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Leaders: Setting a New Standard

best boss

Be a Better Boss

Welcome to 2022. Yes, we have entered a new year. Like many of you, I have reviewed my accomplishments and plotted a course for this new trip around the sun.

As for me, I have chosen a noble task.

I want to help 10,000 business leaders and company owners become Better Bosses. Let’s start with WHY.

For a long time, there has been a saying among HR professionals. “People join companies but quit bosses.”

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.

The individuals who get promoted into management jobs and/or start businesses rely on chance and circumstance for ways to figure out how to lead a team. Experience tells me that most fail in some way or another.

I think it’s time we seriously focus on making our bosses be accountable for better behavior.

It’s Tradition

First, let’s be real. In western commerce and so-called ‘big business’, we have this strange tradition of promoting the brightest bulb on the string to be a supervisor when a spot comes open. The logic goes something like this.

“Sally is our best producer. She would be the best one to lead this team.”

WRONG! Instead, we usually end up ruining the best producer and frustrating the team because Sally doesn’t do well leading people. (No knock on Sally. It could be a Bill or a George here too.)

In the case of the entrepreneur, this person has an idea for a product or service. So they start a company. The idea takes off. Pretty soon the owner knows they need a bigger team to keep things going. Hiring begins and the fun starts.

Like the promoted high-performer, most small business founders seldom know how to manage people.

In both cases, you can hope for a collection of positive experiences with prior bosses to model good habits, but guess what? Those folks had their own journey arriving where they were. So did you really get a good lesson?

Nature or Nurture?

Then there is another thought. In the halls of most business schools, you can find a raging debate among academicians about whether leadership is born or bred, nature vs nurture.

I’m not going to rehash the whole debate here. Instead, I will say this. I have met and worked with clients who clearly have more natural talent to be a leader. They have a sixth sense of reading people and making decisions. They are comfortable at the podium speaking to a team or a whole organization.

These individuals do shine in positions of leadership, running companies. And, like professional athletes, they get better with coaching to help them refine the natural-born skills they seem to have.

I wanted to play sports in school. But growing quickly to six feet tall before any notion of hand-eye coordination kicked in limited my future in athletics. Obviously, I was NOT a natural-born athlete. The few things I’ve tried since then, like golf or tennis, have required hard work.

On the other hand, I have worked with clients who did not start with “natural” leadership ability. Instead, they embraced the need to be a leader. They worked hard to learn concepts, principles, and values they could use to become better leaders and, hence, better bosses.

Therefore, my observation is simply this. Some people may be born to be leaders and get better with training. Others can learn to be better leaders with the right coaching, hard work, and commitment.

Back to Human Resources

I knew a global HR professional who boldly led a charge to redesign his company’s entire HR role. His premiss said, “If we trained better managers, our people problems would go away.”

While the company didn’t accept the theory outright, they did permit him to test it with a large global project he was assigned to support. The results were never empirically proven, but the overall success was positive based on exit reviews and employee feedback.

The idea is solid. Better bosses can make a difference in the way work teams view the company. More importantly, it impacts the quality and quantity of work contributed by employees.

Today’s Situation

Add to the above factors the rapidly changing world of work today in the face of COVID lockdowns, remote working, and workforce change.

Studies are beginning to emerge wherein labor pools are voicing one common theme. People are tired of toxic cultures created by bad bosses. Here are a few of these studies:

Management teams who have historically ignored employee feedback are being systemically voted out of office. No, I don’t mean literally, because there is no such vote. But symbolically, they are receiving a “no confidence” vote from people walking off the job. The “Great Resignation” it is being called.

In essence, the modern workforce is saying “Enough!”

Should You Be Surprised?

If you are in a management position, now is the time to take action. There is always time to review what you do with your team. You can make a change.

Want to be a better boss? Here are a few tips to help get the journey started.

First, disconnect from the tradition and legacy of your company’s “less than” culture. Take a serious inventory of the standards enforced by tradition. Does the culture rely on command and control leadership styles?

More specifically, does the culture rely on any aspect of interaction that serves to diminish an employee’s status? Is it customary to always talk down to the people below you by job grade?

When an employee brings bad news, are they subjected to ridicule and admonishment?

Break that chain. Treat people with respect. No one deserves to be subjected to harsh emotional lashings for trying to do their job.

Next, decide on an intentional change in the way you look at your responsibilities.

Shift your thinking. Can you do more to represent your team? Are there better ways to show your support for them?

Then, upgrade your communication ability. Are you the best communicator you can be?

Step outside your own box for a moment and get a read on the way your messaging lands. Ask for some 360 feedback about your communication style and effectiveness.

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean people get it.

Make your communication a true two-way exchange. State your issues, then ask for feedback on the spot. You can start with a simple ask from your people, “Please tell me what I said, in your own words.”

Communication is King

Also, don’t rehearse tragedies.

This is a line I picked up from the hit TV show “Blue Bloods.” It means don’t dwell on the bad stuff going on. If something fails, make a one-time review of why, learn from it, then move on. Don’t keep dredging up the negativity.

With this also, never use a team or individual fail to justify a ‘public execution.’ Good people fundamentally know if they made an error. You as the boss, don’t have to keep reminding them of it.

Finally, learn how to read the room.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. If people seem on edge about a problem that is in front of them, you have to handle the problem first. Then you can announce a new piece of guidance or instruction. You can’t teach a sailor to tie a knot when the ship is sinking.

The New Year

Turning the page on the calendar is a great way to reset your own focus. Please take a moment to think about how you manage and lead your team.

Can you be a Better Boss? We all can do something to up our leadership game. Why not join me in making 2022 the year of the Better Boss?

Positivity vs Negativity

As I sit down at my trusty old PC to write some thoughts on this, the week before Christmas, I was tempted to “mail it in” by digging into my archive and dusting off an oldie but goodie.

Yet as I pondered what to do, I started thinking about the early Christmas we just finished celebrating in my family. The wife and I like to alternate Christmas day each year to allow our married kids to swap with the in-laws. Spreading the wealth if you will. Not hogging ‘the day’, but rather willing to be flexible in alternating years.

So this was the year for early Christmas. The whole clan gathered for the day to meet, eat, swap gifts, and let the grandkids get the maximum benefit from our brand of family Christmas. It was simply great.

Thorpe family Christmas

The jolly crew is pictured above. BTW we do ‘themed’ celebrations. This year was a Camo-Christmas.

Anyway, one of the gifts the grandkids got (the boys, that is) was a set of building pieces based on a little STEM learning. The kits were to teach the basics of electronics. The parts would snap together to complete a circuit. There were buzzers, bells, motors, and gadgets to plug in-line to feed off a battery pack. The successful accomplishment was realized by a whole range of noises, beeps, buzzes, and whirrs.

I coached my 8-year-old on the principles. In no time, he was building pretty amazing layouts. The first, most basic concept he mastered was to follow the flow of the circuit, starting with the positive side of the batteries, winding thru the model, and ending on the negative side. Positive and negative.

There it is – the Muse for this Message

Thinking about the positive and negative made me start thinking about the world around my little family unit. Today, there is so much negativity. Seldom do we focus on the positives.

Speak with any colleague or friend and it won’t be long before something negative comes up. Maybe I’m writing an indictment on my circle of friends. However, I really don’t think so. Too many good people are getting beaten down by the negative rhetoric and the cynicism in the daily news.

I decided to take a quick poll, just within my own head. Here are the scientific results I just made up.

There is good in the world

My neighborhood goes all out decorating for Christmas. Yards are strung with all manner of “exterior illumination” man can buy (thank you Clark Griswald). Then beginning right after Thanksgiving, hayrides begin cruising the streets taking large groups on tours. It’s a fun, enjoyable human experience.

Last year my street started hosting what we call Candy Cane Lane. Our cul de sac turns into a unified theme park adorned with large 6′ lit candy canes. Every night, Santa appears in person along with several elf helpers to hand out candy canes to the hayrides. OK – yes, it’s taking things up a big notch, but the neighbors on our street love doing it.

Yes, that’s me and Susan, my wife

Being on the front line, looking at humanity from behind a fake Santa’s beard can be very cathartic. You should try it sometime. The little kids stare in amazement. Even the adults melt into memories of childhoods long ago. Times when things were not so complex or demanding. It’s easy to see.

It offers a brief break from the otherwise crazed world we live in. And people LOVE it.

By doing something positive, our little group is restoring joy and harmony.

Volunteerism is alive

I have the joy of working with several non-profits. The spirit of giving and serving is alive.

It’s not easy, nor are the finances bountiful, but dedicated souls to can identify with causes they love are still coming out in droves to help, serve, and give.

We all can make a difference

You’ve likely heard the story of the boy and the starfish. A small boy was walking on the beach. The high tide had washed hundreds of starfish onto the sand. An old man saw the boy bending over, picking up a starfish, and then throwing it into the sea.

As the man came up to the boy, he said “Young boy, what are you doing?”

The lad said, “I am saving the starfish.”

The old man said, “You’ll never make much difference.”

The young boy looked down at the starfish in his hand and said “I’ll make a difference for this one.”

We can spread positivity one person at a time.

Just show up

I thank a fellow coach, Mike Van Hoozer, for helping me learn the concept of focus in the moment. Every human endeavor is not really about the long journey, but rather the way we show up in the moment. Our legacies and reputations are built on moments not big projects or programs.

As an example, professional baseball players build careers after a long run of moments. Moments when they come to bat. Bottom of the 9th, ballgame tied, two outs, and two strikes. One pitch, one swing can make the moment. Strikeout, you might be forgotten. Hit a home run and you will forever be remembered.

The same is true for good managers and great leaders. You build the reputation as a good boss by the moment by moment steps that happen every day.

Good people show up in the moment. When your moment happens, you can choose to be positive or negative. Choose positive.

Please join me

For 2022, please join me in choosing to be positive. Let’s drown out negativity. Sure there can be differing opinions. But when it comes down to it, why not decide to be positive?

Lift people up, don’t tear them down. Even your so-called enemies. How hard will it be to at least hear them out?

Right now I am thinking of a few people I know who have sunk so low into the muck that it will be hard for them to read this. Heck, they’ve probably already scrolled past. That’s ok. But if I can get hold of them, I’m going to do all I can to be positive, encouraging, and helpful toward them.

There is a better way. Please join me in spreading a little positivity. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Joyous New Year. Leave a comment or share with your tribe.

Best Boss at Christmas

As we run screaming into the end of the year 2021 (where has this one gone?), it’s always a good time to reflect, regroup, and renew our thinking for the year that is just around the corner. The best bosses I have known use this time to make reflections.

There are those among us that do very little reflective work. What I mean is, they seldom stop to look at their own impact and effectiveness. Instead, they meander through life doing what they want to do, choosing what they choose, and paying very little attention to the consequences.

In my mind, I am fortunate to never work with that kind of client. Why? First, because they never call for coaching. Remember, they are NOT reflective. More importantly, they wouldn’t be a good coaching client. I’d likely get blamed for producing no results. So to that end, I am happy they never call.

The Good Guys

However, it is my good fortune to work with clients who want to make a difference. They want to become better bosses. These heroes are willing to stop and ask the tough questions like:

How did I do as a leader?

What could be better?

Which things worked well, what didn’t?

What should I do more of?

And what should I STOP doing?

It is by allowing these reflections that one can achieve growth. Change is inevitable. So why not be intentional with the changes? Build a plan for mastering your skills as a leader. You can’t do it all in one giant leap forward.

Rather, you have to decide on specific behaviors or skills you want to use to become the leader you want to be. Decide on a few key things that can make the most difference right now. Then get help understanding the details about what you can change.

It’s in the Bag

When asked about leadership, I like the analogy of the golfer. In the bag is a set of clubs, 14 by regulation. Each club is designed for a specific purpose like hitting long or hitting short with finesse. Good golfers know how to use each club with varying degrees. The golfer will ‘bend’ or ‘shape’ shots depending on the course in front of them. Choosing the right club and the right swing in the moment is what differentiates good golfers from great golfers. Or in my case, pretty mediocre weekend golfers.

Building a leadership skill set is like the golfer. You can add tools to your leadership bag. But one size does not fit all. You have to practice to learn how to shape the moment with the tool you’ve chosen.

As an example, communication can be one of those leadership tools. Your communication can be very direct if you must make some form of announcement to the group. On the other hand, if you are coaching an employee, your communication may be very warm and empathetic.

Examples

Other examples of leadership tools (or clubs – no not lethal weapons) used by the best bosses are delegating, accountability, decision making, motivation, listening, speaking, planning, giving feedback, nurturing, coaching, character, integrity, etc.

The list can be long. You need to decide the elements and attributes that you want to define your leadership style and substance. The longer the list, the more work you will do to improve your skill at applying these behaviors in the moment.

This is why you simply cannot work to develop all of the skills in one big push. You have to work with them throughout your career. In my experience, you will have whole seasons of work where certain skills will dominate the situation. A select few of your leadership skills will be needed to win the day. You won’t ignore or forget your other leadership skills, you just won’t call on them as often.

Year-End Tune-Up

The calendar year-end is always a convenient time to remember the need to look back, evaluate, and make new plans.

I’m not talking about funky new year resolutions. Instead, I mean valuable reviews of what has happened before and a focus on what can lie ahead.

The best bosses include just such a look at their own ability to lead. Having the self-discipline to sit down and prepare a year-end review is a great start to making next year your best year ever for the best boss ever, YOU!

PS

Let me also wish Happy Holidays to all my friends and colleagues who do not observe Christmas time celebrations. Blessings to you and your families!

Feeling Flat? Here’s How to Rekindle Your Spark for Life

upset couple in bad mood holding cups of coffee and sitting at home on christmas eve

The holidays have a way of triggering certain joyous celebrations. But for many, the holidays bring on serious downside exposure too. Here are some ways to reignite your zest for life.

Everyone feels down and lost at certain points in their life. Sometimes, this has a more obvious cause, like a break-up or failing an exam. Sometimes nothing bad has happened at all, and you’re just having a bad day. However, when those feelings start to affect your relationships, decision-making skills, and career over a prolonged period of time, it might be time to start doing something about it.

It can be quite overwhelming to know just where to start when it comes to turning your mindset around and banishing self-doubt. However, one common solution is to seek professional help in the form of a life coach. They will help uncover the root of why you’re feeling the way you are, and come up with strategies to change your day-to-day mood and more importantly your life.

Here are three ways you can find the missing piece to help overcome negative thoughts, and how a life coach could assist you along the way.

man in chair with head in hand

Get out of your comfort zone

Whether that’s signing up to a dating app and talking to new people, or confronting a phobia you’ve always had, moving out of your comfort zone can have endless benefits.

If you’ve always played it safe in terms of meeting new people, traveling to different locations, and looking for work opportunities, then you are restricting both your personal and professional development.

Instead, you need to open yourself up to new experiences that are going to allow you to make new connections and gain perspectives you otherwise wouldn’t have had. This might seem scary, but can be incredibly rewarding.

There may be a good reason why you haven’t got out of your comfort zone, such as a lack of confidence due to a past experience. Whatever the reason, life coaches will work through everything at your own pace.

They will challenge you in an empowering way so that you embrace new opportunities rather than running for the hills.

All of which is going to help you rekindle that spark for life and help you to feel more satisfied in your career and personal life as a result.

man looking over a cliff after climbing to the top

Set goals for yourself

Coasting along with no real direction is a sure-fire way to end up feeling bored in your life. After all, if you’re not working towards anything, then what do you have to look forward to? Every day will just roll into the next, which is about as fun as it sounds.

Setting personal goals can seem a daunting task. However, no goal is too small or too big. Starting off with small, easily achievable goals can help you build up greater confidence and self-belief, which can help when it comes to reaching your longer-term goals.

Now is the time to decide what you want out of life and to figure out how you’re going to get it. A life coach is the perfect professional for the job, since helping people create goals and making sure they achieve them is a big part of what they do.

typewriter setting out goals

Hold yourself accountable

It’s always the easier option in life to apportion the blame to someone or something else when things go wrong. However, taking ownership of both your mistakes and your achievements will help you to feel more in control of your own life.

Holding you personally accountable is a big part of life coaching. Coaches will turn the emphasis on you, including what has prevented you from achieving your aims in the past.

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects is owning up to yourself about things you could or should have done differently. While there’s no way of winding back the clock, you must recognize your own failures so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes going forward.

Accountability also extends into how you live your daily life. For example, this can include noticing when your timekeeping isn’t good enough, or that you are procrastinating. From simple bad habits to the more damaging ones, from now on if you want to rekindle your spark for life, you’re going to have to leave such unproductive traits behind.

Become a Better Leader: 4 Steps to Boost Your E.Q.

understanding eq

Most of us think of a leader as someone with a great deal of education and experience in a certain area. While knowledge and experience are important qualities, one’s ability to communicate and work well with others is just as important to being an effective leader.

A hot topic on the scene these days is Emotional Intelligence or E.Q. While research and numerous studies have proven the concept, understanding how to use it in your leadership toolkit is another story.

Having a high degree of emotional intelligence (E.Q.) allows you to be able to inspire and motivate others to co-operate with you to accomplish a shared objective and vision. There are several ways that you can strengthen your interpersonal skills.

Try these methods to dramatically raise your E.Q. and accomplish more together:

FIRST

Increase your self-awareness. Self-development is the foundation of excellence. Before you can lead and inspire others, you must first understand your own motivations and behavior.

  • Develop your vision by learning to listen to your inner values and dreams. Trust yourself. Try not to compromise your values to achieve a goal or for other temporary gain.
  • Embrace passion by learning to be motivated by your internal compass rather than external forces and situations.
  • Keep your energy fully recharged, so you can give your best effort. You can stay energized by taking the time to learn what activities re-energize you and which ones drain your energy.
  • Respect yourself. Know the limitations of your body, mind, and spirit and strive for balance between your responsibilities in all areas of your life.
  • Become aware of your flaws and limitations. Seek ways to improve yourself and be open to change.

Next

Strengthen your discipline and self-management. Learning to be responsible for your behavior, attitudes, and actions can raise your performance level as well as help you to build trust and authority with others. 

  • Seek the input of others. Ask how you can help them, or what you need to do differently to communicate more effectively and manage them better.
  • Hold yourself accountable for your actions and performance.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities and tasks. Be confident enough in yourself to surround yourself with talented, qualified people.

Then

Develop your social awareness. Be aware of your own attitudes and the power you have to motivate others.

  • Show genuine concern for others and learn how to actively listen. Doing so will create lasting bonds and a strong team that will work with you rather than against you.
  • Give others a reason to support you and your vision. Let others know when they have done a good job and look for ways to openly recognize and reward excellence.
  • Help others to buy into your vision by making them stakeholders in the attainment of your goals. Seek their advice when setting goals and making plans on how you’ll achieve them.
  • Help others to increase their abilities and fully utilize their talents by providing opportunities for training, scholarship, and self-development.

Finally

Emphasize greater relationship management. Learn how to bring out the best in yourself and others. Utilize everyone’s best qualities and minimize their limitations with effective assignment of tasks and delegation of responsibilities.

Regardless of your education or experience, you can achieve greater success by learning how to use your people skills to fully harness the talents and energy of others. These strategies will allow you to increase your E.Q and inspire others to fully enlist in your cause of their own free will.

Lead by Example – Learn by Example

When starting with a new executive coaching client I often ask ‘what kind of leader do you want to be?’ ‘Someone who leads by example‘ gets a lot of the votes.

As much as I like that answer, it can often be an easy idea to speak, but the hardest action to take. Where do you start? Many folks start by talking about technical expertise. They want to leverage subject matter expertise. That’s fine if you are sitting in a middle management chair within an organization.

But what does it really mean to lead by example? What things should you do? How do you do it? Who’s paying attention? When should you do it?

A Story

Let me share a story. Recently, I began a coaching engagement with a large publicly-traded company. I have several of their leadership team members assigned to me. Just as I began my weekly round of meetings, I was informed a very senior executive had passed away suddenly, at work, on the job.

Apparently, this man had been with the company for almost 30 years. He had been integral in its growth and success.

All of my individual clients were visibly shaken when speaking of this man. It was easy to see how revered and well respected this gentleman was. Each person shared with me their own personal experience being mentored and inspired by him. No one was without a story about “Bill” (the name has been changed to protect confidentiality).

The leadership examples Bill modeled were clear, distinct, and memorable. Truly the acclaim a leader should create. As people began explaining the things Bill did to endear his tribe, I asked “why don’t you try doing that?” The usual answer was, “Yes, I really should try to be that way.”

We see examples of leadership in small gestures, calm ways, meaningful mentions, and quiet resolve, yet we often struggle to decide how to add a skill or trait to our leadership tool kit. Why?

7 Ways

One of the best ways to build trust with the team is to lead by example. Here are seven ways to lead by example and inspire your team.

Get your hands dirty.

Do the work and know your trade. Stay present with the team where they work. Walk the floor, the shop, and the field. Don’t let yourself get caught behind closed doors in the corner office.

As to the details, you don’t have to be the most advanced technician on the team, but you must have an in-depth understanding of your industry and your business. Learn the subject matter if you have to. Leaders have many responsibilities, but it is important to work alongside your team. This is a great way to build trust and continue to develop your own knowledge and skills.

Watch what you say.

Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. For better or for worse. Be mindful of what you say, to whom, and who is listening. Always show support for all team members.

If someone needs extra guidance, provide it behind closed doors. Keep explanations simple and clear. Remember a confused mind says “NO”. Don’t confuse people with lofty technical speak. Just get to the point.

Respect the chain of command.

One of the fastest ways to cause structural deterioration, foster confusion, and damage morale is to go around your direct reports. All team members need to respect the leadership at every level. If the senior leaders don’t respect the chain of command, why would anyone else? This includes the ranks below you in the organization.

Don’t skip level jump a supervisor to talk with a worker. Sure you can share casual banter in the workplace with anyone, but when you have directives, follow and support the chain.

Listen to the team.

As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directives, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice.

One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don’t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.

Take responsibility.

As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top. Blame roles uphill. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them. It doesn’t matter if one of your team members messed up or you did.

If you are the leader, you need to take responsibility. We hear about the notion that “I’ve got your back.” Prove it by taking flak when it’s aimed at the team. Let the buck stop on your desk. Put the monkey on your back.

Business leader

Let the team do their thing.

Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.

Coach and mentor when you have to or when someone presents a problem, but stop solving all the problems. Teach others how to do that.

Take care of yourself.

Wellness and fitness are essential for good leadership. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. The only way to build a fitness-oriented culture is to lead by example.

Get in shape and lead from the front. This part is not just about physical fitness but also mental toughness. Find time to recharge, especially after long-distance runs in fast-paced, high-pressure situations like big project delivery or special market shifts. You must re-calibrate periodically. Renew your mind as well as your heart for what it is you are doing.

If you are still wondering how to up your leadership game, let’s have a chat. I can schedule a free call to explore your leadership ideas and plans for growth. Click the image above to set your time to talk.

Setting the Right Focus on Leadership

Good leadership includes having the right focus. Who are you? Where are you going? Who do you want to be as a leader? That sort of thinking.

There was once a middle manager who was well known for creating great results. Quarter by quarter, his numbers were always good. His team loved working for him, but his peers hated him.

The peers did not simply dislike him, but the loathed him. And the reason why is not what you might be thinking. Jealousy over his good results? Nope. Not even close.

The reason is that he was an ass. Plain and simple. He had no regard for his peers. Yet it was true what I said, his people loved him. How can that be?

bad boss
Bad colleague disrupts meeting

Careful Analysis

The senior executive to whom this man reported had a conundrum. The performance of the single unit was solid and reliable, yet the harmony across the leadership team was crumbling daily. What to do?

Well, a coach was called in. After a few meetings with the gentleman, it was revealed that his #1 goal was to be seen as the best boss anyone could ever work for. It was a noble goal but shrouded in self-aggrandizing glory.

He bent over backward for his team. They loved him for that indeed. He could push but in very special ways. Yet amongst his peers, he was cut-throat, brazen, and very unapproachable.

The focal point he chose for his management career prohibited him from becoming an effective leader.

The Cure

When the manager’s goal about ‘being the best boss’ was finally revealed to the coach. The coach responded with a question.

“What about adding a second goal to be the best team player too?”

This was a classic epiphany for the manager. He was shocked at how shallow his goal actually sounded. You see, he really did have ‘the greater good’ at heart, but he was so focused on the boss thing, he never thought about what it might take to be a good colleague across his peer group.

It was truly a life changing moment for him. He committed to adjusting his plans and his focus.

Viola!

He actually became both.

The Twist

It is so easy to get misaligned as a manger and a leader. You take in so much information on a daily basis, but you can easily get distracted if your personal vision and goal is not set straight.

Here are three quick tips on staying focused the right way.

First, have a vision and a plan. I am routinely surprised by how many of my executive clients fail to establish personal vision for being the leader they want to be.

Yes, they may have corporate goals to conquer, but personal vision counts too. In fact, I argue that your personal vision is really the foundation from which you must lead. Without it, your leadership is on shaky ground.

Next, you need to review your vision with trusted advisors. Get solid and candid feedback before launching out. Had the hero in our story above done so early on, he might have learned the one focus area was not enough.

Lastly, review your vision regularly. Keep your vision and plans evergreen. Have a cycle and a discipline for reviewing what you have set in motion.

Things change. So should your view of the world around you. Having a good vision and a plan is not one-and-done or set-it-and-forget-it.

If you’re looking for a trusted advisor, I’m available for a quick call to meet. We can discuss your situation and talk about ways a coach might help.

call a coach

Finding a North Star in 2021

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.

north star
Time lapsed picture of stars swirling around North Star

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.

Doug Thorpe

Finding and having a true sense of purpose becomes your North Star.

Lost Identity

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.

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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.

Cover photo courtesy of Credit Union Times.

Make Personal Mission Statements Work for You

Personal Mission Statement sign on the wooden surface.

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.

self reflection

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.

servant leader

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.

In Conclusion

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.

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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 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 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!

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