Author: Todd Miller

Todd Miller, creator of Confluent Leadership, lives in Oregon with his wife and two daughters. Growing up on a family ranch, Todd learned the business ropes from an early age, while living the outdoors with all it has to offer. Now, as a school superintendent, his passion turns to leadership, influence and achievement. Even while wearing a tie and slacks, much of his inspiration comes from outdoor pursuits and nature. This pairing of passions resulted in Confluent Leadership. Enjoy! Todd’s experiences include: School District Superintendent Online Charter School Executive Director Ford Institute Leadership Program Presenter School Principal Business Owner and Operator Oregon Downtown Development Association Energy/Synergy Award recipient Outdoor Enthusiast Fly fisherman Hunter Landscaping Weekend Warrior Woodworker, Builder, Creator Family Man

Listen to the Service of Leadership

I will listen to a leader, when that leader has listened to the needs of others.

If leadership is influence, I want a leader who has been influenced by ethics and excellence.

I want a leader who is worth being led by, as I aspire to be a leader who inspires others to lead.

Leadership is a two-way street. Listen to leaders, listen to the service of leadership.

‘LEADERSHIP’ from a New Perspective

Inspiration and insight can come from anyone, if we are willing to listen for it. Generally, we look to the old, the wise, the wealthy and the famous for words of wisdom, yet our perspective grows when we listen to everyone. Now, not everyone’s ideas are worth acting upon, but they are all worthy of being heard.

I could read more about leadership from the long list of esteemed leaders, or I could learn more about it from an unlikely source. I have heard about leadership from John Maxwell, Abraham Lincoln, Seth Godin, Earnest Shackleton and other greats, but I had never asked my nine year old daughter, until recently.  I had no idea what kind of response I would get, or even if she would respond at all, but what she said was spot on. Her definition of ‘leadership’ was,

“I don’t think of it as telling people what to do, I think of it as helping people and solving problems.”

This response was complete, simple and easy to understand. It not only defined the essential qualities of leadership, but it also corrected the common misunderstanding of leadership versus management. This off-the-cuff definition from a nine year old worked for me and became worthy of sharing.

By allowing my ears to hear a new perspective, I am better off. I can now add her name to my list of influential leaders and thinkers. Inspiration and insight can come from anyone, if we are willing to listen for it.

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Leaders must be learners

From Error to Opportunity

Mistakes happen. Errors happen. Miscalculations happen.

When a mistake is made, there are four questions you need to ask:

  1. Has there been enough training to prevent this?
  2. Was it intentionally done wrong or malicious?
  3. Did it happen from carelessness or laziness?
  4. Has a lesson been learned and corrected?

It is easy to place blame, point fingers or drop your head when a mistake made. Those responses are sure to turn one mistake into two mistakes. If you want to right the mistake or error, find the cause and correct it.

We aren’t perfect, but we should always be looking to improve and learn. Effective leadership can take a mistake and turn it into an opportunity for growth and improvement.

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If we knew mistakes would never be made, we wouldn’t need life boats or rings. 

 

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Lost in the Moment

With eyes locked ahead on the destination, the goal, the future, it’s important to remember where your feet are planted at the moment.

Growth, anticipation and desire keep us focused on our goals and dreams, yet what allows us to enjoy the moment?

The moment is our place in the world. It is who we are. It is the sum of our previous moments and memories. It fills our heart with love, our ears with wisdom, and our body with the nourishment to make it to the destination. To enjoy the journey, one must keep hope that the destination is worth the effort, yet also seek appreciation and learn from what is around you at the moment.

Beware of tunnel vision. Keep shifting your vision from your current placement to your destination. Enjoy the moment and keep progressing in the direction of your dreams. Lock your eyes and mind on what’s important: the goal and the moment.

Deschutes Camp

Photo from our campsite along the Deschutes River on a rafting journey. The journey and the moment were both amazing. 

 

My Team, My Responsibility

The synergy of a team can be the difference in good versus great… or terrible. There are two types of teams that we can be part of, and although they are different, our actions as a member of that team are the same.

The first type of team is the one that you put together yourself. This is your opportunity to pick who is on the team and determine the roles of the members. This structure is empowering. It is your team, your responsibility.

The second type of team is the one that you are placed on. You are handed this team and maybe handed your role. Although this is not your hand-picked team, it is your team. You are still responsible for its success. Your actions as a team member remain the same. You have the choice to look around and feel hopeless at the lack of control and selection of the team OR you could be a leader and make this team the best they can be. It is still your team, your responsibility.

When you can build a team, select the best. When you are given a team, make them their best.

Dog Sled ride

Dog sled team

“Teamwork requires some sacrifice up front; people who work as a team have to put the collective needs of the group ahead of their individual interests.” -Patrick Lencioni

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Rafting team shooting through Deschutes River rapids

Many More Hills To Climb

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Three Sisters, volcanic peaks of Oregon (from atop the South Sister)

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” –Nelson Mandela

This famous quote by Nelson Mandela can evoke an image of work that is never done. To some, it signifies a daunting vision of what lies ahead, yet, to the contrary, how fortunate we are to have endless challenges ahead to overcome. Challenges give us goals, value, meaning, they push us, they engage our hearts, our muscles and our minds, and they bring collaboration toward common goals. Mr. Mandela’s words, instead, portray endless possibilities ahead.

The quest to reach the top drives us. It motivates us. It helps us aspire to greatness. If we only had one peak to climb, our existence would cease once we reached our summit. The pinnacle would be our end. To reach the summit is a glorious feeling, but does it mean that we are done? I sure hope not! The view from the summit is to be enjoyed and to give view to the other challenges on the horizon. Reaching a pinnacle should be motivation to begin the next challenge, the next summit.

Fortunately, there is more than one hill to climb. Make your pinnacle not be your last, but be your motivation to conquer the next! The next hill awaits.

Let The River Flow

Deschutes River

The river always flows. It will rise and drop, but it always flows.

If we seek control, we could attempt to contain the current. The fight would be immense, and most likely, futile. Aside from the adverse effects this would have on the surroundings, trying to control things that are out of our control leads to frustration and failure. Authority forces either submission or struggle.

Or we could use the flow of water to our advantage. Accepting that we do not control the current is the first step to seeing its benefit. It can propel us down the river to new places, and the flowing river moves fresh water, gives life, and creates so much for so many. We could attempt to control it, or we could work with it. Adaptation may be the answer.

We are much more likely to succeed by controlling our own actions, as opposed to the world around us. By successfully leading our own actions, we can influence in a manner that supports change. We can always work to influence that which can be influenced, but controlling external factors is a waste of time and energy.  Control your actions, and adapt to the river.

 

 

Darkness Holds Opportunity

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There is security in being able to see what lies ahead. When presented with the unknown, fear and skepticism can override our ability to move forward. Darkness does not remove the opportunity ahead, it only hides it from view. Venturing into the unknown takes faith, confidence and an acceptance of moving out of your comfort zone.

When many others will not venture into the darkness, it can become your opportunity. Fear is overcome when we confront it, and when we do, we are better for it. Embrace the darkness as an opportunity, for all it hides and holds.

More Than Just Thankful

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As we end a year and bring in 2017, reflection and goal setting is natural. We have much around us to be thankful for, yet we don’t alway remember to give thanks for the people, ideas, gifts and experiences that improve our lives. The simple thing to do, and important thing, is to say ‘thank you’, yet how can we become a person who others want to thank?

For those who we owe thanks, do something for them that is worthy of thanks in return. When a simple ‘thank you’ isn’t enough, the next level is to seek symbiosis. Just as the tree gets its nourishment and life from soil, it gives back to the soil each autumn by shedding it’s leaves and replenishing the nutrients within. Both benefit and freely give, giving true thanks and appreciation of the other. How can you nourish and replenish others around you?

Relationships work best when they go both ways. It’s something we could all work to improve upon, and when we do, we all benefit.

Symbiosis: interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

 

Escape Into Reality

S Sister over Lava Lake

The modern world is full of tasks, distraction and noise, which clutters the mind. This clutter leaves no time or mental space for clarity, deep thought or peaceful thought. The common approach to this is to find an escape FROM reality. Escapes like television, intoxicants, internet and dreaming can remove the noise and chaos of the world around us, but it does not cure the issue. Some of these escapes only give temporary relief, as we enter into a false world of fantasy.

Instead of using false worlds or escapes to relieve the stress and noise of daily life, escape INTO reality by going outdoors and into nature. The same stress relieving properties will happen, yet now, you’re entering the natural world that we operate and live in. The benefits of this include a mental and physical rejuvenation, a greater understanding and appreciation of the world around us and an inspiration to thrive. Even Business Insider highlighted the benefits of outdoor exploration, and the benefit to business and leadership.

When the stresses of daily life are such that you need an escape, make it a priority to escape INTO reality, and into nature. You will find peacefulness and clarity while enjoying the outdoors, which will also have added benefits for your life and work. We all need an escape, make it a healthy one. Escape INTO reality, escape into the outdoors.