Designing an Employee-Centric Experience

I remember starting a new job when I was fresh out of college. I worked for an insurance firm. The application process was long and interviews even longer. However, by the end of the process, I felt as I had achieved something simply by being hired. Training lasted six months. Then I was released to my desk. But wait. Where is my desk?

The walk from the training area, which was a direct route into a bright open room, became a maze of hallways and crowded sections of tall cubicles. Openness was transformed into a dark, closed space. The design of each area stood in stark contrast, and left two different feelings on the employees who would spend eight hours a day in an already high stress work environment.

Companies talk about the importance of human centric design when it comes to products, but are they asking the same questions about human centric design for employees?

I look back and think about that job. Overall, the company was good. It had excellent benefits and bonus structures. I had two direct supervisors that I enjoyed, one of which transformed my thinking of leaders and the employees that work under their charge. However, the impact of the poor design of workspace and processes negatively affected my thinking. I believe this does not have to be the case, and using the design process in how personnel are hired and the creating spaces can greatly improve the mental effects felt by employees.

Here are 4 areas intentional, human-centric design can help companies and their employees:

Hiring

Hiring processes range from simplistic one form and interview hires to multi-page, levels of interviews, offers before a candidate is accepted. Throw in a probation period or lengthy onboarding process, and the steps become quite confusing.

Research shows that employees begin to make their first impressions about a company during the interview process. These impressions can last even after a job is accepted as an employee evaluates products and services of the companies or internal procedures.

While companies form products, services, and procedures around the general operation of the organization, more thought should go to the employees that are to champion these. This begins with the application and interview process to hire. Designing a well communicated, streamlined process demonstrates transparency, buy in, and a better user experience for the new candidate. It impacts the long term view of the organization.

Space

One of the biggest drawbacks in the personal story above was the space design. I spent six months in a space that created high interaction and activity with enough boundaries to keep people focused. The reality of the long term workspace was much different. It decreased collaboration and communication among teams especially between supervisor and team member. The high cubicle walls darkened the space and created a maze effect.

In companies that require high employee to employee engagement, workspaces must be designed to fit the needs of the employee as well as the company. Design of the workspace creates a positive mental and emotional feel that motivates the employee to be present going beyond the general goal of efficiency. One way to utilize design of the workspace, is involving the employees in the layout, decoration, and creation of the space itself.

Education

Employee education and growth are two major ways to keep employees engaged and retained with the company. However, many times employee development plans fail even when couched as “personal” plans. Why?

Writing for Forbes’, Joe Folkman suggests that these development plans are not driven by the employee, but another program created broadly. The problem: “the one size fits all” ends up helping few and fails at the intended purpose. Design thinking forces us to look back at the employee, and create something geared to the needs of the “user” rather than the company.

Organizational Structure

The structure of a business can play a large part in the employee’s experience. A major shift is taking place even among established companies from a hierarchical approach to a flatter organizational structure. A major reason for this is creating a more agile structure to address constantly changing patterns in tech and how is business is conducted.

Realigning an organization to improve communication and address changes at a faster rate will improve the company’s ability to be proactive and react when necessary to morphing trends. A flat organization also improves employee experience by removing layers of a process and empowering the employee to form creative solutions that receive more direct and clear feedback. The experience is enhanced, and employees feel more able to achieve creating a more motivating work environment.

To be fair, design thinking will not address all issues that human resources or a company will face. Not every employee will be satisfied in their new roles. However, adapting a more employee centric approach to running a business helps to identify a more proper fit for new hires.

5 Takeaways From Day 1 of #SparkMe

#SparkMe Day one

Spark.me day one has come to a close, and I cannot help but feel as though I left a family gathering. One of those where there is a greeting, a time to catch up and say hello to everyone. A bit of chaos because the crazy uncle just burst through the door. (Thank you, Jon Burkhart!) And then a time of storytelling and intimacy that takes you deep into the evening and leaving full.

An experience just occurred. An experience that rivals previous years as the best, and by the numbers, was the best. The room was packed from beginning to end. The energy filled the room and ebbed and flowed at times throughout the day. creating a symphony that, if all gos well, will crescendo and be brought a close in style tomorrow. But we will see…

For now, here are 5 takeaways from day one. I cannot say these were the most interesting points made or most radical, that honor goes to a recognized cyborg, but more on that later.

SparkMe Day 1. Budva, Montenegro

1. Become a person. – Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer delivered on the topic of personal branding and the art of becoming known. Over and over again, he pushed the crowd to think about what they were doing and was it viable as a business // brand, or were they pursuing a hobby. He quipped at one moment, “A passion without a plan is just a hobby.”

However, at the center of the talk, which really set the stage for others, was his point of “Become a person”. In the brand and message that we seek to create, how we operate, and the interactions we create, people should feel and know that hey are communicating with a person. A person that cares not only about the product they hope to sell, but a person that seeks a real connection with the customer.

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

2. Have good questions and use your imagination to answer them. – Jon Burkhart 

This was the second year, Jon has been a speaker at Spark.me, but when he comes it is so much more than a gig. He seems to approach everything as an opportunity to connect and begin asking questions. He does it with an overwhelming amount of energy. His self proclaimed “child-like” is like that of the uncle every kid loves. The one who will get on the floor and piss of every other adult in the room just for laughs.

And faithful to the approach, Jon encourages his audience to ask questions. Question everything, and do not stop at the first answer. Think imaginatively to find the solution. Ask the craziest questions of all regarding topics that will likely end up in the FBI knocking on your door, and create solutions. Create content from such a framework that brings an audience together in laughter, or creates a new audience that is unexpected. No matter the purpose, ask good questions to spur creativity in your work.

3. Stereotypes will be broken when influencers speak out against them. – Xenia Tchoumi

Xenia is an influencer leveraging her past as a first runner up in Miss Switzerland and education to build a campaign empire. While she spoke of her achievements and how she was able to scale her work, she highlighted the important roles that influencers have as voices for equality.

She spoke about breaking stereotypes across industries and creating equal work environments. What surprised me most, was where she leveled responsibility. For Xenia, the responsibility lies with influencers and marketers across industries that have built their platforms. When someone succeeds and creates a voice of influence, it should be used to silence the stereotypes holding others back. In this way, true communities that care for one another are created, supportive, and begin to flourish.

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

4. We should not only have empathy with our customers, but with our employees.  – Kerry O’Shea Gorgone

We are always taught about the importance of taking care of the customer, meet their needs, and go the extra mile for them. “The customer is always right,” has been the mantra for longer than I can remember.

However, what happens when the care for the customer exceeds the care for the employee? Or a work environment that focuses criticism of the employee goes beyond truly understanding the needs of the employee for growth and development. I remember working for a lady who taught me quite a bit about trusting the employee, caring for them, and seeing them grow so the business grows. Demonstrating care and understanding for our employees and teams will have a positive impact on the business as a whole.

Spark.me 2018 conference. Day 1. Budva. Hotel Mediteran. Montenegro. Fotograf Sergej Zabijako, +382 68 129392, Portfolio: www.photosergey.me Portal Crna Gora for Me: https://www.cg4.me https://www.facebook.com/Sergej.Zabijako, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sergej_zabijako_photographer YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PromoMontenegro Channel VR360: http://www.Montenegro360.video #Montenegro #Spark #SparkMe #Sparkdotme #Spark2018 #CrnaGora #photoSergejZabijako #PromoMontenegro #Черногория © photography Sergej Zabijako, © Promo-Montenegro, 2018

5. Once something finishes, take what you learned and accept this new stage in life. – Mike Massimino

One of my favorite quotes from the whole conference will be this one. Thee importance of accepting the time something ends and something new begins. The whole point of these transitions and changes is to apply what we learned previously and continue to grow. Every experience we face, even when it comes to an unexpected end, is a time to learn and explore.

In another memorable moment, Mike spoke about the value of passion, following your dreams, and perseverance. He was honest in his assessment that all we can do is try. We cannot always control the outcomes, but we can try. This may be the most important thing we ever do. Just make the attempt.

#SparkMe 2018 exceed all expectations which is getting more difficult to do. I told one of the organizers, Natasha, that to imagine such diversity in speakers, it is hard to fathom the cohesiveness which it achieved on this first day.

Looking forward to Day 2.

All photos are Sergej Zabojako, https://www.cg4.me/index.php/me/foto-galereja/event/106003431699157444447@6561106624492577377

 

 

A Marketer, An Astronaut, And A Cyborg Walk Into A Bar: Preparing for Spark.Me 2018

preparing for a conference

Tomorrow begins Spark.me, a conference dedicated to curating one of the best businesses and internet conferences in Southeast Europe. And final preparations are being done to make the most of this unique opportunity to connect with leaders from wide ranging fields. I feel like this year will be one of the more diverse set of speakers. Marketing kingpins, an astronaut, and cyborgs. CYBORGS!!!

The night before a conference brings final preparations and checks to make sure everything is in place, every chord has been packed, electronic devices have been charged, and depending on departure time and destination asking over and over, “Did I forget anything?”

With so much going on and such diversity, here’s a checklist to help prepare the night before coming to Spark.me or any other conference where you are sure to engage unique and respected individuals that offer a new dimension of understanding of the world around us.

  1. Logistics

This is the boring stuff. Checking flight information, confirmation numbers, and times are all important to making sure your conference experience does not get derailed before it starts. I traveled recently with someone who was on edge at every hiccup, however, many of the bumps in the road were discussed in the travel notes sent out prior to departure. Do a last minute check and read over the information you have.

Pro tip: If you are unfamiliar with your destination, check local Facebook groups, expat groups, and travel groups about the area. Ask ahead and figure out best modes of transportation for getting between cities and to the venue.

If you are coming for Spark.Me, feel free to find me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and ask! Or if you are visiting Montenegro for any reason. J

  1. Supplies

Make a quick check of your supplies. Nothing is worse than getting to a conference and realizing something was left behind. Especially a necessary piece of equipment. Set it all out the night before and get organized. Create a checklist and go through it. Power chords. Power supplies, Cameras. Nerf Balls to hit John Burkhart in the face?

  1. Do some homework

It should have already been done, but if not stay up late tonight and do some research on the speakers and attendees of the conference. Doing a little research will make the conference experience more beneficial in the long run. Begin interacting and connecting with speakers and attendees prior to the conference. Visit the Spark.me Facebook page to meet others before, during, and after the conference. Utilize these tools.

  1. Create a plan

Begin setting a plan for those you want to reach the most. Look over the schedule, and make notes of the speakers that you know will be interesting and fit your field the most. See if there will be any attendees that might present a good networking opportunity. Write down names and set plans to meet up. Some conferences are dedicated to making these networking opportunities happen naturally. Spark.me is one that does this well. However, it always requires a little work to reach out and set the time. Be intentional with the time that is spent at the conference. Do not let it go to the waste. Maximize your experience.

Conferences are an excellent opportunity to connect with those me may not meet in any other circumstance. You may get to speak to a marketing guru who spurs your strategy forward. Or you may talk to a cyborg that forces a change in perspective and how you experience the world around you. Making the right preparations will help open these opportunities and keep your experience on track.

Why I Want To Attend Spark.Me 2018

Spark.me 2018; matt lambert

Spark.me 2018 is quickly approaching and will hit the coast of Montenegro before we know it, May 25-27. Spark is an annual conference dedicated to bringing world class, speakers, professionals, and leaders from around the globe to Budva, Montenegro for the region’s best marketing and innovation conference. As a little insight, Mark Schaeffer and Kerry O’Shea Gorgone have already been named as speakers for this year.

2018 will be my 4th year attending the conference. Many of my friends have already harassed me for starting to plug the conference and asking them to visit Montenegro in May. They all ask, “Why?” Why Spark.Me again? So I have compiled a list of reasons of why I will go to Spark.Me 2018.

Take part in the workshops

WORKSHOPS! WORKSHOPS! WORKSHOPS!

This year will be the first Spark.Me to host a day of workshops. The day prior to the conference will be set aside to learn firsthand from a variety of industry professionals who have been dedicated to your craft. While the list has not been released yet, It seems like a no brainer that the workshops will be informative, practical, and transformative for your career. One workshop may make you even change your career.

Receive and bring value

One of the best reasons to attend a conference, especially when it is dedicated to your field of work or interest, is the value that can be received or given. Many people enjoy going to conferences because it is a good experience, however, they do not understand the immense value  that can come from interacting with top tier marketing strategists. For a startup, it could be meeting investors that provide valuable insight into the growth of your business.

Create a new community

I have met people at previous Spark conferences that seemed to spur a new community gathered around a similar interest. When ideas and innovators come together, magic happens creating new buzz and excitement around shared interests. When new communities are formed, new ideas begin to spread and take root. This has been true in my experience, and I look forward to seeing it happen again.

Increase your network

Every year, this is one of my favorite reasons to attend Spark.Me. I can always look back and remember the amount of inspiring people that I was fortunate to meet. From sharing coffee together in the mornings to cruising the Motor Bay together after the conference, my network grows every year. Follow the bloggers and their journeys connecting whenever I visit their cities. I try to keep up with the speakers who occasionally make it back to the region. Each year new connections are made. New partnerships are formed. The web of relationships grows further.

Expand your vision

Last year toward the end of his talk, I hit Jon Burkhart in the face. He did not expand his vision. But in the course of a wild presentation, he demonstrated to the audience how being “ballsy” or curious, can transform your marketing by getting outside your routine or comfort zone to grab the attention of your audience. This is how a conference should challenge the attendees. If you are not walking away rethinking your process or how to make adjustments, you have been at the wrong conference.

Spark.Me is the right one.

How To Realign Your Focus For The New Year

realign your focus; new years; goals

It is the year’s end, and we are facing the next. Ads and messaging bombard us to think about New Year’s goals and resolutions which, undoubtedly, will be abandoned by mid-February, and forgotten by April.

The challenge?

FOCUS.

Focus on goals and aspirations held deep within one’s heart and mind.

Reassess and refocus on the goals you had set, but did not achieve.

This is how the New Year should begin: with a realignment of focus for this coming year. Everyone becomes distracted, waivers off course, or completely derails from their original objectives (which can be good or bad). However, for those few things that are worthy enough of our time and effort, what is needed to see them take shape?

Here are 5 ways to realign your focus for the New Year.

Reflect honestly on the past year.

Every year is a fresh start for something new to happen or a restart to complete a journey previously started. Going into a a new year provides the perfect opportunity to reflect honestly and openly on the past year. Question yourself, and allow others to ask questions. This process of honest reflection opens the space to see if a goal went unmet because it was unrealistic or resulted from a lack of passion.

Reflection helps to know if we need to  realign our focus on the goal, or completely change possibly abandon the goal altogether. It reveals our passions and aspirations getting the new year started with proper focus.

Evaluate your purpose statement.

Simon Sinek spearheads the “Know Your Why” movement that has swept the business community. Read more from him here. The new year provides the perfect place to evaluate your purpose, your “Why” and how it is being lived out in daily life, especially work.

If and when the things we are doing do not lead to this purpose and passion, then we are forced with a decision. Do I leave this position? Do I quit this project? How can I refocus? Ultimately, how does my current profession, start-up, or project fit my purpose? Creating a purpose statement and evaluating it quarterly or annually creates focus heading into the new year.

Create goals and processes that lead to your purpose.

Goals and processes are the pathways to operating in your purpose and passions. Once getting a clear focus on what these are, set goals that will serve as clear benchmarks to show progress along the way. Goals challenge and push toward that vision and purpose statement for one’s life. Goals should be clear and concise to eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty. Here is good resource for several different perspectives and types of goals.

Pro tip: Share your goals with those you trust. It is easier to take steps with others supporting and helping to clarify your goals along the way. 

The other side of achieving your purpose statement is mapping the necessary processes. Create a strategic plan for hitting milestones. Carefully, consider not only the benchmarks, but the steps and challenges you will face. Identify new skills that need to be learned, and how you will acquire them. Once your processes have been set, stick to them for 3-4 months and evaluate. Are the processes moving you toward the goals and purpose laid out? Can they be improved?

Reassess your schedule.

Schedules are necessary. Some will cry reading this, but they are. They guide a day, week, month, or the year. A schedule sets the tone for productivity and creation. It provides structure that many of us need, even when we do not like to admit it.

They can also be a hazard to achieving goals. Poorly done schedules give the sense of busyness without considering direction. At the end of working day or week, it is easy to feel a lack off accomplishment despite the long hours. This is a result of a poor schedule.

Reassess your schedule. Make sure it guides toward your purpose and the individual goals set. Be flexible only when understanding personal processes for achieving your goals. Stick to it. Be unapologetic about it.

Reassess relationships.

The new year and a realigned focus also provides the perfect opportunity to reassess relationships. Those who surround us and serve as sounding boards for ideas, projects, and pursuits may not be the best to help achieve our passions and purpose. While it may not be necessary to completely cutoff relationships, it is good to evaluate where our time is spent. Do others help us achieve our goals or distract from them? Are they positive forces in our lives giving motivation and encouragement, or do they take energy and time?

Everyone needs to evaluate the people around them. Create circles where ideas can be challenged, informed, and progressed. Consider taking on a mentor to help you stay on track, or overcome challenges.

In a few days, we will kick off a new year. It is time for a fresh start. It is a time to adjust. It is a time to realign your focus for this year.

Let us know how we can  help. Drop us an email. Tell us about your purpose, passion, and ideas that you are working toward.

 

Coffice: Skopje Coworking Space

Walking down a busy Patizanski Obredi Blvd in downtown Skopje, I was a little lost looking for Coffice, Skopje’s only primary coworking space (that I know about). After planning a recent trip, I decided to so a quick search to see what the Skopje coworking scene was like for the city. I had found a couple more on the outside of the city and focused on business incubation and accelerating rather than coworking. After sending a quick Facebook message, I knew I needed to stop into Coffice.

11760255_489266231232985_2473052370205850927_n

Coffice is located across the street from the Ramstore Mall (on the side with the Istanbul Cafe). Go across the street toward the back of the parking lot and find a whitish awning, and you have arrived. The space owner and manager, Dani, opened in June 0f 2015 creating an energizing and interactive space for freelancers and creatives. According to Dani the majority of those working there are freelancers receiving jobs from abroad, a current trend that is growing the freelancing market across the Balkans.

Entering into Coffice on the ground level, the space is created for relaxing and taking a break. The walls are white and decorated with unique, black art and games such as the “world’s most difficult Sudoku.” A couple of couches, lockers, and some basic end tables decorate the lower the space. Upstairs is where business is done. Again, the space is simply designed and layer out. Wood top tables, chairs, and bar top are all available for working. Internet speeds of 60mbps and coffee help keep the tenants working throughout the day.

1653901_467469810079294_5862281808536905411_n-2

The one thing that really stood out is the interaction taking place. As I topped the stairs, I heard the sounds of keys being pressed along with the noises of people talking, laughing, and discussing their work. Coffice had an amazing energy for being a smaller coworking space. It resembled many larger spaces that I have visited with its vitality.

Coffice is a pioneer space for the city. Dani admits that this can be a difficult process, and she is in a wait and see what happens stage. Skopje coworking is relatively new and developing for the betterment of the local economy and freelancing industry, Hopefully, as Coffice grows and others take shape, coworking will impact Skopje as it has countless other cities across the world.

 

,

Why I want to attend Spark.me 2017

spark.me 2017 why I want to attend

Spark.me 2017 is headed this way quickly. The annual conference is already shaping up to be another stellar affair with a speaker line-up sure to deliver. Spark.me is a conference about emerging and innovative business models, disruptive tech, digital marketing strategies, and transformative initiatives. With a pristine location just outside of Budva, Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea, there are no valid reasons to skip Spark 2017. However, some still need reasons to come.

Inspiration v. Motivation

Right now, it is easy to scroll through Facebook or any other feed and find countless “motivational” speakers that try to get people amped up to go do something. Anything. While motivation may be necessary at times, I find it lacks substance that will push forward day after day when the grinding is the hardest.

The majority of what I take away from Spark.me is inspiration. Inspiration feeds on what is already beating deep down within us, and gets triggered to burst forward and outward. The stories shared at Spark.me, those sitting around you, and those who take the stage offer inspiration to make the decisions and actions that have been hiding deep within you. The substance of real examples and the information being dispersed do not push you to a pipe dream belonging to someone else. Instead, they provide practical and applicable steps to accomplish goals while overcoming real challenges.

Spark-Me-Brian-Solis

Interactions with the Speakers

While Spark.me may not be biggest conference regionally, the organizers created a venue to allow attendees to get up close to world class speakers/practitioners. They are not only speakers. These are people who are currently leading changes in their fields and expertise. And the intimacy of the venue produces the perfect environment to interact, engage, and learn. This would be my third year at Spark, and I cannot wait to see the list of speakers continue to unfold.

What I have found helpful in leading up to the conference, is reaching out to the those who are especially interesting or inspiring. I did this over the last two years and received quite a bit of openness for future projects. Spark.me is the first opportunity that I had to connect in easy and natural ways with those who graced the stage. BTW, reaching out prior to Spark also landed me some excellent coffee thanks to Jovana and Frank!

Beyond the Speakers

Spark.me is so much more than the speakers, venue, and other things that usually stand at the forefront. When you sit down in your seat, look at the people around you and introduce yourself. Go to lunch and roll up on someone to introduce yourself. Meet the media companies present, the bloggers, and whoever else. NETWORK.

Spark.me is the perfect place to network. Again, not overly crowded where networking can be intimidating, but also large enough to strengthen your network internationally. Start expanding the brand, and possibly learn new skills or meet the person that will help overcome specific challenges being faced.

These are my top 3 reasons for why i want to attend Spark.me 2017. Do not hesitate. Pick up your tickets hereWhy do you want to participate this year? And when will we meet for coffee? 🙂

Past talks and posts from Spark.me are linked below:

Chris Fabian and Innovation Solving World Problems 

How to address change

Reflections from 2015

As a bonus, here are some ways to explore Montenegro when visiting for Spark.me.

photo credits: Jennifer Buxton visit www.RealPoshMom.com to chat travel, food, fashion, and work.

,

3 Lessons of Leadership

3 lessons; leadership; Matt Lambert

While doing a bit of reflecting, I began thinking on the different areas of leadership that I have held. And how fulfilling these roles brought responsibility for the success of myself, my family, co-workers, a organization, or maybe a group of friends. In most cases, all or some of these were bound together. Here are three lessons/principles that I feel summarize not only my experience, but some of the greatest successes and failures of leaders that I have admired, or at least gleaned understanding.

Diskors Projekt - BE

BE

At the moment, I am a bit consumed with this little, yet significant word. In any case, a leader must “BE.” A leader must BE himself. A leader must BE present in the situation, organization, crisis, etc. A leader must simply “BE.”

Too many times, leaders can become sidetracked by their position or title and fail at any of the above examples or countless others. Many times, I have witnessed leaders who fail at the first because they do not know who they are. Therefore they fail at being themselves which is usually why the position of leader was acquired. The reality remains that if a leader fails at being who they have been made to be, it is only a matter of time before other stressors are evident: unrealistic expectations, taking on tasks that are not a good fit, poor vision, etc. All of which can be curbed to a great degree when a leader knows their own person, and chooses to BE that person.

BUILD

Leaders must be able to build around themselves. This means understanding personal weaknesses, and building a team that will meet those weaknesses. This also requires a leader to be secure enough to admit faults and recognize that others excel in these areas. Too many times, leaders try to cover their failures and weaknesses at the fear of being “exposed” as a fraud. A true leader will understand these faults and recognize them as strengths within others looking to build the best possible team.

Not only does a leader build a team, but they also build an environment in which the team functions. The trustworthy leader facilitates and orchestrates the environment in which the team will flourish. This is not unchecked freedom, but accountability balanced with room for errors which can bring growth. Significant growth if the right environment has been built. LEaders bear this weight. It is tough, but that is why they are leaders.

Diskors Projekt

EMPOWER

Leaders empower those around them. Plain and simple. If someone is not exercising empowerment, they are more of a manager or authoritarian rather than a leader. Leaders set people free to excel and create in ways and areas in which the leader may not be able to do. This is tied into the security of the one leading. In my experiences, those who are most insecure are the ones most controlling and authoritarian. The adverse has been true as well. Those who I have found to be most inspiring as leaders were the ones empowering me to be who I was made to be, and even helping me get there.

A leader who encourages their team member(s) to grow can be empowering. The leader who says, “Yes. Now let me help you get there,” is truly empowering and moving not only the individual forward, but the team is moving forward. It is not enough to “inspire” people to do what we want them to do. This can easily become manipulation. But leaders must inspire and empower people to become what they are passionate about and driven toward.

A leader who can be, build, and empower is a leader worth following. He is also a leader who is usually willing to follow when it is necessary.

What lessons or principles on leadership could you share?

Boat Milica: A family story of resilience on Skadar Lake

Boat Milica; Skadar Lake; Matt Lambert

On a cooler than normal day last spring with a bit of overcast and wind, my family along with a visiting friend decided to do something that we had not done in the two years of living in Montenegro, take a boat tour around Skadar Lake National Park. After asking our friends from Undiscovered Montenegro, Ben and Emma, they recommended Boat Milica. Within a few hours, we were off for our 3 hour tour around the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.

Skadar

We arrived in Virpazar about 30 minutes outside of Podgorica to begin the tour around the lake which included seeing the local wildlife and monasteries. It is easy to tell from the pictures that the tour itself was amazing. The vibrant greens signaling the newness of the season created the perfect backdrops for the old, stone monasteries being restored. As we went around, our guide, Ksenija, was exceptional at pointing out the intricacies of the lake, its history, and wildlife. After a quick dip in the lake by our friend, we returned from our tour with a new appreciation for Montenegro’s wild beauty which happens to be only a short drive from us.

While the tour was memorable and the service provided is highly recommended, it is the story of the Boat Milica which really draws me in, and causes an even greater appreciation for their business. The family Dabanovic is from Virpazar knowing the lake intimately. During the economic downturn around 2011, the Jelena guided her family to do something different to survive. They started Boat Milica.

captain Skadar Lake

As a family, they divided responsibilities and took to creating their business building it slowly. The daughters learned new languages to specifically help with foreign tourists, they built their wooden boat in the shop of an old master in Podgorica, and Andrija began guiding tours. Andrija grew up on the lake and is familiar with al the ins and outs. The stories, legends, history, and diversity all get proper treatment during the tour. And Jelena became the only woman in Virpazar to own and operate a boat tour showing off Skadar Lake

The family worked together and have been successful together. Even in the face of some struggles, they have proven resilient and creative to help one another and their town by attracting tourists to this natural resource hidden in the interior of Montenegro.

The Dabanovic story is one of resilience in the face of difficulty. It is exemplary of what it takes to be resourceful and succeed. The family found support among themselves continually encouraging each other to do better and achieve their goals.