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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Leaders Must Impact the Networks Around Them

Spend any time at a particular company and you will find yourself part of an informal network. This network is above and beyond the boxes on the org chart.

Your ability to build and effectively manage the networks around you might just be the single biggest advantage you might have as a leader.

making the best of networking

Build the right networks and you will have a much easier time executing on your activity.

These networks form for many reasons

These networks spring up for many reasons; some intentional, others not so much.

You might build relationships with certain people based on the responsibilities you have. Because a particular project or work team has a unique set of objectives, you meet and deal with new people across the organization; people who can help you achieve those objectives.

Once your assignment is over, you retain those contacts in one degree or another. Sadly, many very successful relationships wither over time because the common goal has been accomplished and is no longer relevant. Rather than maintaining the working relationship, we merely “move on” to other things.

In popular terminology, we think of this relationship building as “networking”.

Networking is not so new

For many years, whole industries have relied upon networking to grow and expand businesses. Trade associations number in the thousands. Annual conventions are held to allow industry participants to gather and exchange ideas or meet new people. Networking on steroids.

networking huddle group

Professionals rely upon networking outside the company to find new job opportunities.

But knowing when and how to grow a network inside your company can be a challenge.

Neural Networks

The inner workings of a high-value network can be explained by some mind science.

Let’s take a minute to talk about neural networks. Neural networks were first proposed in 1944 by Warren McCullough and Walter Pitts, two University of Chicago researchers who moved to MIT in 1952 as founding members of what’s sometimes called the first cognitive science department.

The principles of neural networking have formed the basis of artificial intelligence and machine learning. See the video link below to hear a basic explanation of neural networking.

The key takeaways here involve two important values. First, there is the value of the “node” or in the case of people, the person with whom you connect.

And there is the value of the connection itself. Think of the significance someone might add to your network if you are connected with them.

In simpler terms, a person might have great knowledge and experience to share, which is helpful. But it will be significantly more important to have them as a connection if their role is also of great value.

Applying the meaning of neural networks.

As you work to build and maintain your networks, think in terms of these two values.

Is the person of value to the effort? Ask yourself can I learn from them?

Is the role of important value? Can I gain from the influence this person might have at work?

Having said this, it all sounds a bit self-serving. But you too must provide value, both with you know and the role you play, in order to be a contributing member of a network.

Leaders learn how to deliver value for others first before asking for something in return. It’s similar to the old schoolyard adage about “If you want a friend, be a friend.”

If you want a powerful network at work, become a powerful contributor to others.

A cautionary tale

There is one big caveat here. In addition to building strong, effective networks, you may need to rely on mentoring from those above you in the chain.

Senior leader mentoring younger employee

I’m not sure you specifically “network” with those who have seniority in the organization. You build connections for sure. But you may need some guidance and development from those above you.

While you may have plenty to offer others above you in terms of technical experience and knowledge, there may be more to learn than what you have to offer.

In that case, you need to find the right opportunity to explore the willingness of those more senior to mentor you. No need to fall on a sword about lack of something. Instead, present the idea as something of respect and admiration for their expertise.

Ask if they might be willing to become a mentor. A vast majority of senior grade employees I know love the idea of giving back by mentoring those elsewhere in the organization.

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.

You Might Have Focus All Wrong

When you feel distracted or unproductive, the first thing you might think about is focus; as in “I need to get focused.”

This conjures ideas of laser-centered attention to one thing. Actually, you may have the idea of focus all wrong.

Dr. Jim Taylor writes in Psychology Today:

“Let me introduce a term and then I’ll define focus for you. Attentional field is everything inside of you, such as thoughts, emotions, and physical responses, and everything outside of you, including sights and sounds, on which you could focus.

Focus is the ability to attend to internal and external cues in your attentional field.

Further, he states, Prime focus involves focusing only on performance-relevant cues in your attentional field. In other words, only focusing on cues that help you to perform your best.

Depending on the sport, performance-relevant cues can include technique, tactics, your opponent, the score, time remaining, and many other cues. Prime focus gives you the ability to adjust your focus internally and externally as needed during the course of a competition.”

The ability to properly focus on the right cues is what builds greater performance, not just centering on one thing.

The cues come at us in many different ways, so you must understand your focus style.

Again citing Dr. Taylor, “a focus style is a preference for paying attention to certain cues. Athletes tend to be more comfortable focusing on some cues and avoid or don’t pay attention to other cues.

Every athlete has a dominant style that impacts all aspects of their sports performance. This dominant style will surface most noticeably when they’re under pressure. The two types of focus styles are internal and external.

Internal focus style. Athletes with an internal focus style perform best when they’re totally and consistently focused on their sport during a practice session or a competition. They need to keep their focus narrow, thinking only about their sport.

These athletes tend to be easily distracted by activity in their immediate surroundings. If they broaden their focus and take their mind off their sport, for example, if they talk about non-sport topics with their coach during practice, they’ll become distracted and will have trouble narrowing their focus back onto their sport.

External focus style. Athletes with an external focus style perform best when they only focus on their sport when they’re about to begin a drill in practice or begin a competition.

At all other times, it is best for them to broaden their focus and take their mind off their sport. These athletes have a tendency to think too much, become negative and critical, and experience competitive anxiety. For these athletes, it’s essential that they take their focus away from their sport when they’re not actually performing.”

The Business World

In the business world, we need to focus in much the same way as the athlete. There are internal factors and external factors in constant movement within and around us. The best focus is not merely getting locked in on one thing or one objective, but rather the ability to grasp multiple things in better contrast.

Finding the key elements that are needed to achieve the best outcome require this multi-layered ability to focus, sifting everything in your attentional field to identify the right parts.

As a simple example, think about driving on a long highway. When we stare at the centerline of the road, we get hypnotized.

How often have you snapped out of that trance and thought to yourself, “Wow, how long have I been doing that?”

Yes, your motor skills may have sustained you during that trance, but you certainly were not at your peak performance despite the intense focus.

Focus on the Right Things

Running your business is much the same way. Your effectiveness as a leader is not just about your internal values and motivations. You must connect externally, taking in information and relating to the people around you.

By focusing on the things that matter most, you are not giving attention to one thing, you are assembling the right things to make the most of your current situation.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash and unsplash-logoPaul Skorupskas

Change and Progress, Are They Twins?

In today’s complex business world, change is hard. Companies venturing through major culture shifts, mergers or other forms of change often struggle to make it to the end.

The idea that people hate change is a phenomenon that is taught, coached and wrestled with in many ways, shapes, and forms. Regardless of your mindset about CHANGE, there is one vital aspect you should explore.

PROGRESS is what you should be focused on. Change for the sake of change is meaningless. However, progress toward a new goal or achievement is more vital and more valuable to your organization.

Dean Lindsay, America’s premier authority on Progress, writes:

All progress is change, but not all change is progress.

Lindsay uses an illustration. If you wake up in the morning with a stomach ache, you want to change. You want it to go away.

If you tell a friend and they punch you in the nose, you got a change. But it wasn’t progress toward curing your stomach ache.

The Rhetoric

There are voices in the media demanding change. The word has been worn out. Again, change for the sake of change is not progress.

When you sense the need for change or you design an intentional change in the way your business operates, be sure you are designing progress toward a new goal.

I know companies who have launched major change initiatives (they call it that) with the intent to become more profitable, increase margin, find efficiencies, or become more competitive.

Those are great objectives.

Yet what they are really saying is we need progress forward to be better situated for growth and survival in our industry.

Too often the well-intended change that is initiated gets bogged down in all the adoption and adaptation process. As soon as the change feels hard and resistance begins to mount, plans are adjusted.

Many times the shift is pulled back or canceled in the face of resistance.

Living Through the Curve

Roxanne Chugg writes: “The fact is that most change initiatives are done “to” employees, not implemented “with” them or “by” them. Although leaders are pushing behavior change from the top and expecting it to cascade through the formal structure, an informal culture left to instinct and chance will likely dig in its heels and resist or even hijack the change.”

There is a popular model that describes the change cycle. Dr. Virginia Satir first introduced this model when explaining emotional life-change events in family therapy. However, it has been widely adopted in change management circles to help businesses plan for and implement change.

The “S” shape of this curve helps us see the complexity of making a change. When applied to a work team, each member of the team will experience their own progression through the curve, each moving at their own pace.

The key matter here is that everyone in the organization faces their own emotional curve when forced into change. Acceptance or adoption of the change is dependent upon the progress one can make moving through the curve.

If plotted together on a single graph you could see the lag points where the manager/leader may be further along the curve than his people. If the leader is not sensitive to this lag factor, then the message from the top might be skewed.

The leader could be thinking “Come on people, don’t you get this? Why aren’t we further along?”

In reality, the team may be lagging the leader’s position moving along the curve. A little bit of lag is normal. However, the leader must decide how much lag is tolerable.

Back to Progress

Given the tremendous effort and disruption a change may cause at work, leaders must be mindful of the progress being made.

Leaders need to ask: “Is the company moving ahead because of this change or are we merely spinning our wheels, burning out the staff, and creating very little value?”

Question: What change initiative has your company gone through recently? Or were you the one directing it?

15 Ways You Sabotage Trust at Work

Managers and owners of businesses have a hard enough time promoting trust at work among employees.

Trust must be earned. We learned that in grade school. It cannot be mandated by some policy or bought with bonuses and perqs.

Google recently released a two-year study focused on what factors made some teams higher performers than others. The #1 attribute was something they called “Psychological safety”. Read their report and you will see this is a big word for TRUST.

Before you spend a lot of time trying to build and improve the trust factor at work, take a hard look at the ways you might be derailing trust.

As hard as trust may be to build, it is actually quite easy to destroy.

According to Nan Russell in Psychology Today:

“While it’s easy to point fingers or notice others’ trust-derailing behaviors, it is difficult to create personal awareness about our own. In reality, we all contribute to the trust or distrust levels where we work, often through unintentional, mindless behaviors that diminish trust.”

There are at least 15 ways I found that do nothing but undermine an employee’s or team’s trust in their leader.

The List

15 Mindless Ways to Sabotage and Derail Trust in Your Work Group

#1 – Focus on your “win” without thinking about how it’s achieved or its impact on others. If you claim victory for an accomplishment without including the participants, you will break trust.

#2 – Ignore standards, values, policies, or procedures your team is expected to follow. That’s a double standard.

#3 – Operate with 20th-century thinking in a 21st-century world; you stop learning at work. My way or the highway is a great country song, but a poor mantra for leadership.

#4 – Treat your small work issues, needs, or problems as five-alarm fires. The problem is seldom the problem. As the leader, be able to remain calm as issues arise.

#5 – Practice “cordial hypocrisy” — i.e. “pretend trust when there is none.” You can’t fake trust. You have to give it to receive it. People know the difference.

team building via trust

The Next 5 Trust Killers

#6 – Be unresponsive to requests that aren’t of personal interest or importance to you. Just because a team member brings you an issue that is not on your priority list, it may be huge on theirs. Hear them out.

#7 – Share confidential information from or about others. Being transparent as a leader can be tricky. You should be open to share information that is important to the achievement of goals but be quiet about things shared in confidence.

#8 – Give the perception of mutually beneficial relationships, but create only faux ones. Some people are easily fooled about perceived “connections” with the boss. Don’t be the source of such perceptions.

#9 – Lack follow through on what you say you’ll do. There’s a wise old saying “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” In other words, stick to what you say. Trust needs a foundation to grow. Breaking promises will crumble any foundation of trust.

#10 – See people as interchangeable parts; be unaware of others needs, interests, talents

The Last 5 Things that Crush Trust

#11 – Confuse friendship or loyalty with authentic trust. We love having true friends. But don’t confuse friendship with the right levels of trust. Yes, we usually trust our closest friends. However, high performing work teams can grow trust without making friends.

#12 – Deflect or explain away input, feedback, or criticism that you don’t like. As the leader, you must respond to things coming your way. Deflecting or minimizing unfavorable feedback can erode trust because people will see you as false.

#13 – Infrequently take on more responsibility, assist others, or share your knowledge. Hiding in the office does not build trust. Rather, it blocks it. Be open to those around you. Share and mentor when you can; hopefully frequently.

#14 – Speak up when you’re against something yet remain quiet about that which you favor. Be the champion for the purpose or the cause. Your business and team exist for a reason. As owner/manager or leader, you must be the champion of that cause.

#15 – Play on a team of one more often than not. Selfish ambition will erode trust too. As soon as it becomes evident the whole mission is about YOU, the team will turn away.

Cautionary Tale

Autocratic managers and bosses can make things happen. But they have to do it more with a whip than a whim. Also, their employee retention rates are low. Morale suffers.

Good leaders instill a “want to” within their people so that each team member’s discretionary effort is high.

A great leader is valued while they are here, but revered when they are gone.

Team Trust Model

If you want to know more about building trust at work for your team, visit my Team Trust Model.

SWOT Yourself

There’s a popular business analysis tool known as S.W.O.T. It provides a method for looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

SWOT reviews are done for business issues of all kinds like competition, market position, product design, sales, and technology. As applied to a business, you can see the merit of doing this review periodically.

SWOT

However, it can be useful on a personal level as well. Managers and leaders should take time during annual reviews and goal setting to add this powerful view as well. Here’s how it can work.

Personal Review Using SWOT

A plan of action using a Personal SWOT Analysis can be developed for every aspect of development and execution because there are always three critical components in every chosen role:

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?

Strengths

Trying to analyze one’s own strengths can be tricky. Throughout all of my coaching, I seldom see anyone who gets this exactly right the first time. Some might be modest and undervalue great strength in areas like collaboration, employee empowerment, decision making or planning.

Others can be more boastful, seeming to know without a doubt they are great leaders who people should feel honored to serve; “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.

Entrepreneurs can be especially blinded by the emotional connection to their idea. While the great new product or service has great potential, the business will fail because the founder doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know.

Before isolating your own estimation of your strengths, seek some 360 feedback. Get input from others you value as trusted advisors. Do an informal ask session.

Then compile a list of the strengths that you can use to accomplish your goals and objectives.

Weaknesses

Just like your strengths, identifying “weaknesses” in your personal domain can be hard. Objectivity can be lacking. You may even be suffering blindspots where your weaknesses reside. Using 360 reviews and stakeholder feedback can help inform you of areas where there is an opportunity for improvement.

However, you may know exactly what areas or what issues give you the most trouble. Stating what these may be will help round out the SWOT analysis.

Opportunities

These are the things you can see as a new direction; changes that allow you to reach new goals. Taking a good look at the road in front of you can reveal opportunities for growth and change.

Listing them while doing this personal inventory helps bring motivation and inspiration to the plan.

Threats

Making a good assessment of personal threats is also tricky. I recommend starting with your mindset.

Do you hold any limiting thoughts about who you are and what you can do?

If you ever wondered about a limiting thought, they sound like this:

  • I’m too small
  • I’m too slow
  • I’m too ugly
  • I don’t have the right degree.
  • You failed at this the last time.

Any statement rumbling in your head that starts with or sounds like these need to be eliminated first. Then you can deal with identifying true threats to your 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.

Consciously or Unconsciously – Live Well

The following is shared by permission from a dear friend, fellow coach, and down-right classy human being, David Norris.

I hope you find this to be of value to you today. David writes:

unconscious conscious

I recently posted this quote on several social media platforms and received a number of requests to translate and explain further.

Consciously or unconsciously, we are all driven to grow. We see a future that we want to live in, and we are either able to intentionally get there, or we cannot.

A major determinant of whether you will get there or not is simply that you actually believe that you can.

We carry around a huge amount of personal baggage from our past experiences that inform our attitudes about the future. In many cases, we develop a sense of learned helplessness that causes us to believe that we will never be able to get the future we want.

Self-Defeating Logic

FOCUS

This self-defeating logic is reinforced by our own inaction toward overcoming this baggage from our past. It becomes a pattern. We get used to not getting what we want. We come to believe that it’s normal and simply the way things are.

Before we can overcome these issues, we have to understand what they are. This is by no means an all-encompassing list of issues that characterize bad past experiences that can prevent you from realizing your own ability to move toward your desired future, but if you recognize yourself in any of these, it’s time to get to work.

  1. You have historically associated closely with, and strongly feel a part of a group of people who are not finding success in love, life or work.
  2. You have been so focused on simply getting by that you felt like you were unable to actually learn new ways to be better.
  3. You were brought up in a religious tradition or other circumstance that instilled you with strong feelings of guilt and shame but never focused on positive qualities like love, intimacy, vulnerability, and learning.
  4. All of your past relationships have caused tremendous pain and ended badly, leading you to believe that is simply an inherent quality of all relationships.
  5. You have plateaued when pursuing your goals, and you come to believe that you are simply not the kind of person who is capable of achieving the success you want, incapable of understanding why others are able to reach their goals.
  6. You have believed that you are just not trying hard enough when it comes to your goals, and later when you do try to commit stronger to achieving your goals with the same mindset and more effort, you expect things to turn out differently.
  7. You associate change primarily with things turning out badly. Therefore change is scary and something to be avoided. You may not be happy with the way things have been, but they could likely be much worse.

What these dilemmas all have in common is that they use the past as a basis for constructing the future.

They cause us to forget our own talents and abilities, to undermine our own skillfulness and resourcefulness. They squash our ambitions by prioritizing fear over risk and reward.

Universal Experiences

The experiences described above are universal. Every successful person has faced some variation or combination of these scenarios, and yet they have managed to get wherever it is that they were aiming at.

How does that happen? Is it that others simply have greater abilities or possess more potential? No. It is that they have not allowed the past to become a myopic lens for viewing the future. They have distilled experience into wisdom. They have recognized that failure and difficulty are necessary opportunities for stretching our abilities to enable growth.

The essential thing that you must do is to take the lessons you have learned from the past and put those lessons into practice by actually doing something. You will not overcome any one of these by letting the clock run out. There is no way forward in doing nothing.

Try Something Different

If what you have tried in the past has not worked, try something different. We are often drawn to work harder because we are choosing the more familiar path. That path is our default setting. It is often our first idea and the one we feel most comfortable setting forward with.

But growing is not about feeling comfortable, it is about moving forward through the thick grass toward foggy vistas and breaking through all of that to discover new territory.

The future does not live in the past unless you stay stuck where you are. The future is where you are going, not where you have been.

Wake up! Take control and consciously create your own fate. Live by design. Live today well!

Live today well!
David Norris

Breaking Through the Invisible Wall

There is an invisible wall in the business world.

People can spend an entire career and never break through that wall. The wall is not about equal opportunity, hiring practices, promotion or selection. Nor is it about gender or age.

No, this wall is about moving from management to leadership.

the invisible wall from management to leadership

The Entrepreneur’s Conundrum

The easiest way to explain this wall is to start with an entrepreneur. A solo-preneur; the person who thinks he/she has an idea and wants to start a business.

Let’s say our hero (the start-up entrepreneur) gets some funding and launches the business. In no time, the business starts to make sales and grow.

Pretty soon the owner needs to hire some people to help fill all the orders, make more widgets or whatever they are doing. They need more people.

Now they have a team running. The first experience is to manage the process. The owner has to show everyone how to do or make the things you meant to do in the business.

Your idea as the entrepreneur has to get communicated, trained and shared with others to let the business grow.

As the Manager, you track the numbers, bank the revenue, make the deposits and pay for expenses.

Things seem to be going OK. You survived the start-up phase.

New Opportunities

As the business grows, you have to grow with it. More resources, bigger payrolls, larger space, etc.

But the owner seldom thinks about growing their own ability to manage the business. The thinking goes something like this.

“What I did before got us here, I’ll do more of that, and we’ll be fine.”

That works for a little while longer, but the business still keeps growing.

Now it’s become a full-sized enterprise with layers of management, division of teams for specialized skills, and other expanding roles.

The Thirst for Leadership

Somewhere in between that expansion phase and the enterprise phase, the invisible wall takes shape. As the company grows, so does the wall.

What used to be decent management starts to have problems. The old ways to push people and materials don’t work anymore.

It’s not the people or the business, it’s the owner’s capacity to lead that is crumbling.

This new entity that is the company is hungry for leadership. Not more management; bona fide leadership.

Leadership has to step in and take over.

As Monte Pendleton, Silver Fox Advisor, and founding member states “There is no particular time table for these stages. But the ending of Stage 1 usually becomes apparent when the requisite managerial skills begin to change. The very personality, skills, and capabilities that allowed you to succeed as a Stage 1 entrepreneur or start-up owner/operator, now become detrimental to you in the latter stages.”

When the wall becomes apparent, you have some choices to consider.

First, you could decide to quit growing; stay the size you are, and keep doing the same things.

Or, you can choose to modify your management style and press on toward the next phase. Hire a coach or an advisor to guide you through the changes needed to break through the wall.

Lastly, you might choose to replace yourself with someone who has better leadership skills and experience, allowing you to revert to the core talent and gifts/specialties you started with.

If all else fails, sell the business at its then market value and go fishing. (I digress).

Bigger Enterprise

I dedicate my coaching practice to owners and executives who are right at the wall.

There are senior managers everywhere who still need to embrace the reality of the presence of the wall.

Believe it or not, a wall always exists between the stage of the business unit you run and your ability to lead.

a group of young people working in the office

I’ve said it many times before, a good manager can have a long and successful career never being more than a manager. Turn the screws, meet the deadlines, ship those deliverables and do it through strong management skills; these can be a nice career.

However, for the good of the growth of the enterprise, you need to become a leader. If you already know something about leadership, be a better leader.

Monte states “Leadership is the ability to cause others to take action even when the action is outside their comfort zone.”

Dave Guerra in his book “Superperforming” says “Management is about process and leadership is about people.”

I love that explanation. So true.

Think about your situation right now. It doesn’t matter whether you own the business or run a large team/division inside one. Ask yourself, “where is my wall?”

Question: Have you broken through the wall, realizing the need for leadership over management?

Can You Accept Perfect Imperfection?

Nobody is perfect, right? At least that is what you often hear.

Yet Madison Avenue and Hollywood would have us think otherwise. Perfect style, perfect skin, perfect smile, perfect hair. The list is endless.

Psychologists can make a career out of helping people who feel inadequate under such conditions and falsehoods. The truth is we all suffer some imperfection.

Standards at Work

Do you work in an environment where perfection is the measure of your performance? Maybe a score of 100% is the goal but seldom do any of us reach such perfection.

As a leader, how do you really view those around you; the people who work for and with you?

Enter Psychological Safety

The good folks at Google underwent a two-year study known as Project Oxygen to explore what made up high performing teams. The number 1 finding was something they called psychological security.

empathy at work

We’ve all been in meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incompetent, have held back questions or ideas. I get it. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.

But imagine a different setting. A situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.

Google found that teams with psychologically safe environments had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, who were more successful.

The Leader’s Role

First, lofty goals and great expectations aside, I see leaders dealing with grace when employees come up short.

Trust among employees begins when the Leader makes the effort to “have their back”. The way you do this may vary depending upon the environment you manage.

Here are five other ways to consider.

Demonstrate engagement by being present at meetings and during one-on-one sessions. (Hint: close the laptop)

Show understanding by recapping what you’ve heard. This accrues to becoming an empathetic listener.

Be inclusive in an interpersonal setting by sharing or revealing your own thoughts and values. Step up when one team member turns negative on another team member.

Expand your decision making by including your team. Invite the input, exchange the input and acknowledge the input.

Lastly, you can show confidence and conviction in decisions without becoming arrogant. Speak in your team’s ‘one voice’. Show the team that their contributions matter once the decision has been made. Explain the differences, but encourage the further effort to keep building team consensus.

Perfect Imperfection again

All of these thoughts bring us back to the idea of dealing with perfect imperfection at work, at home or with others around us. Becoming a leader who recognizes the need for dealing with this common situation will set you apart from others.

Question: What do you do to embrace perfect imperfection?