point A to point B. The journey – for all its struggle, getting lost and finding our way again – lies in how we face what we encounter along the way and, ultimately, the end result.

Housekeeping ain’t for wimps

Have you ever gotten so excited to finally clear out the cobwebs, clutter, old emails or the like, only to find out it ain’t all that easy?

empty-boxI suppose this is true of lots of things we want to swiftly clean out of our lives.

Today, I’m in a perpetual arm-wrestle with Gmail and Apple mail as I try to clear out a massively overcrowded inbox (OK, two inboxes). I’ve  hit my limit and want to see it all cleared out.

But it’s just not that simple.

Call it an “ID10T” error or blind ambition, but I’m determined to win this – or, at least act like I won it. That inbox won’t be quite at zero, but it’ll be much, much closer. For me, that’s a “W.”