Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Lending Hand in Shifting Sand

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an elite FBI National Academy Re-trainer Program--a group of 100 or more executive law enforcement professionals from state, local, county, tribal, military, federal, and international law enforcement agencies gathered to hone their leadership skills. Participation in the prestigious academy is by invitation only. As a consultant and business developer, I received the opportunity to represent Insight Management Consulting, the organization and leadership development firm I work for.

It was a place filled with some true American heroes – men and women who risk their lives every day to protect “We the people”.   Bashed by President Obama and his minions, criticized by governors and local leaders, and attacked by members of the mainstream media, I wondered what motivated these high caliber professionals to do what they do every day.  Despite all the negative publicity, I discovered they are leaders who look out for the best interest of others, lend a hand, and walk the talk. Honorable individuals, they genuinely care about people, want to make a difference, and personify leadership.  One man in particular, Paul, with a thick southern drawl became my personal hero.

On a damp and dark night, I was invited to join them at a bon fire on the beach. The sky cast an eerie glare over the churning water as I nonchalantly trekked across the deep dunes and onto the gritty expanse. I approached a large pit about 6 feet round and 3 feet deep that reminded me of the cavernous holes my sons dug in the sand on hot summer days in bygone years. Nestled in the cavity, were brightly blazing reddish orange logs giving off intense heat and radiantly lighting up the ominous night. It was ideal for warming the body and soul on a cool spring evening by the galloping sea. While the waves crashed the shore a short distance away, I stood with some of the nation’s finest men and women, roasting marshmallows and listening to stories of drama and adventure. There were searches in scary places and high-speed chases. One burly guy, with the coarse tongue of a sailor, told about piracy on the high sea. Real people. Real stories. Real heroes.

The night grew blacker so I headed back to the hotel.  The glowing beams from the fire were behind me and the twinkling lights from the hotel towers were barely visible beyond the behemoth mountains of sand ahead of me. A fierce windstorm the day before had whipped millions of molecules of course granular crystals onto the walking path making it like a slippery playground slide that even a rambunctious young boy would have had difficulty climbing.

Wearing my rugged J41 water shoes (made by Jeep for adventure and typically ideal for the beach), I began ascending the steep slope of shifting sediment.  Unable to get traction beneath my feet, I kept slipping sideways like a car on a snow covered street, and I crashed into the powdery heap of drifted sand hoping my rear bumper wasn’t damaged.

Laying on my back with my bumper in the sand, laughing out loud at my predicament, I had no sooner spread out my arms like a seagull in flight to make an angel in the sand when a booming voice came from the darkness behind me.


Before I knew it a strong hand was enveloping mine, lifting me to my feet, and guiding me to solid ground.

“Mammmmm, that drift was as steep as Mt. Everest,” he jokingly said. “Why, even a Mountain Goat would have slid down it sideways!”

“Well, I sure feel like an old goat,” I teased, wondering if he could see my hot red face.

“I always wondered why policemen carry billy sticks.” I continued. “Now I know. You use them to dig out silly old goats who get stuck in the sand,” I wittingly replied.

It was better for me to spin my awkward situation with humor than shrink back, in humiliation and tears. Brushing off the sand, along with my shame, I walked back to the hotel sharing some hilarious moments with my personal hero. Unfortunately, I failed to get his name and wasn’t certain I’d recognize him in the light of day.

The next evening, a 27-year veteran law enforcement officer from Horry County, SC was called to the lectern to entertain the audience after dinner. I could hardly believe my eyes! The man who pulled me out of the shifting sand and transformed my humiliation with humor was standing smack dab in front of me spewing one wise crack after another with his deep southern drawl.

I had no idea my personal hero was a speaker, presenter, trainer, and entertainer. I didn’t realize that THE CHIEF DEPUTY of the Horry County Sherriff’s Office who has been a lifelong public servant and crisis negotiator rescued me.

Not only that but my personal hero, openly proclaimed his Christian faith in front of an audience of one hundred or more executive police officers while calling them to find their passion, live on purpose, and be proud of their profession.

“It’s not the uniform that makes me a police officer,” he said. “It’s not what’s on the outside that makes you who you are. It’s what’s on the inside. We’re being encouraged to shine up on the outside,” he remarked, “but we are failing at shining up the inside.”

He challenged them, and reminded me, to recognize the difference between image and character, to reach down and make a difference, and to be better husbands and fathers (well, I can’t be a better husband and father, but I can be a better wife and mother). As though he was speaking my heart, he said, “Life is short. Spend it with those you love, doing the things you love.”

Lastly, he quipped, “Use your experiences to provide comfort in darkness,” the very thing he did for me the night before. Paul Butler was my personal hero not only because he pulled this old goat out of the sand, but also because he personified leadership by looking out for my best interests, lent a hand, and walked the talk.

Every day we encounter people who are slipping in the shifting sand …
Shifting jobs
Shifting co-workers
Shifting management
Shifting responsibilities
Shifting processes
Shifting projects
Shifting products
Shifting technology
Shifting organizational structures
Shifting budgets
Shifting locations
Shifting routines
Shifting finances
Shifting health
Shifting relationships

Sometimes it’s easy to walk through the shifting sands. Other times it requires a true leader who looks out for the best interests of others, lends a hand, and walks the talk. How will you personify leadership by helping someone who’s slipping sideways in shifting sand?

At Insight Management Consulting we teach individuals how to Personify Leadership in a FUN and highly interactive two-day program that provides comprehensive development for both new and seasoned leaders.

We would love to learn more about your organization’s goals and see if we might be able to help you Personify Leadership through the shifting sand of organizational change. For a FREE consultation, please contact me.

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