Are you feeling stuck? It’s like walking in quicksand. You can’t make any forward progress.
We’ve all been there before. This feeling is a common event in most people’s lives. As the chapters of life unfold, there are moments when everything seems to just get stuck and you start to lose the vision of the way ahead. Some may think of this as drifting through life.
The future vision is missing, lost, or forgotten. You just want to make it through another day. You, my friend, need to know there is more waiting for you. Here are three steps to get past feeling stuck.
First, you need to make a shift. There needs to be a disruptive force or series of events that can shake things up. Mostly this is a shift that needs to happen in your mind; the way you are thinking needs to change.
I see so many people every day who are stuck in their mindset. Their head is filled with negative, limiting thoughts. “I can’t do that”, “I am too weak”, “I don’t have that skill”, “I don’t know that subject”.
You may also need to shift the people who are around you, especially if they serve to enforce those negative thoughts. If you speak a limiting thought and they agree with you, they are not being any help. Find some new friends.
Start growing away from old, bad thoughts. Read new books, watch some TED talk videos, open your mind to new ideas. Get a refresh!
By engaging a shift mindset, you can begin to pull out of the muck where you are stuck.
As the shift builds momentum, you will get a feeling of lift. Just like the wind passing over the wings of a bird or an airplane, there is lift. The whole body rises into flight.
Pressure and stress will ease. Old burdens will fall away and you will feel a growing energy.
Lift creates a move to new direction. You sense a freedom of thought, action, and purpose. You are renewed.
As you rise above the old state of mind, you achieve a newness; a renewed sense of purpose. You get a fresh look at the world ahead. Empowered by the new energy you will become a gift to those around you.
As a manager and leader, your fresh view of things can become contagious. Your smile and energy will impact others. You can help them begin their own shift out of ‘stuckness’.
If you need help embarking on a life change like this, I’d be happy to explain my coaching programs. I’ve helped hundreds of seasoned professionals get unstuck.
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.
Visit the best business schools on the planet and you are likely to hear a robust debate about the virtues of leadership. The central question is whether great leaders are born or bred; nature versus nurture.
One theory argues that true leadership is an inborn trait that few possess. The other popular and prevailing thought is that leaders can be developed.
While certain natural talents afford some leaders with an innate sense of leadership, you certainly can train people to become better leaders.
The military does it on a regular and reliable basis. Whether you look at the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) or commissioned officer corps, the development of leadership talent is a business for the military.
People who exhibit good leadership talent are promoted to progressively more significant leadership roles until their capabilities are maximized.
As an example, few officers make it to the rank of general. Typically, officers are promoted several times in their career before their maximum efficiency as a leader is determined and the promotion train stops. The same holds true in corporate circles.
Some call this phenomenon the law of maximum incompetence. John Maxwell calls it simply “The Law of the Lid”.
Everyone who aspires to become a leader has a lid on their ability to lead. You can start a career with some natural talent (i.e. born with it) and you can work toward increasing your leadership capacity by training and coaching.
Yet according to Maxwell, you still hit a personal lid that limits the level of influence you achieve as a leader.
It is not hard to see this concept in real life. Not everyone who tries their hand at business leadership becomes the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. In fact very few do it.
What to Do
So what is the mainstream business executive or company owner supposed to do with his or her current leadership capacity? Have you ever thought of yourself as a Leader?
Seek valid and reliable feedback about your blind spots. This immediate and valuable insight that can vault your effort above what it is today. Knowing what you don’t know or can see is vital information with which you can make changes and grow.
Here’s a diagram that outlines the ways we see (or don’t see) our blind spots.
Hire a coach.Coaching for executives is growing in acceptance and popularity. People have used coaches at the gym and for special hobbies and interests for quite some time.
Why not use the same approach when seeking to increase your leadership influence?
An effective executive coach will help you design a growth plan; personal growth. There should be measurable and tangible outcomes expected.
Improve your circle of peers. Be open to networking with mastermind groups and coaching groups where you can work with peers to gain insight for best practices and have a personal board of directors to whom you report.
Read – it seems so simple, but the power of reading has been proven time and time again. Take recommendations from leaders you admire. Read their selections of books. Consume what they consume and you will begin to grow.
Every leader I have ever admired has his/her own list. As soon as I asked about their favorites, they would gladly share. Of course, some titles get repeated, but that just serves as proof of the impact of that book.
Leadership growth is possible.
The best and greatest leaders claim a rigorous routine of seeking knowledge and information about ways to grow as leaders.
Stephen R. Covey called it “sharpening the saw”. As you move through the phases of your career and life, things change. You can get worn down. There must be an ever-present desire to stay sharp and grow.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a popular business analysis tool known as S.W.O.T. It provides a method for looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
SWOT reviews are done for business issues of all kinds like competition, market position, product design, sales, and technology. As applied to a business, you can see the merit of doing this review periodically.
However, it can be useful on a personal level as well. Managers and leaders should take time during annual reviews and goal setting to add this powerful view as well. Here’s how it can work.
Personal Review Using SWOT
A plan of action using a Personal SWOT Analysis can be developed for every aspect of development and execution because there are always three critical components in every chosen role:
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:
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?
Trying to analyze one’s own strengths can be tricky. Throughout all of my coaching, I seldom see anyone who gets this exactly right the first time. Some might be modest and undervalue great strength in areas like collaboration, employee empowerment, decision making or planning.
Others can be more boastful, seeming to know without a doubt they are great leaders who people should feel honored to serve; “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.
Entrepreneurs can be especially blinded by the emotional connection to their idea. While the great new product or service has great potential, the business will fail because the founder doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know.
Before isolating your own estimation of your strengths, seek some 360 feedback. Get input from others you value as trusted advisors. Do an informal ask session.
Then compile a list of the strengths that you can use to accomplish your goals and objectives.
Just like your strengths, identifying “weaknesses” in your personal domain can be hard. Objectivity can be lacking. You may even be suffering blindspots where your weaknesses reside. Using 360 reviews and stakeholder feedback can help inform you of areas where there is an opportunity for improvement.
However, you may know exactly what areas or what issues give you the most trouble. Stating what these may be will help round out the SWOT analysis.
These are the things you can see as a new direction; changes that allow you to reach new goals. Taking a good look at the road in front of you can reveal opportunities for growth and change.
Listing them while doing this personal inventory helps bring motivation and inspiration to the plan.
Making a good assessment of personal threats is also tricky. I recommend starting with your mindset.
Do you hold any limiting thoughts about who you are and what you can do?
If you ever wondered about a limiting thought, they sound like this:
I’m too small
I’m too slow
I’m too ugly
I don’t have the right degree.
You failed at this the last time.
Any statement rumbling in your head that starts with or sounds like these need to be eliminated first. Then you can deal with identifying true threats to your persoanl 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.
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 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 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:
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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Here’s a life lesson that needs no embellishment….
In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.
While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”
In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.
After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.
Then, finally …
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.
“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth league? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”
Another long pause.
“Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is the home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?” “Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball? “Seventeen inches!”
“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause.
“They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it.
If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”
” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?
The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something.
When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”
Then, to the point at the top of the house, he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”
Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”
I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.
From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.
“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside. “… dark days ahead.”
Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including me.
Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.
His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.
Yes, I’ve seen my share of clever prank notes and ruses to get me going today.
HOWEVER…. One stands heads and shoulders above them all.
Marketing guru Ryan Deiss, of Austin, Texas, wins the world championship in my book. I’ve known Ryan for several years. As I began building my blog, I joined his Digital Market programs and found tons of valuable material.
Color me curious when bright and early this a.m. I get an email announcing “RYAN DEISS IS FAKE!”
The Video Proof
It goes on to share a video blog about researchers uncovering secret truths about his existence. Some even point out false credentials from the University of Texas “calling the registrar and finding no such name on record.”
I knew it was April Fools Day, but I admit this one had me going, given the professional look and feel. And the extent of the effort. Well, sure enough, it was a prank. But what a great idea.
I haven’t seen his web hit rates today, but I’m guessing even his numbers are off the chart. Just brilliant.
Now, here’s my question to you. How do you feel about such a tactic? Pro or schmo? Leave a comment.
The life of a manager/business leader certainly has its benefits, but there are downsides to being a leader too. Not long ago, I received an email from someone who had served on a large project with me. Their recall of my leadership role was, let’s say, “less than flattering.”
The project in question was a large one. We started with a team of 457 professionals and grew it to over 700 before the project ended. I was the lead executive running the show.
The effort called for organizing 9 different work teams, handling 9 distinctly different focus topics and work plans. In the middle of it was a just-in-time software development project. That alone would have been a big enough challenge all by itself.
The work was spread coast to coast in 4 large work centers. To say we had occasional personnel problems would be an understatement.
My duty to lead and manage this group was a really big challenge. Thankfully, I had a close, but effective support staff with me. My deputy, second in command, became my traveling problem solver.
Back to the Email Message
This blog is about leadership. I share experience and learning from 30+ years in the trenches, on the front lines. So, yes, I try to be some type of sherpa.
The person who wrote me the email actually said I was a hypocrite for writing about management and leadership becasue he had a very clear recall of my role there.
He went on to call me one of those “stiffs” who sat in the glass offices and didn’t come out much. While some may say I fell short in a few areas during that project, getting out and around to the work teams was not one of the failings. In fact, my support crew saw me early in the morning then seldom saw me until late in the day.
Keeping on the Move
Why? Because I was moving from team to team, meeting to meeting, or training to training, dealing directly with the teams and their unit managers. I was as much cheerleader for the vision of the project as I was operator and executive.
Frankly, I am proud of the project and the team we recruited. I met some amazing professionals who worked tirelessly to accomplish our goals, all under a tight time clock of deadlines and deliverables. The fact that some who were present either didn’t see it this way or have their own different opinions are just reality.
I am a Realist
If I’ve learned much of anything in my years as an executive, I’ve learned you have to be real about people’s expectations. You will never win them all. I am convinced that if you recruit three people to be on the same team, you will find one negative Ned or Nelly. Heck, this can even happen just hiring two people.
The Challenge as a Leader is Threefold
First, you must do the best you can at recruiting and selecting people for your team. For a small business, this can be the most difficult challenge an owner undertakes. It is certainly true in big business too. You will not win them all here either, but you can do things to make better selections through detailed screening, background checks, and by giving practical tests to applicants.
If you have specific skills you need to be performed, you have to test for those skills. The “soft stuff” like customer service can be a bigger challenge. After all, people have learned how to ace interviews and smile pretty. Yet, once they land, you can only wait to see whether they fit correctly into your roles and execute on the duties?
Equip to Win
Next, you must equip them to win. As a leader, you must impart the best information you can provide to help them understand the job, the requirements, and winning factors that work for the specific need you have them fill. That is on you as the leader to provide this understanding.
As soon as an employee demonstrates an unwillingness to embrace the framework and perform against the standards, you need to begin remediation actions. Whether that is retraining, reassignment, relocation, or removal, the manager must move swiftly to eliminate the lingering impact of an underachiever.
Lastly, there will still be those who hate your leadership. Regardless how much you work to win the hearts and minds of your team, you will have some who don’t get it. No leader anywhere should expect of themselves the ability to win everyone over. There are just enough personalities in this world to occasionally find the ones who won’t mesh well.
I like to say it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. When you identify the difference, you have to accept it for what it is.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
On occasion when you get some really negative feedback from a former employee (or current one), take it with a grain of salt. They pay you the proverbial big bucks to have the thick skin to take it.
Let the haters hate – It’s what they do.
If there is substance in the feedback, embrace it. Use the input to improve your leadership skills. However, when you know you gave it your best shot, proven by the feedback from those who mattered at the time (your client, your boss, and the team around you) forget about the Hater. Haters will hate. That’s what they do.
Be bold. Be strong. Don’t let one loud voice drown out your ability to make a difference for everyone else.
Oh, by the way. After over 30 years managing and directing thousands and a current day social media following of over 100,000, I’ve gotten two such letters in five years.
Not bad. Not bad at all. (President Whitmore – Independence Day)