In my consulting and coaching business, I often ask potential clients the question “are you coachable?”
It is amazing how many times the prospect says “well, yes I believe I am.” After a few sessions with input and feedback, it becomes apparent they really are not coachable.
How do I know? It manifests itself in many ways.
The Athlete’s Edge
To find good examples of being coachable we can look directly at athletics where the concept of coach and student are most notable.
When you explore the story of the truly great athletes (think Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant), you will find stories of tireless pursuit of perfection. Regardless of the season they just had, these guys worked relentlessly to improve their stamina, skills, and techniques.
Jerry Rice, football great and now, NFL Hall of Famer was being interviewed. He was on the driving range at a celebrity golf outing. Rather than merely slap some golf balls around, he was on the range with both his caddy and a coach. When shots were not going the right place he was asking for guidance and advice.
Golf isn’t even his game, yet the discipline of looking to perfect a skill was at work. His desire to do well at whatever endeavor was before him drove his will to be better. That’s being coachable.
Here are a few thoughts about deciding if you are truly coachable.
First, do you routinely seek advice and counsel to improve some aspect of your professional or personal life? Or have you learned it all and know it all?
Next, when you get advice do you act on it, following through with using the information to achieve more? Or do you discount the information and talk yourself out of action?
Lastly, do you seek follow-up from the coaching source to be sure you understood the coaching and that you are properly performing the actions that were recommended? Or do you move on without ever doubling back for refining advice?
If your current professional or personal situation is not producing the results you expect, then perhaps some coaching is needed. But before you simply engage a coach, ask yourself whether you are truly coachable.
As I look back on my career, the major milestones are combinations of things done by choice and some by chance.
I would like to claim I had made all of my decisions by choice, not chance. That simply would not be true. Regardless of the reason for making a move, in all cases, change was the common requirement.
Whether I made a job change or location move by choice, change was there. The occasional chance happenings still required some form of change on my part.
You can try to plan your career (and I encourage everyone to do so), but some things happen by chance that alter the course of the best laid plans. Circumstances can change in an instant when companies get acquired or spun off.
Market crashes and economics alter what would have been the plan. Layoffs happen and lives are changed. Or you get unexpectedly recognized for an accomplishment and you are whisked off to another assignment.
Big change can occur almost instantly. The question is what are you going to do with such a change?
After my book “The Uncommon Commodity” was released, I got this note from a longtime friend and college buddy:
For some reason your book has pulled a one liner out of my sub-conscience, which is “if you don’t like the result, change something”.
My Dad hammered into my brother and me that one of the biggest constants in your life is CHANGE. The way he said it is “you will find the only thing that won’t change for the rest of your lives is CHANGE” or “the only thing in life that is constant is CHANGE”. He would follow that with “the better you are at adapting to change and solving problems, the better off you will be”.
Great principal no doubt, but I have found that effecting change within ourselves (I should just say within me since that is all I have control over) is very difficult. Sometimes we have to be inspired and sometimes we have been trying to make changes, but, for whatever reason, have not been successful in either making any change or in making effective changes. The human tendency to stay with or return to what we are comfortable with is a very strong instinct and quite often prevents us from making effective change.
And finally, sometimes we humans want to make changes, but don’t have the knowledge to make the best or most effective changes. That seems to be where encouragement, mentoring and life coaching stands to be most effective.
Change is a Brain Thing
When faced with change, our bodies go into a fight or flight mode. Using an extreme example, when our cavemen forefathers were surprised by a wild beast in the woods, THAT was an immediate change. In just a nanosecond, they had to decide whether to fight or flee.
Our bodies have a natural mechanism to react to sudden change. It’s part of our survival instincts. Our brains drive that response mechanism.
In our current more modern setting, science has proven we can alter our thought patterns to manage our response to many things, chief of which is our reaction to change.
In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist known for his work in the field of associative learning, coined the phrase “Neurons that fire together , wire together.” Hebb’s axiom reminds us that every experience, thought, feeling, and physical sensation triggers thousands of neurons, which form a neural network. When you repeat an experience over and over, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time.
Awareness of the need for change can allow each of us to condition our thought habits to respond more positively in the face of change rather than negatively.
Old Habits Die Hard
Practical experience tells me that old habits die hard. I’ve coached way too many professionals who simply freeze like deer in headlights when major change comes their way.
Events happening more by chance than choice have a greater probability to triggering the wrong response.
At least when you’ve made a choice to do something, the change factor is mitigated by your own thought process to get there (through the change). However, an event happening by chance is a whole different story.
Therefore, when a sudden change happens by chance, your response mechanism needs to be trained to handle the change. People who perpetually struggle to accept change will be routinely thrown out of balance by the chance happenings in their life.
How are you equipped to deal with change in your life? Share some insights.
Here’s a video I shot talking about this choice versus chance dimension.
If you start talking about leadership, you may get several different reactions; everything from eye-roll to serious looks. Regardless of the guru you follow or the school where you took leadership training, there is one key question that remains.
Will your leadership ability be deep or wide?
If you’re thinking about big organizations with high headcount and multiple lines of business, you are thinking about wide leadership influence. This includes large communities or tribes where your influence can be experienced.
However, if you think in terms of the immediate circle of your peers and direct reports, then you are thinking deep leadership.
There is not really a right or wrong to either of these two schools of thought.
Wide Leadership Thinking
As the name implies, wide leadership reaches far. The edges are way out there. You might be hoping to influence or impact a large population, whether that’s within your company or inside an industry.
Your idea of a vision has a really big scale to it. You are wanting to leave behind or accomplish making a big difference.
Ironically, a great leader with a wide vision isn’t necessarily thinking about numbers of followers. Instead, they focus on the need. Their heart centers on service.
The best picture is that of the pebble cast on a calm pool of water. The place where the stone hits the water causes ripple effects that have energy enough to reach the far edges of the pond or lake. If the pool was perfectly still, a single stone will create ripples that are seen the whole distance beyond the center of that circle.
Great leadership creates ripples of influence and impact in the hearts and minds of the ones who stand in the outer bands of the circle surrounding the leader.
The Deep End
Deep leadership is limited in numbers. It is a more personalized experience, dealing with a few.
In business, we think of it as our “direct reports”, those who are assigned directly to us with whom we have a day to day contact.
Mentoring someone is a deep leadership happening. The leader will be pouring wisdom, encouragement, and experience into the individual, one on one.
Deep leadership impact will be life changing for the recipient. Perhaps the influence will be limited to just a few nuggets of truth or learning, but the substance will be powerful. The person receiving the lesson will be forever changed.
The Best Do Both
The best leaders I have ever known or studied do both. I’ve tried being that kind of leader in what I do. I’ve tried teaching it to others.
When you take on a position of responsibility, you have to make the team work first. Your influence should be the deep kind. You must feed and nurture those assigned to you or hired by you. It is up to you to explain the vision and purpose.
You’ll be doing individual development of those around you.
As the team becomes productive, you can shift your focus to the wider perspective.
Your business may have many layers and your team is just a part of the bigger picture. Your influence as a leader can be felt by others outside your team. You do this by supporting other units or departments.
If you own your own business, you have to get it up and running smoothly (deep leadership) before you reach too far outside into the community to make yourself known (wide leadership).
I could go on about this and maybe will in another installment later. But I need to interject something.
I had this article in my writing queue for some time. My calendar was clicking by and my process to go to press was running normally. Then it was time to polish this one off and prep it for release on Sunday, April 12.
It hit me.
That Date is Easter.
Then it hit me again. What better an example of deep and wide influence than the story we know about Jesus’s life.
I intentionally do not force my faith and beliefs on you my reader. Nor will I start now. But please allow me a moment to reflect on this, a very significant holy date for many.
The story of Jesus began with him assembling a small group, twelve to be exact. His intent was to go deep with teaching, mentoring and messaging. He attempted to dispel many teachings of the day and bring better clarity on the subject of God and Heaven.
The disciples as this group later would be called, didn’t always get it at first. It took many tries to explain and demonstrate the principles to them. They eventually did get it.
Then focus turned to a wider audience. A gathering in a town square, a following on a hillside. The pebble was thrown into the lake and ripple it did.
The twelve are gone. Yet, the legacy created 2000 years ago remains.
I don’t judge your beliefs. None of this is an attempt to sway you otherwise. Yet for those who do believe this story and these teachings, the model is perfect.
Leadership delivered deeply to a few had impact far and wide on many. Today, we as leaders can do much the same.
OK most of you will not start a movement or create a global cause. But you can be the leader your team and your community need right now.
I encourage you to reflect in this Easter season.
Where does your leadership stand right now? Deep, wide or both?
When you have a business, it is only natural that you try to examine it. We all know that the more information you have about something, the more significant your chances of making correct decisions for the business.
Entrepreneurs scan their business often, even though many already know their ventures like “the back of their hands.” When you think about it, the cliché “knowing the back of your hand” is a bit false.
In fact, only a few of us know how the back of our hands really looks. We just think we do because we see it every day. However, we also take that view for granted, and very few of us can honestly say that we have memorized every detail of the back of our hands.
The Business Case
How does that connect with how entrepreneurs look at their businesses? Well, most entrepreneurs nowadays want to believe that they know every detail of their ventures. But the truth is, very few do. You see, there are disadvantages to being the boss.
You have to be the Chief Everything Officer. Yet, in reality, there are plenty of details that can slip by while you handle other, more pressing matters.
Heard It Thru the Grapevine, Or NOT
For one thing, the boss always seems to be out of the grapevine. The boss hardly ever gets wind of any trouble that goes on in the workplace. It also means that there may be some problems that the boss will not be able to know unless the entrepreneur scans his environment.
So how should entrepreneurs scan their environments? Well, a good idea is not to act like a drill sergeant and start shouting down your employees to get the answers you need.
For one thing, it shows that you mistrust your employees and this would only keep you out of the loop, as it were. Another thing is that you cannot expect to get the information you want this way. With intimidation, you only get the information you want to hear, not the information you need.
You should let your employees feel that they can trust you. Be one of the team. However, be sure that you do not cross the professional boundaries that exist in every workplace. [for more on building team trust click here]
You should show your employees that you are the kind of person whom they can come to for any problem. Remember that any small issue of your employees can affect the way you do your business.
Further, you need a systematic accountability process. You must inspect what you expect.
Now, you know the proper way entrepreneurs scan their businesses through the employees. But there are, of course, other factors to consider so that your business is the best it can be.
You also need to assess yourself. What kind of entrepreneur are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How well do you handle the business and everything else that the world throws at you?
Remember that sometimes, we are not the best judge of our character. We tell ourselves a story about who and what we are. That becomes our sense of identity. But what we do and how others perceive us becomes our reputation. It is the reputation you must change, not your identity.
Most entrepreneurs scan their characteristics by getting an outside opinion. This opinion, of course, should not be biased to be helpful to you (your spouse is not a good source). You need to have someone tell you to your face all of your faults and give you credit for your abilities.
Entrepreneurs should also scan their environment. What are the potential markets available for their business? What threats out there can affect their business? Entrepreneurs examine the situation around them because it is one factor that they cannot control.
All you can do when something in the environment, whether opportunity or threat, takes place is to adapt to it. The change means that you have to be able to prepare for any contingency. It is necessary to plan to succeed. But you know that, right?
Entrepreneurs scan the market for any signs of behavioral changes that could mean the collapse of their business. Why do you think that chips and sodas develop different flavors all the time? People change all the time. One example is a change of preference. If a market gets tired of your product, you would be in considerable trouble.
Be Sure to Adapt
You need to adapt your product to the trends of the present. Anticipate future changes and do your best to prepare. However, you also need to remember your past. Sometimes, people dislike changes that a company or product goes through and, as a result, takes their business elsewhere. Ensure the continuing legacy of a good product if you think you have one.
Business leaders know the challenge it can be to lead change. When there is a new announcement about something changing, you can often hear the groans that arise.
Work teams of all kinds resist change. Understanding ways to overcome the resistance can be a leader’ s best answer in times of change.
As I’ve mentioned before, managing change can be very darn difficult. Within the body of change management that is so readily available, much has been written about overcoming resistance to change. I have found one particular explanation for ways to overcome the resistance, that makes things crystal clear.
In the 1960’s David Gleicher put forth a comprehensive explanation of the theory of change. Others after him altered his work slightly but gave credit to him as the creator of this view. Here’s what Gleicher said.
Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. A formula for overcoming resistance to change looks like this:
D x V x F > R
These factors are:
D= Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
V= Vision of what is possible
F= The First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;
By multiplying these three factors, if the product is greater than Resistance, then change is possible.
Because D, V, and F are multiplied, if any one of the factors is absent (zero) or low, then the product will be zero or low and therefore not capable of overcoming the resistance.
To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create a vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.
Let’s Unpack the Factors
Dissatisfaction – When dissatisfaction with the current state is present, change can be easier. We deal with these kinds of change every day. If the temperature is too cold, we turn on the heat. If it’s too hot, we turn on a fan or an air conditioner to cool us. In these simple examples, resistance to change is practically zero because the dissatisfaction is so high.
In a job setting the dissatisfaction is harder to identify and measure. If your team’s computers are getting old and outdated, they perform poorly. Sometimes they freeze. The need for change can be obvious. So you offer a chance to upgrade technology. Resistance might be low.
However, when you change a computer system seeking some other goal, the work team may resist that change. When the perception is things are working well, a change can see a greater resistance because dissatisfaction is low.
Vision – The leader’s ability to paint the best vision picture can be one of the greatest strengths. People can and do rally around a good vision for the future; a look at what could be. You can be operating with very little dissatisfaction, but have a vision for something greater and still overcome resistance to the change.
Mergers and reorganizations come to mind. The leadership sees an opportunity for something much greater so an announcement is made about reorganizing or merging entities. The natural response from the staff is resistance. Yet when the vision is presented well, with great conviction and quantifiable gains for everyone, the resistance can be overcome.
Forgetting to add the proper vision when driving change can create the zero value in this DVF>R equation, thus making resistance too great to overcome.
First Steps – Being able to reduce resistance can actually be easier than we think. Taking solid, specific first steps toward the change can create the momentum you need to break through the resistance and effect change.
The first steps are often forgotten as critical to successful change. The big transformation project gets mapped out, but the first steps are merely buried in the details with little if any focus and intention.
Successfully managing change requires focused effort to get the first steps right. Again, having zero impact with first steps could negate the whole equation, keeping resistance high, keeping change from happening.
When you are faced with a leadership challenge for change, think about this simple formula. Review the three elements present in your own situation. Do what you can to enhance and control the factors so that your ability to eliminate resistance is effective.
Once the resistance goes way or at least gets minimized, you have a much greater chance of making change happen.
Think about your own experience managing change. Test this theory and review where the gaps occurred. I think you will find the model holds true. Focus on the three components described here and you will greatly increase your own effectiveness leading change.
What do you do to overcome any resistance to change? Share, leave a comment.
Have you ever realized that something you are doing is a recurring cycle of very unproductive behavior, thought or effort?
Perhaps it’s a job, a relationship, a habit, or worse, some addiction, behavior or belief that keeps you from being the person you want to be?
You know who you think you are, but certain routines or comfort zones surround you making escape impossible. The ability to rise up to the next level stays just outside your reach.
You feel captive to the situation, but you like it.
Writer and theologian C.S. Lewis once wrote:
“Afamiliar captivity is frequently more desirable than an unfamiliar freedom.”
The obvious analogy to captivity is a prison. In 1994 the great movie Shawshank Redemption was released. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. The film is about a man named Anthony Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) who is wrongly convicted of murder and sent to Shawshank prison to wait out 2 life sentences.
Andy quickly learns that life inside the prison is a world of its own with codes and complexities that not only shape this world but also shape those who live in it long enough.
Dufresne got to know the other prisoners and their own resignation to the waiting. Survival in the community was based on accepting the fate that nothing would change.
“Hope,” one veteran inmate told him when he first arrived, “Hope is a dangerous thing. It has no use on the inside.”
So those who lived on the inside just existed. They found their place in that world and expected nothing more. Their identities were based on their habits, how well they could manipulate the system and what you could offer to the other inmates.
Parole became a joke. However, for one prisoner, parole came up. After 50 years inside, he was being released.
When the old man found out about his parole, this gentle, meek elderly man grabbed his close friend and put a knife to his neck and threatened to kill him. The old man was so frightened of living free that he thought killing someone would let him stay inside.
After so much time on the inside, how could he learn to survive as a free man? Inside he had his own identity, he was an important man, a respected man – outside he was nothing. How could he survive?
Becoming Institutionalized About It
After that episode, Ellis “Red” Redding (played by Morgan Freeman) described this mindset as being “institutionalized.” Red explained, “I’m telling you, these walls are funny. First, you hate them, then you get used to them, enough time passes you get so you depend on them.”
The Big So-What
The Shawshank Principle shows us the familiarity of captivity versus an unfamiliar freedom. Once freedom was taken away from the convicted criminals, they found comfort inside the walls. The comfort became so profound, they could not imagine having freedom again.
Circumstances in our lives create for us familiar captivity. The routines we begin to follow day after day become a type of captivity. Your leadership style may be just a little too routine. To decide to change some part of the routine will seem like an awkward, strange idea.
Ask yourself whether you are allowing your current path to be your comfort zone. Has your view of the world become “institutionalized”?
Or can you do something different; something more significant? As you think through that challenge, realize your first reaction may be to be afraid of the unknown.
Though a new choice might be beautiful freedom of expression and accomplishment, you might be inclined to stay frozen where you are.
Make a pledge to try something new. Do the thing you’ve been avoiding.
As Andy Dufresne is quoted:
If you ain’t busy living, you better get busy dying.
Walk away from the familiarity of captivity and embrace the uncertainty of an unfamiliar freedom.
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Disclaimer:“The Shawshank Redemption” is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the 1982 Stephen King novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.”
The word for today is accountability. It’s an elusive yet powerful tool for your leadership toolbox.
As a young manager, I don’t think I ever thought specifically about accountability. Sure, there were deadlines and goals, but as my teams reached those, seldom, if ever, did I include intentional accountability.
It was later in my career that I discovered the incredible power of accountability. I was invited to join a men’s mastermind group. At each meeting, we shared the truth about where we stood with important areas of our life. We banded together to hold each other accountable for accomplishing the growth and change we each desired.
During the following several years, the collective outcome from that group enriched lives, expanded businesses, and strengthened families. Powerful indeed!
Here are three, very important ways accountability impacts you and those around you.
It Starts with You
The leader must set the tone, communicate the vision, and establish expectations. “Inspect what you expect” is a wise old saying. Once you establish the expectations, you have to monitor the progress.
Team members failing to meet expectations must be called to accountability.
But accountability isn’t punitive. It’s responsible.
Accountability gives the team the sense of “I’ve got your back.” If the leader sets that tone, then it is much easier for others to follow.
Leaders can demonstrate accountability by being accountable to the team. Let them know when hurdles are met, but also when they are missed. Which hurdles? YOUR hurdles.
Acknowledge when you need to stand up to something that has slipped or fallen behind; i.e. below standard. Call yourself out for that and let the team know you’re serious about meeting those expectations yourself.
Your Teams Want It
Yes, it’s true. People inherently know whether they have met the mark or not.
Among your best performers, they are looking for that small margin of gain which they truly believe is there. Despite how gifted and talented your team may be, the best performers know there is more that can be achieved.
If you, as their leader, ignore this margin, your action (by avoiding the subject) becomes a disincentive to your best performers. You’ll lose their respect.
It would be like you denying them one element of what it takes to build job satisfaction.
For your workers who are already on the cusp of performance, they too know they should be doing more. If you ignore this part of accountability with them, then they will slide further away from the desired performance.
Your Peers Expect It
In every 360 review I’ve ever been a part of, there is a mention from the peer raters that the subject person needs to do something with accountability.
Either they need to see it across the organization or within the team. Simply put, accountability is at a premium regardless of your position in the organization.
When you ask a sister department for support, they know they should be accountable. If you don’t manage that expectation, you will lose face with your peers too.
What About the Servant Leader
When I coach clients in the area of accountability, the ones who rate high on the servant leadership scale are often soft on accountability.
Consciously or unconsciously they feel enforcing accountability will detract from their collaborative leadership approach. They err on the side of letting people figure things out for themselves i.e. the “less than” performance issues.
For all the reasons cited above, even the best servant leader needs to hold people accountable. And the great ones do.
Set Goals That Are Measurable
Be sure your expectations have measurable attributes to gauge the “wins”. What does success look like? Think about that as you plot the strategy for your team. Then clearly communicate your view of success.
Define it for the team. That way, you have a clear goal by which you can hold others accountable.
Leading Your Team’s Accountability
Finding the right tools to lead your team’s accountability is not hard. For the leader, accountability is about setting the expectations, then following up on them.
With Big 5, you and your team establish five things you want to accomplish during the month. At the end of the month, you report on those five and set a new five for the next month. Right at the start of the new month, you sit with each of your team members and review the report; aligning expectations and talking about results.
That is great accountability.
The report is simple but elegant in nature. Using Big 5, you are always on the same page with your team. It’s a great coaching tool for you, as a leader, to implement for your team.
Let me stress Big 5 is not a “big” report. It’s a one-line summary of each task you decide is a priority. Many of my clients administer it using email between the manager and the employee. (Although there is a cloud-based app to get it done).
Using a tool like Big 5 can increase clarity on the expectations and deliver regular accountability for everyone on your team.
Leave a comment. Tell us the approach you have used to hold your team and yourself accountable.
Managers at various levels struggle with common issues. Regardless of the industry where you serve, leadership challenges are very similar. There are some common themes I see played out time and time again. This article will explore those themes. But first, a story.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
If you have management responsibility, you have control over certain situations. Keeping your eyes and ears, heart and mind open to new ideas just might make YOU the one who can make a difference.
We who attempt to provide coaching services to executives and business owners operate like the little boy on the beach. Yes, there are thousands of professionals who go to work every day, trying to do something right. For managers, you model your behaviors after others or you “fake it ’til you make it.” Those of you in executive roles have an even greater burden to establish vision and guide direction, navigating troubled waters.
Occasionally, someone in a leadership role, whether elected, selected or neglected, decides to ask for some help. You know there is more, but you have no idea where to go or how to get there.
As I meet with clients, here are some of the common themes I hear.
I want to do something really different from where I am but the company culture won’t allow it. First let me say, how sad an indictment. When a well-meaning manager feels so bound by the culture that they are afraid to act, you have a pretty lousy culture. No empowerment. No inclusion. And even less diversity.
I tell these folks to be bold and ask for the ear of their boss. Share openly, but candidly without making threats or pointing the finger as to blame someone. Instead make it a suggestion i.e. use a “no harm, no foul” spirit in the discussion. Don’t challenge the boss but offer your idea as an observation and suggestion.
I have no clue what I need to do next. Truer words have never been spoken. But few managers ever come close to saying this out loud. Finding the right Master Coach may be a huge blessing. Why? Because speaking the truth about your situation may be the fastest way to resolution and achievement. You cannot make a change if you don’t name the issue.
I am so busy, some things just have to wait. There are busy calendars and there are effective people. Usually, both never meet. Said another way, when I see calendars booked 2 deep, I seldom see a powerful, influential leader.
Instead, I find a frustrated, tired, and burned out human being. How does your calendar look? Have you found effective ways to better manage the demands on your time?
It’s time to get serious about delegation. There are likely many things you can ask others on your team to do. Trust them and let them fly.
Free up space on your calendar to reflect. Create some margin in the time you have each day.
The solution is not perfect, so I need to wait before executing the plan. It has been said that Perfect is the enemy of Good. I believe that. While I’d never advocate for going off half-cocked and ill-prepared, I’ve seen far too many projects stifled by over-thinking in the spirit of perfection. You won’t ever achieve perfection.
Perfect is the enemy of good.
Even the Appolo moon shots had some degree of chance in the tiniest of components.
I need to figure out how to be like George or Sally. No, you don’t! There is only one of you and that job is taken. Become the best version of YOU. Forget matching up to others. Give yourself the freedom to act as you know best. Sure, get good data and be informed about your decisions, but don’t let someone else’s personality or style impact who you need impact. Stop comparing to others.
These are just a few of my observations. Hope you enjoy. Feel free to send me your favorites. I am sure I’ll have a story to match up.
What do you think of when someone says something about a stepping stone? The origin comes from placement of stones across a stream so that a pedestrian can walk across the flow of the water without getting wet.
Often the stones are placed by hikers trying to make a crossing in a river. The stones can be randomly placed or symmetrical.
I like to picture these stones when I think of key people who have been major influencers in my life. Likely, you too have had mentors or significant personalities that have played a role as a stepping stone in your life.
The Back Story
When someone stands up or stands in to provide support, they become a stepping stone. For me, I grew up the only child of a single Mom. My Father passed away when I was only 2 years old. Mom was determined to provide me with significant male role models to aid in my development as a man.
As a result, my stepping stones evolved thanks to the contributions of at least 6 of these caring and giving men. The time they spent teaching me things like baseball, golf, fishing, tennis, woodworking, and camping, taught me much more than the basics. Yes, I learned how to hit a fastball, bait a hook, fly a plane, light a good fire, and varnish a mahogany cabinet, but more importantly, I learned about hard work, seeking wisdom, and living by faith.
The other interesting aspect of this mentoring experience is that these men were not rock stars. They were neither Titans of business nor famous celebrity motivators like a Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell. They were regular guys who lived life day-by-day, attempting as best they could to do the right thing.
Ladies, I do not want to forget you. What I am saying here applies to women as well. I have known plenty of young ladies who likewise received counsel from a mentor. Everything I am suggesting about this principle applies to both genders.
If you have been blessed by someone, a stepping stone, I hope you now have a desire to mentor. You don’t have to achieve some big celebrity status or have a big footprint in the media. You can make a huge difference in some young person’s life.
Here are the basic parts of being a mentor (in no particular order).
1. Availability – Just showing up is a good place to start. Whatever the strength or skill set, whatever the core values you possess, making yourself available is key to setting the stage and the environment for mentoring.
2. Trust – Earning the trust of your mentee is so necessary in order to make the sharing work. It will not matter how wise or helpful your experience may be if the person does not trust you.
3. Reliability – Once a trust expectation begins to develop, your reliability to engage and respond is critical. Nothing does a young heart more harm than an unmet promise. Promises like “I’ll be there at 3:00” then no-show.
4. Patience – Young students will do dumb things. Roll with it. Yes, you can assert some form of discipline, but gauge your student and apply the firmness wisely.
5. Candor – Being open to share who and what you are is important. That is the ultimate teaching tool. Mentoring is about giving the mentee someone to emulate. If they don’t know YOU, then the best is not coming out.
6. Honesty – Don’t make stuff up. If your candidate asks something you don’t know, admit it. Guide the person in exploring together where and how to find the answer.
7. Giving – Be able to give. This is not about money. It requires all of the attributes above. A giving, servant’s heart and open mind is what makes you a good mentor.
One last note. I believe mentoring is different from coaching. Coaches can be good mentors, but a mentor can be effective without the more stern and disciplined aspects of what a coach should be doing for you. Mentors have a special passion about their gift. The way they give to others and inspire those around them to grow, is the center of a great mentorship experience.
The point is, there are very effective mentoring opportunities that do not require coaching skills. So do not hold back when a situation comes up where you could be a mentor to a young person. You, too, can be a stepping stone for someone’s greatness.
In closing, I will tell you it has been over 40 years since I last saw some of the men I mentioned above. Yet almost every day some small aspect of my life reminds me of something they taught me or showed me. Their work and their gifts became a part of my actual psyche and emotional intelligence. The stepping stones they laid in my life remain strong.
If you are wondering about leaving a legacy, become a mentor to those around you.
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.
As 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.
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 onlyindicator 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.