Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Leadership Lunch: A Pet Rock That’s Not Gathering Moss

My name is Ted Adams, and I’m just a little guy in the grand scheme of things. My job title says I’m an assistant supervisor to a 10-person crew. But, where I think it matters, I’m a friend, I’m a mentor, and I’m a leader. I started a little project called Leadership Lunch last year, and over the last 12 months people began to take notice. I still don’t know why, but I’m tickled with the all attention my pet rock has been given.

It all began when I had a winter to research communications, leadership, and science delivery for the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Fire, Fuels, and Smoke Science Program. At the end of it, I had a pile of resources and nobody to share it with. I had conversations here and there about what I’d learned; and I sent a handful of papers, articles, and other references to close friends and peers in the hopes that they might pick them up and find value in them. Over the course of the 2016 fire season, I had amazing conversations with at least 20 people that also liked to ‘nerd out’ over leadership. It was a group of people who were curious, hungry for more resources, and open to new ideas. Here I thought I was the only person who liked to spend time thinking about leadership, not just practicing it. And yet, in one season I met dozens of people, just in passing, who were passionate about growing theirs in any way possible. That, to me, was pretty cool.

After my year of conversations around leadership I had essentially created a pre-loaded e-mail that included three wonderful leadership papers and two great YouTube videos. In retrospect, it was really my ‘primer’ for Leadership Lunch. It included: “Managing the Meaning of Leadership as ‘Communicating Intent’ in Wildland Firefighting” by Jennifer Zeigler and Michael DeGrosky, “Management Strategies for Complex Adaptive Systems: Sensemaking, Learning, and Improvisation” by Reuben McDaniel Jr., “The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster” by Karl Weick, the YouTube Video “Radical Candor: The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss” presented by Kim Scott, and the YouTube video “Greatness” presented by Inno-versity and narrated by David Marquet. All of them incredibly powerful references for fireline leaders.

Later in the winter, I was having lunch in Missoula, at my desk, like everyone else. I was waiting for an e-mail that probably required an immediate response or reading a paper for my next project while trying not to get spaghetti on my pants when I finally said to myself, “I’m taking a ****** lunch break!” I could take 20 minutes for myself to think about something entirely unrelated to the work I was doing. I, of course, stayed at my desk because the weather was miserable; but I turned my attention to Ted Talks. A veritable treasure trove of cool talks from people that are smarter than me. Even better, I didn’t have to go anywhere to learn from these brilliant people! So, at that point, I began making an effort to change what I was looking at if I was ever chained to my desk for a lunch break.

After one week, I found an amazing leadership video. After two weeks, a half dozen. After three weeks…you get the idea. I found myself in a spot where I had all these cool videos that I was assuming everyone else had seen; but the minute I kicked the link to a friend, I was thanked for sharing. Again, I found myself with a backlog of cool leadership ideas but I wasn’t sharing them. This time though, I already had a list of people I knew who cared about this stuff; so I had nobody to blame but myself for not sharing. So, I decided to do something about it and Leadership Lunch was born.

After a week of watching cool, insightful stuff on YouTube or Ted Talks, I picked the best video from the week. The following Monday, I would write a message to everyone on my list. I wanted the message and the link to come from me, from someone they knew, so that they might see it as a real message, instead of just another list-serv. After just two weeks of doing that, the people on my list told their friends, and I was getting requests to be added. After two months, the list had grown to all kinds of people I didn’t know, but they all expressed an interest in what I was doing. Others saw value in my ramblings. I thought that was pretty cool too.

It’s now 2018 and Leadership Lunch has survived through the awesomeness, grace, and willingness of friends to share their leadership perspectives and musings. All told, more than 60 leadership lunch e-mails have been sent from 5 different authors. There are almost 70 people on the list from seasonal employees to the Washington Office, from private businessmen to military lieutenants, and people living all over the United States. The really cool thing about this is that everyone on that list either knows me directly or knows someone who knows me. Someone had to tell them about what I was doing. I guess you could say, it’s a snapshot of my sphere of influence. I guarantee that your sphere of influence is bigger than you think too.

What’s been really impactful for me in this exercise is learning just how many people I can touch. I’m not talking about exponential message sharing (I tell seven people, they tell seven people, they…on and on). What I’m talking about is people that are two conversations away from me. I talk to you then you talk to them. Word of mouth and actual conversations are so much more meaningful than a chain letter or a re-post…that’s not to say those don’t make an impact, but what I am saying is that using personal connections to share important messages carries with it a certain, really important weight.

So, for anyone who has followed this message long enough to get here, this is my challenge to you. Create your own sharing circle. If you’re really passionate about leadership, find a way to share thoughts and ideas with people that are in your sphere of influence. You can absolutely steal my format. I’ve included a few examples and a search for the term ‘Leadership’ returns more than 28 MILLION videos. Do it with people you know and respect. Share with people that matter to you. If you really, really, really want to join into my leadership lunch you can reach out to contact me and I will add you to the ongoing list…but you had better be a leadership nerd, and you’d better be interested to hear new perspectives!

Remember, everyone is a leader in their own way! I did this for fun and it somehow became this thing that people actually seem to enjoy and believe in. You too can do something just as easy, just as fun, and maybe you’ll find out just how many people you and your friends can touch!

Have fun rolling your leadership rocks!

Examples of Leadership Lunches

Good Thursday, everyone!

Sorry for the delay on getting this week’s e-mail out, but I’ve been busy taking care of myself and enjoying some quality time off…playing dinosaurs with my nephew requires all of my attention! BUT! Before I disappear to Lake Tahoe for some time with friends, I found a minute to send everyone the newest Simon Sinek video!

For anyone who follows Simon Sinek as much as I do, a lot of the messages in this talk will sound familiar…it is an amalgamation of several messages that he’s shared before that are still just as poignant and awesome as the first time I heard them. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Simon Sinek and his work, BOY HOWDY! You’re in for a treat!

In this talk Sinek takes a good piece of time to discuss leading millennials and applying empathy to what you do, even in actions as mundane as driving in traffic. His message of leading with empathy and vulnerability resonates throughout this talk and through all of his other materials. He closes the talk with a discussion of game theory and playing the right game in your field. Playing to ‘win’ doesn’t apply to long term success, nor should it apply to how we lead…

I hope everyone enjoys this week’s video and has a wonderful finish to 2017. See you all in the New Year!

Simon Sinek: You Don’t Even Know the Game You Are In

Ted Adams

Hello all,

I hope everybody enjoyed last week's podcast. Feel free to pass along any feedback you have!

This week, we'll be listening to a TED Radio Hour episode. If you haven't tuned in before, Guy Raz stitches together different TED talks about a common topic and interviews speakers on the specifics of their lectures. This is one of my favorite TRH episodes and one that I find applicable in multiple settings. It covers individual leadership style, consequences of your actions, confidence in your abilities, and breaking the status quo through creative solutions.

Some of my favorite points from these talks:
  • "Sometimes curve balls don't curve, and you just have to move on."
  • "Leaders can let you fail and yet not be a failure."
  • "All change comes out of conflict."
  • "Don't look for solutions outside, but look for solutions within (the system)."
  • "...more and more, we don't have to wait to be picked (when it comes to leading a group)."
  • "Charisma doesn't cause you to become a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic."

Kate Williams

Goooood Mooornninnng!

I hope this last Monday in August is treating you all well! Before moving on to September, I wanted to hit on our arena of land management. From my experience as a firefighter and a researcher I have had the opportunity to be in the presence of some incredible human beings that inspire, touch and make the people around them better. If I was to hazard a guess I think most people in this email can relate to someone that has had this effect on them.

Through some of my work with colleagues I have tried to understand how we can develop people in the agencies’ capabilities to touch, inspire, and make those around them better. There are many different qualities, characteristics and processes that we have heard, seen and studied that can enhance and develop this kind of leadership; but there is one skill that we have found that seems to be at the base of much, if not all of it. That skill is being present in the moment or engaging in the process of being mindful with the self, others and the environment. There is a lot out there on mindfulness these days and what I want to offer today is one way from a clip from a renowned psychologist at Harvard University – Ellen Langer – who presents a way of seeing mindfulness that is unique and challenges us in how we see things daily that she has been able to tie directly to effective leadership in organizations.

 Happy Monday,


Ted Adams works for the Council Ranger District. All expressions are that of the author.

Are you doing something with leadership development that can help the field? Share your story with us! Contact us at BLM_FA_Leadership_Feedback@blm.gov.

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