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May the 4th Be With You

This article is being written right before July 4th, Independence Day in America. As soon as I pen those words I am hit with a dump truck of irony. I usually enjoy writing my holiday articles where I get to reflect a bit, rejoice in the spirit of the day, and encourage you to celebrate too. Yet this time, I am concerned; very concerned.

On one hand, I want to stay true to my pledge to keep my content non-political and I will. Yet recent events of the past 18 months (I am not isolating SCOTUS) have me shaking my head. The irony I mentioned is the question of true independence and freedom now brought into question by the SCOTUS decisions. But before even that, we have been inundated with rhetoric, debates, accusations, and panels “trying to find the truth.”

Above it all, what I hear screaming at me is an absolute lack of true, genuine, old-fashioned Leadership (with a capital “L”) coming from the top of our government institutions; all of them. And before you get turned off thinking left or right, I am saying it’s EVERYWHERE.

Hey folks… we have a problem. It’s a leadership problem. So to redeem this moment and make it valuable for YOU, let’s revisit some important ideas about real leadership.

A Framework

You can read any of the 160,000 books you’ll find on Amazon that has ‘leadership’ as the subject and you will see various attempts to define what it means to be a leader. Authors make lists of attributes to follow. Perhaps my list is no different. Yet as I talk to my coaching clients we inevitably land on a few key choices.

See, I always ask my clients to identify a few examples of leaders they admire not for a whole body of work, but for one particular attribute. I hear answers like:

  • Winston Churchill – resolve and fortitude
  • Barack Obama – communication and oratory
  • Lincoln – decisive, resolute, inclusive
  • Nick Saban – vision and planning
  • And so on…

A Twist

While the ‘popular’ ones are important, I have developed my own list of principles that I have found to be far more vital to building a core from which a leader can add others ‘soft skills’ to become effective and influential.

1. Always Be Honest –  In a world plagued with situational morality and dog-eat-dog competition, it is rare to find a 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.

2. Forgive and Forget –  People make mistakes, make 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.

3. 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 story, 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

4. 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 and 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.

5. 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)

6. 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)

7. 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)

8. 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 on a cause, and knowing you are loved. (Thank you Garth Brooks)

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.

And as for the 4th of July. I want too close with some words from BG (Ret) Joe Ramirez, the Dean of Students at Texas A&M.

“In light of all that we are facing as a nation today, I offer just one piece of advice, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on: Keep calm and pray for our country. As the Corps brass worn by cadets in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets says, “Per Unitatem Vis,” which means “Through Unity, Strength.” Together, as “one nation, under God, indivisible,” we need to find common ground and come together as Americans, just as we have for the last 246 years. I pray that we can find the strength and courage to come together so that “united we stand, divided we fall” becomes more than just a bumper sticker for this country. I still firmly believe that we can, and I always will.”

God bless you all, and have a blessed week. Pray for our country and its citizens………

Understanding the New Normal for Leadership

For too many decades, the word leadership meant a title and a box on an org chart somewhere. Yes, there were people who truly understood leadership and exercised it effectively, but big business managers failed, for the most part, to operate with true leadership principles.

Before we move on, remember one thing – leading is about cultivating leadership within others, not just getting them to follow your lead. So, if you’re in it to tell people what to do, you’re missing the whole point.

COVID-19 brought everyone back to the ground and humanized leaders, forcing them to embrace vulnerability. No matter how powerful you are, you’re not invincible so, it’s okay to share with your team what you’re struggling with, ask for help, and be more open in your communication. Do that, and they will follow suit and collaborate to work more effectively and efficiently. We have a new normal for leadership.

Having endured the pandemic’s impacts, people have started re-evaluating their lives; the time they spend in different ways, and who they want to spend that precious time with. We have shifted from seeking work-life balance where things get juggled to accommodate one for the other. Rather we are driving to work-life harmony where everything operates as a whole.

That, in and of itself, is a radical challenge for leaders. The authority that may have come from your position fundamentally doesn’t matter anymore. Your power to hire and fire is no longer a threat to the newly empowered employee who has made a decision to be a different kind of employee. The decisions are about living life as a whole, not a segmented daily grind of commuting from home to work and back again.

Data from the pandemic shows business productivity, in general, went up, not down as a result of remote working. While some managers cringe at the effort it took to manage a remote team, the employees, for the most part, embraced the responsibility and thrived.

For all practical purposes, we have already returned to an equilibrium of the employment bell curve. In that way of thinking, we have some workers, maybe five to ten percent, who consistently excel vs the few who are tough to manage. And there is a large headcount in the middle who can reliably produce their work without too much management attention one way or the other.

In the Meantime

In the meantime, the expectation of leaders has shifted to be more ‘human’ for lack of a better word. Here are five ways that show up:

BE OPEN AND VULNERABLE
The modern workforce wants open-door policies with a fully accessible human sitting inside. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy, creating a crash course on modern leadership styles and forcing leaders to change how they navigate their operations. Self-disclosure, compassion, and consideration were terms almost unheard of in the corporate world. However, now, they’re the guiding principles of this emerging leadership trend.

FOSTER AN ENVIRONMENT OF LEADERSHIP
Being a leader is not necessarily about controlling everything. It’s also about delegating and assigning control, autonomy, or authority to others. To be successful, you’ll need the services and loyalty of others. Therefore, you’ll need to recruit members from your team to ensure you get where your organization needs to go.

Every organization has front-line soldiers ready to fight for them, and as an authentic leader, you need to scout, train, and nourish them in light of your culture. So, they have the attitude to do the same in the future. Elite teams have leaders at every organizational level whose job is not to serve as authoritative figures but to influence and inspire people into improving their productivity.

These leaders in the ranks are those fellow employees who always “have your back.” And everyone knows it. A leader at the top has to identify and nurture the others who can fill these unofficial roles.

BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK
Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you know everything. Therefore, you need to be open to feedback and accept the fact that your team can offer valuable insight and solve complex problems. A great leader will never be afraid to ask their team to evaluate their performance so they can grow further.

I coach my leaders to invite routine feedback about key areas they have individually chosen to strengthen in their own leadership toolkit. An example is to decide to be a more empathetic listener. Invite your team to give feedback when they feel you are not listening.

BE A RENAISSANCE MAN FOR YOUR TEAM
Great leaders are servants whose job is to facilitate their teams with everything they need to carry out their tasks, innovate, and transform. As a renaissance man, your job is to possess surface intelligence in different subject matters and steer the ship while your team focuses on their specific roles.

Knowing the scope of your work as well as the organization around you can help paint a bigger picture for your team to embrace. Sharing that picture in team meetings will give your team something to get excited about.

GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
The best way to lead is to lead from the front and not just give directions from the sidelines. For example, instead of sending your marketing team to local outlets for product promotion, you can accompany them and lead from the ground. Not only does this boost the overall team morale, but it also improves your brand reputation as your target audience sees a grounded individual, not a boss calling the shots from the 30th floor.

One caveat here. If your team is already highly motivated and experienced, you might be able to lead from the back, allowing them to run free within your prescribed boundaries.

SUMMARY

If you are in a management role and have not yet opened the door to leadership theory, now may be the best time to start. If you have already begun a leadership journey, you know that growth along the way involves new study, coaching, mentoring, and self-evaluation on a regular basis.

I like to say leadership is not a destination but a journey. There is always room to grow.

Father’s Day 2022 – Who’s Your Daddy?

This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day
I realize that has many different meanings for everyone.

In my case it is a day to reflect on the collection of dads I had.

Let me explain.

My Dad died before I was 2 years old. My Mom was wise enough to surround me with male mentors to come alongside and share life with me.

George J – taught me to work with wood to build custom furniture, play golf, and baseball.
Dan W – taught me tennis and fishing.
Jack W – was my Scout leader who introduced me to salvation with Jesus Christ.
Col Gaines – management and leadership
Wayne Stark – confidence and vision
And there were others, many others.

My definition of manhood became a woven tapestry of attributes these noble souls shared with a young fatherless boy.

I am forever grateful to those men. They weren’t corporate giants. Rather they were hard-working, salt-of-the-earth kinds of men.

I had a chance to preach at my church for Father’s Day several years ago. In that message, I shared more about this experience. There is a recording I’ll share below.

To all the Dads out there – Happy Father’s Day

Who are your stepping stones?

Sermon link https://podcasts.dougthorpe.com/2017/06/29/fathers-day-june-2017/

What Are You Waiting For?

waiting

There comes a time in life when you’ve done all the thinking, study, analysis, and planning you can do. You reach a decision point. Then it happens. You freeze. You cannot go forward. You’re stuck.

The question is then, what are you waiting for? What is it that holds you back, makes you balk? How can you make the call?

Leadership is about being able to avoid waiting. Making decisions is the big “so what” about being a leader. As the leader, your team is waiting for you to decide. Which way are we going, if at all? When? How?

While your ability to decide can make the difference, the timing of the decision is just as important.

First a story

I’ve often told the story of my banking experience during the implementation of ATM machines. The machines were new, unproven technology. Analysts agreed this was the next big thing. My bank had not yet entered the fight. The competition was running fast to adopt the technology.

We held a big executive summit with our senior leadership team. Case studies were prepared and presented. Our chairman and CEO, Ben Love, absorbed all of the information as only he could do. Then in the blink of an eye, he said “No, we’re going to wait this out. Let’s let the other guys get the arrows in their back.”

His analogy of course meant that pioneers were the ones who suffered the most when exploring new territory. We waited for a period, something like 18–24 months. Then we entered the market.

Not only did we avoid the high cost of early adoption failures (and there were many), but we dominated the space. We helped form the Pulse network which was the early version of the utility service that allowed all the machines to talk to each other and exchange transaction data. There was a cost to be on the network, a fee we profited from for quite some time.

In this case, Ben’s waiting was prudent, wise, and ultimately very profitable. However, too often the wait is a fail all its own.

The flip side

In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team. The idea was that Netflix would run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores. Hastings got laughed out of the room.

We all know what happened next. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is now a $28 billion-dollar company, about ten times what Blockbuster was worth. Today, Hastings is widely hailed as a genius, and Antioco is considered a fool. Yet that is far too unfair an explanation.

Antioco was, in fact, a very competent executive — many considered him a retail genius — with a long history of success. Yet for all his operational acumen, he failed to see that market forces were moving in a new direction.

Let’s make it personal

Waiting

Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of business case studies where CEOs failed to make the right call. But this issue is more personal.

Each of us with any leadership duty at all, whether at work, at home, or in the community, face the challenge to make decisions on behalf of our tribe.

When we freeze in place, we jeopardize everything we may have been working on. Here are three main reasons we wait before making the decision. And a little something to do about each one.

Fear

Fear is the obvious and easy answer to why we wait. When faced with an unknown about the future we have fear. As the reality settles in that our decision may have big consequences, fear rises up.

Fear can be overcome by determination. When I sense fear about making a decision, I look first at those who rely on me. I ask the question, will they be better off moving forward or staying stuck where we are.

If the consequences of my decision will not directly harm my tribe, I can move ahead with more determination.

Confidence

Confidence, or lack thereof, is a distant relative of fear. Building confidence as a leader is one of the most common expressions of concern I hear from my coaching clients. Lack of confidence causes us to wait.

There is not a good executive out there who hasn’t felt a little doubt from time to time, tugging at their confidence. Prior success only goes so far in helping to make new decisions with confidence. Yet building momentum as a leader can do more for confidence than anything else I know.

High achievers seldom celebrate wins in the day. Beating a deadline, making a delivery, and executing a difficult task, are all examples of wins you can and should be celebrating in your own way. I’m not talking about becoming arrogant. Rather I am talking about realizing the momentum that might be building on your team.

Celebrate that. Let it help build your confidence as a leader.

Procrastination

Yes, just old-fashioned procrastination can cause us to wait. Ironically, people with tendencies toward perfectionism are the biggest procrastinators I know.

The logic goes like this. I need this to be perfect, so I’ll wait for the right time, resources, or events to align so that the outcome will be perfect.

Perfect is the enemy of good. ~Voltaire

You don’t have to be perfect to be a winner. Success comes from action. Feel the urge to wait because of trying to be perfect? Decide first what good can look like. Then do it.

Question: What are you waiting for?

Four Stages of Effective Communication for Managers

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.

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.

Courtesy 123rf.com / MyMakeOU
Courtesy 123rf.com / MyMakeOU

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Don’t Be a Squirrel When It Comes to Decision Making

Where I live we have a large population of squirrels. These are ferril critters who run, jump, dig in flower beds, and swing in the trees. Sadly, when you drive thru the neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to find dead squirrels on the road. Why?

Well, if you watch one of the spunky guys run in front of your car, you’ll see them start out, stop, turn around, re-evaluate the situation, then maybe do it all over again. Left, right? Up, down? Should I go or should I stay? They may go forward or they might put it in reverse.

They can’t seem to make up their mind about which way to go. The hesitation inevitably leads to their demise.

In most cases, had they run straight across at full speed, they would have made the transition with no problem. Yet by delaying, and second-guessing the choice, they end up making a fatal one.

Leaders can’t be squirrel-minded when making decisions.

WAIT!!!!!!!!!

The Right Framework

Now, this may sound a bit harsh, yet I see it happen in business in so many ways. Peter Drucker wrote in 1967 about six essential elements or steps that should be a part of making good decisions. Here are those six steps.

First, classify the problem. Is it generic? Is it exceptional and unique? Or is it the first manifestation of a new genus for which a rule has yet to be developed?

Next, define the problem. What are we dealing with?

Then specify the answer to the problem. What are the “boundary conditions”?

Further, decide what is “right,” rather than what is acceptable, in order to meet the boundary conditions.. What will fully satisfy the specifications before attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable?

Plus, build into the decision the action to carry it out. What does the action commitment have to be? Who has to know about it?

Finally, test the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events. How is the decision being carried out? Are the assumptions on which it is based appropriate or obsolete?

Using this simple, six-step framework can guide you to making better decisions. While doing these, be mindful of personality derailers that can undermine your own view of things.

Beware of Derailers

Avoid procrastination – action is required. You can analyze and think all you want to, but action is necessary.

Temper a tendency toward Perfectionism – perfection is the enemy of good. Too many new opportunities have been lost while gathering “more data” to land on the ‘best’ decision.

Don’t second guess – use your experience and the wisdom of those around you to craft the decision.

Be bold – good leaders are willing to stand up for what they believe is right. Deciding the next right thing is what people are expecting.

Using Drucker’s framework and avoiding the derailers can set you on the path toward solid, reliable decisions that won’t leave you stuck (figuratively) in the path of an oncoming car, like our squirrel friends.

If you need help with your decision-making process, why not talk to a coach? I’ve been helping business leaders improve their leadership effectiveness for the past 12 years. I’d be happy to meet you and talk through things with you.

PS – If you’re looking for some lighthearted viewing pleasure, check out Mark Rober’s Squirrel Maze video on Youtube. There’s a sequel too.

YouTube player

Change and Progress, Are They Twins?

In today’s complex business world, change is hard. Companies venturing through major culture shifts, mergers or other forms of change often struggle to make it to the end.

The idea that people hate change is a phenomenon that is taught, coached and wrestled with in many ways, shapes, and forms. Regardless of your mindset about CHANGE, there is one vital aspect you should explore.

PROGRESS is what you should be focused on. Change for the sake of change is meaningless. However, progress toward a new goal or achievement is more vital and more valuable to your organization.

Dean Lindsay, America’s premier authority on Progress, writes:

All progress is change, but not all change is progress.

Lindsay uses an illustration. If you wake up in the morning with a stomach ache, you want to change. You want it to go away.

If you tell a friend and they punch you in the nose, you got a change. But it wasn’t progress toward curing your stomach ache.

The Rhetoric

There are voices in the media demanding change. The word has been worn out. Again, change for the sake of change is not progress.

When you sense the need for change or you design an intentional change in the way your business operates, be sure you are designing progress toward a new goal.

I know companies who have launched major change initiatives (they call it that) with the intent to become more profitable, increase margin, find efficiencies, or become more competitive.

Those are great objectives.

Yet what they are really saying is we need progress forward to be better situated for growth and survival in our industry.

Too often the well-intended change that is initiated gets bogged down in all the adoption and adaptation process. As soon as the change feels hard and resistance begins to mount, plans are adjusted.

Many times the shift is pulled back or canceled in the face of resistance.

Living Through the Curve

Roxanne Chugg writes: “The fact is that most change initiatives are done “to” employees, not implemented “with” them or “by” them. Although leaders are pushing behavior change from the top and expecting it to cascade through the formal structure, an informal culture left to instinct and chance will likely dig in its heels and resist or even hijack the change.”

There is a popular model that describes the change cycle. Dr. Virginia Satir first introduced this model when explaining emotional life-change events in family therapy. However, it has been widely adopted in change management circles to help businesses plan for and implement change.

The “S” shape of this curve helps us see the complexity of making a change. When applied to a work team, each member of the team will experience their own progression through the curve, each moving at their own pace.

The key matter here is that everyone in the organization faces their own emotional curve when forced into change. Acceptance or adoption of the change is dependent upon the progress one can make moving through the curve.

If plotted together on a single graph you could see the lag points where the manager/leader may be further along the curve than his people. If the leader is not sensitive to this lag factor, then the message from the top might be skewed.

The leader could be thinking “Come on people, don’t you get this? Why aren’t we further along?”

In reality, the team may be lagging behind the leader’s position moving along the curve. A little bit of lag is normal. However, the leader must decide how much lag is tolerable.

Back to Progress

Given the tremendous effort and disruption a change may cause at work, leaders must be mindful of the progress being made.

Leaders need to ask: “Is the company moving ahead because of this change or are we merely spinning our wheels, burning out the staff, and creating very little value?”

Question: What change initiative has your company gone through recently? Or were you the one directing it?

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SWOT Yourself

swot analysis

There’s a popular business analysis tool known as S.W.O.T. It provides a method for looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

SWOT reviews are done for business issues of all kinds like competition, market position, product design, sales, and technology. As applied to a business, you can see the merit of doing this review periodically.

SWOT

However, it can be useful on a personal level as well. Managers and leaders should take time during annual reviews and goal setting to add this powerful view as well. Here’s how it can work.

Personal Review Using SWOT

A plan of action using a Personal SWOT Analysis can be developed for every aspect of development and execution because there are always three critical components in every chosen role you may serve. Whether you are husband, wife, father, mother, community leader, volunteer or other, you can SWOT your contribution to that effort.

Why? Because every role we serve has three key components.

Identity, Purpose, and Intention.

These three components form a process of right action. Without understanding who you are or what your business or organizational core competence is and what is the purpose you intend, you are always going to be guessing more than you have to.

In the following analysis, you are taken step by step through a proven process of creating clarity of the right action.

However, to do so we have to begin with a simple way of fleshing out the context within which you intend to work. It doesn’t matter what context or role you choose, each of them requires you to be clear.

In order to reach clarity we take some simple, yet critically important steps. The first steps begin with a SWOT Analysis.

You will focus on the following overriding questions:

  • Do you know your personal purpose?
  • What are your goals or objectives?
  • What are your values?
  • HOW Can YOU match your STRENGTHS to OPPORTUNITIES/Openings?
  • How can you reduce the impact of your WEAKNESSES and THREATS?
  • How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?

Strengths

Trying to analyze one’s own strengths can be tricky. Throughout all of my coaching, I seldom see anyone who gets this exactly right the first time. Some might be modest and undervalue great strength in areas like collaboration, employee empowerment, decision making, or planning.

Others can be more boastful, seeming to know without a doubt they are great leaders who people should feel honored to serve; “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.

Entrepreneurs can be especially blinded by the emotional connection to their idea. While the great new product or service has great potential, the business will fail because the founder doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know.

Before isolating your own estimation of your strengths, seek some 360 feedback. Get input from others you value as trusted advisors. Do an informal ask session.

Then compile a list of the strengths that you can use to accomplish your goals and objectives.

Weaknesses

Just like your strengths, identifying “weaknesses” in your personal domain can be hard. Objectivity can be lacking. You may even be suffering blindspots where your weaknesses reside. Using 360 reviews and stakeholder feedback can help inform you of areas where there is an opportunity for improvement.

However, you may know exactly what areas or what issues give you the most trouble. Stating what these may be will help round out the SWOT analysis.

Opportunities

These are the things you can see as a new direction; changes that allow you to reach new goals. Taking a good look at the road in front of you can reveal opportunities for growth and change.

Listing them while doing this personal inventory helps bring motivation and inspiration to the plan.

Threats

Making a good assessment of personal threats is also tricky. I recommend starting with your mindset.

Do you hold any limiting thoughts about who you are and what you can do?

If you ever wondered about a limiting thought, they sound like this:

  • I’m too small
  • I’m too slow
  • I’m too ugly
  • I don’t have the right degree.
  • You failed at this the last time.

Any statement rumbling in your head that starts with or sounds like these needs to be eliminated first. Then you can deal with identifying true threats to your personal goals.

Performing a Periodic Personal Review

Just as every successful business invests time to perform SWOT analysis from time to time, you too should perform this review with your work life, home life, and career balance.

See what the data may tell you about the direction you are heading. Use the informed analysis to redirect your path, redefine goals, and set a new course.

Have a great and prosperous New Year!

If you want to know more about the ways I can help you or your business, click the button below.

Leaders Getting It Right

team manager talking to team

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of watching a manager guide his team through a very successful series of events and opportunities. The way he has mastered the leadership of his interesting group has just been amazing to me. I’ve watched them overcome great obstacles, some uncertainty, and definite challenges to create what you might call an undefeated season.

There were times when the outcome was very much in doubt but through some very obvious and intentional moves that this manager made, the team was able to rally and achieve great success.

I started looking back on the things that made this particular manager’s effort different. And it occurred to me that he has been a very effective model of some fundamental principles that leaders at all levels, in all kinds of organizations should be following.

Knowing the Fundamentals

It will be helpful to list some of these fundamentals. You can use them as your own gauge or checklist to see if you are also using these things to steer your team toward greater success and higher performance.

The first thing I observed in this manager’s skill set was a distinct ability to carefully evaluate each member of his team. He watched for key talents. He identified gaps. You might call them the weaknesses that each person demonstrated. From this careful analysis, he crafted the structure of his team. He carefully deployed each individual into a key role that set the individual up for success while establishing a firm foundation from which the whole team would operate.

He performed a good effective analysis of situations that were occurring around them. As circumstances changed, he would adjust the assignments that were given to each team member. He was leveraging the best skill at the best time. Sometimes there were team members that really didn’t have a task. They were sitting out so to speak.

Yet the circumstances were ever-changing therefore every teammate got the opportunity to perform. As situations changed, this manager had the foresight to allow team members who needed to develop new skills to get into a situation that would give them the opportunity to experience actual effort and impact while they were working on developing their skills.

The manager seemed willing to freely delegate authority and responsibility. Team members were allowed to make real-time decisions about responses they felt were appropriate in the moment. If that transaction turned out to be wrong, the manager did not get upset about it.

Rather he talked to the individual about what they did, how they did it, and what another choice could have been. If circumstances got too severe, this manager was quick to adjust the deployment so that the lesser performing personnel were not left dangling and exposed to possible failure.

He did create a system of accountability. Team members were held accountable for the actions coming their way and their response at the moment.

When each big moment came and went this manager would have a huddle with the whole team. He would talk through the elements of what had just happened. He would reinforce his vision of what they needed to be doing. Plus he would answer questions about the work effort.

He achieved great success without ever spending one moment of overtime. He never asked the team to commit unreasonable time to the effort. Instead, he saw to it that every moment they were together was spent with valuable instruction, positive reinforcement, and solid coaching.

One additional aspect of this manager’s great success was his seeming ability to stay several steps ahead of the game. He never seemed surprised by the circumstances that unfolded. He was calm in the face of tension. He was positive when disagreements happened. And he himself demonstrated high professionalism, great integrity, and solid vision.

Lastly, and by no means the least, he built an atmosphere of fun not work. He saw to it that every member of the team was having fun doing what they were there to do. He played music when there was a break. He told good, clean stories that people could laugh at.

So What?

All of the elements listed above make up attributes that leaders need to be pursuing for the benefit of growing a high-performing team. If you have not thought about some of these aspects you should be looking at your own view of your responsibility as a leader and determine whether or not you can make these kinds of changes with your team.

By the way, I watched leaders in other organizations go through this same period of time with far less success. As I observed those managers what I saw was a lack of understanding of the talent they had in their team. There was no apparent effort to create a roster of talent that could be used in applicable moments to maximize the outcome of every opportunity. Rather they seem to be simply passing the time trying to get through each challenge the best way they knew how. Some days they won some days they lost.

However, the manager I’m speaking about at this point in time is what you could call undefeated. He has a perfect win-loss record. His team enjoys the work they do. They seem to enjoy working with each other. And they are always ready to take on a new challenge.

If this is something you are interested in learning more about I would be happy to schedule a call with you to explore what is going on with your team in ways that you can be this kind of leader.

Oh by the way I failed to mention something. The manager I’m talking about is the coach of my 9-year-old grandson’s Little League team. Yes, they are undefeated going into the playoffs as the top seed in the tournament.

Author’s Note – Several days after this article first ran, the Rockies swept the league playoffs and won the tournament championship, making them a perfect 17-0 for the season.

The principles I described above work as well in any business as they do at the ballpark with young men and women (they had a girl on the team too! – just sayin…).

For more insights and routine tips on leadership, listen to the podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense.”

Next Level, New Devil

As people go through life’s journey, there is often wonder about why new chapters create new challenges. If you are on some kind of career path, you work hard at one job only to get moved to another. The success you build in one role usually involves overcoming various issues.

The solutions you find become part of your experience and growth. Yet when that new opportunity presents itself, you discover it feels like you are starting all over again, back at square one. The new challenge throws you into a temporary spiral trying to get your feet on the ground and your head in the right place.

To sum it up “next level, new devil.” Thus we get “the devil is in the details.” The new devil we must face is the hard part of anything new.

What’s a Leader to Do?

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the change, maintain a positive attitude, and grow with the opportunity.

First, be realistic. This does happen. New things associated with a new role shouldn’t be a surprise they are new. Many leaders I know embrace the notion that “what got you here won’t get you there.” This is not a statement of failure, but a statement of solid reality.

Rather it is a mindset that to be successful, you must go with the flow. Identify opportunities for learning. Ask around.

Next, related to the first thing, is to rely on the senior veterans on the team. If you’ve been promoted to a management role on a pre-existing team, meet the talent. Quickly get to know who you have on the team. Pick their brains about the current status of things and their view of opportunities going forward. Let them help you uncover your new blind spots.

Third, be transparent. Don’t fake what you don’t know. False ‘wisdom’ is sniffed out quickly. It can undermine your effectiveness as a leader. The old phrase ‘fake it ’til you make it’ sounds great in a classroom, but it can be devastating on the job or out in the field. In some situations, people’s lives can be at risk.

The converse is true too though. If you think you know what is to be done/required, don’t let your ego get in the way. Your surroundings may yet hold other surprises. Keep any boldness you are tempted to display in check. There’s a huge difference between being confident and being obnoxious.

Lastly, as new devils are introduced to you, keep a level head. Don’t let yourself get too excited or too down on the situation. Remember, you figured out how to learn from prior experiences so you will learn now too.

Reflection Helps

Day by day as you take on a new role, give yourself the chance to reflect. Think back to big new things you were confronted with before. Look at the ways you processed that challenge back then. Try what was once successful as a method of winning over the new devil. Or, if an old try didn’t turn out as you hoped it would ask yourself what you learned then that can be used now.

Nothing is so constant as change

~Heraclitus

Share a comment about your leadership journey. How have you overcome the new devils you’ve faced?

Also, join me on my podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense.” New episodes are published 2x per week. Click the image below to hop over to the archives.

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