Leaders: Here’s Why Multi-Tasking is a Bad Idea

The idea of multi-tasking is a widely popular idea. People brag about how much cool stuff they can do all at the same time. The advent of smartphones, tablets, and smart watches make us all feel like multi-tasking Ninjas.

Multi-tasking does not work

The truth is, it is all a smoke screen. Very rarely do any of us truly multitask. You might move from one thing to another at lightning speed, nano-second stuff, but it is never really simultaneous. It just feels that way.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller notes that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” This constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. [Published Jul 15, 2015]

Here’s the Rub

To be able to string a series of activities together to do what we all thought of as multitasking, we load up on menial tasks like opening email or tweets. Then we squeeze some work on the big project in the middle. Or maybe you have a deadline for an important delivery of an assignment, so you try to chip away at that while doing other things.

Either way, none of us are ever really multitasking. The surveys and studies tell us how fooled we were. The human brain only multi-tasks for the key things that help us live (like breathing and keeping our hearts pumping). All the rest is a linear thread of thought and neuron firing inside our heads i.e. you can’t really multitask.

Any effort to try is more about creating performance numbing confusion. Yes, you think you got a bunch of things checked off your to-do list, but in fact, most of what you did had marginal results at best. Example: did you really absorb the message in the email or did you miss a few points causing the sender to have to re-state or clarify your misunderstanding?

I can’t tell you how many times I get feedback from people who clearly never read the original message. Their stated understanding was all wrong. Why? Because they gave the email the brief cursory review, never properly absorbing it before moving on to something else.

Heck, you may be doing that right now with this article. Odds are high that is exactly what you are doing.

Focus

Multi-tasking is the opposite of focus. You cannot be fully engaged on a matter when you are already taking in something about another message or task. It’s impossible to do. Why? Because you have not allowed yourself to focus. Therefore, content and substance whizzes by. If a few keywords get recognized, you subconsciously allow them to trigger a standard response.

The response that becomes your reaction is wrong more often than not. The confusion is avoided with a little more focus.

Don’t Work Below Your Pay Grade

I see far too many owners, executives, and managers taking on tasks that are far below their pay grade. What does that mean? It means doing work that another person should be doing.

Once there was a coaching client who could not delegate very well. Anything they tried giving to a member of the team was taken back and re-worked by the manager before being finalized. If the manager was making $85,000 and the team member was at $40,000, then the manager taking away the task and doing it himself was performing way below his pay grade, by almost half.

This scenario raises two questions.

  1. Is the manager overpaid? If not, they sure acted like it.
  2. Is the worker really not capable of completing the task? If yes, then you need coaching, mentoring, or re-training.

Entrepreneurs frequently try to cut corners by doing things all themselves. Yes, it might save some dollars, but, as Ben Franklin famously quipped “Are you being penny wise and pound foolish?” You might be saving a buck at the expense of having someone else do something, but what opportunity did you miss by not being available at that moment to handle a bigger, more significant matter?

I was guilty of this myself. At one point in my old company, I used to rush to the mail drop each day. The mail carrier came on a regular basis around 1:00. I’d be waiting because the mail meant we were getting checks from our customers. As the founder/owner, I felt the pressure of being sure there was enough cash in the bank every day. Opening the mail made cash happen.

The irony here is that if I let someone else open the mail, I could be originating more business and hence, more checks coming in. My shortsighted view of things though had me anxiously waiting for the mail. Ridiculous for sure! This choice was way below my perceived pay grade.

Outsourcing

A very successful entrepreneur I know has a mantra that has served him well for decades. He learned the value of outsourcing before it was popular. To him, outsourcing is merely allocating paid hours the right way. Again, it’s about the value and proper allocation.

In my friend’s case, he runs a large regional real estate business. His agents can be worth $400 an hour if they are producing lease agreements. But if they spend too much time at a keyboard posting sales funnel details, they are worth more like an admin at $25 an hour. Which would you rather be $400 an hour or $25 an hour? Yes, it can be that extreme.

Take a Look

Think about the things you decide to take on each day. There are 86,400 seconds in the day. That is one universal truth we all share, regardless of station in life. The way you spend those 86,400 seconds makes all the difference in the world for determining your success.

Focus on the big things you need to knock out each day. Do those first. Give them your full attention, no multi-tasking. You can add back the smaller tasks, later. Yet be sure you choose wisely whether to offload menial tasks below your pay grade.

Question: What are you doing right now that might be below your pay-grade? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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The Entrepreneur’s Need for Nimbleness

Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Often there is a false assumption that a good product or service idea will be a guaranteed success. The “If you build it they will come” mindset is a great cliché for a movie but seldom plays out as a winner in real business.

Nimbleness

No, success and long-term sustainability require a whole host of ever-changing variables. The truly successful entrepreneur figures out how to navigate these choppy waters, making changes as frequently as they might be required. Plus, when the demand is for them to change, they will accept the proverbial writing on the wall and go with the change.

Nimbly and gracefully making the right changes is what differentiates the highly successful business owner/founder from the rest of the wannabes (as in I want-to-be successful). Wanting and doing are wildly different positions to be in.

Key Management Factors

Several factors, which change in importance as the business grows and develops, are prominent in determining ultimate success or failure.

A study done by the good folks at Harvard Business Review identified eight such factors in a research project(1). Four factors relate to the enterprise and four to the owner. The four that relate to the company are as follows:

1. Financial resources, including cash and borrowing power.

2. Personnel resources, relating to numbers, depth, and quality of people, particularly at the management and staff levels.

3. Systems resources, in terms of the degree of sophistication of both information and planning and control systems.

4. Business resources, including customer relations, market share, supplier relations, manufacturing and distribution processes, technology and reputation, all of which give the company a position in its industry and market.

The four factors that relate to the owner are:

1. Owner’s goals for himself or herself and for the business.

2. Owner’s operational abilities in doing important jobs such as marketing, inventing, producing, and managing distribution.

3. Owner’s managerial ability and willingness to delegate responsibility and to manage the activities of others.

4. Owner’s strategic abilities for looking beyond the present and matching the strengths and weaknesses of the company with his or her goals.

Small businesses are built on the owner’s talents: the ability to sell, produce, invent, or whatever. This factor, in the early stages, is of the highest importance. The owner’s ability to delegate, however, is on the bottom of the scale since there are few if any employees to delegate to.

As the company grows, other people enter sales, production, or engineering and they first support, and then even supplant, the owner’s skills—thus reducing the importance of the owner’s personal skill set. At the same time, the owner must spend less time doing and more time managing or even leading the enterprise.

He or she must increase the amount of work done by other people, which means delegating. The inability of many founders to let go of doing and to begin managing and delegating explains the demise of many businesses during the latter stages.

As a business moves from one stage to another, the importance of the factors changes. We might view the factors as alternating among three levels of importance:

  • First, key variables that are absolutely essential for success and must receive high priority;
  • Second, factors that are clearly necessary for the enterprise’s success and must receive some attention; and
  • Third, factors of little immediate concern to top management.

If we categorize each of the eight factors listed previously, based on its importance at each stage of the company’s development, we get a clear picture of changing management demands.

Entrepreneurship

The changing role of all of these factors clearly illustrates the need for owner flexibility. An overwhelming preoccupation with certain factors is quite important at some stages and less important at others. “Doing” versus “delegating” also requires a flexible management mindset.

Holding onto old strategies and old ways will not serve a company that is entering the growth stages. Failure to find the nimbleness to make these changes can even be fatal.

If you run your own business but are feeling the pressure to make some changes, perhaps you need a Master Coach to come alongside and guide you through the thought process. That is what I do. I’ve been doing it with successful entrepreneurs for decades. I’ve seen businesses of many types. You are not alone. Leave a comment or write an email

(1) To read the whole study, visit https://hbr.org/1983/05/the-five-stages-of-small-business-growth Please note that the study’s findings were written in 1983. Some may argue the findings and recommendations are therefore irrelevant just because of their age.

However, ask any businessman who has made one of these mistakes along the way. They will affirm the need to be this kind of nimble in order to make the best possible changes for the true good of the business. The principles are timeless.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Do Your Problems Seem Bigger Than Actual Size?

Do you sometimes make things bigger than they really are? When you face a challenge, can you see it in proper perspective? Or do you have a tendency to make things bigger than they really are?

The great social activist Chicken Little was quoted as saying “The sky is falling” when he had merely been struck in the head by a falling acorn.

Big Problems

Blowing things out of proportion can be a problem if you are the one in charge. Yes, that would be a challenge if you do it on a regular basis. Leaders must keep things in proper perspective.

One of my clients introduced me to a new term “catastrophizing”. This means making a situation far greater than it really is. The way we entered this discussion was talking about limiting thoughts. I had asked the client to give me some examples of limiting thoughts they suffer. While a few of the answers were the usual, this one surprised me.

Catastrophizing

As an executive, you are confronted with problems almost daily. Things happen; often not as planned. You have to field questions, hear the news, and make decisions.

What if everything you were given was turned into something far more tragic? What if something someone on your team failed to do was declared a disaster when it is really just a setback or a simple honest mistake?

Think about the energy both emotional and physical you would spend dealing with such catastrophes.

Through my client’s own vulnerability, I was able to add a great word to my coaching. If you act like Chicken Little you will get yourself worked into a panic. You will be running around in a frenzy, stirring up others to join your panic party. Doing this is catastrophizing. Even if you leave others out of it, your own waste of energy and emotional effort can cause conflict and confuse the situation.

Why do people do this?

I don’t practice psychology, so I cannot even venture a technical argument as to why some are prone to act this way. However, I can share an observation from years of leadership experience on the job.

People who catastrophize often do so for several reasons.

  1. A Sense of Dread –  They are convinced life has been mean to them. The proverbial cup is half empty all the time. Therefore, any new event that arises must be bad. They are blinded to any possibility of a favorable outcome.

  2. Lack of Trust –  People who lose trust in mankind look at problems as people problems, all the time. Their way of thinking says the other person is the reason these things are bad.

  3. No Hope –  Theirs is a world of doom and gloom. They are convinced things are hopeless. In their minds, blue skies are really just a funny shade of gray.

Sadly, I have run into these kinds of co-workers and professionals most of my career. Thank goodness they are not everywhere, nor are they in leadership very often. But when they are, look out.

The biggest problem I see with catastrophizing is the waste of energy and resources. Whether the energy is emotional or physical, the expenditure of energy trying to avoid the catastrophe is great.

The Solution

One of the wisest words I ever heard was the phrase “The problem is not the problem.” Think about that. Whenever you are confronted with what seems like a problem, check first see if what you are being told is a problem is really the problem. Here’s an example.

Missed deadlines are usually a problem anywhere. Unless that deadline is a life or death situation, most missed deadlines are bad, but not the end of the world. Having a missed deadline, though it seems big and real, may not be the problem at all. Rather, the real problem may be with the process, procedure, or people. Are the deadlines even reasonable considering the mix of the above elements? Or has someone failed at their task?

Being able to properly discern the root cause of an issue is preferable to simply catastrophizing and running around like Chicken Little.

The sky is not falling. It’s just an acorn.

Question: How do you prevent yourself from catastrophizing your circumstance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Start Your Own Blog Today

There are plenty of reasons seasoned professionals should write their own blog. I’ve been blogging since 2009 when I founded Jobs Ministry Southwest. Back then, it was a great way to share information with the people using our career transition services.

That modest effort got me excited about the power of blogging. From its humble start, my blog has grown into the site you see now with over 110,000 followers and growing.

Blog Writing

Now, as my coaching and consulting businesses have grown, I use the blog to share articles on key topics for managers and business leaders, sharing thoughts about leadership and entrepreneurship (my two favorite topics). Blogging helps cast a wider net, spreading your message across the globe.

I am going to share some of the quick and easy steps I use to build the blog.

  1. Domain names – Get yourself a custom domain name. Most registrations may cost you $12 a year (or close to that). Reasonably cheap for the significance of pointing to a brand name you build.
  2. SiteGround Hosting services – Unless you have a brother-in-law with insane computer networking skills, subscribe to a hosting service. I’ve tried several, but have landed on SiteGround. I love their responsiveness (the site loads quickly despite a lot of overhead/functionality going on). I’ve also found their support to be world class good. To check them out click this link.
    Web Hosting
  3. WordPress – I’ve become a huge fan of the WordPress framework. The themes and templates give you so many options. Some custom themes you buy, but many are free. The free ones can give you a great looking site to get you started. WordPress was created for blogging and has grown into a whole discipline of its own.
  4. Plugins – These are add-on tools you can add to your WordPress suite of code. With plugins, you can add awesome features like social media sharing, guest list management, shopping carts, etc. There are three critical plugins I have chosen to use.
    • Jetpack – a collection of tools that maximize the operation of WordPress, keep statistics, and hacker protection
    • Yoast SEO – helps optimize the valuable search engine optimization aspects of your site and all its content
    • Vaultpress – file backup; you never want to lose your blog
  5. RSS Feeds – Build an RSS feed to allow your content to get distributed to other social media channels automatically as each post gets released. I use Google’s Feedburner.com tools for this task. Opening an account is free. You can customize the tool to grab your posts and push them to channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram all automatically and spontaneously with each post.
  6. LeadPages.net – I use LeadPages to help me promote and manage product offerings, events, seminars, webinars, and my other client attraction efforts. Build your own landing pages with LeadPages. As an example, my promo for Big 5 Performance Management is done with LeadPages.
  7. MailChimp – Email management tools. Using an effective email management service is vital. I’ve tried several and have landed on MailChimp. I like the ease of use and the straightforward tools they offer. I know there are other services that are equally effective, but after several disappointments (and higher costs) I landed with MailChimp.
  8. Fiverr – Occasionally you need some freelance skill sets to augment what you are doing. Fiverr.com is tremendous for this. Fiverr is a collection of freelancers from all around the world. They call their projects “gigs”. As the name might imply, you can get help for as little as $5 per “gig”. I’ve used Fiverr resources for things like graphic design (videos, book covers, and logos) or getting a press release written. I’ve also used them for social media promotions to reach a broader audience for book releases or other promotions I am doing. Yes, occasionally I get a less than acceptable outcome, but I only invested a few dollars versus hundreds through other sources or contractors. It’s a winner for simple outsourcing.

About Content

There are numerous opinions about content creation; write it yourself, borrow others, merely re-post, etc. I’ve taken the basic approach that is at the core of blogging, “my message, my voice”. Yes, I study many different sources and try to compile credible resources to cobble my articles together. Anything I use gets proper attribution for its source.

The content I write is intended solely for your use. If I can’t help you, a busy professional, do more right where you are, then I’ve missed the mark. If you decide to start a blog, you need to decide what your purpose and message will be about.

There are also great debates about when to publish and how often. The golden rule I learned early on is simply “be consistent”.

To that end, I choose to write at least 2x per week. By using the great scheduling features of WordPress I can accumulate a volume of articles and stage them for automatic release on whatever schedule I choose. By using this queueing method, I never have to worry about publication deadlines and getting writer’s block over the deadline pressure. Typically, I have content scheduled at least three weeks ahead, sometimes more.

I’ve juggled the release days of the week, experimenting with response rates and open rates. There are other blog writers I know who limit publication to once a week. If it works, great! Just be consistent. Allow your following to become reliant on your consistency.

Disclosure: By clicking some of the links above, I may receive a small affiliate commission from the service provider. Rest assured I would not promote anything I don’t use myself. But even if I didn’t get any commissions, I really like these tools, and I think you will too.

If you want to let me help you with organizing your online presence, send an email to my assistant Karla 

Don’t Waste Time Setting New Year’s Goals

As the calendar turns to a new year, there’s always a lot of hype about resolutions, planning, and goal setting. I promise this is NOT your average article about goal setting.

Depending on where your past year ended, you may or may not be ready to do a goal-setting exercise. I see a couple of options for where you might be standing right now.

  • Things have been going well, you need to do more of the same
  • You feel stuck or disappointed with prior results, so you want to make a change
  • You’re not sure about which direction to go

Two out of three of these conditions are not good. I’m convinced this is why goal setting seldom works. If you are already living in scenarios two or three, you aren’t ready to plot out new and different directions.

You Need a Change

Ask a room full of people to close their eyes and point North. When everyone opens their eyes, fingers are pointing all over the place. (Try this some time; it’s a great icebreaker).

The message is that “north” while being geographically available for specific identification and location using the right equipment, can conjure various meanings depending on one’s perception.

During life-changing moments our perception of our own true north can be equally confusing. For people who find themselves in career transition, I coach and teach the concept of resetting your true north. Perhaps re-set is not the perfect term, but what I mean is that you should get back in touch with that center of your being. Revisit the core values, goals, and beliefs you once held dear. Allow time to rekindle a fire that might have burned low or even worse, burned out.

When you find that true north again, any decisions you make about the next chapter of your life will have far more meaning and purpose.

Finding your true north applies to all major decisions. Nothing should be decided without checking it against whatever standard you believe is your true north.

There is Risk

There is a risk in what I am saying. All around me I see a slow shift in values and beliefs from what I grew up with. Here’s an example.

I live in a large planned community with a golf course and other very nice amenities. The golf course has a beautiful lake right in front of the clubhouse. It’s not a big lake, but definitely bigger than your average pond. The lake is posted for no swimming and no fishing. It’s posted mainly as a safety thing for young children who might venture that way. Simple enough to follow, wouldn’t you think?

Well, one of my neighbors spied a man and a boy out there one afternoon after work. From all indications, they were a father/son team. They were fishing! Yes, in broad daylight, casting away. The neighbor made a comment on the area Facebook page. We have a very active neighborhood engagement via that page.

The thread blew up in less than 2 hours. Here’s what people were saying. Some agreed with the first poster who argued the Dad was violating the posted sign, so what value was that teaching the young boy?

Son “Hey Dad, what does that sign say?”

Dad “It says no fishing or swimming.”

Son “But we’re fishing. Should we stop?”

Dad “Nope. It’s OK, let them try to stop me.”

Others got outright angry at the thought of anyone having an argument with a Dad spending time with his son, even though it involved breaking the law together.

The way that people spun the meaning of the moment and the variation of core values expressed in this matter made my head spin. Yes, it was radically different from my own upbringing. I had a hard time seeing the merit in letting the people fish despite the posted signs against such activity.

There are questions of respect, honor, following the law, making your own law, and so on. Where is the true north here? Who is the judge?

Clearly, it is a personal decision to honor a higher standard.

Make the Right Choices

Spending your time at the first of the year to set goals and make resolutions is valuable, but only after you have checked back in to center your self on your core values; your true north. Don’t waste time with the planning and goal setting until you re-establish your purpose and value.

Question: What have you done to reset your true north BEFORE you begin planning for the New Year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS – OK I don’t literally mean “NO Goals”. You have to set your base before you start setting goals. I see too many professionals who make major mistakes in their planning because they let their true north shift too much. They want to stay centered on the real north, but if things have slipped or wiggled out of alignment, you have to get those core values reset before you plot another set of goals, plans, or resolutions.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!

 

6 Great Questions to Lead Your Team

Being a leader requires the ability to build rapport with your team. Those following you must have good reason to do so. Every time you have a one-on-one, you have a big opportunity to add to and build that individual rapport.

Here are six great questions to structure those one-on-ones with your team. Use this in some form or another every time you get that golden opportunity to sit with each individual on your team.

The 6 questions are:

Where are WE going?

Ask this intentionally so that the employee or follower is able to express in their own words their understanding of the current state. Let them tell you what they understand to be the mission and direction. If the answer catches you off guard, then maybe you have a big disconnect that needs to be handled immediately.

The “we” here is about the team. Be sure to gauge whether the individual’s understanding is in step with the team direction you hope for.

Where are YOU going?

This is a logical follow-up to #1. If the person expresses a correct team direction but shares a personal variance in what they think is happening, then you have another opportunity to connect and correct.

The where are you going question also measures engagement. When an individual has begun to disengage with the team, they must be offered the opportunity to reconnect.

What do you think you are doing well?

This is a great opportunity to let the individual team member express their pride foro what might be working for them. Let them share their focus. Again though, if there is a bit of misalignment, this is the perfect opportunity to realign, recalibrate the role and the duties to set the path for better performance.

By allowing the person to share, you open the communication letting them state in their own words the accomplishments they view as significant.

What are some suggestions for improvement?

Open the door for individual dialogue about ways to improve things. The people who are on the frontlines see things differently than you. Be open to listening to these observations. You just might get the next great idea.

How can I help?

This may be the most powerful of all questions a manager/leader can ask a follower. Letting them know you are there to help is the biggest proof of your commitment to seeing them succeed. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, but use it sincerely and you will see team commitment rise significantly.

If something is suggested, you must follow through to get it resolved or delivered. Don’t let this golden opportunity fall flat on its face from your inability to deliver. If the ask is too big, then say so. Explain what the limitations are, but be real. Let the person know they were heard and that you understand.

What suggestions do you have for me to be a better manager?

This is last but by no means the least of these 6 questions. Again, your hope should be to receive sincere feedback. Your response should be an open acceptance of what you get told. If all you do is ask the question but recoil, then you’ve missed the opportunity.

However, if you take the suggestion and do something with the feedback, you build great rapport and trust.

Speaking of Trust

Trust is at the root of the best performing teams. Building an atmosphere of high trust keeps the whole team engaged with you as the boss. Having the rapport through regular, recurring one-on-ones with your team, using these six questions, will keep the trust growing.

Team Trust

Team Trust

When trust is present, people can accept bad news. They won’t necessarily like it but they can better accept it when they know you have their backs. They get to that end by seeing you make the effort to build the rapport at each chance you get. As rapport improves, so will the trust they have.

Call to Action

If you are a manager or executive who needs a little help with any of these ideas, perhaps a coach can help. To learn more about the coaching I do, schedule a call to speak with someone about the programs and ways we can help.

Also, let me introduce you to the Big 5 Performance Management process. This system revolutionizes the old, inefficient annual performance review systems. It has been implemented in dozens of companies, plus it has already won awards for innovation in HR circles. Big 5 sets the framework for fast, simple, and efficient employee feedback, guaranteeing your get the opportunity to ask these 6 questions monthly with each and every employee. Big 5 is a big winner, highly regarded by employers and employees everywhere who have started using Big 5.

To Learn More 

Leadership Powered by Common Sense

This is a tagline I like to use. However, it seems that common sense is truly an uncommon commodity. Common sense is a bit like beauty, as “in the eye of the beholder”. What seems like common sense decision making to some may be totally foreign to others.

common sense

Have you ever met someone who is so incredibly smart, but has little if any common sense? They could quote you facts and stats, explain very complex interworkings of molecular structure or other things, yet they cannot decide what they want for lunch.

It can be frustrating living with or knowing someone who operates this way. When you get a manager or boss like this, watch out!

A good friend once shared the thought that good leadership is equal parts of art and science. The science is the technical knowledge and understanding of details, subject matter, and process/procedure. The art is where the so-called people skills come in; being able to flex your leadership style based upon the person or group with whom you may be dealing.

I have to agree. The best leaders balance the art and science in their approach. The bridge between the two spheres is common sense. It is a proven idea when you think about the common sense being the switch that toggles between the art and science of leadership in a delicately orchestrated flow as circumstances dictate.

A good leader can gracefully shift when they sense the need to do so. The person lacking common sense tends to get stuck in one gear. If the question at hand is a technical one, they leader lacking common sense will tend to press hard on the merits of the technical debate, completely ignoring the people side of the matter.

The Conundrum

Common sense is not an absolute. That is why it can be so hard to realize. What might be common sense to some is a bad idea to others. Therefore, what I believe works best is to keep things simple. When the matter at hand is starting to get increasingly complex whether, by technical merit or deep subject matter expertise, it is valuable as the leader to take a step back.

Stop the detailed discussion and ask more objective questions like how does this feel? Is my gut sense right? What has my experience told me?

If you’ve ever had the privilege of working for a good storyteller leader, they have a gift of taking the deep science of a situation and boiling it down into an easy to understand story. The story often has nothing to do with the terms or vocabulary being batted about. Rather it has to do with the principles that are driving the choices under consideration.

That is an art. That is common sense.

The Uncommon Commodity

When I sat down to pen my first book, I was focused on what I thought I could share with new, first time managers to help them be more and do more in their new leadership roles. As the manuscript came together, it was time to decide on a title. I really felt drawn to this notion of common sense being such an uncommon commodity. I was sharing this whole idea with my wife. She said well, why don’t you just call it that. BOOM!

“The Uncommon Commodity: The Common Sense Guide for New Managers” was born. As it turns out, my more seasoned business leaders have found the book helpful to them too. The content addresses major areas of leadership and management using short, to the point stories and principles that get presented in a common sense way.

In my coaching business, I still see clients who struggle with being able to apply common sense thinking to problem-solving. On one hand, it seems they feel it is too easy to just make a common sense decision. They feel obligated to over-engineer the solution. It’s as if they were afraid of being found out for their simplicity.

On the other hand, over-thinking because of some sense of intellectual superiority never works very well either. The best scenario is one of balance. Let the facts come together and make a decision, whether by simple common sense or some other more elaborate thought process.

It takes a leader who has a capacity to do both; someone who can nimbly swap between the two as the situation dictates. But hey, that seems like common sense!

Leaders: So Much for Good Intentions

There’s an old saying in management and leadership training. Good intentions make sense, right? However, there’s a problem with that. People don’t know your intentions, only your actions.

action-speaks

For someone in a leadership role, your day to day action speaks far louder than the words you say or the emails you write. If you are responsible for a team of fellow workers, the way you conduct yourself is the first, and sometimes only measure the crew will use to judge you.

Remember, being a leader involves being able to influence others. Influence comes from a complex blend of many things, but the first item on the list is the respect you can earn from those around you. When you are placed in a management role (or take one on as in opening a business) you have a position of authority that only lasts for a flash. As soon as the team around you sees how you are going to operate, choices get made. If the team decides they cannot respect what you do, you will forever suffer the inability to influence them.

You can have the best of intentions to be a good boss, but you can miss the mark daily. All you need to do is step out of your office and do something that runs contrary to everything you say you stand for.

I’ve known some wise people and otherwise good managers who tripped along the way. One bad action lost them almost everything they had gained in terms of human capital; the respect of their team. One bad goof wipes out everything else. Here are some of the areas where these fatal flaws can emerge:

Character

It’s a bit old-fashioned, but people still look for solid character. If your actions set off everyone else’s BS meter, you are in trouble. Character is about your word. Can people trust exactly what you say you’ll do? Say one thing but do something different, your character suffers.

Integrity

When I look at the definition of integrity, it’s defined as a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”

Consistency is about being the same regardless of the situation. For example, do you know of leaders whose mood changes by the day and make rash decisions on certain days, yet calm and engaging on other days? This would be an example of the inconsistency of actions and outcomes.

Integrity stems from the Latin word ‘integer’ which means whole and complete. So integrity requires an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of character. When you operate with integrity, people should be able to visibly see it through your actions, words, decisions, methods, and outcomes.

When you are ‘whole’ and consistent, there is only one you. You bring that same you wherever you are, regardless of the circumstance. You don’t leave parts of yourself behind. You don’t have a ‘work you,’ a ‘family you,’ and a ‘social you.’ You are YOU all the time.

Honesty

Honesty or accuracy of one’s actions requires intentionality and thought. How honest or accurate are your behaviors, actions, and words with other people that you lead? I was at a meeting recently with a CEO who cares deeply about values yet is out of integrity because there is a lack of honesty and authenticity in how he behaves.

While he says that he cares about teamwork, he doesn’t listen to others and gets defensive when challenged with different views. He believes in creating a culture of love but publicly berates and belittles junior employees.

Wrap Up

In today’s world, all the social unrest about workplace conduct is warranted. Too many people in positions of influence have abused their power by making inappropriate advances. It seems years of pent-up violations are coming to light almost daily. The headlines are filled with named celebrities or community leaders being accused of something.

While physical or sexual aggression is clearly the worst of all possible behaviors in the workplace, there are plenty of other failings that undermine a leader’s ability to lead. Fooling yourself into thinking your intentions are good enough pales in comparison to the actions you take each and every day.

Your action becomes the standard by which you will be measured. It begs the question, what was the intention anyway?

Question: What actions have you taken that might undermine your otherwise good intentions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Living a Legacy

What does the word legacy mean to you? For some, it means following in the footsteps of your forefathers as in being a “legacy” at a college. If your parent went there, and you decide to go, then you become a “legacy”.

family legacy

For others, as the aging process sets in, it means “was this all worth it?” What am I leaving behind? More importantly, did my life matter to anyone?

I am not convinced people think legacy as much as they once did. It seems living in the fast-paced modern world has pushed us to do more, be more and somehow miss the journey. There is no denying I am part of the Boomer generation. By some accounts, that places me at odds with the anyone younger than 50. I respectfully disagree.

My wife and I are blessed to be the proud parents of 5; four boys and a girl. They are grown now and have families of their own, treating us to 7 grandchildren. When we gather as a family it is easy to see the legacy unfolding. I think about that a lot. What can I say and do today that will have an impact on those generations after me?

Throughout my life, I have chosen to be a perpetual learner. I love studying management and leadership theory. The more I read and learn about my chosen topics, the more convinced I am that there are timeless principles of leadership. To be timeless, something must not be subject to the changes in mindset with each new generation. Being a voice for a timeless subject helps create a legacy.

Leadership is just such a topic. Yes, we might change the terminologies we use, but the principles remain unchanged. I want to share with you my shortlist.

Key Principles – My Elite 8

Whether you are leading a team at work, at home with your family, or an organization in your community, I like these 8 leadership principles. I call them my “Elite 8”. They have proven time and again to be rock solid.

Always Be Honest –  In a world plagued with situational morality and dog-eat-dog competition, it is rare to find the totally honest business person or neighbor. Honesty, or lack thereof, is soon found out. There is nothing so valuable as a leader who has a reputation for honesty.

Leaders who are honest earn far greater respect; they are sought out, and they create loyalty in their spheres of influence.

Forgive and Forget –  People make mistakes, decide on poor choices, and sometimes just goof. As a leader, how do you handle those situations? Do you condemn and ridicule or can you forgive and forget? I’ve written about grace becoming one instrument in a leader’s toolbox. The ability to forgive and forget is the totality achieved with the ability to give grace.

Be Kind Hearted –  When you are dealing with people one-on-one and face-to-face, do you exhibit a personal warmth? Is there a kind heart that sparks that warmth that is palpable? This is a trait you can neither mask nor fake. Do you have the heart to be a leader?

In his book “The Heart of Leadership”, Mark Miller tells a story of a young businessman named Blake. Blake is struggling at work with his duties as a team leader. He seeks some counsel from a close family friend. I won’t tell all of the stories, but the core value comes down to this simple acrostic.

H.E.A.R.T.

The initials stand for:

  • Hunger for wisdom –  keep learning new and different things to improve yourself
  • Expect the best –  set a high standard and maintain your expectations for it
  • Accept responsibility – stop the blame game, take your ownership seriously
  • Respond with courage –  be bold with your decisions
  • Think others first –  be willing to be more of a servant rather than a boss

Keep Your Promises –  Expectations can make or break relationships. The promises we fulfill serve to grow trust, respect, and reliability. However, broken promises do the most harm. When you promise someone something then fail to deliver, there is a damaging break in the relationship. The next time a situation arises and you must make a promise, the person with whom you broke the last promise will be very skeptical.

Work Hard –  Every “overnight success” I have ever met or read about worked tirelessly to achieve their status. The equation is really that simple; work hard and achieve or don’t work and flounder.

Lessons from ants have been taught since time memorial. From the proverb instructing us:

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
provideth her meat in the summer,
and gathereth her food in the harvest”

Then again in Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, ants have appeared throughout our life stories (and on our dining tables!). (1)

Be Thankful – Giving thanks can do so much to lighten anyone’s load. To your work team, give them thanks and praise for the efforts they show. Give recognition when it is in your power to do so. Also, being thankful helps sustain the kind heart in #3. After all, how can you have a kind heart if you never recognize the good things that might be going on around you?

Research has linked gratitude with an increase in self-esteem, resiliency and overall life satisfaction. It can also help you build new friendships and strengthen the relationships you already have. “There are two processes at play here,” Acacia Parks, Ph.D, chief scientist at Happify, a website and mobile app that provides games and activities geared towards improving mental wellbeing, told CBS News. “The person expressing the gratitude is thinking about their gratitude more, so they themselves feel better and their gratitude is stronger. And it’s also good for the person receiving the gratitude because they feel appreciated and it makes them want to express the gratitude back.” (2)

Never Give Up –  Persistence usually wins the day. Similar to working hard, being willing and able to forge ahead when all things are not going your way signifies a leader. Turning back or giving up when the first sign of resistance occurs will never get you through. You must stay strong; persevere.

As Sir Winston Churchill said in 1941 (before he was “Sir”) –   “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” (3)

Love One Another – I find this principle to be the hardest. In our daily routines, it is easy to cross paths with people we find we just don’t like very much.

As a leader, you must seek to find ways to build love with those closest to you; the team, your tribe, your family, or your community.  The power of love can overcome the worst of conditions. Great achievements come from the love and passion for being together, working a cause, and knowing you are loved.

Summary

Remember, having principle-based leadership is like setting a deep and strong foundation. The principles you choose to guide you will shape the character and substance of what you decide to do. In addition, operating from a solid core set of guiding principles will create for you a reputation of integrity and trust.

Principle based leadership

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Leaders: What is the Right Answer?

It has been said there is one big difference between management and leadership. Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.

getting it right

Have you ever asked yourself this question? What IS the right answer anyway? For people in leadership roles, you are looked upon for the right answer. You better be able to deliver.

However, there are times when the right answer seems so hard to find. Here are some things to consider so that you, as a leader, can do more to find the “right” answer.

Situational Approach

Situational problem solving seems to be popular. In one case, the right answer might be green, but in a different situation, the answer is red. Both pose what seems like the same sets of facts and circumstances which should lead to the same answer, but you will see decision makers opting to let the outcome be different because of the audience that is involved. If the stakeholders are different, the answer gets shifted despite the facts and details bearing on the matter.

The idea of situational problem solving is often referred to in morality debates. There are those who get very excited about certain social issues, making claims for absolute answers involving right from wrong (think gun control, abortion, legalized marihuana, etc.). Yet when it is their family in jeopardy, they choose to go another route.

I contend the truly right answer needs to fit all situations. Circumstance shouldn’t change what was decided as to right or wrong.

The Leaders Curse

Anyone who is deemed a leader, whether at work, at home, or in the community, is expected to come up with answers. Those who are following the leader expect the answers to be “right”.

For the person who sits in the leadership chair, the pressure can be intense. If you are genuinely committed to quality leadership, the power of the position will not be enough. Power alone can literally dictate decisions. However, leaders who embrace the higher calling of duty and seek to make right decisions will suffer the burden of the process to get there.

Perhaps your style is to seek counsel from those around you. I am a big fan of hiring smart people, then getting out of their way. Yet when the final decision is needed, it rests on the leader’s shoulders to make the call.

Once all the input has been reviewed and processed, the right answer is yours to make. What you decide is right is the way things will go.

Oh my, but what is RIGHT?

I never thought about being right in this exact context before. I participate in an organization of highly regarded business leaders. They each have their own resume of incredible accomplishments. Internal meetings with this group are lively and interesting, to say the least.

When I see discussions in the group unfold, there is, on one hand, amazing thought that goes into the answers. So many different angles get presented and explored.

On the other hand, there is the occasional hard stand that insists their individual answer is best (and the only answer). When this happens, the group often tables discussion for a further review. One could argue that lack of consensus is a natural outcome when a group of A++ personalities joust it out, debating the right answer for a question.

The bottom line is this; right is totally a function of the view from the first chair. The type A++ who has been accustomed to making final decisions may not be able to play nicely in a group of similar personalities when the authority is spread across the group and not centered in one seat.

My point is simply this…. the “right” answer may surprise you.

Leaders: How Do You Find Right?

When the responsibility of leadership falls on you, likely you will seek to pull together all your experience, knowledge, wisdom, and technical ability to make good decisions; the right ones. The process is different for everyone.

Think about your own decision-making process. Do you make lists of pros and cons? Do you draw a grid? Do you immediately turn to advisors? Or friends? Where and how do you decide “right?”

How often do you rely on your gut? I hear that a lot. Truthfully, it works. The greater your experience in leadership roles, the greater may be the accuracy of your gut. I see this being true more often than not in the leaders who fully appreciate the role of leader. The key factor though is whether your gut is objective, not subjective. Unfair biases can misguide the gut reaction to finding right.

Managers who are first starting out lack the benefit of seasoned experience. Their gut reaction may be founded on emotion not reality. The experience becomes a teacher, but not by itself.

Experience is not a good teacher. Evaluated experience is. ~John Maxwell

As you gain experience by exercising your leadership decisions making, your sense of right and wrong decisions will get fine-tuned. If you are just now starting out in leadership, keep notes for yourself. You will revisit facts and circumstances from time to time. You will be able to gain strength of conviction through repeated use of your choices.

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