Owners and Leaders: Why Live a Groundhog’s Day?

groundhog day

In his classic dramedy “Groundhog’s Day”, actor and funnyman Bill Murray plays a hapless TV anchor/weatherman named Phil Connors who gets stuck covering the annual appearance of Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary weather predicting groundhog.

If you aren’t familiar with the legend of the groundhog day tradition, the critter predicts whether there will more Winter or a warming Spring.

groundhog dayAs the story unfolds, we discover it is Murray’s character who must relive each and every day. He starts out being a very self-absorbed, full of himself person.

As the one 24 hour period starts replaying event by event, he begins to see the possibilities of becoming a better person. The inspiration is the “girl” played by Andie MacDowell aka “Rita”.

Phil realizes he must be a much better person in order to win Rita’s affection.

It’s a great story, worthy of adding to your leadership toolkit. Here’s why.

You Too Can Be Stuck

Face it, we all find ourselves occasionally reliving events and circumstances from our work and home lives. The same negative events repeat themselves without positive change.

Our occasional efforts to attempt change work sometimes, but not all the time. That is if your heart is not in the intentional change.

Yet when you commit to making permanent changes, you start making progress toward a better outcome. You might have to let cycles repeat a few more times, but the intentional change can take hold and turn things around.

Experience Drives Future Behavior

It is human nature to let prior experience become a heavy influence on future behavior. This is why behavior-based interviewing is so effective.

When I’m interviewing someone for a new job, I ask them to “tell me about a time when ‘blank’” and then I fill in the blank with an experience that is a key factor in my team’s success.

Examples might be:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to meet a large deadline.
  • Tell me about a time when your payroll system crashed 24 hours before your payroll.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to recover from a data breach.

Prior behavior is a big indicator of future performance. It is not the only indicator but can be a reliable one. For managers and leaders, your own record of achievement can work for you but can work against you too.

However, old solutions might not be suitable for new problems. If you approach things with a groundhog mentality, you might be surprised at how far off you can be.

That is, using the same old approach for a new problem may never make a difference.

Bad Habits Become Big Hurdles

In the case of Bill Murray’s character, his poor interpersonal skills became huge obstacles for winning Rita. She watched him belittle people and is very put off by his horrible demeanor.

It took several repetitions of the same circumstances for Phil (the character) to get it right.

As leaders, your own habits may be big obstacles too. Remember, people don’t really care what you say.

They focus on what you do. Take time to reconsider your approach. If the same old situations keep popping up, maybe it is your approach hindering the change.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Living in a comfort zone, whether good or bad, makes for boring results. Repeating the same routine day after day, week after week, and year after year will seldom realize any growth or change.

Making progress toward new goals often involves some element of risk. A little risk might help move the needle.

Plus, we naturally hate change. So keep that in mind. As the leader, you are the catalyst for change. Being an ‘executive’ anything means you execute on the work. Making things happen is change, so learn to embrace it.

The Big ‘So What’

We’ve explored reasons we get stuck on groundhog’s day. What may be your next move?

Do you even know you’re there, stuck in some spin cycle? Why not make an intentional change for new outcomes?

You can make a difference right where you are. The difference can help you, your team, and your home or community. Let Punxsutawney Phil and Phil Connors have their Groundhog Day.

Stop living yours! 


Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Great Leaders Don’t Set Out to Be a Leader

Seldom does an individual sense the call of leadership at an early age; as in “I’m going to be a fireman” or “I’m going to be an astronaut”.

“I’m going to be a leader” is not usually the designated path. People with innate skills and passions to make good leaders start out with a desire to make a difference. As the graphic says, “it’s not about the role, but always about the goal.”

Leader-role

I spent my early years pursuing a military career. It wasn’t because I liked war; quite the contrary. I wanted to make a difference by serving my country.

Without exception, the other military personnel I met and worked with had the same sense of purpose. They never wanted to GO to war, but they not afraid of the potential outcome should a war develop.

The Servant Leader

Since its inception, the servant leadership movement has been growing. Being a Servant Leader flips the script on traditional organization theory.

Instead of being a CEO at the top of the company pyramid with all the implications of power and authority, the true Servant Leader chooses to sit in that spot, but approach the job with a whole different mindset.

“The servant-leader is a servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.

Servant leaders worry about the growth of the people who report to them. They expect growth of the enterprise through the well-being of the people on the team.

This is radically different from autocratic and benevolent dictator led organizations.

Servant leaders manage by asking questions like:

  • How are you doing (and mean it)?
  • What are the hurdles in your way?
  • What can I do to help?

Opportunity

Great leaders emerge from the dedicated effort to make a difference. As they go about their work, the sense of commitment, direction, and drive are recognized by those around them.

Opportunities open up. Others begin to say “I want that person on my team”.

Why do you think it is that CEO’s with good records move across whole industries to take on new challenges? The proven skills that come from the commitment to make the difference become hot commodities.

New Managers

As a young, first-time manager, your primary focus should be to define the difference you can make. You may have been selected to be a unit manager without ever first wanting the job.

New leader

Now that the role is yours, stop thinking about how to be a better manager and start thinking about the difference you can make for your team.

Leadership will emerge.

As you set about making the decisions needed to make the difference, your natural leadership tendencies will begin to take shape. Day by day, your leadership skills will evolve. Experience will become your best teacher.

When challenges arise (and they will), you can seek advice from those more senior, get a mentor or coach, and grow into the role.

Stay centered on the purpose for your role; the difference you can make.

For more ideas on ways to become a better manager, check out my new book “The Uncommon Commodity

I’ll show simple, common sense ways to build your management and leadership skill sets and grow your ability to make a difference.

Find a Coach or Mentor

For every new level in your career progression, you will need to grow into the role.  I firmly believe rising executives have  abit of fear in knowing they need something more to fit a new role they’ve been given.

mentoring

Few are the leaders who find an easy fit in a new role.

If you are wondering how best to achieve the growth you need, consider enlisting a mentor or engaging with a leadership coach.

Find someone who has been there before. Consult with them to plot your personal growth into the next role.

As you find leadership responsibilities being heeped upon you, take pride in being given that opportunity.

Likely you said you wanted to make a difference. Now the chance is yours.

To Be a Great Leader, You Must Inspect What You Expect

Inspect Expect
Inspect what you expect and article from @dougthorpe_com

This article was originally published on April 2, 2018 and has been updated.

Inspect what you expect.

This is an old saying that I learned decades ago.

What does it mean, exactly? And what does it have to do with leadership?

Well…

Have you been guilty of spouting a directive then letting it die a natural death? We’ve all done it at one point or another—whether accidentally or intentionally, we’re all guilty.

When a leader sets out a goal or directive, that goal can only be achieved with good monitoring, or, inspection.

Whether you run a big business, a team, or are working on a small project, in order to achieve any sort of success, you have to be mindful of these simple words: inspect what you expect.

Here’s my story.

The Military Way

Great leadership principles you need to know. Leadership powered by common sense

The “inspect what you expect” principle takes many forms.

During my days as a second lieutenant, we conducted regular health and welfare inspections.

While the military inspects a lot of things, this was unique. Those of you who have served in the military know why.

Those of you who don’t: buckle your seatbelts.

To achieve the best results, you must inspect.

One early morning at 3:30 a.m., the entire cadre (all of the managers and supervisors) of our training unit surrounded a barracks where a portion of our troops lived.

We suspected drug activity coming from this barracks.

This “health and welfare inspection” was actually a search and seizure mission.

We burst into the barracks and surprised all of the soldiers sleeping there. They were ousted from their bunks and told to stand at attention beside their footlockers while we searched the premises.

Sure enough, we found a stash of drugs and some paraphernalia tucked inside one of the footlockers.

Our target was achieved.

We could have preached and threatened the law about drugs, but we had to inspect what we expected.

This principle also applies to the success of most businesses.

Why?

Because even the best strategic planning simply won’t matter without proper execution.

A great leader must push forward to make things happen. They cannot stand still; they must be in constant motion, pushing towards a goal to reach success.

They must be focused.

Every plan and strategy associated with a goal must always be monitored and inspected to ensure proper execution and achievement.

Good project management comes from inspecting what you expect.

Have you heard of Six Sigma or DMAIC?

“Six Sigma”

Six Sigma is a specific set of tools and techniques used to to help businesses improve their processes.

Inspecting what you expect is an integral part of Six Sigma. It is also an integral part of overall good project management.

For process improvement, a concept known as DMAIC is applied.

DMAIC

DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control

…or, simply inspecting what you expect.

With DMAIC, you analyze results as they occur, checking them against expected outcomes.

If you find yourself off the mark, adjust and do it all over again. In other words, you are staying alert—at all times—to the things happening around you that affect your process and your progress.

The devil is in the details.

There is so much more to being a great leader than stating your plans and giving directives.

Great leaders walk the floor.

If you’re not walking the floor, you’re not being a good leader. You’re doing it wrong.

Leaders who don’t walk the floor find that things are not happening as they expect. Always remember: the devil is in the details.

You have to constantly be checking in, seeing what’s going on—walking the floor. You have to constantly ensure the appropriate measures are being put in place to achieve the right outcome.

You have to constantly test and review events and circumstances.

For example: if your business enforces things like safety or regulatory compliance, your role as a leader is to inspect and review events and circumstances. You have to check work every single day to ensure proper compliance.

If you don’t, people could get hurt.

Three easy steps to inspect:

1. Expect

Set expectations; specific expectations.

When issuing a directive, always be clear about your expectations. Be as specific as possible.

Volumes, dollars, incidence rates, hours, cost saves, the list goes on. The expectation you give will determine the outcome.

2. Be Consistent

Constantly inspect, and keep your inspections consistent. Keep communication open and be consistent in everything you do. Be open and don’t beat around the bush. Share your results.

3. Stay Visible

People need to know you are engaged and involved in the review process. Don’t get stuck behind your office door. Show your team you are active in the process. Be around them. Answer their questions. Motivate them.

Remember: you are the leader guiding the vision to the final outcome. Be available to talk it through with those who have questions. Walk the floor.

If your team is spread out geographically, remain visible with the right frequency of check-in calls and team meetings.

Let your team know that part of executing the mission is routine reviews.

So…do you inspect what you expect?

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And if you want to learn more about how to be a great leader, read these popular blog posts!

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5 Reasons Why Bad Bosses Suck So Bad

Bad bosses suck!

Face it, we all know or have had bad bosses. It seems to be a given in the business world. It’s been true for decades.

Bad bosses suck!

With all the intelligence, studies, coaching, schools, and programs, why do some bosses still suck? I’m going to offer 5 reasons.

Promotion –  Sadly, getting promoted can be the worst reason to make someone a boss. They might be the brightest bulb and the sharpest employee, but they likely will make a lousy boss. Why? No proven skill or capacity to manage. Without any preparation, businesses of all kinds throw good employees into the gap of management and disaster happens. The company doesn’t train or prepare the new guy/gal. The person is just tossed over the fence into the role.

Without knowing, they try to emulate some leadership practices they saw somewhere or heard on a podcast. Execution fails. The team suffers. This over-achiever dies on the vine in the management role.

place a call

Money –  Entrepreneurs are the worst at this. Get a little funding and your idea can be born, right? But can you build and manage a team? Perhaps not. The arrogance that comes with pride of ownership clouds any skill at leading a team. Your commitment to your dream product, app, or service stands in the way of learning how to lead your team. And yes, you need a team to prosper. Very few solopreneurs go very far totally alone; there just aren’t enough hours in the day to scale and grow a business.

Absolute control of the purse strings/bank accounts sets this person up for bad decision making. While budget responsibility is important, if every thought this boss has is about the next dime, then the company and its people suffer. “Penny wise, pound foolish” is the old saying.

Fear –  It’s amazing to me how many managers operate from a position of fear. It might be tied to #1 above, or being promoted beyond their known capacity to lead. BTW there is a leadership lid concept as eloquently explained by John Maxwell in his “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.

If you are elevated in your job beyond your natural, God-given capacity to lead, you will revert to a fight or flight mode. Every moment of decision gets rooted in fear. You lash out at those around you, even the loyal ones trying to support and defend your role.

Ego –  Pompous idiots get placed into significant roles all the time. I still can’t explain exactly how that works; there are so many reasons. These guys get consumed by the power of the position. Knowing there is a predefined set of rules and authority bestowed in each position on the org chart, these guys use it first and foremost with no other effort to lead from other principles.

“My way or the highway” is their mantra. No amount of training seems to help.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]“You can lead a horse to water, but some really are jackasses.”[/perfectpullquote]

Morally corrupt – Bosses with no moral compass may be the worst kind. The news is littered with reports of sexual abuse, sexist hiring and promotion practices, anger management, bribes, and other bad acts by business managers and owners. Sadly, the boss with a dark heart may be like dancing with the devil. Every day you work for this clown is a living hell.

What to Do

When you find yourself working for any of these guys, you have two basic and simple choices. First, you can choose to endure, take the money you’re being paid, build whatever reserve you want (assuming the money IS good). Then wait it out a while before leaving.

Or, you can get started on making a move now, no, run fast!

Unfortunately, my experience and history tell me that bosses operating from one of these five angles will never really change. Companies spend millions of dollars on coaching to turn this around. Sometimes it works, often for only a little while. As soon as the goose of a boss decides the company spotlight on them has been turned off, they likely revert back to their bad practices (leopards and spots if you please).

In the end, I believe that effective management requires the application of leadership principles. YES, the two are different, but so few understand that. A leader will have the heart to inspire and influence their people (in a good way). The five sources of a bad boss won’t be a factor for the person who genuinely wants to be a better leader.

The young manager who gets promoted into the role will seek coaching and mentoring to fix their weaknesses and highlight their strengths.

The entrepreneur will be objective while looking in the mirror and know they need others to fill in their gaps. They will seek counsel for key decisions, surrounding themselves with people of stronger skill sets for the areas needed to make the company grow.

The person prone to ego attacks will figure out ways to keep that in check, whether through the use of accountability partners, friends, and a personal board of directors (different from the corporate board).

One Last Thought

If you’ve stayed with me to the end here, you likely are NOT one of the bad bosses. The bad guys left this piece in the delete file a long time ago. That’s another attribute of bad bosses; they cannot hear the truth.

In the unlikely possibility that you are a bad boss and read this through, thank you. You might have just taken the first step to make a difference. I didn’t write this to be mean to you guys. I did it for your team who has suffered long enough. Wake up, fix it. You can do that if you want to.

Leadership Avoiding the Split

In a recent Ted Talk, Simon Sinek eloquently describes the most critical pivot point in the life of all companies, communities, and tribes. He presents the principle that all organizations are formed around ideas formulated by the founders. Yet as success grows, the connection to the original vision may get lost.

 

Think about the great entrepreneurial ventures today; Apple, Google, Amazon, and Uber just to name a few. In every case, a person or persons gathered together to design an idea and put that idea in motion. In doing so they simultaneously created two parallel initiatives; success and vision.

By pursuing the vision one would hope for some measure of success. As long as the enterprise stays small and closely connected to the founders, the vision tracks very closely with the success. But as success grows and the company expands, more people must be hired who hire others, who hire others, and soon the success trajectory exceeds the vision path.

Success and Vision

While success grows, the vision may falter. We have all likely experienced this when we hear the people who were close to the founders say “it’s not like it used to be”. If the connection to the vision gets lost or diluted by success companies start trying to find themselves again.

Think about the history at Apple. Steve Jobs founded the company but left. After he left, the company floundered and he was invited to return. The same thing happened at Starbucks and Dell too. The founders created success, left, and had to return.

The point at which the success deviates from the vision is something Sinek calls the “Split”. The split can cause an otherwise very successful idea to lose its way.

So What?

If the Split is a highly probable event on the timeline of your company, what is a leader to do?

First, stay true to core beliefs that got you going in the first place. The Hedgehog Concept was originally based on an ancient Greek parable. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” [/perfectpullquote]

Business researcher and consultant, Jim Collins, used this concept as a metaphor for business in his influential book, “Good to Great.” Hedgehogs live their lives with basically one thing to do; be a good hedgehog. They don’t get distracted nor waver in their pursuit of life.

In business, it’s easy to get distracted, take your eye off the ball, and run after shiny objects. If you’ve achieved some level of success, the rewards may convince you to buy new equipment or expand beyond your capabilities. Doing any such thing without a consistent plan for growth is a fast way to deviate from the original vision.

Sharing the Vision

Leaders are usually associated with visionary thinking. OK, you have a vision. Great. Have you effectively shared that vision with those around you?

I have clients who are in fact, good leaders. Without exception, when asked about their vision for their company or team, they describe a large landscape picture in their mind. Every moving part and every detail of the end-game is painted into that picture. They see the integral movement of the pieces. They know the critical paths to success.

Yet the challenge these brilliant leaders face is the ability to share the vision with their team. Too much detail may overwhelm people. Too little detail leaves subordinates guessing.

Steve Jobs is often cited as saying he never wanted Apple to build the best equipment. No, he wanted a new user experience connecting to technology. There is a critical difference in that vision.

Leaders need to know when and how to share the exact parts of the vision map with the team members so that the work is in line with the vision.

Take a moment today and ask yourself “Is what we are doing right now consistent with what we intended to do when we started?” If yes, then congratulations. If not, take a fresh look at the original vision. Peel away the people and things that have taken you off course. Make the conscious decision to get back to the original vision.

If you need help working through the tough calls to get back to the right vision, perhaps a coach can help. My team and I will be happy to come alongside.

Great Leadership Builds Trust – Here’s Why It Matters

In any relationship, trust is a key element. Without it, things don’t last very long. With trust, you can withstand most anything. Managers at every level of an organization must seek first to build a foundation of trust within their circle of influence.

The world is craving a new story about leadership and business, one that underscores the way people trust and contribute to each other. Without trust, the chances for a long-term success are diminished. Those who recognize the importance of building business and leadership foundation on trust are likely to find themselves doing what is right and what is good for stakeholders in the long run. ~Lolly Daskal

Trust is King

In business, trust operates at many levels. A company’s customers or clients must obtain a level of trust in the product or service before agreeing to buy. Achieving this dynamic can work in either of two ways. First, the prospective customer gets to know the representatives of the company. If they learn to like these people, over time, a trust builds. Once that trust is established, the decision to buy is easier (not automatic, just easier).

On the other hand, a product or service gets a reputation for reliability and performance. Trust grows, clients consume. Sometimes the public never really knows the people behind the product, they just know they trust the brand. Think about Google or Apple. Most of us never get to know an individual Googler or an Apple genius in person, right? Yet we trust the brand to bring us the service we crave.

Team Work

We all know it takes teams to build a brand. Within those teams, the highest performing ones have their own levels of trust. Therefore, while we may never know the people behind the product we like and trust, they make it happen nonetheless.

That brings us to the leadership that drives those teams. Here is a six-part model that clearly defines a breakdown of the primary elements for building a high trust team who will perform at higher levels.

Team Trust
Team Trust

Following this process, you can find ways to build trust within your team, growing the depth of the trust relationship. Once trust is established, there is no limit on the things your team can produce.

Here is more about the 6 steps to building trust within your team

The People –  Trust begins with each employee answering their own key question “Do I even want to be on this team?”

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great”, calls it getting the right people on the bus. Clearly your hiring decisions impact the potential for a positive answer to this question. If you hired the wrong person, they may quickly question whether they even want to be on the team. Yet even with the best hiring decisions, the individual must answer this question for themselves once they land. After orientation, there is a buy-in period that is inevitable. Trust cannot begin until everyone on the team is positive that “yes, I want to be here”.

The Purpose –  Team trust requires an agreement with what the team is trying to accomplish.

In “Tribes”, Seth Godin talks about the nature of a tribe as being aligned with a central purpose. Every work team is its own tribe. The purpose must be aligned.

Businesses build operating units for a purpose. Teams within those units operate as a contributor to the overall success of the organization. Trust grows from the alignment with team purpose, and, again, individual understanding of that purpose. A leader has to build understanding. If the purpose is not clearly articulated to everyone, then trust lags.

The Plan –  How will the team get this done? Many of us are planners, others are followers. Either way, knowing about the existence of the plan makes the way forward more achievable. Belief in the plan also builds trust.

Even when employee buy-in happens and a clear purpose is understood, the plan is critical for establishing trust. The plan helps the team understand steps, goals, and means to get their work accomplished.

The Practice –  Is what we are going to do consistent with the plan?

Are skills sets accounted for? Are resources made available? Said another way, have we eliminated any notion of being set-up to fail?

Policies, procedures, and practice make the way clear for high trust performance. If rules and regulations become a hindrance, then trust erodes. In other words, the confidence for being able to perform is put in doubt.

The Performance –  Once we begin working, is our performance going to be measured in ways that are accurate, meaningful, and valuable?

Measuring performance offers proper feedback for fine tuning the purpose, plan, and practice. Therefore, adequate performance measurement is vital.

Employees who never receive coaching about their performance cannot be expected to give trust and higher performance. This is why more modern tools like Big 5 Performance Management make such a big difference. Rather than waiting on tired and untimely reports like the old-fashioned annual reviews, Big 5 offers real-time feedback that can be communicated and coached every month.

The Payoff – Success begets success.

Momentum is like the big flywheel. It takes time to start turning, but once it is in motion, it is hard to stop. As a result, teams who celebrate success can taste it. Realizing that all of the effort used for steps 1 thru 5 result in success builds higher trust within the team. The payoff instills a desire for more effort and more momentum.

Trust Reward

The end result is a high trust team environment. Once the tribe establishes this bond of trust, there are few things that can deter their ongoing success.

The manager/leader who sets the tone for building this kind of trust will themselves reap the rewards for higher performance from the team. For more information about the Leader’s role in building trust, see “Connect, Then Lead”  in the Harvard Business Review. In that article, Amy J.C. Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger talk about the critical fact that Leaders must first connect with their team before trust can begin.

In upcoming articles, I will dive deeper into each step. In addition, I will be offering practical tools the leader can use to perfect each step.

Question: Do you have an experience operating within a high trust team environment? Please share your story here.

Or, if you want to start NOW with improving your team’s level of trust, call me for speaking, coaching, or facilitation of a team exercise.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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

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Leadership: It’s in the Bag, Part II

When coaching an executive or business owner about leadership, there is a word picture that tells so much more than all the other metaphors. That word picture is golf. Those of you might ‘hate golf’ or don’t know much about it, please stay with me.

The game of golf is a collection of challenges intentionally designed to test your skills. In a standard round of golf, there are 18 holes, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Some of the holes are longer than others. Some have water obstacles, others have sand. Often you have both. Elevations change, grass changes, shapes, and cuts give every hole a special personality.

43607996_s

You tee off on each hole, hoping to reach the green in as few strokes as possible. Once you have reached the green, all that remains are a few shorter touches to sink the ball into the cup, but oh how hard those last strokes can be. The turns and twists of the surface of the green make some hard uphill runs while others are slippery downhill slopes. Here, even the length and density of the grass can influence your effectiveness at putting.

There is a target score called “par” which means you have successfully navigated the designed hazards and achieved a positive outcome.

To conquer these challenges, we buy a “full set of clubs”. The rules of golf allow you to carry 14 clubs in your bag. You get to choose what the 14 sticks include. These clubs become your tools for mastering the course.  The shafts vary in length as will the club heads vary in angle and density. Each one has a designed purpose so that you control both the length and trajectory of the flight of the ball.

People who achieve the best skills at golf can “shape a shot”; making the flight of the ball bend left or right depending on the angle they need to compensate for topography or wind direction.  The best golfers do this “shot shaping” at will; whenever a shot is needed.

Golf shot shapes

So how does all of this apply to management and leadership?

The Parallels 

The golf course can represent the work in front of you; the people, the tasks, the goals, and objectives. Each aspect of your work will have a different dimension, shape, or trait. This applies to the people who work for you as well as the business of the company. New projects take on new shapes. The list can be long and the complexities very diverse.

In management and leadership, you have to plot the course and make plans to achieve the desired outcome. With golf, beating “par” is the goal.

In leadership, having the equivalent of the lowest score (beating par) would mean getting the best results as quickly as possible, mastering the uniqueness of the situation, making good selections, and executing on those selections.

The approach and methods you choose for each situation mimic the need for various golf clubs. Even once a club is selected, the way you swing determines the shape of the shot. Leadership requires a variety of approaches and techniques. There is no one answer that fits all situations.

Leaders who use one style and a “my way or the highway” mindset can be effective for a little while. However, using variations on your leadership approach will allow you to fit the situation and achieve far greater results.

Managing the Course

In golf, we talk a lot about course management. This means knowing the twists and turns and adding to that information the data you have each day about the weather, wind, and overall playing conditions.

When a course gets hot and dry, the ball cannot be controlled as well. If a shot is hit too far or too hard, the hardened surface will allow the ball to run away from the target. On the other hand, a course that has had a lot of rain will play softer. Even when you want a ball to run, it may not due to the wet conditions.

Working with a course management mindset helps to set-up the rest of the game for shot selection (club selection) and approach.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]At work, we must course manage every day. As circumstances change, so must our choices for solutions. [/perfectpullquote]

While we might have made a tactical decision early on i.e. a way we are planning to handle a customer, a supplier, or an employee, the situation with that relationship may change day by day. This requires us to alter our decisions about the way we need to handle things.

Knowing Your Equipment

Today, golf manufacturers introduce new and improved equipment almost weekly. Keeping up with the latest technological improvements for feel, control, and response with the clubs can be a full-time endeavor. Yet, the need to become proficient with what you own can only happen with repetition through practice. Constantly changing equipment creates the need for adapting to the new tool.

It can be this way too with management and leadership tools and training. Attending seminars and buying programs to teach new techniques for leadership will not work without full adoption and practice. Giving in to the temptation to be buying every new idea is just like the weekend golfer who buys every new club in hopes that this latest tweak will be the magic bullet to solve the problems in his game. Instead, it would be more beneficial for him to use what he owns to practice making each of the shots he might need one day.

Practice and Feedback

Leadership is a solitary endeavor. Just like golf, a person can labor quietly to improve their game. Constant practice is the best way to figure out how you can hit each club. Then rendition helps to lock in muscle memory to aid in the execution of a shot when the time comes. In golf, feedback is pretty instant. The ball either goes where you want it to or not.

In leadership, feedback can be this quick too, but more likely is not. You don’t always know how well your selection of club and shot (your approach) worked out. This is especially true with leading people. Though you may get pretty good at knowing how to handle certain people, to be a better leader you must become well versed in inspiring all people.

Good Days and Bad Days

Anyone who has been a golfer knows there are good days and bad days. You might be able to play a number of rounds and shoot really good scores. Then all of a sudden, you go out one day, and BANG! Everything goes wrong.

Management and leadership have those days too. Things happen. You must let the bad days pass. Stay true to what you know about yourself and your team. Don’t start making major adjustments to your leadership methods before you can resolve whether big changes are truly needed.

If all that is needed is a cooling off period, tearing into your whole method and approach for leadership can be damaging.

Summary

Effective leadership has never been a one size fits all solution. Great leaders know how to adapt, change, and adjust their tools and methods depending on the situation.

Just like making a golf club selection when you are facing a dogleg left with a slight breeze in your face, there are many different details to measure and include in leadership decision making.

Be flexible, be willing to shape your shot. Hey, it’s in the bag!

Author’s note: This topic first appeared in 2016 and was highly regarded as a popular post. So with a few updates and edits, I present it again as a reminder to leaders everywhere.

Saying Thanks to Old Mentors for Their Inspiration

This week families across the USA gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It means many different things to different people. As one of my clients shared when I asked about his plans, “lots of food, too much to drink, and too much football.” (Sounds like my kind of gathering, but I digress).

The spirit of this holiday is to pause and reflect. More importantly, it’s a time to offer thanks for the many blessings in life, whether material, emotional, or spiritual.

Thanking Leaders from the Past

I was reminded this past week there is another kind of thanks we seldom share. A good friend and fellow coach whom I’ve known for decades was telling me how she recently wrote a blog citing mentors and leaders she has known. The central theme was a note of gratitude to those former bosses for being great leaders; senior managers who inspired and motivated their following.

Hearing my friend share this poignant idea, I was convicted that I have not done enough to say thanks to those who have guided me. I’ve been blessed with some amazing people who have come into my life at various stages, investing time and energy to share their views and experience. The collective wisdom has helped me make better choices along the way. It has shaped my values and principles.

As I think through my list, the reality is that many, not all, of those I count as great inspirations, have passed away. Their legacy remains with me, but I no longer have the chance to say thank you to all of them personally.

I’m going to list the names but won’t go into detail about their impact. Simply stated, I thank you, one and all for spending the time you spent to help a young man. So in no particular order:

  • Jack Whitaker
  • George Jared
  • Tim Balter
  • MSG Jimmy Howard
  • Col. Hal Gaines
  • J. Wayne Stark
  • Col. Gaither Bray
  • LTC Jap Champion
  • Everett Gambrell
  • Dr. John Bisagno
  • Gene Elliott
  • Harriet Wasserstrum
  • Lane Sloan
  • Mary Kole
  • Dick Hendee
  • Mel Maltz
  • Dr. John Lockhart

Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. You didn’t have to do it, but you did/do.

Who In Your Life?

Take a moment and think about those in your life who made the commitment to mentor. If you can contact them, do so. Spend a minute to give back.

Use the lessons they gave to continue your leadership growth toward the ability to make a difference. They did. Why shouldn’t you? It’s your turn to be a stepping stone for someone.

 

 

What Are Your Defining Moments?

Defining moments. What do they mean to you? I don’t hear people talk much these days about defining moments, but we all share them. No, not the exact situation or set of circumstances, but the reality of having things happen to us or through us that make big changes in the way we see the world.

Often defining moments come via life events; relationships that come and go plans we thought we had with great potential, disappointments, or big fears overcome. The list of possible defining moments or “aha” moments varies for each of us.

A Few Stories

In my own case, the list of these moments seems long. As the only child of a single, working Mom, I was a latch-key kid before that was a thing. Facing certain fears of coming home from school and going into an empty house had to be overcome. At seven or eight years old, that was huge. Yet I did it. My sense of self-confidence began growing at such an early age. It was fight or flight. I did neither.

In middle school, there was a situation when I felt wronged by the administration for missing a deadline due to a minor illness. This wasn’t a disciplinary matter, but an opportunity to run for student council that required filing deadlines. Mom refused to fight my battle. She said if I believed in what the issue was about I needed to fight for what I believed. At age 13 I marched into the principal’s office and delivered what was a well-rehearsed pleading for justice. Clearly, it worked. My filing exception was granted and I ran a successful campaign. Life lessons were being taught.

The Big Cheese

Fast forward some 18 years. I was working in my first few years at a large regional bank. A very senior executive jumped me one day in a large meeting. He essentially chewed me out for delivering some bad news for his department. It was definitely embarrassing for me. I was the proverbial messenger and nothing more. That night I thought about it long and hard.

This executive was famous for arriving at the bank before anyone else. So I was there too. I went to his office and knocked on his door. It startled him. He was not used to seeing anyone for at least another hour. I asked if he had a moment to talk. Visibly shaken, he agreed and invited me in. Again I was prepared. I told him I thought the situation yesterday was uncalled for. I was merely the messenger. Further, I said that I planned to have a long career there and I knew that because of his already senior leadership role, I needed to work well with him. To that end I wanted him to know that while I respected his position he needed to respect me too for what I could contribute.

He smiled and said “Doug you are perfectly correct. I apologize. And I look forward to our days and years ahead.” Another defining moment.

By the way. A few months later this same executive called me back into his office. He handed me an envelope which turned out to be my first bonus check at that bank.

The ‘So What’

Defining moments are only valuable once you can point to a specific moment in time and realize something big changed. As I said earlier, we all have defining moments. However, it is what we do with them that makes the difference.

If a particular situation happens and you ignore it, then likely it is by no means a defining moment. Yet when the really special moment happens you usually know it right away. You discover a new you or you change your outlook in an instant.

I suggest that there is value in revisiting those moments throughout your career. Use them as stepping stones to keep moving forward. If you start feeling down or defeated, just remember one of those earlier defining moments. Grab the strength and resolve from them to renew your spirit and rekindle the purpose you need.

Remember, overnight success is a myth. Name anyone who has been considered an overnight success and you will find they actually spent years perfecting their offering. The same is true of great business and community leaders. It takes years of intentional effort to build a reputation as a leader. Your defining moments can shape you and mold you for the right opportunity.

If you’re having trouble seeing the storyline unfold, an executive coach might be the right answer.

Living in the Meantime

There are times when nothing particularly big is happening. You’re in between assignments, projects, or deadlines. You have work to do and places to be, but the sense of purpose goes on autopilot. The time between one occurrence and another; an interval is the meantime.

Should that bother you? I say not necessarily unless it lingers too long.

I call this “living in the meantime.” You just finished something and are waiting for the next thing to arrive or start. Yet life is going on. You must wait or endure in the meantime.

Meantime can be a good time if you choose to use it wisely. We all need recovery times after running a fast pace, high energy cycle. See my prior article on this very important aspect of stress management. But we can also use the meantime for growth and learning.

Leaders need to wisely use the meantime. You can use the time both personally and professionally.

Team

What might otherwise feel like a lull can be a powerful way to reconnect with the team. Running at a fast pace has a way of distancing your more personal relationships at work. I am talking about those interactions one on one with your team. I’ll guess that when the projects are flying at a wild pace, you likely do less of your one on one meetings. Typically you let those slide in favor of group sessions.

When the meantime comes, take time to rebuild the one on one.

Personally

Leaders need to recalibrate. You too can get off track with personal disciplines when the workload is bigger than you are used to. Again, you likely forego your routines like eating right and going to the gym when the daily schedule is packed too tight.

Use the meantime to reset. Focus your daily planner on the things that work well for you. Get back to the right routines.

Professionally

Living in the meantime can have other benefits too. Stephen Covey talks about “sharpening the saw.” This is finding books or other sources of inspiration and learning to keep moving forward. If the last big push at work revealed some opportunities for you to grow, then use the meantime to do it. Perhaps your last review showed areas for improvement. Meantime is the time to invest in improving where you need to so that you can be the best YOU you need to be.

Living in the meantime is really a great time. Use it wisely.

Question: What have you done lately to redeem the meantime in your life?