The Democratic Party arrives in Denver today, along with 15,000 members of the media and countless corporate executives and lobbyists hoping to connect with the political elite during this historic week.
It seems to me that the key word for this event is party. I recently saw an unofficial party list that went on for more than 20 pages. I've been getting calls from the media for weeks now, asking, "So, what is your firm doing for the DNC? Any parties? Who's coming?"
Many of the major firms are hosting parties this week. Brownstein Hyatt has been planning their fete at the Denver Art Museum for more than a year. They expect more than 2,000 in attendance, including former Presidents and politicians of all sorts. Holland & Hart, Kamlet Shepherd, Patton Bogg and other firms are either throwing their own parties, or hosting events for clients.
Stars are everywhere. Getting tickets and access seems to be the buzz this week. As an e-town listener, I got the jump on their DNC taping at the DPAC, featuring James Taylor, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco and others. Many are still scrambling to get tickets to the Green Sunday at Red Rocks concert tonight, featuring Dave Matthews and Sheryl Crow. I hear there is still room to play poker at Coors Field with Ben Affleck later this week.
If you are in Denver for the convention, drop me a note and tell me about your experience. See you in Denver.
I once met a consultant who helps cities bid for the Olympic games. As part of the bid preparation, he conducted surveys of the general public to determine their attitudes and opinions about the Olympic Games and the prospect of them being hosted in their country.
He told me about a Russian truck driver who essentially said,"I love watching the Olympics on TV. It inpires me. I am too old to compete, and I don't have any sporting talent, but to see the Olympicans work so hard to meet their goals, it inspires me to be the best truck driver I can be."
While citizens' opinions vary about whether they want the games in their city, he found one common thread -people are attracted to the Olympics because it inspires them to reach for their goals, to be the best truck driver, the best fast order cook or the best lawyer they can be.
While the individual performances of the 2008 Olympic Games have been sensational and inspirational, I know that behind every Olympian is team of professionals all focused on maximizing performances at the games. For every gold medal swimmer or sprinter, there is a team of coaches, a national governing body that provides many levels of competition and training opportunities, sponsors and funders, family and friends, National Olympic Governing Bodies, and a host of other people and organizations that provide the structure and support for Olympic success. In fact, many sport governing bodies (like USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) have research and training departments that just focus on maximizing performance - finding the strategy or tactic that can give the athlete the split-second advantage that sometimes separates a medalist from fourth place.
What inspired you from the 2008 Olympics? One inspiration, for me, was Michael Phelps' comment, "Eat. Sleep. Swim." For a kid with ADHD, the focus on his goal and the discipline to practice inspired me to focus on my goals and the disciplines I need to reach them.
Who is your coach? What infrastructure have you developed or benefitted from to be a better leader? Have you considered starting a leadership development program in your firm, or sending your practice group leaders to the Center for Creative Leadership? Does your firm make available leadership coaches to their managing partners or other key leaders?
Who are you coaching? How are you sharing your experience, insight and encouragement with others?
"Practice." That's what Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge book and leadership development process said last weekend at the annual conference for LC facilitators and clients. Invoking Olympic tales and sports analogies, Kouzes said that leaders need to identify specific skills that they need to develop, create ways to improve those skills, and practice them daily to refine them.
"My son once asked his tennis coach how much he needs to practice to be competitive. He answered, "Two hours a day to keep your skills. Three to improve." Kouzes said. As it turns out, research on expertise indicates that the most important factor in developing top-level performance - whether it be in the boardroom or basketball court - is not innate talent, rather it is dedicated practice.
"Eat. Sleep. Swim." is how Michael Phelps describes his life.
So what can leaders do to practice leadership?
Taking the Leadership Practice Inventory (LPI)is a great way to start. The LPI is a 360 degree and personal leadership skill assessment that illustrates your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Kouzes challenged the prevalent idea that leaders should focus only on leveraging their strengths, "Often, it is our weaknesses as a leader that get in the way of us being effective. We need to work on both our strengths and weaknesses to be more effective leaders."
In what area do you need practice? Communication? Sharing your vision for a practice group or firm? Giving feedback? Catching someone doing something right? Delegating? Mentoring or coaching? Modelling the firm's or your values? One on one communication?