We all like Plan “B” options that afford us an escape when things don’t work out. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. How’s that for bold leadership?
What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. A retreat was not an option.
In order to achieve the highest level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the boats.”
The obvious question becomes “what are my ships or boats”? For starters, your ship may be anything that you are afraid to let go of.
It seems the world is spinning out of control. But I choose not to believe that.
Rather, I believe we have temporarily lost our way. As someone who coaches, teaches, and writes about leadership, it is time to talk about one very vital aspect of what it means to be a leader.
While I spend a great deal of my time with clients and colleagues talking about casting a vision for their work, there is still one critical ingredient for determining the right vision. Just like in baking that delicious secret recipe your grandmother passed down, you cannot ignore critical ingredients. Otherwise, the cake will be a miserable failure.
The vitally important ingredient for leaders is their sense of True North, the “North Star.”
In the cosmos, the northern start stays almost constant while the rest of the night sky swirls around it. Ancient travelers in the northern hemisphere used this beacon to direct their travel.
Your Core Purpose Sets Your North Star
For leaders today, your sense of purpose becomes your North Star. If you don’t know why you are doing something or for what purpose your efforts are dedicated, you’ll live a groundhog’s day existence. Life will be about getting up and walk the same steps, doing the same things, day after day.
You can write great business plans and maybe even accomplish a few good things, but you will feel empty. You’ll have this nagging sense that there is more.
We have all been brought here for a purpose. You are no accident.
Your life is no accident, but the way you live it may be random.
Finding and having a true sense of purpose becomes your North Star.
In my book “STRIVE”, I share the experience of founding and running a career transition organization, coaching over 4,500 people through job search after the great recession of 2008.
In the early going, I discovered a deep need for people to reconnect with their sense of purpose. Losing a job for the first time in a career path of 10, 15 or 20 years, left people feeling lost.
When I really dug into that fact, I discovered the way out was to help people reconnect with their sense of purpose. Purpose has nothing to do with a job title or station at work. I began teaching people about ways to redefine who they were and what they were about.
THEN, they could think about targeting a new job. They were finding their North Star.
The same thing is being repeated today. People impacted by the COVID pandemic have lost their identities because the work they were doing has either shifted or been lost. The work should never be your True North. But your sense of purpose for the work you are doing is.
Managing a Team
Anyone in a position of responsibility, whether managing a team or owning a business, deals with not having a North Star. When you lose your purpose as a team, everything else in the circle of trust breaks down. (See more on that HERE)
Leaders need to have their own sense of True North and they should help their teams find and understand theirs.
Time and time again, I hear clients struggling with not knowing True North. They say things like “if only I knew true north…”
True North keeps us stabilized and centered. It helps us avoid wasted effort and meaningless pursuits.
Having the right sense of True North lets you go to bed a night with a feeling of accomplishing something because your day was focused on following that True North.
How Do You Know It’s Gone
How do you know for sure you’ve lost your North Star? Here are several key things to consider.
First, you feel very empty. You’re tired from all the effort, but there is no real sense of accomplishment. Trying to do more and be more just keeps you feeling that emptiness.
Next, people on your team may express their sense of being lost. They question everything. They challenge your authority. They’re not pointing the stick at you, but the chatter is about having no clarity. They no longer know what a ‘win’ looks like.
Finally, you feel like you’re in a fog. It’s hard to see things ahead of you. This actually happens literally out on the ocean. Ships trying to navigate by the stars lose all bearing when the sky is overcast of foggy. You lose the North Star so all other navigational effort is compromised.
Reconnect with Your North Star
If any of this sound familiar, it’s time to do the work to reconnect with your sense of purpose, your North Star. Strip away all of the distractions and re-center on who and what you think you are.
If you need help with this effort, I provide the whole second half of “STRIVE” to walk your through a personal purpose process. It’s a classic look at the areas of life that mean the most to you. It helps you chart personal values and aspirations into a clear, purposeful definition.
By having your personal purpose, you will be ready to cut through the clutter, the sense of being lost, and create more meaningful visions for your business, your family and your community.
We need leaders today who have this proper sense of purpose to guide and direct. I hope you’ll join me in becoming one of those kinds of leaders.
PS – In some of my seminars, I ask the audience to stand up, close their eyes, and point to North. Then I tell them to hold their point and open their eyes.
Everyone is pointing in different directions. There’s a chuckle.
As they sit down I tell them that finding True North is a bit like this for the individual. While magnetic north and the North Star are fixed, your personal sense of purpose is going to be unique.
Personal mission statements guide you towards your goals. If you sometimes feel like you’re floundering, chart your course by putting your purpose into writing. Try these suggestions for applying personal mission statements to your professional and personal life.
Understanding the Basics of Personal Mission Statements
Here are six key principles to follow.
First, perform an inventory. Your personal mission statement encompasses who you are and what you want out of life.
I like doing a personal S.W.O.T. analysis. Businesses use SWOT to evaluate their activity, why not use the same approach in your personal affairs?
Consider your core values and beliefs. Review your past accomplishments. Look for common themes that suggest your strengths and priorities. Ask yourself what you want your legacy to be.
Next, seek inspiration. One of the major benefits of mission statements is the motivation they provide. When you toil away at a tedious task or run into an obstacle, you can remind yourself of why you’re making the effort. Knowing your WHY is a very important motivation for giving your best effort at all times.
Then write it down. Putting your thoughts down on paper makes them more concrete in your mind. It’s easier to see how you’re doing and hold yourself accountable. We all get great ideas, but without writing them down, they have a tendency to drift away.
The same is true with your sense of personal purpose.
Above all, keep it brief. While there may be a lot of thought behind your mission statement, keep the final product short and powerful. That way you can pinpoint the values that matter most to you and measure your success.
Simplicity also adds to clarity. Having a short but succinct statement helps you maintain focus.
Then, gather feedback. Welcome input from others as you create your mission statement and carry it out. Your friends and coworkers may notice factors that you tend to overlook. Others will have keen insights into potential blind spots you have.
Lastly, evaluate your progress. Mission statements evolve over time. Your goals may change when you switch careers or turn 40. Advances in technology sometimes automate the tasks that used to take up your time, giving you a chance to pursue a new passion.
Keep it fresh. At a minimum, re-evaluate your statement each year.
Using Mission Statements in Your Professional Life
Feeling a bit disconnected at work?
Rewrite your job description. Take a fresh look at your position. Your personal mission statement may suggest new tasks that you want to take on and old ones that you want to phase out. Maybe you’ll continue your current duties but approach them with greater meaning and commitment.
Talk with your supervisor. Let your manager know that you’re trying to align your work more closely with the company mission statement. They may appreciate your initiative and offer helpful ideas.
Coach yourself. While support from your supervisor is valuable, you can also train and drill yourself. Construct a plan of action for integrating your mission statement into your daily routine.
Assess your fit. Addressing fundamental issues may raise bigger questions about your future. You may decide that you’re in tune with your company or you may decide to move on.
Using Mission Statements in Your Personal Life
Enhance your health. Fulfilling your mission depends on keeping your body strong. Cherishing your health can keep you on track with managing your weight, eating nutritious foods, exercising daily, and sleeping eight hours each night.
Strengthen your parenting. If you have children, it’s natural to think about what you’re passing on to them with each decision you make. Focus on raising your sons and daughters to be kind and responsible.
Deepen your relationships. Your mission statement affects other relationships too. You may find that your marriage and friendships help you to develop the qualities you treasure.
Practice your spirituality. If faith is the cornerstone of your life, your mission statement can help you to translate your beliefs into practical actions. Designate a percentage of your time for volunteer work with your church or sign up for classes with a spiritual guide whose teachings touch your heart.
Clarify your purpose by developing and updating your personal mission statement on a regular basis. Understanding your individual definition of success brings you closer to reaching your goals.
If you need help with this process, our coaches are ready and willing to come alongside. Let us show you the ways to unlock the power of creating and following a personal mission statement.
If you’re looking for more tips and tricks to build your leadership tool kit, Join my mail list. Receive free advice and pointers weekly. Just click the button below.
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.
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 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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 need 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.
2020 has been a dumpster fire. Pandemic, economic trials, election battles, remote working, killer hornets, hurricanes, and mandated lockouts. What else can go wrong, right?
And it’s hard to believe we’re poised to launch into 2021 just a few short weeks away. Can you say “Yippee”!
With year-end upon us and a new year right ahead, people start thinking about new year planning. This article is not another push for goal setting. It will not be about the next great program or self-help eBook. The topic I’d like to share seldom gets mentioned in any Top 10 list of attributes for managers. Yet, I feel obligated to bring it up. What am I talking about?
The topic is GRACE; not a person or a thing. Rather, in my humble opinion, grace is a state of mind. We can’t earn it. Many feel they don’t deserve it. So, I believe that is why I have yet to find the topic of grace being spoken about in any of the management and leadership books I follow.
Maybe you first heard about grace from a Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi. No, this will NOT be a Bible study article. I simply want to tell you about adding grace to several parts of your life as you close 2020 and enter the New Year.
What is Grace?
Please allow me to explain my thoughts about grace, then we will apply them to your situation.
First, I said grace is a mindset. It lives halfway between your head and your heart. You can over-think it, thus killing the spirit of it. Or, you can over-give it, thus defying the logic of what you might need to be doing with it. It is a delicate balance of thought, logic, emotion, and self-worth.
Next, it does include a dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness not just for a moment, then later to be revoked, but permanent. Wiped clean, wiped off, wiped out.
Then, in modern terms, grace gives us the break you need as in ‘give me a break’. It cuts you some slack. It soothes the hurt. It takes away the sting. It is the essence of ‘let it go’. My eldest son calls this ‘breathe’.
There is so much more to grace, but I will leave it at this for now. So with these ideas in mind, how should you and I apply grace? I have several recommendations.
Where Does Grace Need to Be Applied?
First and foremost, apply it to your own life. No one ever grades us harder than we grade ourselves. Grace allows you to add a curve to the grading. It gives you bonus points.
Giving yourself grace for the things that have not worked out helps to eliminate negative forces that can cripple our effort to move forward. When you look back at 2020 or beyond, are you haunted by things not done? Do you lament the decisions you made? Do you beat yourself up over relationships that went wrong or business deals that did not work out?
If you said YES to any of those, you, my friend, need some grace in your life. Decide when, where, and how you will give yourself some grace so that the New Year can get going without hurdles.
Next, if you manage people, what grace do you give them? We all know there are boundaries and standards that must be applied at work. But your co-workers are human. You need to extend some grace. It is a certainty that someone somewhere in your circle will fall short of a goal.
Once the required administration of the situation is complete, do you offer grace? You can demonstrate grace by establishing a work environment where the employee feels the slate is truly wiped clean once any offense is addressed.
Sidebar – Yes, I know managers must deal with disciplinary matters that set up probationary periods. So there will be a cloud over the employee while that period is in force. While this is happening, will you treat all other aspects of the person’s work effort with grace?
The other area in your life where grace is vitally needed is family; starting with your spouse (if married), then your children. Have these people committed some offense for which you have yet to forgive? Have you thought about giving them grace?
Being a leader requires the ability to give grace.
Here are 5 key questions about grace.
When was the last time you visited the topic of grace?
Has grace been given to you lately?
Do you owe yourself some grace?
Who do you know that needs you to give them grace?
Will you add grace to your leadership toolkit in 2021?
Thank you for your faithful following this past year. Here’s to a bright and prosperous 2021!
PS – Here’s a little fun video for you to enjoy about 2020 by Penn Holderness; an amazing artist.
Hi, my name is Doug. I am hopelessly addicted to taking a little white ball, hitting it with a stick, and trying to get it into a small hole 475 yards away from where I am standing. Hi Doug!
Yes, I am talking about playing golf. One day, a friend and I were out to play a round. We were having a great day of fellowship and friendship, but the golf game was not going well. Scores were higher than the Texas heat.
This round of golf was shaping up to be just like my last 3 months. For some reason, my game had dropped to an all-time low, or high when you focus on the scoring. I was playing really bad golf. The computers at NASA could not keep up with my score.
After 16 tough holes on the course (they were tough because of the way I was playing), I realized I had run out of the fancy and somewhat expensive golf balls my son had encouraged me to play. Digging around in my golf bag, I found a sleeve of some other brand of golf ball. I had liked playing the game with this particular brand but had agreed to try the other ones my son recommended.
Seeing a Change
I teed up the new ball and Whack! My shot was a straight, beautiful arc headed right at the flag on a long par 3 hole. The ball landed firm, bounced a few feet, rolled, and came to rest solidly secured on the green. Now my excitement here may seem a bit overzealous, but given the day I had been having, this shot was perhaps the most gorgeous thing I had done all day. As I strolled up, I realized I had quite a long putt. But hey, I was putting. I putted twice to score a PAR! Wow, PAR!
The next and last hole is a long par 5. It is a relatively straight hole but has water right in front of the green. I set up my tee shot, took my swing, and saw the ball launch into the blue azure of the Texas sky, tracking straight down the fairway. Hmmm, could this be a trend?
As my friend and I motored down the course, I was feeling renewed and redeemed. The second shot was still a long way away, so I strategically decided to “lay-up”. This means I was not going to play Tin Cup and shoot for the green, with all that water in front. I took out a hybrid club and lined up. Swing! Wow, here we go again.
Making Change Happen
No, not into trouble, but straight at the target area I had chosen. This magical ball spun and flew right where I wanted it to go. So now for the approach to the green. I take my trusty 8 iron and practice a few swings. Now I am ready to launch my assault.
Just then a huge wind blew into my face. Oh no; water, wind, and still some distance to overcome. I am undaunted. I have the miracle ball.
Swing! The ball rises straight up into the air, chasing forward. The wind catches and starts to push a bit left. Could it be? YES! It lands on the green.
Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s a monster putt from where this thing lands, but I am on the green of a par 5 in three shots. By the way, my friend was having his own out-of-body experience doing pretty much the same. He too was sitting right up on the green. We strode onto the putting surface like gladiators. We had our trusty putting sabers in our hands. We were going to finish this beast once and for all.
As I got closer I realized this putt was going to be my longest of the day. I paced it off at 55 feet. My friend was almost the same distance for his putt, likely 50 feet. I stood over my shot, gathered my focus, and pulled back the mighty putting saber. Swoosh! The ball jumped off the club head and started its journey over hill and dale to make its way to the hole. Then it happened. Clunk!
Right in the dead center of the hole. I had scored a birdie! One UNDER par. What a way to finish! My friend was happy for me. Then he tried his shot. And amazingly he too heard that same glorious CLUNK! Another birdie! It was a great way to finish the day.
So why do I share all of this? I am not gloating about my golf game. Believe me, gloat is the last thing someone with my score should be doing.
A change made the difference.
I switched the brand of the ball I was hitting.
All manufacturers of golf balls strive to create a look and feel that influences the play of the game. Some golf balls are softer than others. Some spin faster due to the design of the little dimples on the cover. Some don’t spin much at all. The list of attributes goes on and on.
Then I realized my game had started going bad when I started using the higher-priced balls. By returning to a brand of golf ball that had been good for me made my last two holes play entirely different.
I did not consciously change the golf ball I was using until I ran out of the former brand. A moment of necessity forced a change for me. But once I made the change, the outcome was far more rewarding.
Yes, I know, the likelihood of long term success is yet to be seen. However, given all the other inputs yesterday, the only variable that changed was my golf ball. So I am glad the change happened.
Whether you own your own company or run a large business unit for someone, you can make small changes that can yield big results. If you’d like, we can arrange a short exploratory call to talk about ways you too can realize big change with small adjustments.
Join the discussion. Leave a comment or share it with a friend.
Recently I’ve had clients mention that they may want to start blogging. I wrote this article several years ago and have shared it twice before. But for those just now thinking about blogging, but I am updating it and sharing it again.
There are plenty of reasons seasoned professionals should write their own blogs. 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 200,000 followers and growing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plugins – These are add-on tools you can add to your WordPress framework. 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 provide 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
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.
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.
Update– As with all technology, there are leapfrog effects. One solution comes out with cool features that seem superior, then pretty soon, the competition jumps over them with better features. Aweber is doing that right now IMHO. MailChimp is still unbeatable for its free version, but as soon as your list gets bigger, you may need to switch.
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.
MeetEdgar – This is a new addition to my list of great tools. MeetEdgar.com provides social media scheduling tools. You can set it and forget it. A coaching colleague introduced me to these guys and I was hooked at hello.
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 1x 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.
One Last Thought About Scaling
If you have grand ideas for scaling your online business, there are tools to think about. Software like Infusionsoft (now called “Keap” because the market nicknamed them ‘confusion soft’), ConvertKit, Kajabi, and SamCart is great. However, be advised… these require a whole extra layer of sophistication in your effort to grow a business. There is a learning curve. The tools are great (I’m using some of them), but that is another level you can wait to explore once you have real customers coming in.
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
We live in a crazy, busy world. That won’t be a surprise to anyone. The at-home quarantine for COVID-19 have even increased the load on workers and families everywhere.
Your day gets crammed with to-do list items that feel overwhelming. What can you do?
If you’re like most people I know, (myself included) you want to get it ALL done. But how do you decide what gets done first and what can wait?
In the face of this global crisis, turning to some old-school thinking just might help you.
Prior to becoming the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower served as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during WWII. As a general officer, Eisenhower was faced with daunting decisions concerning the tasks he needed to focus on every day. This led him to create a principle that can help us priorities our tasks by looking at whether something is urgent and important.
I like to call these things that are both important and urgent your “big rocks”. These are the must win items to get done.
Many of my clients admit that the big rocks can get pushed aside in favor of clearing out a bunch of smaller things. There’s a flaw in that idea though. Fill your day with a bunch of little things like those 135 emails, and your day will be gone before anything got done on the big rock.
The things you know you need to do first can be put aside because of perfectionist tendencies. The thinking sounds like this, “I know this is big. I am not prepared to make it perfect, so I am going to wait.”
Perfect is the enemy of good.
Get busy on those Big Rocks, now!
Box 2: Decide When
Box 2 items are important but not urgent. So what they need is a decision about when.
Items placed in box 2 can have life changing impact; remember they ARE important. Yet you have time to decide when they get done.
Here’s where we need to talk about urgent versus important. People often associate urgent matters with being important, which is not always true.
There are many examples of Box 2 items. Getting another degree can be very important to your career advancement, but does it have to be done right now? Exercising is important for health, but you can schedule the right amount of exercise.
Box 3: Delegate It
Have you ever spent time doing something you thought was so urgent and important, but when it was done you realized it was not?
If so, congrats. You are in great company.
For Box 3 it is important to learn when and how to delegate things. If you lead a team, you have resources. You can salvage your time in favor of letting others do these particular tasks.
If you are in the middle of working on a big rock (Box #1) and the phone rings. You don’t have to answer it. If you see who called, ask a team member to return the call and find out what is happening.
Box 4: Delete It
You want to avoid many of Box 4 items. Examples are playing video games, watching old TV shows. Any mindless web browsing may be a Box 4 item.
You need time to invest in working boxes 1 and 2. The more time you free up by simply deleting things, the more productive you will become.
OK, yes, we need “downtime” to unwind and relax. Take that time. But watch yourself for wasted time doing very unnecessary things. That junk email doesn’t even need to be opened. Just delete it.
Procrastination and the Eisenhower Grid
As I mentioned earlier, procrastination can get you confused about this grid. Sometimes it’s easy to make distinctions between your tasks, other times not so much.
Everything you have in front of you does not fit in one of the boxes. The reality is that all things do fit somewhere, just not in the same box.
Picking up that gallon of milk has to wait while you find your car keys. There is a logical order to things.
For procrastinators, while you wrestle with box 1 and 2 things, you fill your day acting on things in boxes 3 and 4. Ultimately, you feel a sense of missed opportunity.
Here’s How to Use the Grid to See If YOU are Procrastinating
To see if you are spending the bulk of your time in the first two quadrants, do a one-week assessment. To do this, make six copies of a blank grid, and use one grid per day, listing the tasks you accomplished or the activities you did, and the time spent on each thing.
When all of the grids are full, combine the Monday-Friday data onto your sixth summary grid and calculate how much time you spent in each grid, then break those numbers down into percentages.
Evaluate how effectively you spent your time and whether your process needs to be reorganized.
As businesses across the globe begin to ponder their choices for reopening in a post-COVID-19 world, people will be faced with choices. While governmental restrictions dictate some of those choices, it appears all other choices will be left up to the owner/manager. Are you ready to take a chance?
The choices will involve taking chances. How are you set for taking a chance? Here are just a few of the situations I am seeing among the businesses I serve.
Social distancing is still going to be a ‘rule of the road’. Large companies with grand office footprints are talking about limiting on-site presence, at least for the near future. Ideas like allowing only those employees with enclosed offices to return to work first. Cubicle workers will stay home a bit longer.
Restaurants are looking at separating tables by six feet, reducing seating areas. Stores may keep the Plexiglas panels they have installed at checkout stands.
As an executive, leader or manager making these choices, you create a risk for taking the chance to do something one way or the other. How will you handle that?
The Basis for Decision
Responding to the post-crisis world will be testing your leadership resolve. Do you have the ‘metal’ to stand firm in your convictions about the right thing to do? Clearly acting too soon to deploy large numbers of employees, patrons, or traffic in your facility may tag you an outlier. Are you ready to accept that risk?
The process to make these choices will demonstrate what you have been made of all along. As John Maxwell says:
“Experiences make us, but crisis reveals us.”
How will you be revealed in the face of the crisis around you? As the world finds its new normal, will your leadership character be strong or weak?
Core and Edge Thinking
There is a good explanation for dealing with taking chances as a leader. It has to do with the agility you have in moving from your core out to the edge. Let me explain.
Your Core is the center of your leadership framework. It is made up of all your beliefs, values, and relational experiences. The core includes your technical training and experience too. Likely you have worked hard to develop your leadership core. Just like working on your body’s core at the gym, having a strong leadership core makes you a better leader.
Your core provides the foundation of who and what you may be as a leader. It inspires your own sense of right and wrong, weak and strong.
However, your core can become your comfort zone too. You might be one who finds safety in staying very close to the core. This can be the downside of relying too much on core strengths.
Then There’s the Edge
For every one of us, there is an edge out there. The edge is the horizon of opportunity and challenge. The edge is where new growth happens. It is often an unknown situation or circumstance.
This is why taking a chance is a good example of being on the edge. The risk that is associated with going out to the edge is what makes leadership challenges so significant.
Explorers love the edge challenge. Finding new horizons.
That is why your willingness to go out to the edge is as much an indicator of your leadership prowess as is your core strength.
The third dimension of this model is called agility. Agility is a leader’s ability to move smoothly from core thinking to the edge and back again.
On one hand, being willing to freely go out to the edge is good, but if you get stuck there, you’re in trouble. You have to be able to get back to your center, your foundation. Think about Apollo 13.
Agility is the beauty of good leadership. Keeping your values high yet exploring new opportunities to grow and prosper your team, your work, and your business. By gracefully going to the edge while maintaining clear visibility of core strengths, you become a trusted leader.
Back to the New Chances
The new normal we are looking to establish represents the edge for all of us. The way we define the edge may be different, but it is an edge nonetheless. If your core cries out for certain values and expectations, but the edge is not clear, you are dealing with taking a big chance.
Your agility will be the factor that determines your success. Ask yourself what it will take to move forward.
Will an old habit of decision making fail you in this new crisis? Will you be afraid to take chances?
Or can you effectively, maybe even boldly, make the right decision to choose next steps for your business? By exercising your agility you can go out to the new edges, do what you have to do, then know you can always return to your core for strength.
With so many of us confined to limited movement during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been touching base (OK touching is a bad word) with colleagues, clients and close friends. The gist of the discussions have to do with “what do we do now?”
An old title from my archives came to mind. I thought I’d dust it off and share. I hope this thought will be helpful to you as you figure out your “new normal.”
Here it is from the vault.
We all suffer the daily grind. Some days are better than others. For anyone in management or leadership, you need to take a pause to make some critical assessments. I like to call it recalibration. This is a key leadership quality.
Let’s face it, the demands on your time and your life can get overwhelming. In today’s tumultuous market, we really never know from day to day what next may come.
In my consulting days, I was project manager of a very large engagement with over 600 consultants working for me. It was a coast to coast assignment with teams scattered across 7 job sites. I had nine different work streams running concurrently, with cross-over dependencies between teams.
The hours were long and the travel compounded the pressure. The client was a large national banking institution and the mission was to help the bank respond to a critical regulatory mandate. To say the least, the stakes were great. It could have been easy to get overwhelmed with the scope of the situation. I confess, at times I did feel consumed.
Fortunately, my many years of prior training, both military and civilian, had prepared me for just such a mission. I was a long time practitioner of the principle I am about to share
If you let these pressures mount without routinely asking yourselves some essential questions, you run the risk of spinning off into some other orbit that you never intended.
I suggest that one of the most essential questions to ask yourself is :
Are you managing your world or is your world managing you?
There is an old story of the frog in the pot. The story says that if you drop a frog in boiling water he immediately jumps out. But if you set him in cool water and slowly add the heat, he’ll boil to death. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be like the frog.
You have to gauge the temperature on a regular basis. Are you getting comfortable with the heat rising?
You have to pay attention to the circumstances around you. There needs to be the routine recalibration of your own role in the middle of the work demands going on around you.
React or Respond?
Here’s another point. If a doctor prescribes medication and I have a reaction to it, that is NOT GOOD. Yet if I respond to it, I am going to get over the condition. Just like with the medicine, being reactive to the things in our world really will not help the situation. Of course there are things that may happen that are totally unexpected. We have to deal with that.
At the core of this idea is the challenge between being proactive or reactive. The point here is that we should not let everything that happens become a topic of reaction. Truly we should be able to do some things to be proactive with what may come. Proactive people are better positioned to respond to the situation and manage their world. However, being reactive allows the events of the day to manage YOU.
So where do you stand? Are you more inclined to be in control of the things happening around you or have you started just reacting?
People Can Mess Things Up
You may think you have developed the best plan in the world to attack the next chapter of your life (ok, maybe just the next few hours). Then, what do you know, the very first person who walks into the office seems to blow the whole plan out of the water. What do you do?
Don’t react! Force yourself to pause and process the matter according to your plan. This is how you manage things rather than let things manage you.
Is it easy? Of course not! That’s why we so often feel overwhelmed at the end of the day.
Even if you are successful at maintaining the focus on your plan, it likely will take lots of energy and effort. But people who have been able to adopt a discipline for doing this find it becomes easier to do. If your outward aura is true to this inner control, the people around you will start to get the picture. Their demands will become less intrusive, plus they will learn they cannot get “the reaction” out you they used to be able to do.
LIFE IS A SELF-HELP JOURNEY
Maybe self-help books are not as popular as they once were. The truth is, this journey we call life is full of self-help moments. Rather than waiting on others to pitch in or hoping that circumstances may change, you need to take control of your own destiny.
Personal and professional growth only happens when you choose to make it happen.
At each and every step of the way, keep asking yourself if you are managing your world or does your world manage you? Take the time to recalibrate. Get back on plan.
Question: When was the last time you were able to stand back and realize your world was managing you? How did you regain control?