Leaders: Want to Up-level Your Communication?

Managers face a constant struggle to improve communication within their work teams. Besides being able to accurately articulate any technical aspects about the work (every industry has its key phrases, terms, and buzz words), business leaders have to be ever-mindful of some very basic principles of effective communication.

communication

We usually think about communication as a two part/two person transaction. You speak, I speak, we hear and we act. This is the way most adults perceive the process of communication. When we need to talk to our teams, we usually just think about crafting a message as though it is being addressed to one person.

I submit to you that there are really four stages of communication. Being an effective communicator requires a laser focus to insure the parts are working to their maximum potential.

The four stages are:

1. What You Mean to Say –  Your communication as a manager must first be grounded in the thoughts you develop as facts and circumstances come together. When you process all of the information at hand, SOME kind of thought process should lead you to a decision. A message to the team begins with the thoughts that you will have. Sometimes the thoughts are significant and profound. At other times they are pretty simple. Your thoughts become the root of your message.

Be sure your mental checklist is functioning clearly before you start talking to the team. Be clear about what you mean to say.

2. What You Actually Say –  You have your thought, but then words must be applied to express that thought. Numbers 1 and 2 here are very closely tied together but are just different enough to cause a potential problem.

Let’s face it, most of us have had a moment where an idea pops into our head, but we cannot find the perfect words to explain the essence of that idea. Our words fail us. This phase is especially troublesome when you have to communicate ‘on the fly’, meaning impromptu communication.

When you have a chance to write a speech, you get more time to process your thoughts and formulate the words. Great speechwriters make careers doing this for politicians and celebrities. However, managers on the front line seldom have that luxury. As events unfold at work, you are required to respond quickly. Your words can easily become muddled.

If words fail you, it is possible you will be sending a message that is different from your original intent. Also, words that have double meanings can confuse the message. Tone and positioning of words can impact the meaning. There are numerous ways that the words you DO choose to express may send a message different from what you intend.

3. What the Listener Hears –  When we think of translating a message from one language to another, we often hear about ‘something getting lost in translation’. Unfortunately, that can happen with communication within the same language. You can take a perfectly structured thought (Item #1) that is represented well by the words you choose (Item #2) but still have trouble getting your message across.

Clearly, the responsibility to correctly hear a message falls on your listener. Any form of translation that changes the message corrupts it. The risk at this stage is that word meanings can vary from person to person. As the manager, if you make a statement “I am concerned about this _______”, some may hear the message as saying “I am mad, but just not telling you”.

4. What the Listener Now Feels –  Whether the translation being heard is correct or not, there is still one last hurdle to overcome. How does your message make the listener feel? The content of what you meant versus the listener’s conclusion after processing your words may spawn a surprising reaction.

For some, there are trigger words that spark bad feelings. For others, there are words that inspire and motivate. The listener’s initial feeling about the message will have a direct impact on the success of the communication. If the effort ends poorly, the manager must essentially start over with this entire 4 stage process.

We’ve discussed the four stages of communication. What is a manager to do?

In situations where people have solid, effective relationships, there is a history that can smooth any of the rough edges stemming from a breakdown of any of these four parts. When people have worked together for some time, they can (and should) develop a sense of understanding that helps to bridge the communication gap. Keywords and phrases take on meanings of their own and become the go-to way to express a topic.

Yet, when someone new joins the team, communication bridges are not yet available, so the manager’s message needs to stick to the basics until the history can be accumulated. The latter is also true when new topics are introduced to the team.

As the Manager, it is your responsibility to watch for breaks in all four of these stages. Better communication can be achieved by effectively using all elements. Find ways to let your team know that for their benefit you want to be a good communicator. Let them provide feedback, too. Iron out phrases and words that miss the mark or generate the wrong conclusions.

Question: In what ways have you experienced communication problems with your work team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Measuring the Milestones of Life

Have you ever stopped to think what the milestones in your life are telling you? Or do you even keep track of those moments? We all have decisions, outcomes, and experiences that shape and mold the person we become. Some call these defining moments.

Taking a look at the list of the key moments can be very helpful when trying to make new decisions about who we are and where we’re going.

milestones

I confess, this week one of those milestone moments happens for me. It’s my birthday and it’s a big one. I won’t bore you with the details. And, no, this is not a weak plug for attention, but instead an opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

Birthdays can be examples of some classic milestone moments; turning 16 to get a drivers license or 21 to be “legal” for drinking can be big deals. But then we start counting birthdays in fives; 25, 30, 35, etc.

A friend once shuddered at his 35th  birthday. In his mind, thirty-five was a serious pivot point in his life. Somehow everything was going to be downhill. Ironically, my father-in-law always said “no one pays attention to you until you turn 40”, but that’s another story.

There are many other examples of life-changing moments we experience that become milestones for us. Graduating from school, getting married, having children, getting a divorce, being transferred, making a big move, changing jobs, changing careers… all of these serve to set markers in our life from which we can see a picture start to form. There are many more.

Decisions are critical influencers of when, where and how some of these markers get created. Bad decisions send us down paths that either make us learn something, or keep us from learning. Better decisions build experience and wisdom. The older you get, the more you will see a picture unfolding. You see a shape and a pattern come to life.

The Challenge

If you are reading this and feeling stuck where you are, take a moment to recount the milestones in your own life. You might even take a notepad and draw the timeline of your life, placing markers at the various key moments. It doesn’t matter whether they are positive or negative, just draw the map.

From this drawing see what picture you find. Are there common themes that jump out? Is there a hobby or skill that keeps coming up? Is there a body of work that inspires you more than the others?

If you’ve never done an exercise like this, you might just find a new you in there somewhere.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs 

Question: What are your milestones telling you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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

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Leaders Modeling the Way

Three Steps to Better Team Performance

Any entrepreneur, business owner, or executive who wonders why the team is not operating as you expect should take a couple of critical steps. Get out from behind the desk and take the steps to walk to the mirror.

modeling the way

Take a long, hard look. Are YOU modeling the way for others to follow? Your actions and behaviors set the tone and pace for those around you. You cannot operate with a mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Yet too many people in a position of power operate exactly that way.

What are some areas where modeling the right behaviors makes a difference? Here are three that are vital.

Be the Vision

Well respected leaders are known for their ability to communicate a vision. This is the ideal end-stage outcome. It’s the “begin with the end in mind” that Covey teaches.

Corporations are famous for setting Vision Statements and Mission Statements. However, the statements only work when they are shared throughout the workforce. Whether you run a 5 person team or an organization of 500, the way you as the leader share the vision is vital to the ultimate success.

You must understand and embrace the vision. You cannot be undermining it from your office. If you own the business, you darn well better construct and live the vision in a way that others can explain it just as thoroughly as you do.

I made the mistake in one of my first companies by not fully explaining the vision. We had several service offerings that made common sense but didn’t clearly connect to a greater purpose without some explaining. I was guilty of taking too much for granted across my work team.

Our website was carefully designed and written to pitch our vision to the market, but my own team couldn’t recite what we were doing very well. More importantly, the passion with which I believed we could change the market was not shared by my crew. It took several months for me to realize what was missing.

I called a meeting and shared the overall vision to set the tone for future effort. I even apologized for not letting them know this critical element of our being. Once I revealed the vision, several more seasoned professionals on the team got excited. They asked very good questions and the discussion opened up. It was a milestone event in the life of my little company.

Your actions on a day to day basis must enforce the vision.

Enable Others to Act

The people who report to you need the latitude to do their jobs. You can model confidence in their ability by letting them have free range in which to operate. Yes, you might have policies and procedures, but there is always room for initiative to work.

Early in my career, I decided to embrace a principle that I should work to hire capable people, then get out of their way. Micromanaging is stifling to most employees.

As the leader, you need to model the proper use of delegation of authority. Delegation is not all that hard to comprehend. Think of it this way. You give permission to act and protection when they fall. It’s very similar to raising children. You want them to grow by experiencing for themselves the actions, reactions, consequence, and success.

As you do this, you must be consistent in your administration of the effort. You cannot pick one person over another to get more latitude. Yes, I appreciate the argument for ‘not all employees are created equal’ in terms of skills and abilities. However, every employee should have a range with which they can operate based on the skills they demonstrate.

If the employee is a problem, then apply remedial training or deal with the case and replace the person. That is the hard side of being an effective leader. I’ll save more on this issue for another article.

Encourage the Heart

The human side of leadership is exactly what differentiates a leader from a mere manager. You manage process, but lead people. People respond more when all of their being is engaged.

I like to teach about harnessing the power of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. At work, we often think in terms of the mental side of this equation. You hire talent and experience, right? But have you ever tried to hire passion?

There is a recruiter friend of mine who uses this tagline:

Hire for Passion. Skills are cheap. Passion is hard to come by.

How do you measure the passion a person may bring to the work you need them to do? Ask better questions. Decide for yourself why this work is meaningful. Find ways to engage the hearts of those around you.

This notion of encouraging and engaging the heart of your people has been used for centuries in military conquests across the globe. Armies moving across foreign lands try to engage and endear the population so that the effort is not met with resistance. But when resistance comes as the French and Polish people did during WWII, the advancing effort of the German army was much more difficult to achieve.

Thankfully our places of work should never become war zones. But the principles apply. Win the hearts of your people and you will have far greater success achieving your goals.

The leader who can model a true and genuine appreciation for the hearts of their people will accomplish much more.

Question: Let us know some ways you model the right behaviors to lead your teams. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How to Identify the Blind Spot in Your Personality

Have you ever been driving and decided to change lanes? You take a quick look around and all seems clear, then you make the move to the new lane and HONK! You’re about to cut into an oncoming car. A blind spot covered your view of the other car.

BlindspotsLeaders can have blind spots too. You can be moving along, feeling like things are going very well. Then HONK! You get surprised by a colleague or co-worker who drops a big bomb on your happy place. You had a blind spot.

What are Blind Spots?
In her book, Fearless Leadership, Loretta Malandro, PhD., identified 10 behavioral blind spots that can derail leaders.

These 10 blind spots are:

  1. Going it alone
  2. Being insensitive to how your behavior impacts others
  3. Having an “I know” attitude
  4. Avoiding the difficult conversations
  5. Blaming others or circumstances
  6. Treating commitments casually
  7. Conspiring against others
  8. Withholding emotional commitment
  9. Not taking a stand
  10. Tolerating “good enough”

We each have these blind spots, with some being larger for us than others.  Just like in a car, knowing your blind spots is important as you can make some extra effort to ensure that you see what you are doing.  And just like in cars, if you don’t know your blind spots, you can get into big trouble.

The first step in avoiding these blind spots is to understand them and what they look like.  It is easy to identify these in people we work with, but it is difficult to identify them ourselves (thus they are called blind spots).  Here are some behaviors that describe each blind spot:

Going it alone: when you do things without asking others for their input.  Examples of this behavior include:

  • not asking for help
  • not accepting help
  • not talking about the stress you are under
  • not including others in decisions
  • feeling like you need to get things done on your own

Going it alone is especially problematic for start-up entrepreneurs. When you begin a business, you think you know your idea the best. You’re not ready to let go and let others help build the dream. First-time business owners also may suffer from getting too deep into this syndrome. You’re just not ready or willing to open up to others.

Being insensitive to how your behavior impacts others: when you allow yourself to say or do most anything without sensitivity to the consequences or impact on others.

  • not noticing how body language impacts others
  • choosing words that can be mean or misunderstood provoking a negative response
  • not realizing how you’re devaluing others input or ideas

You rationalize these behaviors by thinking that people hurt by your words will “get over it.”

Having an “I know attitude“: when you think that you are always right and those who disagree with you are wrong.

  • not listening to others
  • always coming up with reasons others ideas won’t work
  • devaluing others ideas
  • arguing with anyone who disagrees with you
  • refusing to explore other options
  • making assumptions about others’ intent or their ideas

Avoiding difficult conversations: you avoid conflict and stressful situations – so you avoid those conversations where that happens.

  • not raising concerns or issues about others behavior
  • avoiding talking about negative information (bad sales, company layoffs, etc.)
  • softening tough messages and not talking about real concerns.

You only like to talk about surface issues.

Blaming others or circumstances: avoiding the need to take accountability or try to negate by shifting blame.

  • always having a reason
  • excuse or explanation for why something went wrong
  • “yeah, but…”
  • complaining about how it could have gone “if only”
  • leaving a project when you see it is not going to succeed.

I like to think of these as convenient excuses.

blind-spot

Treating commitments casually: when you make casual commitments that you don’t keep.

  • showing up late for meetings
  • not getting projects done on time
  • never making hard commitments in the first place
  • always having an escape hatch
  • using the “I’ll try” instead of “I will”

A leader’s ability to influence others is dependent on being able to make and keep commitments, regardless of how big or how small.

Conspiring against others: you engage in rumor mills and gossip or talk negatively behind peoples backs.

  • talking one-on-one with others about how you think a project won’t succeed
  • not talking in open project meetings
  • discrediting others ideas or accomplishments
  • displaying negative non-verbal cues such as rolling eyes or engaging in conspiracy theories

Withholding emotional commitments: you can agree intellectually, but withhold putting our heart and soul into a project.

  • just complying with a decision meeting the bare minimum requirements
  • resisting change, withholding support, going through the motions

Leadership requires genuine commitment. People around you can sense the false pretense of making the motion but not being committed.

Not taking a stand: sometimes when you know you should do something but you don’t because of how it could impact you.

  • not speaking up in a meeting when you disagree with the majority
  • failing to speak up when senior executives are around
  • getting people to work around a problem instead of addressing it head-on

Tolerating “good enough”: when you settle for getting things done just ok, but don’t push you or your teams for excellence.

  • not holding others accountable for their work
  • accepting incremental improvements
  • not willing to explore radical options
  • staying inside one’s comfort zone
  • not looking at what the future will require

The Process

Understanding the concept of having blind spots is the first step.  Identifying our own blind spot is the harder part.  To really get to the bottom of your own blind spot, you have to ask a few trusted confidants to work closely with you. They can better point out where they see your blind spots.

This is a hard exercise but one that is very beneficial. A review process called a 360 is also a useful tool. Many larger companies are using 360s on a regular basis as part of their leadership development programs.

None of us like to hear about our faults. Others don’t like to point them out.  If you are open to growing and learning, then by identifying your own weaknesses, you can start the process of improvement and become a better leader and even a better person.

Question: When was the last time you identified and worked on curing a blind spot? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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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!

 

Merry Christmas: Are YOU the Gift?

Soon will be Christmas, December 25. I’m not really ashamed to admit that I still celebrate Christmas. It has been in my family tradition for many decades. I respect the needs of saying ‘happy holidays’ to those who may not be of Christian descent and choose not to celebrate in the tradition of Christmas, but for me and my family, today still has special meaning on several levels.

I would like to ask you a somewhat personal question.

Since the Christmas season often is associated with the giving of gifts, what have you done to be the gift for someone?

Yes, I mean you, personally, unashamedly, and individually, being the gift for someone in your life. They could be family, work, or community members.

It seems we don’t think about that personal, really personal touch anymore. There are so many great technological gadgets to buy for one another. We share things that have material value, maybe a special meaning, or other reasons for identifying a material gift. Yet I find it interesting that it is difficult to think of ourselves as being a gift for someone we care about.

Last year the virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt, wrote a new book called “Living Forward”. In that book, he and his co-author, Daniel Harkovy, introduce a continuum of human existence that goes like this. In their model, Michael and Daniel talk about three distinct phases of life. The first phase is drift.

DRIFT

If you have found yourself in a period of your life that feels uncertain, without direction, and maybe even without purpose, you, my friend, are drifting. You wake up each day and you allow the day to pass just living through the circumstances and situations that arise on their own. There’s really not a plan. And there’s certainly not a goal. Drifting is a state of our existence that happens to all of us. It’s not uncommon to experience a little bit of drift at some point in your life.

Clearly, it would not be a good thing to live your whole life in a state of drifting. You want to be able to identify a goal or an outcome that has positive meaning for the purpose in your life. So we have to get out of drifting. You need to be able to stop the drift and begin making some more intentional forward progress.

SHIFT

That leads us to the second phase which is the shift. Once you’ve recognized you might be drifting and you agree that you want to stop, you have to make a shift. You have to find a focus, a new goal,  and a plan to get you onto a path for forward momentum.

Making a shift can be as simple as changing your mindset. Instead of waking up each day with the thought of repeating yesterday, you start the new day with an intentional statement of purpose. You say I’m going to do something different today. You set the course and you choose to do things differently.

Albert Einstein is attributed with the famous quote that says doing the same thing and expecting different results is the perfect definition of insanity.

Making a shift allows us to break the cycle of monotony and repetition that causes drift. By agreeing to shift, we find a new focus, a new strategy, and a new direction.

LIFT

Once the shift has begun, you find yourself beginning to experience lift. You experience new accomplishments. You have a sense of progress. Goals are starting to be achieved. You find a new direction and you find levels of success.

The lift in our lives is what gives us the energy to begin to be able to influence those around us. As you experience lift, you have an energy that can be shared with others. Lift is a very interesting physical force. Lift is the principle by which birds fly and airplanes are able to rise into the sky.

Many years ago I decided to tackle a bucket list item that I had carried for some time. I wanted to get a private pilot’s license. I enrolled in a local flight school where I began taking the courses and learning the principles of aerodynamics. There is a very interesting undeniable force that happens with flight.

When a wing is moved forward there is a dynamic of the wind passing over the wings. The variation in pressure that occurs with that forward momentum, we call that thrust. But as the intensity of the wind flowing over the airfoil increases, there is this notion of lift that occurs.

In essence, as a plane gains ground speed during takeoff, there is no denying the force of the wing wanting to lift the whole plane off the ground. If you apply enough power and begin the forward momentum, that wing can do nothing but lift you off the ground. So the essence of flight is the ability to control that natural lift that is occurring.

I see great similarities with having a lift in our own lives. If you begin experiencing lift, there will be an undeniable force that you create. You will have an attraction to you that others cannot deny. You will have the ability to influence people.

The next question is, could there be a fourth phase of human experience? I say yes. I call it the Gift.

GIFT

As you move away from drifting and you start to shift your life and your presence, you achieve this lift in life. Ultimately you become a gift. With the momentum, you create by shifting and lifting you get to the point of being able to start gifting. This is the stage when you can help others. You can influence them with your thoughts, your ideas, and your compassion.

As you experience lift in your life, you become a gift to those around you. Your families can be enriched. Your workplace can be influenced. Your whole community can receive value and benefit from who and what you are. As you become a gift to the world around you, you become a thing of value; you become an inspiration.

This Season

Yes, this is Christmas. But while the rest of the world is thinking about gift giving with boxes and bows, I ask you again, have you been the gift to those around you?

It’s a great time to be that person, be that influence, and bless those around you with the power and the privilege of you being who you are. Now if you’re stuck in a drift, obviously your gifts not going to be that special. Maybe you won’t even feel like doing anything. But if you found a shift in life and you’ve begun to lift, you can become a precious and wonderful gift.

I wish each and every one of you a very blessed and Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. All my best to you, your family, and your business.

 

PS – Many of my clients consider me their closest confidant. We discuss things that they feel they cannot discuss with anyone else. It’s a tricky balance to build the kind of rapport and relationship that can have the level of trust you may want. If you are looking for just such a confidence, think about giving me a call. Let’s discuss where you are right now at work, with your family or in your community. Perhaps I can offer some encouragement.

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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

CALL TO ACTION

If you are wondering about your current career situation, I am offering a free career satisfaction survey. This quick and easy tool can show you if it’s time to make a change.

 

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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Are You Thankful?

Tomorrow in the U.S. we will celebrate our annual Thanksgiving. It will be a time for families to gather to share a lot of food. The special recipes that have been handed down will be prepared, stories will be told (often getting embellished along the way), children will tear through rooms playing all sorts of games, a little football may get watched or at least will be droning on the screen somewhere, and there will be all around good times.

Giving thanks

The spirit of the season, at least the way I was taught, was to stop for a moment and reflect on the people, things, and blessings that have been richly bestowed upon us. A time for genuine thanksgiving. regardless of how good or how hard the past year had been. There is always something for which we can give thanks.

Being thankful

That’s a mindset you may not see very often. Yet, some of the most successful people I know have made it a discipline in their lives to never forget about being thankful.

There is something about keeping a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that keeps you grounded; keeps you centered. Leaders, real leaders, who rise to the “top” of their given field always have people around them for whom they should be thankful. As soon as you stop being thankful for the ones who help you accomplish things, well, I argue you have started to lose the title “leader”.

When someone on your team makes a contribution, there should be recognition and gratitude. You don’t have to overdo it. There doesn’t have to be a certificate or a plaque inscribed. But a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way.

The same is true at home with your family. Are you thankful for those around you at home? Have you found the enjoyment in loving them, knowing them, and recognizing their contributions to your life? Be thankful.

To my readers

Having said the above, I want to be clear and say THANK YOU to all of you who spend a valuable moment of your day to read this blog. I am keenly aware of the competition for your attention.

I don’t always try to stay edgy or controversial. My intent is to be helpful and to serve. If my articles can cause you to ponder a thought for just a moment, perhaps to inspire a small change in your leadership style or life, then I am blessed.

This blog is not for my glory or fame. It is for YOU, the reader. My hope is that you find something in here somewhere that can give you a lift for the day. Maybe it will give you a shift for looking at things a different way. And maybe the topics we share here can help grow as a leader so that you can make a difference right where you are.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Please know that I am thankful for you.

 

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